Lucy Liu racism vs Filipinos in the Letterman Show?
Did Charlie’s Angels actress Lucy Liu insult Filipinos in her appearance in The Late Night Show with David Letterman last October 11? Liu, a Chinese-American Hollywood celebrity, appeared on the said comedy talk show to promote Elementary, her new TV series that also airs in CBS. Based on the 30-second episode clip posted by Vulture.com, Liu told Letterman: “If I get really dark, I’ll start to look like a little Filipino. It wouldn’t match.”
A longer version of Liu’s interview with Letterman has been uploaded in the YouTube channel of CBS. Although the two-minute snippet omits the part where Liu mentioned “Filipino,” it nevertheless provides context as to what she is talking about.
Liu is narrating to Letterman her fitness regimen which includes exercise and certain sports. It can be remembered that in May 2009, Letterman and actor Alec Baldwin caused uproar when they joked on the show about getting mail order brides from the Philippines.
In the field of literary criticism, the concept of “the author is dead” says that “an author’s intentions and biographical facts should hold no weight when coming to an interpretation of his or her writing.” Said in another way, this means that writers (and speakers, for that matter) have little control with how their audiences perceive their statements. Liu’s tongue-in-cheek quip was immediately framed negatively by Vulture.com and Spot.ph as evidenced by this video grab:
Both Vulture.com (which is the entertainment blog of New York Magazine) and Spot.ph did not put the quote in its proper context. By doing so, it seems that they are merely trying to unnecessarily stoke anger from Filipinos, which probably won’t happen this time unlike in past cases (remember Teri Hatcher and her ‘med schools from the Philippines’ line?).
Liu did not say anything negative directly against Filipinos. Nevertheless, Liu’s remarks are similar to Serbian fashion designer Lara Bohinc’s controversial statement last year in The Telegraph. Bohinc said she wanted to make sure that supermodel Kate Moss will be the one wearing the belt she gave her because “I (she) didn’t want to see it on her Filipina maid.” Liu probably has no intention at all to offend “little Filipinos,” but come to think about it, she could have still made the same point (ergo, her desire not to be dark) without mentioning any nationality at all.
UPDATE: Lucy Liu has apologized for this incident, telling Ruben Napales of Philippine Daily Inquirer: “I am so sorry that my comment was taken out of context, as I would never insult another group or ethnicity.”