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‘Totally disgusting,’ says CG of TVB drama using brownface to depict Filipina DH

14 April 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap


Wong (r) and a promotional poster for the TV series slammed by many as racist 

Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada has slammed a TVB drama series where a Hong Kong-Canadian actress put on a brownface to play the role of a Filipina domestic helper with witch-like ways, shifty eyes and erratic mood swings.

“The show is downright ignorant, insensitive and totally disgusting,” said Congen Tejada. “It cannot be denied that the portrayal of the Filipino helper and use of brownface reinforces negative stereotypes that characterize the “Ban Mui” - an offensive Cantonese slang.”

“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.”

'Ignorant, insensitive and disgusting,' says Congen Teada of the TV series

Filipina domestic helper Shiela Bonifacio, who heads Gabriela Hong Kong, a group formed to protect women's rights, said the TV series smacked of discrimination.

"Pinatitingkad nila ang kulay ng isang tao para ipakita kung anong klaseng trabaho mayroon siya at kung saang bansa siya galing," Bonifacio said. (They highlight the skin color of a person to draw attention to her job and the country she comes from.)

"They should focus more on the problems confronting migrant domestic workers and their contribution and role in Hong Kong society."

Brownface is a social phenomenon largely criticized in which a white or light-skinned person attempts to portray a "brown" person of color, but less overtly than the traditional blackface.

Despite the howl raised by many people including local celebrities over the seemingly racist show titled “Barrack O’Karma 1968,” Hong Kong media outlets have been all praises for actress Franchesca Wong who played the role of the Filipina helper.

News outlet HK01 gushed in one article that Wong “put on brownface to play a foreign domestic worker, but in reality she is actually a beautiful woman.”


In another it praised “Wong’s ‘impeccable’ Filipino accent, adding that in spite of her brownface, the actress “is actually a beautiful woman, with very western makeup, and looks exactly like a Caucasian girl.”

In the drama series Wong plays the role of Louisa, a Filipina helper who’s just been hired by a local couple. After she is hired, strange things start to happen in the household.

The employers soon find out that Louisa is eccentric, with a perpetually sad expression on her face, big mood swings and often plays with a rag doll on which she had drawn a mouth with her own blood.


According to an article written by a local journalist, the show was shot like a horror movie with dim lighting, discordant sounds, and spooky special effects, all done deliberately to portray the maid in an unflattering manner.

Wong had her whole body darkened and changed her accent to play the role. But what earned the ire of many on social media was a video shared on social media that showed her darkening her legs, and saying in a fake Filipino accent that she was transforming into another person.

Local media say Wong is 'actually beautiful' despite her brownface in the move

Many people called out TVB on Twitter, saying the show smacked of racism and stereotyping.

Journalist Katherine Magramo, said: “The underlying racist stereotypes are brutally clear for all to see. The show depicts Louisa, the Filipino domestic worker, as an alien “other.”  Her identity is distorted and flattened into a handful of essentialist qualities: dark skin, a comically fake accent, submissiveness, and “strange” behaviour.

This is all wrong - brown face, the horrible fake accent, the "witch" character. You can't hire FDW to play the role because domestic workers are legally not allowed to engage in other work but there's A LOT of Filipinos in performing arts in HK you could have casted,” she said.

Another journalist, Vivienne Chow, set off a long Twitter thread when she posted: “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?


One of those who replied, journalist Mary Hui, said, “Racism, both overt and covert, runs deep in the city.”

Hui also asked Hong Kong-based Filipina actress Miles Sible for a comment, and her reply was: “What’s really watched is people who watched the (TV) series don’t understand that it’s wrong and should not be celebrated.”

Sible, who starred in a recently released short film titled “Ate” added, “There are a lot of talented Filipinos in Hong Kong. We can do so much more than these stereotyped roles.”

In a separate interview local actress and model Sabrina Man said, “I don't think it's appropriate that she had to darken her skin for the role,"


"Domestic workers have done so much for Hong Kong, and I think it's disrespectful to them and to Filipinos in general to do this," she added. 

However, there were others who replied to Chow’s tweet saying things like that nothing was wrong with the drama series and that actors should be able to play any role offered them.

TVB got flak also for its 80s variety show where blackface was used to depict a Filipina DH

This is not the first time TVB has been embroiled in allegations of racism in its shows. In the ‘80s the popular variety show “Enjoy Yourself Tonight” had a Chinese actress in blackface and tight curls playing a Filipina domestic worker. 

More recently, another TVB drama series Come Home Love: Lo and Behold featured a Hong Kong actor playing a Filipino domestic worker. Fans praised the actor’s “maid accent.” (with reports from various media outlets)

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