Anti-Asian racism
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Gordon Ramsay plays Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts with James Corden (left) on an edition of The Late Late Show in 2018. Corden challenges guests to reveal information or eat certain foods. A Filipino-Chinese influencer took issue with Corden ridiculing Asian foods. Photo: CBS via Getty Images

James Corden dissing Asian foods on his show encourages racism against Asian-Americans, Filipino-Chinese social media influencer’s petition says

  • ‘This is my culture’ and he’s ‘calling it gross’, says Kim Saira, a Filipino-Chinese influencer, of The Late Late Show ridiculing balut, a Filipino delicacy
  • Saira got 40,000 people to sign a petition for the show to drop a segment featuring Asian foods. Corden said it would do so, but she wants him to apologise

When is a controversy done being a controversy? That’s the question now for thousands of online critics and late-night US television host James Corden.

At issue is his occasional segment “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts”, which has been called racist for its use of some traditional Asian foods in its recurring hit parade of edibles.

Kim Saira, a Filipino-Chinese social-media influencer, started a petition against the segment on June 8, a day after posting a TikTok video that went viral. By the time she organised an in-person protest in Los Angeles on June 24, more than 40,000 people had signed the petition.

In an Instagram post on June 25, Saira said the 60-person protest was “SO much fun”, but noted that she hadn’t had a response from CBS, which broadcasts Corden’s show, or from its host.

Kim Saira, Filipino-Chinese social-media influencer. Photo: courtesy Instagram/@kimsaira

In “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts,” Corden asks celebrity guests challenging questions while offering them unusual and sometimes outrageous foods as an option if they decline to answer. The host accepts the same challenge.

While the goal would be getting the dishiest reveal, the laughs generally come from the foods themselves and the reactions to them.

The next time we do that bit we absolutely won’t involve or use any of those foods
James Corden in an interview with Howard Stern

Saira’s petition called on Corden to change the game or cease it altogether. It asked that he issue a public apology and make a donation to support Asian-owned businesses. It also linked Corden’s segment to current incidents of anti-Asian violence, saying: “Content like this continually perpetuates and encourages harm and racism against Asian-Americans in our daily lives.”

However, it turns out the protest was already successful in one of its goals more than a week before it was held.

Corden told Howard Stern in a June 16 interview that he had heard of the complaints and, in the future, would not use any of the foods in question. In other words, he would change the show.

James Corden, host of The Late Late Show with James Corden. He told Howard Stern in an interview after the petition was launched: “We don’t want to make the show to upset anybody.” Photo: CBS via Getty Images

“The next time we do that bit we absolutely won’t involve or use any of those foods,” the host told Stern. “Our show is a show about joy and light and love, and we don’t want to make the show to upset anybody.

“Look, in the same way that when we played it with Anna Wintour, we gave her a pizza covered in cheeseburgers, you know what I mean? We completely understand.”

Corden put off Stern’s questions about whether people had gotten too sensitive. “It’s not for us to determine whether somebody’s upset or hurt about something,” he said. “That’s not for us to decide. All we can do is go, all right, we get it, we hear you, we won’t do that.”

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Corden also said that as a matter of policy, he didn’t read much or engage with anyone regarding his show.

But that answer wasn’t enough for Saira, who is still holding out for a public mea culpa to be broadcast on The Late Late Show.

“[T]his statement is a non-apology, as he does not actually address the cultural insensitivities of having the food on his show, and the harm that this perpetuates on Asians who still eat these foods,” the petition said in an update on the day of the protest. “This means we must keep going until The Late Late Show releases a public apology on air!”

Balut, a hard-boiled fertilised duck egg, is a traditional Filipino snack. Photo: Shutterstock

She said that an attempt to deliver a thumb drive containing the names of the petition’s signatories to CBS Television was unsuccessful. “We were immediately denied by a bunch of men in suits at the gate,” she wrote on Instagram. “I will post a video about this later!”

Corden has been hosting The Late Late Show remotely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When reached on Monday, representatives for CBS and The Late Late Show pointed to the Stern interview.

Saira recently told the Today show that she stopped watching Corden last year after seeing the segment ridicule balut, a “sentimental food” she eats with her family on trips to the Philippines. The Filipino snack is a fertilised duck egg that’s incubated for a few weeks and then hard-boiled.

“I noticed that he was presenting it to a guest and calling it gross,” Saira said. “I was just so confused, and I feel like it was a moment of me just being like, ‘Oh my gosh, like, this is my culture. I don’t understand why he’s making fun of it’”

Jimmy Kimmel with James Corden on The Late Late Show. Photo: CBS via Getty Images

Before creating the petition, Saira put out a TikTok video that went viral after she was reminded of a 2016 The Late Late Show segment in which Corden challenged fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel with balut, chicken feet, pig blood curds, jellyfish, ghost pepper hot sauce, bull penis, a thousand-year-old egg and a fish smoothie.

“I don’t really know what that is,” Corden said of the balut.

“Oh, it all looks so terrible,” a smiling Kimmel replied. “And I know people can’t smell it, but it doesn’t smell good either.”

“It’s really disgusting,” Corden said. “It’s horrific.”

Pig blood curds. Photo: Shutterstock

Kimmel prematurely scarfed one of the pig blood curds, then drank the hot sauce rather than reveal the identity of his least favourite late-night host. He challenged Corden with the balut, asking if the Cats movie veteran was as miserable as he seemed during his “Carpool Karaoke” segment with Britney Spears.

“I’m very sad it looked like that,” Corden said, insisting the question wasn’t the reason he was sweating. “I wasn’t miserable at all.”

Kimmel wound up eating all the bull penis and took a bite of the thousand-year-old egg, a Chinese dish. The latter made him grimace. Corden answered his way out of eating the chicken feet, but slugged down some fish smoothie after he couldn’t name two cameramen on his crew that night.