April 25, 2014

Avril Lavigne picked a bad week to go all racist.

She's in big trouble for this:



Do you not see what's so cliven about it? Well, then, you might want to submit to Vox, the website that explains everything to the point needed by an adequately intelligent but generally pretty busy person:
Stone-faced, expressionless Japanese sidekick dancer ladies? Check. Inexplicable sushi-eating and photo-taking scenes? Check. Centering the song on a weird, creepily sexual dubstep chorus that rhymes "Hello Kitty" with "you're so pretty?" Congratulations, Avril — you've hit some kind of Orientalist Japanese Stereotype trifecta....

It's always hard to pinpoint background cultural influences on art specifically, but it makes sense that cultural penetration would produce unintentionally offensive cultural appropriation....

"RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!!," Avril tweeted. "I love Japanese culture...." In her defense, this kind of makes sense. Japanese pop does have a pretty camp vein running through it, one that "Hello Kitty" apes.
"Hello Kitty" apes? I love those 3 words together, because I can picture "Hello Kitty" Apes... just like I can picture "King Kong" Kitties, but do not market a product called King Kong Kitties. That would be racist.
Racist or otherwise culturally insensitive depictions of non-Americans have been around as long as America has.
Ironically, that Vox sentence is culturally insensitive to America's native people, who must be the subjects of the oldest culturally insensitive depictions in this portion of the globe (which has been around long before America):



But perhaps all of this is beyond what needs to be explained to the adequately intelligent, yet awfully busy inhabitants of the internet.

ADDED: The Vox-shaming continues here

85 comments:

Gerrard787 said...

Still, you have to admit Avril's newest album is AWESOME!

tim maguire said...

Is that a real song?

Saint Croix said...

The problem with the song is that it sucks. This song was said to be racist, but it's awesome.

I think I'm turning Japanese I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so.

David said...

Where is Mickey Rooney when we need him?

If examined closely Japanese popular culture would explode the brain of the average political correctness warrior in the USA.

SMGalbraith said...

Geezus, the world is going insane.

People spend all of their time trying to be insulted. It's a video.

Sidebar: It is odd, though, that white men can tell Ayaan Hirsi to shut up. That is interesting.

What is the rule on this? When can males tell females to be quiet about claims of sexism or misogyny?

Steve said...

Who is Vox and how can they be so clueless about Japanese culture? There list of cultural touchstones include "Ramen, Pokemon, J-pop"... and they are calling Avril's video an "Orientalist Japanese Stereotype trifecta"? (Go ahead and make fun of my placement of the question mark).

Avril's video will fit right into the Japanese cultural milieu where expressionless, sushi eating, picture taking Kawaii Girls are a staple. This is not Al Jolsen in black face it is Avril submerging herself into Japanese Culture.

MayBee said...

Do Voxers think western clothes, hip-hop, and pop music are cultural appropriation on the part of the Japanese?

Or do they, as I suspect, racistly think western cultural is neutral and available to all whereas other cultures are special and protected?

Saint Croix said...

Why is this a bad week to go all racist, anyway? Sotomayor is desperately crying out, "race matters, race matters," and we're supposed to go on a sensitivity witch hunt? And drive Avril Lavigne, whoever the hell she is, out of the music industry?

It's not a loss, that music video is embarrassing. But picking innocent people who are trying to make some art and saying "racist! racist!" And they deny it on twitter.

It's like racism has been hijacked by 14-year-old girls. It's all made up drama now.

Patrick O said...

Well, what can you expect from gaijin?

SteveBrooklineMA said...

The "culturally insensitive" picture you've posted is an illustration of an actual historic event:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_massacre_of_1622

Amichel said...

Ah yes, how culturally insensitive to accurately portray the massacre of some 400 colonists (1/3 of the entire population of the colony)following a sneak attack by the Powatan Confederacy. I mean, couldn't the artist portray the warriors a bit more sympathetically as they murder defenseless women and children?

Ann Althouse said...

