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  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 3:13am
From The Hip
PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 6:06pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 12:03pm

Are Chinese Americans overreacting by comparing Jimmy Kimmel to Hitler?

Kimmel's "anti-Chinese" skit may have been in poor taste, but are protests the answer?

BIO

Born in the United States but now living in Hong Kong, Jeremy Blum is a half-American, half-Taiwanese writer. Prior to joining SCMP, he studied journalism at the University of Hong Kong and lived in Taiwan for two years. He has previously written on a wide variety of topics, including communist video games, Asian American start-ups and the history of dumpling restaurants in Taiwan. You can follow him on Twitter @blummer102
 

More than three weeks after the fact, America’s Chinese community is still up in arms over Jimmy Kimmel’s perceived anti-Chinese skit.

Thousands of protesters in 27 different US cities took to the streets last week demanding more apologies by both Kimmel and television network ABC. 

Many are claiming that the Jimmy Kimmel Live skit, which contained a comment by a six-year-old who said that America should “kill everyone in China” as a means of settling the US debt crisis, was reminiscent of rhetoric used against Jewish people in World War II. A White House petition asking the US government to investigate Kimmel’s late night television show has received over 100,000 signatures, and in protests across the US, demonstrators have been holding up placards comparing Kimmel to Adolf Hitler.

The South China Morning Post was one of the first media outlets to break the story on the Kimmel skit, and I personally wrote three articles on the subject, focusing on the original controversy, the reaction from the Chinese community, and the apologies issued by Kimmel and ABC. As an American of half-Chinese heritage, I originally felt that the debate surrounding Kimmel’s show was one worth investigating.

But as angry groups of Chinese Americans continue to wage war over a matter that’s now more than a month old, I can only wonder if this commotion is truly worth it.

Watch: The original “Kid’s Table” skit

The original skit, which aired on 16 October, featured a critique of the US government shutdown. In it, Kimmel presided over a discussion panel called “Kid’s Table,” and started a debate with several six-year-olds over the US debt crisis and how the nation should deal with China. One of the children suggested that the US should “kill everyone in China,” and Kimmel laughed the matter off, calling it an “interesting idea.” He then jokingly put it to a vote with the other children.

Much of the outrage against the skit revolves around this pivotal moment – where Kimmel calls the idea of killing Chinese people “interesting.” In the eyes of many protesters, while the six-year-old’s comment can be dismissed as childish ignorance, Kimmel’s reaction cannot, and it is his failure to admonish the child that deserves criticism.

These angry voices are forgetting that the “Kid’s Table” skit was satire, which is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”

It is also important to point out that the original skit was not even about China in the first place – it was about an American debt now exceeding 17 trillion US dollars and a federal government that had to instigate a complete shutdown for over two weeks.

“Kid’s Table,” which had children debate grown-up issues – in a sense saying that the United States Congress is no better than a pack of six-year-olds - was likely not meant as an attack on Chinese people, but rather as a jab at the flaws of the US government, which admittedly does have a tendency to blame many problems on China.

The whole thing was done in the tradition of Kids Say The Darndest Things, an American comedy show that was successful in the 50’s and 60’s for putting a bunch of children on camera and having them spout outlandish, exaggerated thoughts.

While much hubbub has been made of Kimmel’s “that’s an interesting idea” line, a closer look shows that his response is followed by a scoff, showing that he does not take the concept seriously and is only playing along in the way that any improvisational comedian would do when dealing with children. Anyone who is seriously suggesting that Kimmel finds the idea of killing billions of Chinese "interesting,” especially after he has apologised profusely and promised to remove the “Kid’s Table” segment from all future episodes of Jimmy Kimmel Live, needs to keep that definition of satire in mind.

Video: Kimmel apologises again outside Hollywood studio

In the end, what is the point of all of these ongoing protests? It seems that the protesters themselves can't even agree. One of them, a chairman of the Roundtable of Chinese American Organisations named Charles Lu, said that he wanted a more formal apology from ABC to all Chinese people across the world. Another, an unnamed online netizen, wrote that the protests were “playing an important role in improving…[the] prestige and national cohesiveness…of Chinese Americans in the US.” Others on a particularly vocal Facebook group have simply said that they want Kimmel to be fired.

One thing is clear. Many of these voices, caught up in mob mentality, have failed to realise that it is unlikely that the ABC network will fire Jimmy Kimmel. As a popular talk show host, he is a television moneymaker despite whatever controversy he courts. (And one could summise that all of this controversy has helped him and brought more viewers to his show than ever before.)

