We are very disappointed at the choice of the play (whose title is a racial slur for East Asians) by Lauren Yee. We understand this was written as a satire of Asian Americans. The cultural landscape has shifted dramatically since 2009, the year of its premiere. BESEA racism has spiked 300% since the pandemic and Chinese people in the UK report the highest levels of racial harassment (YouGov). The timing & wording of this shows a lack of thought & responsibility. Satire is not punching down at an already-marginalised community. BESEAs who have objected have been dismissed, gaslit, and patronised. We are sure you understand how this is also perpetuating racism. It is disingenuous to claim to champion BESEA talent yet not choose work by BESEA writers. Do consult our directory if you’re struggling. Further, while no amount of silver ever justifies selling out one’s community, the actual fee is an insult to everyone in our industry.
We’re inviting you and your loved one to join us for a special date night screening of MONSOON followed by a live film quiz for just £8!
Directed by Hong Khaou, MONSOON is a visual and emotional tour de force with a tender performance from Henry Golding. The film is a rich and poignant exploration of the struggle for identity in a place where the past weighs heavily on the present.
Each ticket purchased grants access to a unique streaming link for MONSOON available to stream at 7pm on Friday 2nd October and a ZOOM link to take part in our film quiz directly after at 8:30pm. Hosted by comedian Ken Cheng, the quiz will be a chance for you to test your cinema knowledge with fun trivia questions focused on queer and international films!
Not only is a film-tastic night promised but also proceeds from the event will be donated to support End the Virus of Racism crowdfunder.
Whether you are part of a couple or flying solo and looking for a fun night in, this event is welcome to all who are part of or an ally to queer and interracial couples!
The trailer for ITV’s latest flagship period drama The Singapore Grip was greeted with a predictable chorus of derision on Twitter last week.
In a landscape where our creative industries are decimated, the Black Lives Matter movement has placed this country’s problematic view of its own colonial legacy firmly under the microscope. More than 5000 UK creatives signed an open letter calling for UK TV industry gatekeepers to come to the table on diversity and inclusion issues. In this context, an expensively mounted TV adaptation of J.G. Farrell’s satirical novel, with colonial Singapore as its exotic backdrop, is a kick in the teeth to the UK’s East and South East Asian community. This is especially concerning at a time when anti-East and South East Asian hate crime has dramatically increased during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Farrell’s novel has its place in history. But its attempts to present a satirical critique of the Empire are fatally undermined by its 1970’s race and gender mores. The title references a slang phrase for a sexual technique said to be used by local sex workers; a clear signifier of how the novel positions the Asian aspect of its story-telling.
The television adaptation could have taken a more enlightened perspective in keeping with the progress that has happened in the half century since the novel’s publication. Instead, even the cynical desperation and callous decadence of Farrell’s Caucasian characters is bled out in favour of jauntily-forced, comedic indulgence, presenting this traumatic period of Singapore’s history as little more than breezy and inconsequential.
The Daily Mail rapturously christened The Singapore Grip “Downton Abbey meets Apocalypse Now”, which speaks volumes about the British media’s view of the two worlds the series attempts to capture. Even an opening sequence foregrounding the eventual horrors of war centres the story’s white male protagonist against a mise en scene of anonymous Asian extras.
The series, like the book, features only one Asian character who remotely resembles a protagonist: Vera Chiang, “a mysterious Chinese refugee” (‘Eurasian’, according to the story, although this nuance is seemingly lost on ITV’s publicity department), whose main dramatic function is to cast a “spell” over the story’s white male conscience, “Matthew”. In the first episode her every appearance is announced by keening erhu music while, despite her supposed refugee status, she models impeccable cheongsams and enigmatic smiles.
The other Asian characters are merely heavily accented ciphers, silent chauffeurs, exotic dancers, giggly prostitutes, monosyllabic grunts and half-naked Yogis. Asian womanhood is represented as lurid temptation and subservient availability. Studies have shown that sexualised, submissive stereotyping of East and South East Asian women leads to staggeringly high rates of physical and sexual violence against them.
That a public service broadcaster should so casually engage in this type of harmful (non)representation, with no care for its real world consequences, is deeply upsetting.
BEATS are not censors; our national broadcasters are the only ones with that power. Our TV industry regularly censors British East and South East Asians into a dehumanised, othered background presence, resulting in a lazily foreign, dramatically irrelevant homogeneity. Our writers are censored by a denial of platform to tell our stories, and our actors are censored by generic stereotyping and aggressive tokenism. This censorship is ironically but resolutely colonial.
We see it and we deplore it. And we say enough is enough. We are not your backdrop.
BEATS is an advocacy group for British East Asians and South East Asians working in theatre and in the screen industry. British East and South East Asians in arts and culture are underrepresented, marginalised and maligned. It is our mission to hold the entertainment industries to account when they perpetuate racism towards British East Asians and South East Asians by refusing us platforms and representation.
The documentary Du Fu: China’s Greatest Poet, which was screened by BBC Four on 6 March erased British Chinese from their own culture and denied them an opportunity to be platformed.
The programme was presented by Michael Wood and Du Fu’s poems were read by Sir Ian McKellen. We recognise Michael Wood’s passion for and knowledge of Chinese culture but surely it’s time for people of East Asian heritage to be central in their own culture. The choice of Sir Ian McKellen to read Du Fu’s poems was particularly at odds with the subject matter. We have the utmost respect for Sir Ian, but we have to ask why wasn’t an actor (or actors) of East Asian descent chosen to do this?