Oh Mickey, you're so fine you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey...

Sigivald said...

"Racist or otherwise culturally insensitive " is the secret key to understanding Vox's view on this.

Insensitive and racist are viewed as equivalent.

And "insensitive" is defined by American progressives, not by actual Japanese people, of course.

(As Steve said, this is much more of an homage to actual Japanese pop culture than "insensitive", let alone "racist".

Surprised that Vox failed so completely, so fast? Couldn't grasp that and just went straight to "racist"?

I'm not.

Ezra Klein's name was all I needed to know it was doomed to be exactly this, from the start.)

George said...

There's little that annoys me more than the very concept of "cultural appropriation."

Ann Althouse said...

"The "culturally insensitive" picture you've posted is an illustration of an actual historic event."

Yes, but is it insensitive?

Ryan said...

I showed this to my Japanese wife who said it was 'cute' and was inspired by kyary pamyu. Avirl appears on Japanese TV frequently.

Shouldn't whether its racist depend on whether Japanese themselves are offended?

Any offense here is just Americans projecting their own stereotypes.

Psota said...

Gotta love the guy in the bottom right, cheerfully chopping wood, oblivious to the massacre going on around him.

chrisnavin.com said...

From the blogosphere to the progosphere.

You'd think the author would recognize a kind of cross-cultural pollination that could easily fit under a multiculturalist umbrella.

But, apparently, someone there is too mired in America's racial and political struggles to think globally.

They probably just trampled upon the feelings of a Canadian.

On second thought, what am I saying?

The free-market is bad, so let's turn free flow of capital into a government revenue stream... be it our government or the Superduper one-world global wealth taxing Megabureaucracy Galactic Council.

jaed said...

Professor, can you define "insensitive"?

Would a painting of the Rwanda massacre be considered culturally insensitive? Are white victims required for such a painting to be insensitive? Or is race significant in determining this question?

There is no point trying to figure out whether a picture is culturally insensitive without a definition!

Patrick O said...

For culturally insensitive, see the murals of Pioneer Hall, from the show Parks and Recreation.

Tank said...

Ann Althouse said...

"The "culturally insensitive" picture you've posted is an illustration of an actual historic event."

Yes, but is it insensitive?

The truth is insensitive. It's just the truth. On the other hand, a lot of what people say is not racist or insensitive, it's just ignorant of dumb.

Until our conversation can include the truth, without fear of being called insensitive or racist, there's no point to having a conversation.

the wolf said...

It's worth pointing out that Avril is Canadian, not American.

Racist or otherwise culturally insensitive depictions of non-Americans have been around as long as America has.

Difficult to take seriously anyone who would write something so dumb.

Biff said...

My bet: the video was focus grouped like crazy in Japan, and the response by actual Japanese people who live in Japan was overwhelmingly positive.

Anglelyne said...

Racist or otherwise culturally insensitive depictions of other humans have been around as long as humans have.

FTF Zack.

Is "Zack Beauchamp" a guy? Why is a guy writing about Avril Lavigne singing about Hello Kitty? Why is anyone of either sex over the age of 14 thinking about Avril Lavigne and Hello Kitty?

I only know who Avril Lavigne is because my daughter was into Avril Lavigne in middle school. I think that makes Avril Lavigne a bit long in the tooth to be prancing around in sugary-pink videos marketed to the tween girl/Pajama-Boy-Pervert demographics.

Titus said...

didn't she used to be a serious song writer?

she sounds like the rest of the garbage out there now.

tits.

I don't think she is cliven though.

Fritz said...

Were the Beatles racist when they went through their "indian" phase?

AJ Lynch said...

WTF would libruls have if they stopped cyring RACISM?

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Who'da thunk it? Native Americans in the picture are all right-handed. Can't really call them "sinester" then, can ya?

fivewheels said...

"didn't she used to be a serious song writer?"

No.

"There is no point trying to figure out whether a picture is culturally insensitive without a definition!"

