With all the controversy surrounding The Interview and the cyberattack on Sony, we can’t say we didn’t expect at least a few North Korea jokes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the hosts of last night’s Golden Globes. However, no one seems to have been prepared for the skit from Margaret Cho– one which has been a topic of controversy since it aired.
It goes without saying that Margaret Cho was a prominent figure at the Golden Globes this year. While this would normally call for a celebration (there’s hardly ever any Asian American representation at this event at all), this actually left some viewers uncomfortable. After all, Cho did not appear on stage as herself. Instead, she was “Cho Young Ja,” a North Korean army general and journalist.
With an over-powdered face and an exaggerated accent, Cho Young Ja commented on the Golden Globes by saying, “You no have thousand baby playing guitar at the same time. You no have people holding up many card to make one big picture. You no have Dennis Rodman.”
Of course that wasn’t all. The general also commented on Netflix’s Orange in the New Black (“It’s funny, but not ha-ha funny… Also, Piper and Alex’s relationship is very toxic”) and even demanded a picture with Meryl Streep.
As you can imagine, this appearance was met with a storm of mixed reviews. On one hand, there were more than a few viewers who believed her skit was blatantly racist.
“First of all, let’s just call Margaret Cho’s long, dwindling joke at the Golden Globes last night what it was: yellowface,” writes E. Alex Jung on Vulture. “Hollywood needed a punching bag after the Sony hack and ensuing debacle with The Interview, and Cho willingly suited up.”
Others took to twitter to share their dislike.
It was only a matter of time before Margaret Cho chimed in on the controversy by speaking to Buzzfeed:
I’m of North and South Korean descent, and I do impressions of my family and my work all the time, and this is just another example of that. I am from this culture. I am from this tribe. And so I’m able to comment on it.
When we have British people playing American icons, there’s no backlash. But for Asian-Americans, it’s a very particular set of expectations that we are set to maintain, and that in itself is racist.
I think that we’re being held down by that incredible tide of invisibility that we’re constantly fighting. Whenever there is visibility, it’s shocking. Whenever there is visibility on our terms, it’s shocking. That’s why any visibility is so highly scrutinized. I’m so used to it that it doesn’t alarm me, it doesn’t bother me.
I welcome the controversy. And I don’t care.