Flat White

Here’s a new group you never even knew you were offending

22 June 2020

6:00 PM

22 June 2020

6:00 PM

BIPOC. We first read it as “biopic”, since it appeared in The SMAge in an article on the Sydney Film Festival. Biopic. You know. Like Reach for the Sky. Or is that problematic too, given that the subject is a dead white male, even though he spent much of his life without legs (as distinct from being legless)?

It turned out to be something completely different. BIPOC, according to the article, stands for the black, Indigenous and people of colour community — who have been offended. Or at least a group of Asian activist luvvies – well, two, actually — have taken offence on their behalf.

At the centre of it all is a film, a short film, Mukbang; “a drama about a schoolgirl getting caught up in the trend of binge-eating food online that has been popular in South Korea for the past decade”:

The jury of actor-producer Bryan Brown and directors George Miller and Sophie Hyde described [Actress and director Eliza] Scanlen as “a director with a fresh voice” at the virtual festival’s awards ceremony on Thursday night.

After the win, writer and actress Michelle Law attacked Mukbang for being “profoundly problematic in the way it appropriates Korean culture in order for a white girl to find herself” and raised concerns about the deletion of a short scene that had a drawing of the white schoolgirl at the centre of the film violently attacking a black schoolboy…

Law, co-writer and star of the SBS comedy series Homecoming Queens, said the decision showed “how racist and broken the screen industry is in Australia” and accused the filmmakers of “perpetuating a racist system from which they benefit”.

A senior lecturer in directing at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, Pearl Tan, said she and her friends had been privately sharing “anger, sadness [and] disappointment” since watching Mukbang.

She was “deeply disappointed” with the festival and the judges for it being selected and winning “without anyone questioning the lack of cultural competency”…

Naturally, this had to be addressed by not just a metaphorical bending of the knee, but an out and out grovelling in the dust:

After the outcry, Scanlen said on behalf of everyone who made the film “I am so deeply sorry for creating a work that has caused offence.

“I intended this film to be a young girl’s journey of self-discovery in the age of internet culture and I failed to recognise how problematic this was,” she wrote on Instagram. “I take full responsibility for this.”

While Mukbang has been streaming at the virtual festival since June 10, Scanlen said it was only when it was pointed out by members of the black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) community “who are tired of constantly having to do so, that I realised just how deeply hurtful it is.”

Fat Salmon Productions, which made the film, issued a separate apology saying “we’re ashamed to have overlooked the issues with the film and it just proves how insidious, persistent and deeply embedded systemic racism is in Australia and in us as white Australians”.

“The issue is the fact that we didn’t pick up on this as predominantly white creators and creatives. If we had more BIPOC [heads of department] or crew this wouldn’t have happened.”

We’re still working out how a white idiot following a nutjob Korean internet trend offends BIOPICs, sorry, BIPOCs — especially since American kids who listen to Korean pop music are being heralded as heroes in the war against Donald Trump in The Guardian today.

But perhaps that “just proves how insidious, persistent and deeply embedded systemic racism is in Australia and in us as white Australians”.

And we’ve not only discovered a new group we never even knew we were oppressing and offending.

We can almost certainly look forward to its expansion, the way LGBT has turned into LGBTI and more and just keeps on growing.

Illustration: Twitter.

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