Of late, the world of pop music has witnessed some woeful examples of cultural stereotyping, mainly thanks to
pendant being burned to the ground.
Perry started out as pop's doe-eyed minor irritant, seemingly conjured from the not-too-deep spiritual well of a 14-year-old FHM reader. This fed into the pandering, dreadfully infantilised
approach to sexuality of I Kissed a Girl and UR So Gay, and her whipped-cream-spurting bra, which took Madonna's iconic, emancipated conical lingerie and reduced it to the wink-wink, nudge-nudge of a Benny Hill sketch. It was easy to ignore her when she wasn't really saying anything at all, but of late it has been hard not to wince in anticipation of her next move, like fielding a conversation with an elderly relative at Christmas. Sure enough, her new single This Is How We Do features a line about getting your nails done "Japanesy".
In a similar spirit of cultural insensitivity,
surrounded by four identikit, glassy-eyed Japanese dancers as she enjoys sushi, sake and shouts random Japanese phrases ("KAWAII!", "ARIGATO") in an exaggerated child's voice. Lavigne responded to accusations that it was cultural fetishisation by tweeting: "RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture" - a response pulled from the same chapter in the pop star charm-school book as: "LOL!!! Some of my best friends are black, you know."
Questions about Perry and Lavigne's intent (or lack thereof) are less significant than the end result of using these cultural stereotypes. Admitedly, pop stars can be a confused bunch - I was once asked by a white singer if I thought it would be OK if he called his song Blackface - but the power of
stereotypes and the idea that "other" is a thing we don't fully understand. This is an argument powerfully articulated by the Native American voices in last week's G2 story on the backlash against headdresses worn at music festivals. It's like looking at cultures through the distorted glass of a display box in a museum. For privileged pop stars such as Perry or Lavigne, it's hard to understand the subtleties that create a feeling of outsider-ism when you are not white.
Ten years ago
excellent record and closed with
album's visual language heavily featured the Harajuku girls: Japanese backup dancers who never spoke, dressed alike and were an "ethnic posse" - accessories for Stefani to use at will. Despite the best efforts of MAD TV, which parodied Stefani with the song Aren't Asians Great? sung to the tune of The Great Escape, and comic
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