The definition is simple and obvious. A depiction is insensitive if the offended party can find a way to materially or politically profit from the grievance in some way.

For instance, if you have a coffee mug depicting the battle of Gettysburg, which celebrates the defeat of the Confederacy, but there's a tiny Confederate flag carried by the retreating Rebs in the depiction ... then the NAACP says you're a filthy racist.

The Crack Emcee said...

SMGalbraith,

"Geezus, the world is going insane.

People spend all of their time trying to be insulted. It's a video."

No, people spend all of their time trying to live their lives, but that regularly gets interrupted by whites insisting on insulting us - for whatever reason whites come up with - as we try to do so. Then we also get blamed for "trying to be insulted" by the people who can't stop insulting us - like, by blaming us for things whites do - like regularly insulting people. We can't escape - they regularly do, because they've appointed themselves as judge of their own behavior.

When whites decide culture matters, enough to develop one of their own, this will stop. Eminem did it with Max Headroom in his "Rap God" video - all white shit, proudly acknowledged and welcomed. Dismissed by whites because it's Rap - totally ignorant of them. Nobody hates the Beasties or many other proud whites. It's just the insecure whites who act like idiots to others.

So far, conservative whites just seem concerned with attacking or mimicking others, rather than participating in much else but the cesspool of politics.

Ted Nugent, Cliven Bundy, Avril Lavigne, and all the rest:

Please get a life,...

The Crack Emcee said...

I'm not sure what it is that makes whites suffer this regular bout of amnesia, where they forget "Oh yeah - there's 400 years of history here!" as often as they offend others.

I keep reading whites taking on everything but the role of whites in regularly pissing everybody off for nothing,...

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

America's native people

And here I thought we were all immigrants from one historical era or another.

Anyway, this song is so bad I think Avril owes us all an apology. When it comes to female pop/rock she certainly is no Hayley Williams.

Unknown said...

Liberals get all het up about symbolic racism against Asians. OTOH they actively promote real racism against them, namely affirmative action, which makes it more difficult for Asians to be accepted by elite colleges.

David in Cal

the wolf said...

She must have been inspired by Cheap Trick's "ELO Kiddies," which was featured (NOT COINCIDENTALLY) on the Live At Budokan album.

The Crack Emcee said...

Can anyone imagine what life would be like if whites didn't engage in what they have? How many millionaires we'd have by now? How life would be different?

Standing in the way won't help now,….

n.n said...

Vox should perceive depictions of a foreign culture from a foreign culture's perspective. Perhaps they were offended by the particular assembly of popular and traditions icons. Wouldn't this be an example of the popular mashup?

Yeah, that could be considered offensive to traditional and contemporary alike.

I am not my father. I am not my son. LOL. Rebels, to arms!

TMink said...

What is racist is people thinking that the Asian ladies who are dressed the same look the same. They have individual features.

The difference between racism and the Loch Ness monster is that occasionally people actually do see racism.

This is not one of those times.

Trey

Jon S. said...

I can't wait for the National Association of Choreographers to launch a protest, because the dancing is the most offensive thing about this video.

drozz said...

she's trying to steal gwen stefani's shtick

n.n said...

Anglelyne:

Different culture. Different standards. Forever young! Americans don't know how to party like it's 1999.

drozz said...

@saintcroix

another song that was said to be racist but is awesome:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaCYoCAOZbI

virgil xenophon said...

steve@11:41 is DEAD on tgt. Clueless indeed.. Does anyone at Vox know what the Tube of You is? Or has spent ANY time there watching Japanese J-pop all-girl vids? Christ On A Crutch..

damikesc said...

She's rather successful in Japan. I don't see it as racist at all.

It is pretty terrible, though.

What is the rule on this? When can males tell females to be quiet about claims of sexism or misogyny?

When it doesn't fit the Progressive view of the special evil of Western civ.

Oh Mickey, you're so fine you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey...

