by Guest Contributor Jenn Fang, originally published at Reappropriate
A few months back, Miley Cyrus (a Disney Channel ingenue better known for pop-star alter ego, Hannah Montanah, whom she transforms into by donning a blonde wig — wait, isn’t that the storyline of the Jem cartoon?) raised a blogosphere uproar for this picture of her (centre) at a party where she and her friends pulled their eyes back in a ludicrous “imitation” of slanted Asian eyes.
The photograph of Miley Cyrus and other individuals slanting their eyes currently circulating the Internet is offensive to the Asian Pacific American community and sets a terrible example for her many young fans. This image falls within a long and unfortunate history of people mocking and denigrating individuals of Asian descent.
“Not only has Miley Cyrus and the other individuals in the photograph encouraged and legitimized the taunting and mocking of people of Asian descent, she has also insulted her many Asian Pacific American fans,” said George Wu, executive director of OCA.
Cyrus issued an official apology, but also wrote on her blog that she was only “making goofy faces” and was not intentionally “making fun of any ethnicity”. Clearly, Cyrus did not fully grasp the context of her “goofy face” — yellowface makeup, including prosthetics that have purposely slanted eyes have been used in historical and contemporary media to disguise White actors as villainous or buffoonish Asian caricatures.
In the mid-1960’s, British actor Christopher Lee wore yellow makeup and invisible tape on his eyes to portray the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, an infamous character who originated many of today’s modern anti-Asian stereotypes. (Inset shows Lee today, without makeup).