After opening to widespread acclaim from the media in mid-June, Skyline Drive-In NYC (1 Oak St.) has come under criticism for screening two movies that feature characters in yellow and black face.
The drive-in waterfront theater showed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which features a white actor playing a character who embodies Asian stereotypes, on June 25. And on July 1, it presented “Trading Places,” a film in which the main character wears black face.
Activists have released a petition demanding, among other requests, that the owner of Skyline Drive-In formally apologize for screening the two movies. It has more than 400 signatures.
“We submit that showing films with caricatures of POC as a form of entertainment is no longer acceptable in our society, as doing so perpetuates the harmful stereotypes against POC,” wrote the petition’s authors.
Sia Eliopoulos, a Prospect Heights resident and one of the campaign’s principal organizers, considered going to Skyline Drive-In when it opened. However, when she saw that it was screening “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” she was aghast.
“These films that show and feature these caricatures of people of color shouldn’t be shown as an entertainment anymore,” she said in an interview.
After alleging that Skyline Drive-In failed to adequately respond to calls, emails and messages on social media, she and others created a petition to get the owner’s attention.
“When you have a character that’s doing yellow face as a form of entertainment, that’s certainly problematic,” said Alison Suen, a philosophy professor at Iona College who helped copy edit the petition. “I don’t think we can just watch this movie without any critical conversation about how this character is being portrayed.”
The disapproval of the theater’s recent programming comes amidst a broader cultural conversation on race and how it’s portrayed in the media. In June, Netflix took down episodes of “30 Rock” that featured black face. And HBO temporarily pulled “Gone with the Wind” from its streaming service after critics pointed out that the movie romanticized slavery.
Greenpointers reached out to Skyline Drive-In for comment and will update accordingly if the owner responds.