'Totally disgusting': PH envoy slams Hong Kong TV drama portrayal of Filipina

Nadia Lam and Kathleen Magramo, South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 15 2022 05:06 PM

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

The Philippine envoy to Hong Kong has called a local television drama "totally disgusting" for featuring a Chinese actress who darkened her skin to portray a domestic helper, as TVB said it will amend the content before uploading it online.


Consul General Raly Tejada criticised the free-to-air television station one day after the broadcaster said it never intended to disrespect or to discriminate against any nationality and praised the actress's "professional" performing techniques in response to public backlash.

"The show is downright ignorant, insensitive and totally disgusting," Tejada said in a reply to the Post on Thursday. "It's a non-apology. Just shows their insensitivity and callous disregard even when people are hurting from this negative portrayal of a Filipino helper."

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

He said the portrayal of the character and use of "brown face", where a light-skinned individual attempts to portray a person of colour or marginalised group by using make-up to darken their skin, reinforced negative stereotypes of Ban Mui, an offensive Cantonese term frequently used to describe Filipino women.

Hong Kong TV drama sparks 'brown face' furore over depiction of domestic helper


"Recent world events should have taught TVB that it is unacceptable to assign a corresponding social value to a particular race. No one has the right to mock and ridicule anyone based on their race and ethnicity," he added.

A petition was also launched on Thursday evening to demand a public apology from the producers and actress, as well as reshooting the scenes with better representations.

Canadian-born Chinese actress Franchesca Wong wore dark make-up to portray a Filipino woman in the seventh episode of the show titled Barrack O'Karma 1968, which aired on Tuesday.

The episode, "Jie Jie Part 1", centred on a local couple who hired "Louisa", but found her behaviour "spooky" and suspected her of using voodoo.

An Instagram video showing Wong brushing dark make-up all over her legs also circulated online, sparking polarised reactions in the city.

While some found the drama insulting and reinforced racial stereotypes, some local audiences expressed their support for the show online.

"It's just a TV programme. Stop complaining about everything," a Facebook user said.

"Why is it disrespectful? How can she portray a foreign domestic helper if she did not use make-up to darken her skin? Or we must find a real domestic helper to play the role?" another netizen wrote.

Following the backlash, TVB skipped the episode "Jie Jie Part 2" which was expected to be aired on Wednesday. The two-part subseries were taken down from its website.

In a response to the Post's inquiry on Thursday, the station said the two episodes will be available for review on their website "after further content amendment", but stopped short of explaining the reason behind the decision.

The incident was not the first time TVB featured a foreign domestic helper in their recent television drama.

In Come Home Love, a prime time sitcom aired every day, actress Lesley Chiang played the role of a helper called "Liza". The character was featured in Chiang's bid for the TVB's anniversary "My Favourite Female Television Role" award.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.



Watch more News on iWantTFC