“In fact, the protagonist is Filipino, and then she turns pale,” Mr. Singing to journalists at a TVB event last week. “That’s the difficult part,” he added. “You can not find a Filipino to paint white, so you can only paint an artist black first, so she can turn pale again. If we make movies about aliens and we can not find an alien to play the role, then are we discriminating against aliens? That’s what the plot demands. “TVB’s publicists said Mr Tsang was not available for comment.
Using brownface in this way for a plotline and assuming that all Filipinos are a particular color maintains odious stereotypes, critics say.
“It’s basically an exercise of privileges,” Christine Vicera, a Filipino filmmaker and researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in an interview. “Franchesca is at the end of the filming able to remove the brown skin. Whereas Filipinos or Southeast Asians or South Asians in Hong Kong, we do not have the privilege of removing our skin color.”
Jan Gube, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Education University who studies multicultural education and diversity, said many local viewers lacked the historical context to understand why brownface is offensive. Professor Gube said most students in Hong Kong’s public schools do not grow up interacting with peers who look different from them. Local schools did not teach cultural respect – let alone the context of brownface – in an in-depth way, he said.
“You will see a lot of comments from social media and local media saying that the actress is true to her role,” he said. “Not many people look at it from a cultural point of view, which means they are not necessarily aware that putting on that kind of makeup means something different to other people,” he added.
Brownface (and yellowface – imitations of brown and Asian people by light-skinned artists) evolved from the racist vaudeville tradition of blackface, a staple of American minstrel shows in the early 1800s. For the most part, white actors used dark makeup to play mocking caricatures of black people. With few other representations of black people on stage – and later on screen – blackface performances helped reinforce dehumanizing troops.