Charlie Chan Ban Lifted by Fox Movie Channel

By Marc Morano | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - The Fox Movie Channel has lifted its ban on Charlie Chan movies, the television network announced on Friday. Fox had announced the cancellation of the broadcasts in June after complaints from Asian American groups that the fictional Chinese detective was portrayed in the movies as a racially offensive stereotype.

The Fox Movie Channel, which serves about 20 million households through either cable or satellite service, announced that the Charlie Chan film festival will restart beginning Saturday, September 13.

To mollify Asian American groups, the network will feature "a panel of prominent Asian Americans representing film history, sociology, authors and actors" who will "address racial stereotypes, the casting of non-Asians in Asiatic roles and race relations in America" before each of the four scheduled movies, according to a network press release.

"The network researched concerns voiced by Asian American organizations about the negative ethnic portrayals depicted in the Chan films, while bearing in mind the Fox Movie Channel subscribers who are fans of the film history and, in particular, the Charlie Chan series," the statement read.

Chuck Saftler, general manager of the Fox Movie Channel, stated that the network "worked with the Asian Coalition to fulfill our charter of preserving film history while meeting the responsibility to place the films in the proper cultural context.

"We felt it was important to respond to both the Asian community and our viewers," Saftler added.

The Fox press release also included the response of Karen Narasaki, president and executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC).

"We believe that the introductory piece and follow-up discussion will help raise the level of awareness in everyone who watches and promote understanding of the issues many Asian Americans have with these films." Narasaki said.

The NAPALC, along with the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA), has been among the leaders of the campaign to remove Chan films from the airwaves.

In a letter to the Fox Movie Channel, Eddie Wong, executive director of the NAATA, wrote that "growing up in 1950s Los Angeles...Charlie Chan's shuffling, subservient manner and exaggerated accent and fortune-cookie chatter did not resemble my parents, friends or any Chinese person I knew.

"By running the Chan movies, the Fox Movie Channel (is) reviving hurtful stereotypes instead of helping our society move toward harmony," Wong added.

Others disagreed and praised the Chan films.

Tim Lucas, editor and co-publisher of the monthly magazine Video Watchdog, called the original decision by the Fox Movie Channel an attempt to rewrite history.

"There is nothing objectionable about the character of Chan himself...It boils down to over-sensitivity," Lucas said in an interview with in June.

More than 40 films were produced featuring the crime-solving character Charlie Chan, beginning in the silent era of the 1920s and continuing into the late 1940s.

The Fox Movie Channel announced on June 27 on its website that it was canceling its several-months-long "Charlie Chan's Mystery Tour" because the "films may contain situations or depictions that are sensitive to some viewers."

Novelist Earl Derr Biggers created the fictional Chan character, and the Chan movie series featured various actors portraying the detective. Swedish actor Warner Oland, who according to Lucas, credits his Asian appearance to Mongolian ancestry, popularized the role of Chan in the 1930s. The movies also featured Asian actor Keye Luke as Charlie Chan's "number one son," who attempted to help his dad solve cases but mostly served as comic relief in the films.

See Earlier Stories:
Fox Reconsiders Chan Movie Festival Ban
(July 3, 2003)
Fox Movie Channel Bans Charlie Chan Movies
(July 1, 2003)

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