Cultural Appropriation 101, Take 2: Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” Music Video

Avril Lavigne Hello Kitty Music Video

Remember last week when I talked about cultural appropriation at Coachella? The gods of controversy were like “JUST WAIT” and then there was the terrible Avril video to end all terrible Avril videos. I literally hear kittens screaming when I try to remember the tune of “Hello Kitty.” I’m pretty sure it’s just high-pitched rambling with some imitation dubstep mushed in there but I’ll have to give it another listen. Suffice it to say that the U. K. Mirror described it as “a Skrillex song that got lodged in a dishwasher.” And I really like Skrillex so…

What is much more bothersome than Avril’s crappy music is the “Hello Kitty” music video, which would be the brainchild of Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger. Now I know where the bad guys in the Candyland game went to die. I’d advise against watching this monstrosity if you have high blood pressure or, you know, are able to get offended whatsoever. It’s basically Avril prancing around in a rainbow cupcake skirt flanked by a troupe of identically-dressed depressed Japanese women. Avril is obviously grasping at the last vestiges of her former fame here, trying to emulate more successful pop counterparts such as Gwen Stefani (remember her Harajuku Girls?) and Katy Perry (all of those lollipops and cupcakes). In terms of Japanese fetishization, Avril does successfully emulate Gwen and Katy, who have both been rightly accused of racial stereotyping and Kawaii appropriation. What makes Avril’s video especially strange is that it’s all been done (and reprimanded accordingly) before – is she really unaware of racism?! “Hello Kitty” showcases Japanese stereotypes – there is actually a guy making sushi in the video – so blatantly that it could almost be a deliberate mockery making a bid for the attention granted such offensive ilk. But I don’t quite believe in Evil Genius Avril enough dismiss this as (successful) attention seeking of the Miley Cyrus variety. It’s much more likely that Avril is simply ignorant about Japanese culture and has some fetishized, stereotype-driven image in her head of submissive, infantilized Asian girls in pastel layers. Can someone please use Avril Lavigne (and maybe Gwen Stefani too) as a prop so that she learns how it feels? I’m tried of seeing, as Margaret Cho dubbed it, the “minstrel show” that is Asian women in American pop culture. Enough with the silent, demure background Asians in identical quirky outfits. How about k-k-k-kicking Avril out of the spotlight and replacing her with one of the many talented, multifaceted Asian women sidelined in the West? Jezebel commenter redorgreenful summed up the issue well: “My god, the shit Asians have to put up with in order to work in the industry.”

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.


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