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‘Breakfast’ should not be served!

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Miss Golightly! They protest!

An Asian-American group is demanding that a screening of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at Brooklyn Bridge Park next month be canceled — saying the flick’s caricature of a bumbling Japanese man infamously played by Mickey Rooney is racist and offensive.

The classic Audrey Hepburn film is scheduled to be shown on Aug. 11 as part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy’s free outdoor “Movies With a View” series — but an online petition and the threat of a protest could cancel the show.

“It’s outrageous that public funding would sponsor a film like that,” said Ursula Liang, a Bronx documentarian who launched the petition against the screening. “It’s not appropriate to show in this day and age.”

The 1961 hit — known best for Hepburn’s role as a New York socialite — features Rooney in “yellowface” as Mr. Yunioshi, a buck-toothed, bumbling neighbor who speaks with an exaggerated Japanese accent.

To some, watching the portrayal is painful — and they don’t want others to have to suffer through it.

“To show this movie without any public recognition of how damaging such caricatures are to our entire community is highly insensitive and socially irresponsi­ble,” said Marcie Chin, a South Slope resident.

Chin, along with several other Brooklynites, said that they e-mailed the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, which runs the free summer film series, but received the same boilerplate response: the movie will stay.

“ ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is a beloved movie, with one irredeemable, superfluous scene from an era in Hollywood when more overt racism was acceptable in movies than it is today,” a spokeswoman wrote.

Nancy Webster, executive director of the conservancy, said that she hopes to address people’s concerns, but hasn’t decided how just yet.

“We appreciate hearing people’s views about our programming, whether they are critical or supportive,” she said. “We trust our audience to use their own judgment about what is appropriate for their families.”

Not all Asian-Americans agree that banning the film is the best way to address its racism.

Jeff Yang, a Park Slope resident and pop-culture columnist, said that a slam poet or standup comic could “fight fire with fire” and elucidate what Rooney’s depiction means to Asian-Americans today.

“Most who see the film will see it for what it is — an unfortunate reflection of people’s misperceptions of Asians in that era,” Yang said. “I don’t think they’re going to be laughing and joining the fun.”

This isn’t the first time movies in the park have caused a ruckus. Last summer, Brooklyn Heights residents complained that the screenings were too loud, and in 2008 — when the series was held in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park — the state wouldn’t allow the showing “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a movie which featured a transsexual punk rocker.

This year’s summer film series, held on Pier 1’s Harbor View Lawn, receives funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at Pier 1 [Old Fulton Street at Furman Street in DUMBO, (718) 802-0603], Aug. 11 with seating starting at 6 pm and the movie beginning after sunset. Free. For info, visit www.brooklynbridgepark.org.

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Reader Feedback

won hung lo from park slope says:
Maybe they should show a documentary about the Rape of Nanjing instead?
July 11, 2011, 12:01 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Aw, isn't that precious! The poor widdle PC thought
police nannies don't wike it...so therefore no one should be allowed to watch it....
July 11, 2011, 12:19 pm
Not Goish from Prospect Heights says:
How about a movie whose main character is a high-level call girl? The male lead is a bought-and-paid for boy toy. Come on, the Mickey Rooney character is a joke. Remember when it was filmed. Cripes, we'd never get to see the classics [How about "20 Seconds over Tokyo] if this happened ....
July 11, 2011, 12:41 pm
Tom from Prospect Heights says:
This movie is historic and a classic. Just because one group perceives racism doesn't mean we should have to cancel it for everyone. There is such a thing as being OVERLY sensitive.
July 11, 2011, 2:07 pm
VoiceOfTruth from Sir William of Burg says:
1. This scene and character are racist as hell. It is not about "perceived" racism or overly sensitive people, it is flat out racist.

2. Just because 1 is true, doesn't mean the movie shouldn't be shown. It is otherwise a good maybe great movie, and people watching the film will think to themselves, damn, things were racist as hell back then.

3. Audrey Hepburn was hot.
July 11, 2011, 3:48 pm
sg from Bkln North says:
from http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/18/18_yellow.html

"Memorable Line: Audrey Hepburn to an angry, screaming Rooney: "Don't be angry, you dear little man . . . If you promise not to be angry, I might let you take those pictures we mentioned."
Yellowface Performance: May Rooney burn in hell for this supremely racist bit of "acting." Although I can appreciate ethnic humor as much as the next guy, this one-note performance gets tired after the first 30 seconds. Rooney pulls out all the stops: Halloween-style prosthetic eyepieces; round, black-framed glasses; big buck teeth; crossed eyes; and hysterical Jap accent.
Karmic Retribution: Three decades later, Rooney's racist rantings are pilloried in the 1991 film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. His yellowface performance is displayed as an example of blatant anti-Asian racism in the U.S., and is used to foreshadow the immense racism Lee would encounter in Hollywood. A great scene, and one of the few critiques of yellowface in a major Hollywood film."
July 11, 2011, 3:56 pm
sg from Bkln North says:
http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/35779

