features outrageous visuals and outlandish characters
to get you to laugh, or at least be mildly amused.
Courtesy of FOX
Banzai Offers Up Cheap Laughs And a Lot of Controversy
most people think of FOX, they think of one thing; edgy
programming which pushes the boundaries of what we see
on network television. FOX's latest concoction, the
British cult classic "Banzai" (Sunday nights
at 8:30 PST), continues that long-standing "tradition"
by pushing the envelope to the extreme in ways you may
have not even dreamed possible.
a nutshell, the show presents a series of outrageous
scenarios, the outcomes of which people at home can
bet on online, (www.fox.com/banzai) or by their trusty
cell phone. There is no money to be had, but the top
20 total point winners are displayed online every week.
The contests themselves range from "The Michael
Jackson Reverse Race Rendezvous", in which three
Michael Jackson impersonators moonwalk across an ice
rink, with the audience wagering on who will finish
first, to "The Man Dog Stick Question," where
Todd Bridges of "Diff'rent Strokes" squares
off against a four-legged canine to see who can retrieve
a stick the fastest.
no one's surprise, "Banzai"'s depiction
of its Japanese characters, and Asian Americans
as a whole has been the hot button issue since
no one's surprise, "Banzai"'s depiction of
its Japanese characters, and Asian Americans as a whole
has been the hot button issue since it's premiere here
on July 13th. The host of the show, Mr. Banzai, is a
bald, angry martial artist who kicks a lot and shouts
even more. The cast contains characters which many would
deem to be stereotypical and offensive, such as Cheeky
Chappy, a middle-aged man with thick glasses, a heavy
accent, and a predilection for women.
racial stereotypes have set off a frenzy of outrage
and protests from the Asian American community at large.
The Media Action Network for Asian Americans recently
staged a demonstration outside the Television Critics
Association in mid-July, demanding that the show be
taken off the air. They have also been promoting petitions
calling for a boycott of the FOX network as a whole,
as well as all of its programs and sponsors. (The petition
can be viewed online at www.modelminority.com/article464.html).
Aoki, co-founder of the MANAA, called "Banzai"
a show of "all the backward images of Asian-American
like an Asian minstrel show." The goal
of Aoki and MANAA is to have the show canceled and to
have FOX issue a public apology for airing it.
on the other side of the fence on this issue stand equally
strong however. FOX spokesmen Scott Grogin says that
the show is "a satire, a parody of Japanese game
shows. It's very tongue-in-cheek and should not be viewed
as anything but." With typically nimble PR maneuvering,
FOX instead describes its show as "a wild and irreverent
romp that cuts through the wide sea of traditional television."
FOX currently plans to air six episodes, but no further
plans have been decided on for the show's future.
the broken-pidgin-English spat out en masse by the hosts
and the nonsensical Asian characters thrown around on
screen certainly do nothing in the way of promoting
the overall image of Asian Americans, the seriousness
and validity of the show must really be questioned.
A lot of Asian Americans find the show's concept and
delivery stupid, but not offensive. Furthermore, in
this age of "reality TV," FOX is clearly king.
Shows such as "Joe Millionaire," "Temptation
Island," and "Married by America" have
captured audience's attentions with style and novelty
more so than substance. Many of these shows have drawn
criticism on themselves by the public at large because
of what the stand for (and also what they don't). Can
we blame FOX for trying to bring in the ratings by producing
shows so absurd and so inane that millions are forced
by morbid curiosity to watch? And, are we really to
believe everything we see on these shows, or reality
TV for that matter? Apply these questions to "Banzai"
and you may find yourself enjoying the mindless comedy
the show offers. I'm proud to say I've seen all three
shows, and laughed at every one.
important to consider is that the vast majority of the
participants on Banzai are not Asian themselves. Who
is to say that it is not demeaning when a Caucasian
woman stuffs her mouth full of one-dollar bills, or
when African-American Todd Bridges fights with a dog
over a stick, especially considering the witty remarks
offered by Mr. Banzai and his broadcast crew on the
preceding events. Considering that the contestants themselves
have to agree to be on the show, what kind of message
does having two blind women race around in bumper cars
until they hit each other send to the American viewing
audience? "Banzai" is a show that can be viewed
as crude and offensive to anyone with any sense of discerning
taste, not just a particular group.
bottom line is that FOX has never been a network to
create programming which touches your heart or your
mind, but instead has always set its sights much, much
lower. To think that the show is a criticism of racial
stereotypes or some commentary on race relations is
to give it far too much credit, but to think that it
aims to demean or offend Asians is equally hyper-sensitive.
The actors on the show are acting, and to think that
people will take their fictional roles as truths regarding
the personalities and views of all Asians is akin to
believing Gary Coleman is representative of all African
not only forgoes political correctness, but locks it
in a metal container and gives it a burial at sea in
favor of low brow humor and cheap entertainment. If
you are able to do the same, then you are the audience
"Banzai" was intended to capture. If you are
highly culturally sensitive and shudder at the thought
of an Asian man performing a karate chop, you should
be watching PBS, not FOX.