Avril Lavigne’s video appropriates Japanese culture. So why am I not outraged?

By all that is good and decent in pop music, I should feel deeply offended.

After all, it’s not every day that you see a 29-year-old Canadian dare to sing in the language of my ancestors, a beautiful and noble language — which I barely speak a word of, a shameful circumstance. which conveniently does not interfere with my right to be offended.

As if that weren’t enough, Avril Lavigne indulges in this dubious practice by dancing to a backdrop of Asian women and celebrating a sacred cultural relic that dates back 400 years — sorry, do 40.

“Mina saiko, arigato,” she half-sings at the start of “Hello Kitty,” “ka-ka-ka-kawaii,” phrases that several indignant blog posts on behalf of Asians helpfully translate to “you rock, thank you” and “cu-cu-cute”, although even I, as a non-teenage non-girl, know that there is an extended cultural context to kindness in Japan that extends much further than the disdainful meaning that we generally attribute to it here in Lavigne’s country.

Maybe it’s having endured Gwen Stefani’s ridiculous insistence on being followed for years by four “Harajuku” girls.

Or maybe it reflexively suspended my disbelief as Katy Perry appeared on stage at last year’s American Music Awards to sing about loving someone unconditionally while dressed as a geisha. and finally subjected to a shower of simulated cherry blossoms.

Whatever the reason, it was difficult for some of us to comprehend – but for ourselves – the self-righteous outrage that greeted Lavigne’s new video and grew so strong that within hours of its debut Wednesday, she was officially removed from YouTube, at least for a while.

Lavigne finally weighed in that night on Twitter, laughing at the uproar: “RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and spend half my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video. . .”

In an attempt to generate the emotions I felt compelled to have, I dutifully waded through the analyzes offered by Billboard, bloggers, MTV, Entertainment Weekly, and 6th grade dropouts who seem to be responsible for a disproportionate number comments on YouTube.

Here are, apparently, the five reasons why Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” video should inspire mass outrage:

1. Its cultural appropriation is not specific. Unlike the video for “Hollaback Girl,” which depicts Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku Girls voraciously appropriating “every possible culture,” as Entertainment Weekly puts it, “Hello Kitty” seems “constructed to deliberately reflect every cultural background. possible in a way that doesn’t really speak to anything in particular.

2. She treats the target of her appropriation as an undifferentiated monolith. The billboard latched onto the “four identical, creepy Asian women behind her,” while a post titled “Avril Lavigne Wins Cultural Appropriation Olympics” noted, “Not only does she use women of color as accessories, but they are all indistinguishable from each other in terms of clothing and hairstyle.

3. Her “cute” storyline of girls having a slumber party could be interpreted, says Medium.com, as portraying “a probable lesbian relationship in a way that most male-oriented lesbian porn is portrayed; two or more underage girls explore their sexuality at a slumber party, usually in full view of a grown man (on video, I mean – there’s always a grown man watching on the other side of the screen , of cours).

4. She really needs to start acting her age. “Suffice it to say, this latest effort by our favorite 29 and 13-year-old singer-songwriter has left us. . . not impressed,” GQ chuckles. “On the bright side, if you can get through the guaranteed earbleed opening bars, continuing to watch becomes an intriguing test of endurance.”

5. Forget cultural appropriation. What about musical appropriation? “I actually like the verses,” says one spunky YouTube commenter, “but I’m so scared of the ‘Hello Kitty’ dubstep parts.”

This last entry makes you wonder if the deliberately empty nature of “Hello Kitty” itself is at least partly responsible for the subsequent piling up: after all, we must have had something to think about while the song played.

And perhaps this lack of originality is Lavigne’s real downfall: even her cultural appropriation feels appropriate.

THE VINYL COUNTDOWN: While the elaborate vinyl repackaging of Rush’s pre-Neil-Peart debut album will grab attention next week, a true Canadian music classic is also being reissued on disc.

Released the following year To rush, 1975 glorious The Five Seasons of the Quebec prog-folk group Harmonium is in the middle of the three studio albums that make up the group’s recorded output. For the uninitiated, the opening of the second side, “En Pleine Face”, is a good starting point: bit.ly/pleineface.

RETROACTIVE: It might not be as rare as a full solar eclipse, but getting new albums from stubborn rockers Nazareth, Uriah Heep and Night Ranger in the space of a week probably won’t happen again for a while .

Nazareth will release their first album since ill health forced vocalist Dan McCafferty to pack it, leaving bassist Pete Agnew as the sole original member. rock ‘n’ roll phone (June 3) features new, younger frontman Linton Osborne.

A week later, British hard rockers Uriah Heep return with their 24th studio album, Outsider. Incidentally, the first member of the band also has one member: lead guitarist Mick Box.

On the same day (June 10), young parents Night Ranger will release their 11th studio album, Highway. Number of original members: three (!), including leader Jack Blades, who turned 60 on Thursday.


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