The Golden Globes, the most raucous of the awards shows, would have been remiss without jokes about the Sony email hack and North Korea’s part in the "Interview” debacle. Although some found Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho’s parodic performance as a Kim Jong Un-esque general named “Cho Yung Ja” to be less than funny and even racist, others, including some Asian-American media scholars, saw nothing problematic.
The skit started with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler introducing a new member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Cho Yung Ja, a contributor to Movies WOW magazine and a North Korean army general. Cho, who came out heavily made up with white powder and wearing a military uniform, first wordlessly requested a selfie with Meryl Streep. In later segments, she weighed in like a TV critic, comparing the Golden Globes unfavorably to North Korea's propaganda spectacles, analyzing the lesbian relationships in "Orange Is The New Black" and saying Kristin Wiig "should do 'Bridesmaids 2.' "
"In North Korea we know how to put on a show, this is not a show," Cho said of the Globes with a heavy accent, referring to the grand propaganda rallies in North Korea that feature, as Cho joked, "1,000 babies playing guitar at the same time" or lots of people holding up a piece of a picture to produce one large picture.
Later, Cho's character said, "Also, I think 'Orange Is the New Black' should be in the drama category. It’s funny, but not ha-ha funny. Also, Piper and Alex’s relationship is very toxic." She was referring to Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon's characters in the show, who have a tumultuous relationship.
Margaret Cho is still doing that same tired racist bs, but it's okay BC she's Korean right?
— Ground Scarf (@ptandersons) January 12, 2015
wtf Margaret Cho? 2 smart, talented female comics add a 3rd and give us this? lazy, stereotypical, racist & not even funny. what a waste.
— John H (@onomatotwittah) January 12, 2015
"I thought there wasn't anything unusual or 'minstrely' about Cho's performance," Karen Tongson, associate professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California, told International Business Times. "It was really just an extension of her stand-up act, which always skewered intergenerational relations between accented 'elders' and herself, but also a citation of her own work on '30 Rock, 'in which she guest-starred as Kim Jong Il and Un!"
Cho is no stranger to impersonating male historical figures. In her live album "Revolution," the cover features her face in a mashup with revolutionary Che Guevara's.
Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, an associate professor in the English department and the American studies program at the University of Virginia, told IBTimes that compared with other comedians' Kim Jong Un-esque portrayals, Cho's was rather mild. "Some of Cho's jokes poke at the pagentry of authoritarian governments and Kim's strange taste in American celebrities," Chong said, "but nothing that really even approaches the sort of ridicule that 'The Interview' or even 'Team America' heap on the North Korean leader. It seems a symptom of white privilege that some comedians (Stephen Colbert, James Franco, the 'South Park' guys) are 'edgy,' while Cho is judged more harshly."
The blogger for You Offend Me You Offend My Family used the brouhaha over Cho's performance to highlight the lack of diversity on the Golden Globes stage. "[W]ith the definite lack of Asians on tonight’s broadcast," wrote Philip, "besides a couple of quick shots of some random faces in the audience, it didn’t help that the only prominent Asian featured was a send-up of the 'foreign enemy.' Come on, Hollywood Foreign Press, would it have killed you to get someone like John Cho or Lucy Liu to hand out one of the 'lesser' TV awards?"