Brownface depiction of domestic helper in Hong Kong series draws criticism


Posted at Apr 13 2022 05:04 PM

Franchesca Wong FB
A foreign domestic helper is depicted in the Hong Kong series ‘Barrack O’Karam 1968.’ Facebook: Franchesca Wong

MANILA — A Hong Kong series’ depiction of a foreign domestic helper using brownface, or the darkening of skin using makeup, has drawn criticism on social media.

In the TVB program “Barrack O’Karma 1968,” the domestic helper named Louisa is portrayed by Hong Kong actress Franchesca Wong, whose portrayal sees her wearing brownface, according to Coconuts Hong Kong.

While Wong has drawn praise for her acting, the use of makeup to darken her skin became the subject of criticism online.

“The Hong Kong media is raving the performance of a local actress painting her face dark to play the role of a Filipina in a TVB series. I didn’t watch the show (not planning to) but this just feels so wrong. Why does this still exist in this day and age?” Vivienne Chow, a Variety contributor from Hong Kong, tweeted.

“As if there are not any Filipinas in Hong Kong who could have auditioned,” US-based journalist Steve Herman replied.

Another response to Chow’s tweet was from Johnson Yeung of Amnesty International Hong Kong. He wrote: “I watched the episode, the script itself is not bad, and hv featured typical discrimination and verbal abuses faced by migrant workers, and the psychological burden they endure. A lot of good actress could hv fit this role, and TVB has once again strip agency of marginalized grp”.

“Honestly, tvb could've easily hired a Filipina who speaks Cantonese — there was no need to "pretend", put on an accent, brownface for the sake of a role. it just shows that the hk media/tvb is insensitive, ignorant and racist,” user @mvskxn tweeted.

Jessica, a Filipino theater performer who was based for a time in Hong Kong, said: “can’t count how many times i was type cast as the ‘help’ in auditions in HK for being a darker skinned filipino performer but also offered less money than my western/lighter skinned asian performers. ofc when a local actor does it, it’s a celebration of their skills.”

As discussion on the brownface depiction grew online, a video of the actress putting on brownface also surfaced. In the Instagram clip, she is seen applying makeup on her legs.


A post shared by 林景程 (@lamkingching)

As of writing, TVB nor the actress, Wong, have yet to address the criticism.

In 2021, Hong Kong registered nearly 340,000 foreign domestic helpers. Data showed that more than half of that number — 191,783 — are Filipinos.