At one point during the show, host Jimmy Kimmel spoke to eight-year-old “Lion” star Sunny Pawar about how he was enjoying the night. Kimmel then asked if Pawar had ever seen Disney’s “The Lion King” and asked if the young boy would like to re-enact the scene where Simba is held up by the monkey Rafiki.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2017
The skit received a positive reaction from the crowd at the Dolby Theatre and some Twitter users revealed they couldn’t get enough of the “cute” moment.
— Jeeniya Jain (@jeeniya90) February 27, 2017
— GingercatBAP🌹 (@gingercat_js) February 27, 2017
That moment when Jimmy Kimmel lifts Sunny Pawar in the air Lion King style. Too funny and too cute! 😂😂❤❤👏🏽👏🏽 #Oscars
— Lexie Gabriana-Reyes (@LexReyeSitae) February 27, 2017
But many other viewers were quick to note the skit had an underlying racial tone that made it problematic.
Yeah...that whole picking up the little brown boy with the Lion King theme music thing was kinda racist. Actually, not kinda. Definitely.
— VSB (@VerySmartBros) February 27, 2017
Because nothing says "we're not racist" like a white Hollywood elite lifting up a colored minority kid like Simba w/ Lion King music #oscars
— kuh-laire (@eclairelouisa) February 27, 2017
Definitely uncomfortably racist. Jimmy Kimmel needs to to away forever https://t.co/7JHDlreZ28
— Daniel Zavarella (@Daz655321) February 27, 2017
Many also claimed that Kimmel’s skit made Pawar, a young person of colour, the butt of the joke.
I'm sure using Sunny Pawar as a prop looked good on paper....actually I'm not.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) February 27, 2017
Jesus Christ Jimmy Kimmel, can you not use a little brown kid as a prop for an Disneyfied African-themed punchline? #Oscars
— Manuel Betancourt (@bmanuel) February 27, 2017
Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth also noted: “He would NOT have held up a little white kid like Simba and played the song from Lion King -- nope, not even for a film called ‘Lion.’”
He would NOT have held up a little white kid like Simba and played the song from Lion King--nope, not even for a film called "Lion." #oscars
— Elaine Welteroth (@ElaineWelteroth) February 27, 2017
While some maintain that Kimmel’s joke was not racist, explaining that he was “poking fun at the movie LITERALLY BEING NAMED ‘LION,’” others are still on the fence despite the fact that the moment left them feeling uncomfortable.
All of America is processing that moment and trying to figure out if it was a little racist...#Oscars Lion King Moment.
— Robert Zeigler (@Robert_Zeigler) February 27, 2017
You know the Lion King bit? Was that in some way racist? Or am I racist for thinking that? 😱 #Oscars
— Daniel Lyddon (@Daniel_Lyddon) February 27, 2017
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only gimmick Kimmel made at a person of colour's expense. He also poked fun of Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali’s name after he won Best Supporting Actor for “Moonlight.” Naturally, the joke did not sit well with Twitter.
Jimmy Kimmel making fun of black and Asian names and the very racist lion king bit. #Oscars
— steviewires (@steviedeadlocks) February 27, 2017
oh that is a cool racist joke about Mahershala Ali's name. Fun fun way to shit on one of the best moments of his life. #Oscars
— Angie Manfredi (@misskubelik) February 27, 2017
Sadly, this is also not the first time an Oscar host has made fun of people of colour at the awards show. Last year, host Chris Rock made a tasteless joke about Asian stereotypes after bringing out three Asian kids dressed as PricewaterhouseCooper accountants.
— Mashable News (@MashableNews) February 29, 2016
Here's hoping next year's Oscars leaves racial jokes at the door.