The programme makers will no doubt argue that there is no British East Asian actor with the profile of Sir Ian. As Dr. Jami Rogers’ recent research, commissioned by the Equity Race Equality Committee, has revealed, British East and South East Asians are severely underrepresented on UK television. Dr Rogers’ analysis, alongside copious research by Dr. Diana Yeh and other academics such as Dr. Simone Knox and Dr. Ross Forman, proves what British East and Southeast Asian actors already knew: that opportunities are virtually non-existent, and consist of thinly drawn, tokenistic, lazy stereotypes and little else.
Nevertheless, there ARE British East and South East Asian actors with a substantive body of work, including in classical theatre. Why an actor (or multiple actors) from that heritage couldn’t be given this platform instead of being effectively erased from their own culture is difficult to fathom in a progressive publicly subsidised broadcast serving a diverse equal opportunities multicultural Britain.
We would also question the programme’s title. Whether Du Fu was “China’s Greatest Poet” is of course a matter of opinion but in this context this title tokenises a rich history and culture even more. The diverse and complex place we now know as “China” has produced a myriad of great poets and writers (including a great many female ones) and no doubt will continue to do so. To present one as the uncontested “greatest” is, in our opinion, reductive Orientalism.
British East Asians and South East Asians pay licence fees like everyone else and the BBC has a duty to represent us but instead continues to marginalise our community. With the recent surge in coronavirus-fuelled racism toward East Asian and South East Asians, public backed arts and culture institutions need to meaningfully consider how their actions allow structural racism to persist and fail to address societal prejudice and discrimination.
BEATS is an organisation that is dedicated to fighting for equality, better representation of British East and South East Asians, and halting the racism and prejudice that many British East Asians are subjected to in the UK.
On the 13, March 2020 Equity, the actors’ union released an a statement of apology to Laurence Fox.
BEATS is appalled that a trade union that is supposed to support its members instead appeared to have aligned itself with an individual (not actually an Equity member) who displayed deplorable behaviour (gaslighting) towards a woman of colour on BBC Question Time, 16 January 2020.
More worrying still, after the release of the statement by Equity, a torrent of racist, xenophobic abuse was unleashed on social media, specifically targeting Daniel York Loh, the former chair of the Equity Minority Ethnics Committee (now the Equity Race Equality Committee).
Surely, if the statement of apology released by Equity and Laurence Fox is to be believed – that “Equity and Laurence Fox condemn prejudice unequivocally in all its forms” – then we would expect both parties to condemn the perpetrators.
BEATS support and stand by Daniel York Loh and all the members of Equity Race Equality Committee who stood up and spoke out in these uncertain and very troubling times. Particularly with the rise of COVID19 racism directed towards East Asians, we are extremely troubled that Equity did not support and stand by one of their democratically elected committees, a committee set up precisely to advise Equity on matters of race, diversity and inclusion.
The question now stands on how Equity members with an ethnic minority background will be supported within the union, now that they no longer have an official representation board. It is a concern we share with them and other members who have been affected.
In January 2020, following concerns raised 9 months earlier by a British East Asian working in opera, the English National Opera [ENO] reached out to a range of East Asian artists and academics working and living in the UK to attend a meeting to discuss issues raised by the then forthcoming opera Madam Butterfly, which opened on 26 February 2020.
As a result of the workshop, BEATS were in discussion with ENO about preparing a statement for possible inclusion in the programme for Madam Butterfly.
In the end, ENO decided not to publish our statement. We have decided to reproduce it in full here.
[Photo above taken from the Print Room Protest in 2017].
Stand in solidarity against #CoronaRacism and join our #IWillEatWithYou campaign this Leap Day Weekend.
Chinese people in the UK are facing increasing levels of racist abuse – many have had ‘coronavirus’ shouted at them in the street, on public transport, in the workplace. But it is not only Chinese people. It is ALL East and South East Asians who are under attack, and even those who seek to protect them. A British Thai city worker has been violently assaulted and left bleeding with a broken nose, and a South Asian woman was punched unconscious when defending her Chinese friend from a racist attack. East and South East Asian businesses have been decimated.
Yet the virus was in fact brought to Britain by a white businessman. This fact has been ignored.
There is no more likelihood of contracting the virus from an East or South East Asian than anyone else.
From Friday 28 February to Sunday 1st March, we are supporting the #IWillEatWithYou campaign to help East and South East Asian communities and their local businesses.
Don’t be dictated to by fears which are based on racism.
SkyNews, the BBC, Channel 5 and other media outlets have reported on this unacceptable escalation in racist attacks. Other media sources have created scaremongering headlines based on racialised conjecture, which fuel further fear and assaults.
You can help. So fight racism – join this simple campaign.
Get a takeaway or sit in at your favourite local eateries and share your photos on social media with the hashtags #IWillEatWithYou #LoveChinaTown #HateRacism
It has been brought to our attention that BBC4 has commissioned two documentaries about the Chinese in Britain and Vietnamese in Britain as part of A Very British History. We are disappointed to learn of more BBC projects that pivot entirely on a British East Asian experience while excluding British East Asians in key editorial, creative lead, and decision-making roles on the programmes. It is difficult to escape the notion that these documentaries are being conceived to perform diversity but with no real intention for meaningful inclusion.
BEATS reached out to the BBC Commissioner but so far they have declined to meet.
We are kicking off 2020 with a very special screening of Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece PARASITE; screening at Picturehouse Central on 8 February at 2PM followed by a Q&A exploring capitalism and class. This is an unmissable event – join us!