Last week Avril Lavigne released the music video for her song Hello Kitty. The response to it has been the most overwhelmingly negative for a video and song I’ve ever seen. In addition to general sentiment of the song being awful, it has also been deemed racist by many. Yet, there’s growing response to that suggesting that claim in itself is racist.
It is worth noting Avril has a significant following in Japan as one of the most popular English-language singers there. The video was intended to accompany the song’s release in that market – (it won’t be a single in North America. We’re getting Give You What You Like instead) – and Avril claims most of the people who worked on the video are Japanese.
Following the public outcry of the video, Avril’s responded on Twitter:
RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video…
Officials at the Japanese Embassy in Washington also responded, telling TMZ they believe Avril had good intentions when making the video.
As far as I’ve read, there has yet to be negative outcry from Japan – and I’m sure if there were, it would have made the news if only to fan the flames.
Some have said the accusation of racism, or as it is being called in this case ‘knee-jerk racism’, is in itself ignorant because it doesn’t take into account opinion by the population being depicted as nearly all of the response has come from westerners.
To what degree do activists from the west have the ability to dictate what other cultures and countries should be offended by? By suggesting that the video is racist, going against Japanese opinion, does it imply that Japan should submit to western ideals?
What is offensive to one may be praise to another as something that could be genuinely appreciated as an homage. We want to be able to paint all instances like these with the same brush, to use a one-size-fits-all perspective because it’s easy, but this example is showing us that it’s not quite so simple after all.
The good thing to come out of this is that it has generated discussion. What do you think? Is the Hello Kitty music video racist or not? Can it be both at the same time? Is it up to personal interpretation or is it only for the culture being depicted to decide? Where is the line between admiration and appropriation?