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Hong Kong series draws flak for 'brownface' portrayal of OFW

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Apr 14, 2022 5:20 pm

A Hong Kong television series has drawn the ire of netizens after the alleged use of "brownface" to portray a Filipino domestic worker.

Presented by Hong Kong-based broadcaster TVB, the seventh episode of their anthology series Barrack O'Karma 1986 showcases a Filipino worker named Louisa played by Canadian-Hong Kong actress Franchesca Wong.

Louisa's initial character trait is that she behaves oddly due to unseen mental health problems, but viewers weren't just bothered by Louisa's unusual behavior.

Wong first drew flak for her portrayal after a now-deleted video surfaced of the star darkening her legs and skin while poking fun at herself.

"I am transforming into another person," Wong had said in a Filipino accent in the video shared by one of her co-stars.

"I am sun-tanning right now."

Shortly after, a flood of comments came to Sky Post Hong Kong's Instagram account, decrying Wong's portrayal.

"Oooohhh racism in 2022," one user commented.

"You should’ve hired a real Filipino actress considering the population of Filipinos there in HK why hire a non Filipino and has to do brown face???" another pointed out.

Prior to the controversy, Wong had received acclaim for her role as Louisa.

Asian journalist Vivienne Chow also took to Twitter to share her two cents on the issue.

"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?" Chow queried.

Similar to blackfishing, brownface is defined as a social phenomenon where light-skinned individuals use makeup to portray themselves as persons of color, or "brown."

In a statement, TVB shared Wong's portrayal was "successful... through her professional performing techniques and sophisticated handling of role-playing".

"It was never our intention to show disrespect or to discriminate any nationality in any of our programme," they added.

"We would like to express our concern to anyone who might be affected in this matter."

They had since taken down the show from their sites. It will be reuploaded once changes are made.

There are over 340,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, mostly women from the Philippines and Indonesia.