Furthermore, what more is there to achieve now that multiple apologies have been issued? Perhaps the White House will make an official statement on the matter, now that the petition submitted to them has received so many signatures. But realistically, the US government has far bigger things to worry about, including that pesky 17 trillion dollar debt.

Subtle racism against Chinese Americans – and Asians in general – is a real thing in the United States. Asian actors are marginalised in Hollywood, Asian women are sexualised for their perceived exoticism, and it’s true – Kimmel and his scriptwriters probably would not have allowed the “Kid’s Table” skit to air if the children on screen had made a derogatory comment against African Americans or other ethnicity groups.

But there are more productive ways to deal with this tide of prejudice. There are plenty of Chinese American support groups in the US that can organise dialogues or events in the wake of this controversy to increase awareness in the general American community. There are journals that can publish editorials to critique the situation and offer fair analysis on the plight of Chinese immigrants in the United States. All of these efforts will make more of an impact than comparing Jimmy Kimmel to Hitler as a means of improving the “prestige and national cohesiveness” of Chinese Americans in the US.

“I come to you with nothing but love in my heart,” Kimmel said in an apology last week. “I’m a comedian; I was trying to make people laugh. I’m sorry that I did this.”

Enough is enough.

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This article is now closed to comments

jmscscmp
The author makes a good point - ABC probably would not have done this to some other ethnic groups (and now I guess they'll add Asians to the list of groups with immunity). But this happened in the US, where there is freedom of speech, which means people will say things that are insensitive and crass sometimes. Sometimes those things get said seriously, sometimes to be funny. Kimmel said this was meant as a joke. Those that were offended may not agree with his definition of funny, but if they really want to get back at Kimmel or ABC, start ripping on them back! US politicians and other public figures get made fun of all the time! In that vein, I can't help but laugh at the comparisons to Hitler - they are amazing. I don't know what to sat other than: ****www.tshirthell.com/funny-shirts/what-about-all-the-good-things-hitler-did
Wetworks
This is so obviously a humour piece and I think protesters are being way too sensitive. Even Kimmel finds it absurd, but it in no way contributes towards hate crimes. Grow up, people.
phyongpp1
Hitler was very frustrated with the German Jews for outperforming the native Germans in almost every field of human endeavour including science, engineering, business, economics and education. So he asked his generals how to solve the problem. Not to his surprise the answer was "Kill all the Jews", and lo and behold there was the infamous holocaust in WW2.
The Chinese race must stay strong to ensure that no such holocaust befalls them.
dunndavid
Sorry to point this out Einstein, words of a comedian and deeds of a government are sort of different.
pgrath1
Part of these extended protests are being orchestrated by the Chinese Government.
shirleenzxl
the kid said" kill everyone in China", KIMMEL changed it to Chinese by saying "shall we let the chinese to live". I believe he, as an famous talk show host, knows that Chinese could also mean the Chinese minority in the US, not just those in China. The proclaim of "shall we let the chinese to live". sounds more like referring to the Chinese in the America, as it implied the superiority of the Americans and inferiority of Chinese, which is a racial issue that US and China never had, but a very sensitive issue today in domestic US. I find it hard to believe that he is unintended.
dunndavid
Stupid post. Kimmel did not say "shall we let the chinese to live". How do I know? Any American with an education beyond the 3rd grade doesn't use grammar like that. Point 2: Kimmel is not a famous talk show host, he is a famous comedian. Point 3: If you can't write English better than in this post don't bother to write anything. English speakers literally can't understand what you mean when you write this poorly.
shirleenzxl
the kid said" kill everyone in China", KIMMEL changed it to Chinese by saying "shall we let the chinese to live". I believe he, as an famous talk show host, knows that Chinese could also mean the Chinese minority in the US, not just those in China. The proclaim of "shall we let the chinese to live". sounds more like referring to the Chinese in the America, as it implied the superiority of the Americans and inferiority of Chinese, which is a racial issue that US and China never had, but a very sensitive issue today in domestic US. I find it hard to believe that he is unintended.
caractacus
This childish overreaction reflects far more badly on the Chinese than on Jimmy Kimmel. If only the Chinese were 1% as sensitive and tolerant towards other races as they are about their own self-centred feelings. There may be subtle racism against Chinese but boy, you should hear how they talk about other races between themselves.
They should drop the racial and cultural baggage and grow out of this collective chip on the shoulder.
To which country are the American Chinese most loyal anyway?
mushi
THIS. by far and large, chinese people only become politically correct when it is convenient for them.

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