Are we sure the cheerleaders in the video were women? Those were some, well, THICK women. I got a strong cross-dressing vibe out of that video when it aired originally and still do now.

Drago said...

Ryan: "Shouldn't whether its racist depend on whether Japanese themselves are offended?"

No.

Absolutely not.

Whether or not something is racist depends solely on whether or not the dems/left/libs/media need another talking point to gain political advantage.

All other considerations are irrelevant, bourgeois, counter-revolutionary and, yes, racist.

Grimstarr said...

This is OBVIOUSLY not racist because all the girls are in white-face. Nope this song is obviously misogynistic ... or do they look kinda Asian too? OH MY GOD! Robert Palmer should get hit by as garbage truck and choke on his own blood for all the -isms he is responsible for in this song!
Addicted to --isms

Mary Beth said...

On the other hand, the Jpop song PonPonPon was pretty popular on the internet despite its racism. Skip to the 34 second mark to see what I mean.

virgil xenophon said...

@grimstar/

"...should get hit by a garbage truck and choke on his own blood..."

Ahem, er, Robert Palmer died in 2003 you know..

Lydia said...

Speaking of a 14-year-old mindset/aesthetic, this is how Zack Beauchamp describes himself on the Vox site:

"Dictator-for-Life: Zack writes about all of the things that are not American things. He previously edited a section on political thought at ThinkProgress and, before that, contributed to The Dish. It's pronounced BEE-chum."

And he ultimately decides the video is not an example of racism or even cultural insensitivity, but rather "unintentionally offensive cultural appropriation" or an "unintentionally offensive homage". There must be an acronym buried in there somewhere.

Bob R said...

I'm all for Avril on this one. The ability to get glimpses of other cultures, snatch fleeting impressions, and make them into something of our own is a wonderful thing. Ramen and Pokemon isn't the totality of Japanese culture. It's what we have appropriated and made our own. Culture is a public good. It's (certainly) non-excludable and (arguably/probably) non-rivalrous. F*&k em if they can't take a joke.

Unknown said...

I'm curious - have any actual Japanese people stated that they have been offended by this?

Gahrie said...

Oh Mickey, you're so fine you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey...

Are we sure the cheerleaders in the video were women? Those were some, well, THICK women. I got a strong cross-dressing vibe out of that video when it aired originally and still do now.


Besides the singer, all of those girls were high school cheerleaders. I know because they came from one of my school's rivals. There were five American high schools in England in the 1980's...they went to one in London. (Mine was in Suffolk)

Saint Croix said...

"Avril Lavigne picked a bad week to go all racist."

I just got the Airplane! reference.

I can't believe I missed that reference. Was that an intentional shout out to the movie, or subconscious?

kimsch said...

This is just as "racist" as Katy Perry's performance of Unconditionally wearing a Geisha outfit. The people who are "offended" and calling it racist are offended on behalf of the Japanese. Liberal/Progressives are very good at being offended on behalf of others. It goes to their cred or something...

Zedediah Grimm said...

Yeah Virgil. I know. Just being absurd for absurdities sake. Channeling my inner prog, dontcha know.

Zedediah Grimm said...

By the way, This is Grimmstar. I screwed up and somehow posted with my old account.

Joe said...

The song sucks, but the video isn't racist at all. It uses multiple current Japanese memes.

For example, the Japanese girls dressed alike is a take on both World Order and Waveya, a South Korean dance troop of girls. (And don't forget Robert Palmer's Irresistible video.)

Then there's the Hello Kitty thing, which is batshit crazy in Japan.

All in all, I thought it a rather clever, albeit very annoying musically, homage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mkiGMtbrPM

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/s-korea-pop-dancers-strut-classical-music-article-1.1763695

Marshal said...

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, but is it insensitive?


Is anyone asking if 12 Years a Slave is insensitive?

Paul Golba said...

If I were to guess, the cheerleaders in the Mickey video were chosen as to not be prettier than the singer Toni Basil. She was pushing 40 at the time which is old for a pop star.

