The Internet Isn’t Sure What to Make of Margaret Cho’s Golden Globes Character

The Korean American comedian defended her performance against accusations of racial stereotyping.
Margaret Cho in costume at the Golden Globes. (Photo: ‘The Wrap’/Twitter)
Jan 12, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Golden Globes hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s opening monologue was hilariously on point. But when they attempted to mock Sony’s decision to pull The Interview—whose plot involved the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Unafter threats from hackers, viewers weren’t sure exactly what to think.

Fey and Poehler introduced comedian Margaret Cho as the newest member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The bit dragged on as Cho reappeared halfway through the show in pancake-white makeup, an apparently exaggerated squint, and a broken-English accent rivaling the one belonging to the Kim Jong Il marionette in Team America.

It was an over-the-top performance reminiscent of Mickey Rooney’s infamous portrayal of I.Y. Yunioshi in 1958’s Breakfast at Tiffanys, which many found absurdly offensive.

But is a portrayal relying on worn stereotypes OK if it is done by an Asian American woman? How about if it’s an Asian American woman who has been outspoken about her own racial background and how it has determined both how she perceives and is perceived by American society?

The jury’s still out on that one, as Twitter reacted with a collective “Huh?”

Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen wasn’t sure how to process the spectacle.

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed editor Doree Shafrir made a point that many found pertinent.

NPR’s Linda Holmes simply couldn’t take it anymore. She tweeted a plea for the whole spectacle to end.

Cho shrugged off accusations of racism with, well, more race jokes.

She used the #freespeech hashtag that went viral after last week’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, again prompting audiences to wonder: What is the boundary between satire and racism? It’s a question filmmakers, writers, and comedians will undoubtedly be forced to acknowledge in light of The Interview’s censorship—the death scene was toned down before the film’s release—and The New York Times’ decision not to print the Charlie Hebdo comics, citing them as “deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities.”