Italian American Foundation "Disturbed" by Alan Yang's "Reckless" Emmy Speech
The organization's president says the winner cited "films that portray Italian Americans as violent, dim-witted and involved with organized crime."
The National Italian American Foundation, via its president John Viola, has criticized Alan Yang's Emmy acceptance speech, saying while he sought to break down one common stereotype in Hollywood, he was reinforcing another one.
"There are 17 million Asian Americans in this country, and there are 17 million Italian Americans. They have The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Sopranos … we got Long Duk Dong. We have a long way to go,” said Yang in taking the award for outstanding writing for a comedy series for Master of None, which he shared with star Aziz Ansari.
Yang was widely applauded online for using his speech to appeal for diversity in the entertainment industry. He later added on Twitter: "Now let’s go out there and make one Asian-American movie star. One!"
Thank you everyone for the kind words last night. Now let's go out there and make one Asian-American movie star. One!— Alan Yang (@AlanMYang) September 19, 2016
But at least some Italian Americans thought his example was less than appropriate.
"The National Italian American Foundation is disturbed by the very public degradation of Italian American history that was part of the 2016 Emmy Awards that aired last Sunday night,” said the statement from NIAF, It added that Yang “compared Italian American representations in film and television to portrayals of Asian Americans, pointing out that our populations are similar in size and yet we have much more representation in film and television.”
Continued Viola: “Mr. Yang’s comments, while meant to point out the under-representation of Asian Americans in film, ended up including a reckless disregard for Italian Americans by citing films that portray Italian Americans as violent, dim-witted and involved with organized crime — all three — and insensitive stereotypes that in no way reflect the lives of everyday Italian Americans."
Viewers in Italy shared NIAF’s sentiment. On the web site of newspaper La Repubblica, one person who commented on the video of the awards speech said: "Agree with Rocky, but not sure that Italian Americans can have Godfather, The Sopranos and Goodfellas as a source of pride."
Another user wrote: "Well, maybe because among Italian-Americans there are people like Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola … it’s their talent that has created masterpieces.”
Yang responded with an Instagram post on Wednesday, stressing his all-inclusive message. "If I had time on Sunday," he said, "I would've mentioned films like Titanic, Pulp Fiction, Raging Bull, Inception, Meet the Parents, Leaving Las Vegas, and Midnight Run, all of which star amazing Italian-American actors."
"But the point isn't to pit groups of people against each other. I was praising what I consider to be four masterpieces of film and TV. I hope someday Asian-Americans can achieve a fraction of what Italian-Americans have in the world of pop culture. We're not there yet. I love Harold and Kumar. It's one of the only times I've ever seen a dude who looks like me star in a movie and even speak English fluently. But Harold and Kumar ain't The Revenant," said Yang. "P.S. Let's get some more Italian-American and Asian-American actresses in leading roles, too."