As to the Indian Massacre of 1622 artwork, it appears to be a decent depiction of what really happened according to the sources available. From what is known the Powhatans entered many of the English settlements with gifts, everyone was friendly, and then suddenly the natives seized the settlers’ work tools and killed every man, woman, and child they could get their hands on. That’s why the oblivious guy with the axe in the corner is so apt. While I’m sure there is European art unfairly depicting the Indians as brutal savages, this is not one of them. It was a brutal event. It is a brutal etching.

Insensitive? As a piece of art and an honest attempt to recreate an historical event: no. If I hung it up in a vendor booth at a pow wow, that would be insensitive. It’s rude. It is also arguable that it would be insensitive to display the thing without context. The Powhatans had good reason to be upset at the settlers, who has been stealing their food, but the natives’ underhanded tactics and general brutality was cruel. The English revenge was quite terrible.

Oh, and to the video, which is the point of all this. Seems pretty in line with what I know about Japanese pop culture. 0% racist. The professionally offended are very unhappy people looking for a heretic to burn, no target too desperate. But what’s the deal now? It was imperative to learn about and embrace other cultures or is that supposed to be racist? So confused. Avril is really, really cute in glasses. The video is definitely not to my taste, and the song sounds like something Ke$ha would record after partying to 4am, which is not a compliment. It’s been all downhill since Let Go, alas.

PonPonPon… oh dear. Japanese surrealism is something, isn’t it?

Saint Croix said...

Here is Avril's full response:

"I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video specifically for my Japanese fans, WITH my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers AND a Japanese director IN Japan."

Apparently Avril is the only white person involved in the making of the video. She's the token honky!

So are all these Japanese racists? Or are we going to ignore them because, let's face it, only white people are important.

The race-mongering liberal says...

In her defense, this kind of makes sense. Japanese pop does have a pretty camp vein running through it, one that "Hello Kitty" apes.

Kind of makes sense? The director is Japanese! The crew is Japanese! They're all Japanese! Filmed in Japan, by Japanese!

That said, it's different when Avril's the lead in the video,

Just to be clear, then, your sole objection is to the race of the performer? You don't like their skin color? Ha.

John Greene said...

I don't really care about ANY of this nonsense.

buzzardist said...

Right, so Japan appropriated pop music from us, and then we began to appropriate their bubblegum version of this pop music back, with Avril Lavigne adding back in a bit of the grungy, dark tones of the American scene. And now Ezra Klein and Vox appropriate all of this in order to scream, "Racism!"

The only way to prevent cultural appropriation is to eradicate all culture. Is that what the liberal goal is?

BarryD said...

Someone who has never actually met any Japanese girls might think this is some kind of stereotyping, rather than simply a realistic depiction. Realistic like Vittoria De Sica, but even more deeply sad.

divamama12 and traveylin said...

For 70 years Cliven Bundy had the cows and dry turtles to communicate with. The media judged him on compliance with DC PC unfairly.

MarkD said...

Actually, some Japanese are quite racist. That racism was not as strong as their dislike of Koreans, at least in the Hiroshima area back in the day. Now Korean pop artists are popular in Japan. The Japanese also have the highest rate of intermarriage of any minority in the US. Meet them halfway, and once they know you, you'll never find better people, but you'll always be an outsider. Have you seen some of their game shows? It is impossible that the majority are offended by this act.

epador said...

Ahh, the Potowans had their own way of dealing with illegal immigrants, I see. I think things are about 180 degrees now on both sides.

bobby said...

"What is the rule on this? When can males tell females to be quiet about claims of sexism or misogyny? "

When it is helpful to one or more Democrats.

harkin said...

I think the saddest comment of all is that this woman is almost thirty and this is the best music/video she can conjur up.

That being said, I can certainly envision millions of twenty-somethings staring into their smartphones and watching this over and over while sitting in their parent's basement.

tree hugging sister said...

