LettersBrownface debate should inspire Hong Kong to do better
- While it is difficult to change the status quo through policymaking, popular culture is a viable domain in which to eliminate prejudices against Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities
I watched some excerpts and spotted stereotypes – clumsiness, docility and dark magic. Yet, putting myself in TVB’s shoes, I also noticed how the helper is a main character in a story of this anthology series, the mutual trust between her and her employers, and – spoiler alert – how the employers are trying to make her part of the family, though for a strange reason. While this might not challenge the norm, it at least allows room for interpretation.
I do not wish to treat this controversy as an argument about who is right. Racism is indeed a long-standing problem and can be attributed to our social system and culture. Our work and education system creates power imbalances and glass ceilings, making cultural integration and mutual understanding challenging.
The heart of the problem is the underrepresentation of Southeast Asians. While it is difficult to change the status quo through policymaking, popular culture is a viable domain in which to eliminate prejudices. As a major broadcaster, TVB has an obligation to produce programmes with higher cultural sensitivity, but since its target audience is ordinary residents, we can’t expect overnight changes.
Hong Kong’s ethnic minority communities are working hard to make their voices heard. A Cantonese-speaking Indonesian domestic helper known as Contrinx has drawn media attention with her videos about the hard lives of domestic workers. Community projects, such as be/longing, an arts education and storytelling initiative, have been surging in recent years, with the aim of raising public awareness of diversity.
It is true that no representation is perfect. Still, progress is possible if we keep observing, discussing and trying to make changes.
Garfield Chow, Tai Po