James Corden’s “Spill Your Guts” Segment Slammed for Cultural Insensitivity


“I wasn’t angry about it, but I was more confused,” said Saira, a 24-year-old Filipino and Chinese-American activist. “I was just wondering why they were using such sentimental food for my culture.”

“If you don’t like it, there is a way to be respectful about it,” she added. “When a person who is not at all involved in culture categorically takes advantage of it and shows it in a negative way, it is not fair.”

Earlier this month, Saira started a petition calling on Corden and “The Late Late Show” to change. As of Thursday, it had 41,000 signatures and tally.

“Spill Your Guts” removes foods from their context

“Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts” is essentially a more extreme version of the truth or the deed.

In the segment, James Corden and his celebrity guests take turns choosing between answering an uncomfortable personal question or eating one of the many “disgusting” foods.

The foods in question range from dishes specific to various cuisines (chicken feet, cow’s tongue and bull’s penis) to concoctions with no obvious cultural significance (salmon smoothies, insect trifle, and hot dog juice). Several of the foods have been featured in the segment more than once.

The game is based on shock value, with Corden and his guests (who are rarely Asian Americans) wrinkling their noses and calling the dishes “disgusting”, “horrible” or just “ew”. The dishes are usually prepared in a way that looks intentionally unappetizing, without context, flavor and seasoning.

For the purposes of the game, that’s probably the point. But for Saira and other critics, the problem is that ingredients consumed by millions of people around the world are even included in the “raw food” line.

“It perpetuates this myth that Asians are ‘disgusting’ or ‘horrible’ because he takes foods so unfamiliar and tells others they are disgusting,” she said. “It perpetuates the cycle of anti-Asian racism.”

Saira’s petition calls for “The Late Late Show” to either change the segment to remove foods that are ingrained in other people’s cultures or to get rid of them altogether. He also demands that Corden publicly apologize and donate to Asian American organizations.

A spokesperson for CBS, which broadcasts the talk show, referred to CNN to comments Corden made on “The Howard Stern Show” last week.

“The next time we do this, we won’t involve or use any of these foods at all,” Corden said in the June 16 interview, when asked about the recent reviews. “Like you said at the start, our show is about joy, light and love. We don’t want to put on a show to upset anyone.”

Corden also noted that he didn’t know when the segment would play out again.

For Saira, however, the comedian’s response was insufficient.

“In my petition, I specifically asked James Corden to apologize publicly on his show, and the reason I was really specific about this was because I think it’s imperative that his hundreds of thousands viewers understand the harm it does to make fun of these foods, rooted in Asian cultures, have on Asians who still eat them, ”she said.

Criticism is not new

Although Saira’s petition is recent, “Spill Your Guts” has been criticized in recent years for its cultural insensitivity.

Andrew Sun, food columnist for the South China Morning Post, called the segment in a 2018 article “top-notch cultural chauvinism.”

“I want to know which white and European epicurean arbiter has decided that the fattened duck or the goose liver, which sounds better using its French name, foie gras, is gourmet and luxurious, but the chicken gizzard and the duck tongues are uncivilized and horrible? ” he wrote.

Krishnendu Ray, associate professor of food studies at New York University, notes that despite their popularity, East Asian cuisines have long been mocked and viewed in the West as inferior to European cuisines. from northern France, England and Germany – a phenomenon he describes as “a history of domination and hierarchy of tastes by race, class and ethnicity.”

But in today’s era, those same attitudes – including those on “Spill Your Guts” – seem disconnected, he added.

“It sounds silly and outdated at a time when the balance of power is shifting in the world and the demographic transition is underway in the United States,” Ray wrote in an email to CNN.

Writer Shirley Cahyadi raised questions about who determines what is considered inedible and who “The Late Late Show” is for in a 2018 article for Embodied, the arts and culture magazine of the New York University.
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“The show attracts an international audience because it airs in countries like India, South East Asia, France, Ireland, New Zealand and Finland, but it does not take into account effectively non-Western perspectives, ”Cahyadi wrote. “Even if this segment was not born out of racist motivations, the lack of initiative to break out of the bubble of ignorance is simply not enough.”

The problem goes beyond James Corden and “The Late Late Show”.

Asian cuisines and foods have often been portrayed in the media as tasteless, unappetizing or unhealthy. Take, for example, the Travel Channel show “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” which showed its host traveling the world sampling dishes considered disgusting, exotic, or bizarre. A few years ago, Zimmern admitted that the first seasons of the show had a cultural sensitivity issue.

While complaints about the exotic have been flowing for some time, this moment of heightened awareness of anti-Asian racism seems to have brought it to a boiling point, Saira said.

“Now people are paying a lot more attention,” she said.

Asian Americans are fighting for change

On Thursday, Saira and others who challenge “Spill Your Guts” are hosting an event in Los Angeles around the corner of where “The Late Late Show” is filming.

It is meant to bring together Asian Americans and their allies who wish to change the way Asian cultures are portrayed in mainstream media and raise awareness of the “Spill Your Guts” issue, Saira said. And, rightly so, it will feature a Korean food truck.

For those who may not have grown up eating foods like balut or for those who find them unappealing, “Spill Your Guts” may seem like harmless pleasure.

But for Saira and others who are by her side, the food is personal and political.

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