I don't know if the Vox types have EVER spent one second actually IN Japan (especially an urban area), but, speaking as one who was BORN there and then spent two tours there to reinforce the impression (At the height of the "Pen-Pen" phenomena and the start of "Hello Kitty" in the mid-80's), I'm having flashbacks, NOT wondering what horrible, hateful planet Avril exists.

Well, I am as far as the SONG goes.

Mike F said...

White men deciding what offends Japanese.

Ken Green said...

I am not in any way well-versed in pop culture, but I did happen to read Avril's full tweet:

"RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video specifically for my Japanese fans, WITH my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers AND a Japanese director IN Japan."

To call her video racist is a bit like calling it racist when a ketchup manufacturer goes to another country and reformulates their product for the tastes of the foreign market.

Mark Philip Alger said...

I think that the American grievance mongers and race hustlers could learn a thing or two from the Japanese self-piss-taking camp humor. That is, if they were sincerely interested in reducing racial tension.

Oh. So sorry.

M

davemartin7777 said...

It's funny when a white conservative thinks they can decide what's racist.

davemartin7777 said...

Btw, Ms. Alhouse you're a smart person what did you think of Michelle Malkin's smash best seller, "In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror"?

Dr Weevil said...

It's not funny, it's disgusting, when someone thinks only people of certain races or political positions are allowed to have an opinion on certain subjects.

Don M said...

See, when you said "White" as in "white conservative" you were being racist. Stop it.

mikee said...

When the people complaining about this get to Japanese anime tentacle porn, I plan to be out of the country.

The sound of their exploding heads would be disturbing, to say the least.

tree hugging sister said...

Oh, that Hentai porn stuff is LETHAL.

WOOF!

policraticus said...

Has everyone forgotten Gwen Stefani's foray into Harajuku?

Arik said...

I wish people would look up the definition of racism before deciding if something is racist. I googled racism and came up with "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races." Her video may involve cultural appropriation and maybe a superficially shallow portray a complex culture but it does not suggest either superiority or inferiority of the Japanese.

Now Cliven Bundy statements were racist no matter how you edit the video. How is it not racist to wonder if African Americans had more freedom and family stability as slaves being owned by masters who could rape their wife on Monday and their 6 year old girl the rest of the week vs being "slaves" to the federal government and dependent of a food stamps and other handouts.

Clearly if given the choose for him and his family, I suspect he would take the handout every time. In a way he has made that choose already. You may not like the way the Federal government uses land but he benefited from land he does not own and had no legal right under current interpretation of the law to use for his own benefit.

Would anyone even for a second doubt that they would find more freedom receiving food stamps than as a slave. But Bundy must really think African American Americans are so inferior to himself he is not sure which option would provide more freedom. It is really sad his standard of freedom does not apply to people he thinks are inferior to him.

Saint Croix said...

I have seen the Japanese anime tentacle porn! Kinda wish I had not.

John Cunningham said...

I think Steve Sailer made great sense when he said that the whole "racism" industry is a system for leftist whites to get over on conserative whites.

Micha Elyi said...

"It's worth pointing out that Avril is Canadian, not American."
--the wolf (12:31 PM)

Like Justin Bieber, she's doing a necessary job that Americans just won't do.

veni vidi vici said...

"..."unintentionally offensive cultural appropriation" or an "unintentionally offensive homage". There must be an acronym buried in there somewhere."

That acronym would be "Yu-Gi-Oh!"

Douglas said...

I don't know who or what Vox is but Avril rocks. She recently performed in Shenzhen, China, where the tickets went (in a big stadium) for $60-200@.

Did you know the refrain in the Hello Kitty song is "kawai," which in Japanese means "cute?" Of course this is meant ironically. I think the song (and the video) are an excellent paen to popular Japanese culture, of which the "Hello Kitty" phenomenon is but one minor facet.

A pox on Vox!

Robert Cook said...

The video is fun and very typical teen dance pop. What brouhaha there may be is manufactured.