The big win for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at the Screen Actors Guild Awards was a watershed moment for Asian representation — but for some, it was also a reminder of Mark Wahlberg’s history of anti-Asian violence.
The predominately Asian cast of A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won the prize for cast in a motion picture Sunday night. While star James Hong celebrated inclusion in Hollywood, some viewers took issue with the presenter, Wahlberg.
“Mark Wahlberg presenting an award to an Asian cast is DISGUSTING,” wrote another Twitter user. “ In the 90’s he was arrested for assaulting(nearly to death) a Vietnamese man for fun. Yelling racial slurs at him to get his rocks off. How much more out of touch could the #SAGAwards2023 #SAGAwards be?”
The ire for Wahlberg stems from an April 1988 incident in which the “Uncharted” star, a teenager at the time, assaulted two Vietnamese men and hurled racial slurs. He spent 45 days of a two-year sentence in jail for the felony.
Social media users also called out the SAG Awards on Sunday for choosing Wahlberg, “a man who notoriously committed hate crimes,” to present the award. One user saw the controversy as an example of “white privilege.”
Other users found the moment hypocritical, citing Will Smith’s slap at the 2022 Academy Awards.
“Will Smith ostracized while Mark Wahlberg get to present an award to an Asian cast,” said writer Torraine Walker.
Representatives for the SAG Awards and Wahlberg did not immediately respond Monday to The Times’ request for comment.
Beyond the backlash, the 2023 SAG Awards featured major milestones for Asian talent. Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh, who star as spouses in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” both made SAG Awards history.
Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win the female actor in a leading role award, and Quan became the first Asian male to win the male actor in a supporting role prize.
“Recently I was told that if I were to win tonight, I would become the very first Asian actor to win in this category,” Quan said during his emotional acceptance speech. “When I heard this, I quickly realized this moment no longer belongs to just me. It also belongs to everyone who has asked for change.”
Quan’s co-star Hong echoed similar sentiments toward the end of the ceremony.
“My first movie was with Clark Gable, but back in those days…the leading role was played by these guys with their eyes taped up like this [pulls back the corners of his eyes] and they talk-a-like-a-this,” he said. “And the producer said ‘the Asians were not good enough, and they are not box office.’ But look at us now!”
With several prizes from the SAG Awards, Directors Guild Awards and Producers Guild Awards, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is on a roll headed into the 95th Academy Awards on March 12.