Mickey Rooney upset about claims his 'Tiffany's' role is racist
July 11, 2011, 3:57 pm
bc from south slope says:
if the selected movie had a scene with black face and someone had complained, you know darn well that the conservancy would have immediately changed the film and issued an apology.
July 11, 2011, 4:28 pm
bc from south slope says:
not sure why my previous comment was deleted but i basically said if this had been a movie with "dark" face (i think that word got me deleted) and someone complained, the conservancy would have absolutely changed the film and issued an apology. this is not about being over-sensitive. it is racist and inappropriate. there are tons of other movies that can be shown instead so why wage a battle over this when they can do the right thing instead of offending an entire race of people?
July 11, 2011, 4:35 pm
Richard from Fifth Avenue says:
These petty cowards, pretending to be a voice against racism, don't care about Mickey Rooney or B@T's or know what real racism is - they're just trying to get publicity for their organisation by publicly attacking a much loved classic movie. They managed to get the same film withdrawn from a public screening and California last year and see it as a soft target and one that will get them a lot of publicity and probably help them raise funds. People like Ursula Liang are opportunist parasites.
July 11, 2011, 9:05 pm
Dave from Park Slope says:
"Perceives racism?" Uh, the only more racist movie extant is Birth of a Nation.
July 11, 2011, 10:33 pm
Kano from Kyoto says:
I think Liang should tackle racism in Japan: the cursing, harassment, changing seats on the subway--it goes on and on. It's important to educate folks about the breadth and depth of their hatred toward anyone who is not Japanese. No? Ask anyone who has ever spent significant time in Japan.
July 12, 2011, 12:12 am
G from Greenpoint says:
Is no one putting this film in historical context? It was filmed 16 years after the end of WWII, and just about everyone in the US had neighbors/family/friends who were killed in the war, possibly by the little-understood Japanese.
There was no cable TV, or internet, or Japanese consumer-product revolution, or even many people in the US other than two categories: black and white.
To all those screaming 'racism', take your children to the film, teach them some history, and please shut up.
July 12, 2011, 9:53 am
Ryu from Street Fighter says:
Ok Kano from Kyoto. I lived in Japan and never saw anyone curse out a non-Japanese person, or change seats on the subway. Its a lie based on hearsay you read on internet message boards. Is there prejudice? Sure. But that trip you type is just made up from whole cloth.

That said, cancelling the movie is stupid. Better to let it be shown, and let people see those scenes and realize just how racist and ignorant people were in those times. Because it is real racism, its racist as hell and nobody thinks those buck tooth ching chong impersonations are funny anymore outside of a Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Dunham show. It is otherwise a fine film.
July 12, 2011, 11:45 am
manhatposeur from manhat says:
Amos & Andy movie!
July 12, 2011, 11:50 am
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
I for one hates censorship of an kind. But I do not have the balls to tell any person of any group what they should & shouldn't find offensive. That in itself is also censorship.

I remembered in film school My Jews classmate walking out of a class screening of a Docu, that was done by Hilter's girlfriend, can't remember title, but it's considered the best Docu, made. I joined them in that walk out, just as others joined me in walking out of a screen of "Birth of a Nation"

I also remembered using a a word that is also used to to describe a rug.
Didn't know it was offensive until I was educated by a Chinese teammate of mine of how offensive the word is Asians people.

I would hope that those showing the film would make some statement before or after the screening because it is a teachable moment, because it seems that the real racism that Asian's have and is experience in this society goes unnoticed or is simply for gotten.

I will go to my grave believing that most people are not racist, just uneducated to what offense others.
July 12, 2011, 12:06 pm
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
I should say my Jewish classmates
July 12, 2011, 12:31 pm
Kano from Kyoto says:
Must have been Internet message boards that perpetuated the myth of Japanese militarism and its plan to exterminate Korean and Chinese culture. At least Germany admits its past.
July 12, 2011, 10:07 pm
Bill from Brooklyn Heights says:
The movie is offensive. It is racist and it should not be shown. Period.
There are tens of thousands of classic films - many from this era, too, and some with the hottie Hepburn - that would suffice. The Conservancy does not represent the community or the park (as much as they would like to claim otherwise). They are but an elite group of nimcompoops. The Parks Dept would not make this error. The Parks Dept should be running our parks and not a bunch of nimcompoops.
July 13, 2011, 12:56 pm
JohnTaylor from Park Slope says:
@Bill from Brooklyn Heights:

The movie is not "offensive." An object, in and of itself, can not be offensive. It can only offend. That is, an object requires a person to experience it and take offense.

Therefore, the movie is offensive TO YOU. You are offended by it. Many other people are not offended by it, or are mature enough to look beyond a single unfortunate stereotype to enjoy an otherwise glorious movie.

In other words: Grow the F up and stop being such an overly-sensitive baby.
July 14, 2011, 9:43 am
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Yeah, Bill from Brooklyn Heights, quit being such a
precious little moonbat crybaby.
July 14, 2011, 12:53 pm

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