In a fascinating bit of cross-cultural misalignment, Michael Yaki, a former San Francisco supervisor and now a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, got Bravo to cut the use of the acronym “JAP,” which is colloquially used, often in a self-referential way, to stand for “Jewish-American Princess,” from its promos for and episodes of a new show, Princesses: Long Island, about privilege young women from the New York area. The San Francisco Chronicle explains:
“This promo ran again and again and I got madder and madder and said, ‘This is not right,’ “ said Yaki, a KRON-TV political analyst. “I’m the son of a Japanese American who spent a part of his childhood behind barbed wire in an internment camp in the Arizona desert. It is a term that offends Japanese Americans and Asian Americans.”
On Friday, Yaki sent a letter to executives at Bravo, saying, “While I understand that there has been a regional colloquial use of the word, the time is long past that it should be a word that Bravo actively promotes on its network. You can see that it is so offensive to me that I cannot even spell the whole word out.”
The use of the acronym has nothing to do with the slur against Japanese-Americans, of course, originating separately in novels by Jewish men and magazine articles about Jewish women — Frank Zappa even wrote a 1979 song called “Jewish Princess,” that brought the Anti-Defamation League down on him. The questions of whether or not it’s a slur, and whether or not the term’s been officially and widely claimed are up for debate. But wherever those conversations settle, it makes sense that hearing a word that in another context is absolutely derogatory must be jarring.
No word, of course, on whether Yaki or the Commission are going to go after any of the other stereotypes on Bravo, from the presentation of Italian families on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Persians in Shahs of Sunset, or women in general on the network. Maybe because the people who fall into those stereotypes are playing them for fun, profit, and tabloid covers, they come across as less objectionable. Or maybe we see so many images of Italians being loud, African-American women being dramatic, and women in general undermining each other that we’ve lost the capacity to be jarred by more of the same.