William Hung Returned for the 'American Idol' Finale — and Twitter Wasn't Exactly Thrilled
On Thursday night, after 15 seasons, American Idol found its final star during its series finale. Over the course of the show's two hours, the organizers brought together just about anyone and everything that made the show memorable over the past 15 seasons.
There were happy memories: Kelly Clarkson, likely the show's biggest success story, slayed her hits one after another. There were somewhat awkward memories: Brian Dunkleman, the show's original co-host appeared to crack jokes about unemployment.
And there were really awkward memories, the kind many would've preferred to be left in the past: The infamous William Hung returned to the Idol stage to bang one last time.
Many fans felt nothing but unmitigated glee when Hung took the stage.
However, some saw something entirely different.
For those who may have forgotten: Hong Kong-born University of California, Berkeley engineering student William Hung became a national sensation in 2004 when he was cut from the show's first round for his comically bad rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." Yet much of the goofy charm that audiences seemed to adore — his bad teeth, thick accent, stilted moves — supports long-standing Asian stereotypes.
"With William Hung, is there any other reason to extend the joke on America except that it plays to a racist image of the ineffectual Asian-American male?" Emil Guillermo wrote on SF Gate in 2004 back when Hung was being hailed as the "next Elvis." "You certainly wouldn't see them glorify a black man who couldn't sing and dance on American Idol. Nor would they prop up a clumsy, tone-deaf white person."
Twitter relived it all on Thursday using the hashtag #HungonIdol.
Hung's appearance likely wouldn't have rubbed so many the wrong way if Asian-Americans were able to see themselves adequately represented on television. In many ways, he's a relic from an era of television many had hoped was coming to an end.
Many publications hail 2015 as the year realistic portrayals of Asian-Americans finally appeared on TV, pointing to shows like Fresh Off the Boat and Master of None. Yet still only 6% of cast members on major network TV are of Asian descent, according to Fusion.
Hung's cringe-worthy "She Bangs" was very likely the one moment from American Idol we didn't need to relive.