[UPDATE 280315: Offending media removed from Desmond Tan’s social media pages]
The only two reasons why this got past people that should be offended by this is: 1) there is little understanding of why blackface is offensive and 2) Desmond Tan’s Instagram followers and those aware of blackface controversies don’t intersect.
Either way, MediaCorp actor Desmond Tan’s blackface look is not going down well with Facebook today.
In a recent Facebook posting by Joel Bertrand Tan, the actor posted a selfie of himself on Instagram with visibly darker skin — the work of makeup — and a turban, while making a Deepavali greeting.
The original post is no longer on the Instagram page but a check on Desmond Tan’s Instagram page reveals he posted the same photo two other times:
[UPDATE: As of March 28, 2015, both photos have been removed from Desmond Tan’s Instagram page.]
He also tweeted out one of his blackface Instagrams by appropriating stereotypical Indian speech:
[UPDATE: As of March 28, 2015, this tweet has been removed from Desmond Tan’s Twitter page. The original link is below:]
Blackface is a long-standing controversy where non-blacks appropriate the stereotype of a black person by darkening their skin or wearing outfits culturally-stereotyped to be from black persons. It has gotten actress Julianne Hough in trouble, when she donned blackface and prison inmate attire for a party in 2013.
Other artistes who adopted blackface in recent times include Billy Crystal during his Oscars stint, new The X Factor New Zealand judge Shelton Woolwright and designer Claudia Cutugno when she sent out models donning blackface at Milan Fashion Week.
In Japan, a campaign to halt a blackface performance in a variety show succeeded but B-Girl racial misappropriation problems still exist in a country rife with casual racism. On the reverse, Nick Cannon was similarly criticised for his use of whiteface.
In the photos, Desmond Tan hashtagged #asongtoremember, which is a show that aired in 2011 on MediaCorp’s Chinese free-to-air Channel 8. The show is produced by Chia Mien Yang.
Responses on these Instagram photos ranged from an Indian dismissing it as a joke to someone blatantly calling Desmond out:
There was also a quick exchange between Lush 99.5FM DJ Rozz and Desmond:
On the Facebook post, poet and playwright Alfian Sa’at commented, “I am going to put clothespegs at the sides of my eyes and go all slitty and ask Desmond Tan ‘How do you love my Chinese look?”.
Featured photo: @thedesmondtan/Instagram