A recent episode of Great British Bake Off is being criticized for cultural insensitivity. The "Japanese week" installment of the beloved reality show has many viewers cringing, or even outraged, on social media. Many believe the episode perpetuated negative stereotypes of Japanese culture and people and noted that it was also full of inaccuracies.
The "Japanese week" episode of GBBO featured three challenges supposedly built around Japanese themes, but viewers thought it fell short. The Signature Bake was a batch of eight steamed buns called bao, which actually originated in China, not Japan. The Technical Challenge required bakers to make a matcha crepe cake, with plenty of other non-Japanese techniques and ingredients along the way. One of the overwhelming criticisms here was that the show was reinforcing the racist and harmful view that all East Asian cultures are essentially the same, and interchangeable.
The answer was no. None of the above.
Instead, we were served a lazy bake of an out of date out-of-a-packet mix of ‘Chinese, Japanese, Whatever’ East Asian theme, served with a dollop of the rather passé & yawn stereotype of KAWAII (ironically mispronounced KOWAI)...
(Cont’d)— Naoko Mori 森尚子 (@naoko_mori) October 27, 2020
Critics were particularly furious because they saw the potential that the episode did not live up to. Torchwood star Naoko Mori tweeted: "With [Paul Hollywood] apparently having recently visited Japan, I ready, set, and waited in anticipation for tonight. "Would they be baking DORAYAKI? Might they be making MUSHIPAN? Or could they be using MOCHI or baking SENBEI...?? The answer was no. None of the above."
Adding to the insults here were numerous mispronunciations, which viewers thought was avoidable, and a heavy reliance on the stereotype of "Kawaii" aesthetic. Here is a look at how viewers responded to Great British Bake Off's controversial "Japanese week" episode.
Finally watching Japanese week on GBBO and there’s so many problematic things in this episode it’s making me cringe.— Penny Moore (@literarypenny) November 14, 2020
i love me some gbbo but the japanese week episode was a downright mess.— hallo prachtige vrouw, laten we samen de chaos vo. (@_lazulila) November 18, 2020
the secondhand embarrassment was real.
Many viewers' initial reaction was to cringe at the episode, seeing all the things it got wrong while everyone on screen seemed oblivious to the details.prevnext
Some fans left this particular episode unfinished, unable to get past an early infraction in the "problematic" episode. They also recalled previous time when the show missed the mark on cultural representation.prevnext
THE SIGNATURE CHALLENGE IS A “KAWAII CAKE”?????????? pic.twitter.com/00vi5pSxK4— karen han (@karenyhan) October 30, 2020
Of course, there were many who took to social media to vent their anger at the episode, first and foremost. They were incredulous that a big team of TV producers could all make these mistakes, guessing that it meant there were no Japanese people hired to check on the choices for these challenges.prevnext
Melonpan. Enriched dough covered in cookie dough. Doesn't actually contain melons! pic.twitter.com/U0ifGzDySS— Dr Emily Emmott 🐒 (@Emily_Emmott) October 27, 2020
Would've preferred seeing the contestants make shokupan or something like that rather than Chinese buns, just call it Asian week since it's all the same to people #gbbo— Lia ⛄ (@missconfig) October 27, 2020
Instead of focusing on what the show got wrong, some users tried to be constructive, highlighting the opportunities the series missed. British anthropology professor Dr. Emily Emmott tweeted an extensive thread of Japanese baked goods that she would have rather seen on the show.prevnext
Many viewers see Great British Bake Off and similar shows as "comfort-watches," so they were sad to find an episode that gave them this kind of anxiety. They were reluctant to admit that the "Japanese Week" challenges didn't sit right with them at first.prevnext
5 mins into GBBO “Japanese Week” and so far they all seem to think China and Japan are interchangeable 💀💀— murphyᶻᶻᶻ (@bluechcrry) November 16, 2020
Criticism of this episode sparked some broader discussions about why the implication that various East Asian cultures are interchangeable is harmful. Many Twitter users explained how this perpetuates stereotypes and reinforces racist assumptions.prevnext
I’m catching up on the new GBBO season and it looks like I’ll need a drink (or several) to get through so-called Japanese Week.
Having baking challenges that aren’t even Japanese, and having a Japanese Week on a season with no Japanese or East Asian bakers, is... A Choice 🙃— James Akinaka (@JamesAkinaka) November 18, 2020
Finally, many viewers suggested that the show might have taken Japanese Week more seriously if it had had some East Asian bakers in the line-up this season to double-check the challenges. This was yet another reason to seek diversity in TV casting.prev