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Avril Lavigne’s new video wins the gold at the Cultural Appropriation Olympics

Apr 22, 2014

Avril Lavigne, the Bride of Nickelback, has for some ungodly reason decided that we’d all like to see some more of her. Not only that, but this time–in addition to continuing to pretend like she’s punk rock or something–she is rocking some serious Miley-style cultural appropriation. Except with Asian people. How new and refreshing! I suggest watching the following video on mute, because actually listening to it may cause irreparable damage to your ears.

This is just as offensive as Miley’s schtick. Not only is she using women of color as accessories, but they’re all indistinguishable from one another in terms of clothing and hairstyle. Lavigne herself stands apart from the crowd an obnoxious cupcake tutu and highlighted blonde hair, shrieking her valley girl shrieks of “Arigato!” and “Kawaii!”

The entire point of them is to make her stand out. They function as wallpaper, as props, as a backdrop on her adventure through Japan in which she does a bunch of “Japanese things” like eat sushi and candy and yell about Hello Kitty a lot. It’s all a little much.

While yes, many back-up singers and dancers wear matching outfits, there’s something insidious about it when they are all the same race and a different race from the performer. When race is used as a way to make someone stand out. Also while Japanese people are certainly not a minority in Japan, they are here in America. In that context, this video functions almost entirely to reinforce stereotypes of Asian women. Kawaii, indeed.

Like many race-based tropes, it’s not even original. It seems to be merely a reissue of Gwen Stefani’s horrendous “Harajuku Girls” phase where she hired and renamed four Japanese women to follow her around all the time. She may still be in that phase for all I know. To be honest, I have blocked her out.

Ignorance is acceptable up to a point. For instance, when I was 12 years old my mom had to take me aside in the hippie store and explain to me why I, a 12-year-old white girl, could not wear a dashiki. But I was 12, I didn’t know what a dashiki was and I just thought it was a neat pattern. Now I understand. You don’t play dress-up with other people’s cultures to assert your own uniqueness and specialness.

Avril Lavigne, however, is 29 damn years old. At some point, you have to be making a concerted effort to remain that ignorant.

I am hoping, possibly vainly, that we can–as a society–come to a point where watching some idiot white girl using WOC as nameless, identical accessories is just as disturbing as watching Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney dance around in blackface in “Babes in Arms.”

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