Like Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry before her, Avril Lavigne is the latest white pop star to think Asian women make such! cute! props! In the Lavigne’s latest video, "Hello Kitty", she romps in a pastel tulle skirt and chalk streaked hair, while robotic Asian backup dancers all dressed in identical brightly colored costumes flank her on either side.
The music itself is bad enough. Gone are Candian singer’s pop-rock ballads of teenage angst, replaced by mind numbing lyrics such as “Come come kitty kitty you're so pretty pretty” set to over-produced beats. Billboard has described it as “an embarrassment in any language”.
But it’s the visuals that really get me. A candy colored mashup, the "Hello Kitty" video is not original (2004 called and wants its Harajuku Girls back!) and makes no discernible statement with its juxtaposition token Japanese words (arigato and kawaii) with the images of street life. At its worst, the scenes of Lavigne eating sushi and drinking sake call to mind teen singer Allison Gold’s "Chinese Food" video from last fall.
While there have been plenty of articles and tweets calling the video racist, Lavigne has yet to respond. But in an interview with Digital Spy announcing her album last October, she says of the song:
“’Hello Kitty' was such an interesting topic and subject. It was really exciting. I didn't want it to sound like anything I'd done before. I wanted it to sound over the top so I ended up hiring a new producer to help me with it.”
In the same interviews, she also demurs when asked if "Hello Kitty" is a euphemism for her hoo-hah.
The whole things reminds me of Katy Perry’s geisha-costumed performance of “Unconditionally” at the American Music Awards, which and Asian women as backup dancers and a set full of stereotypical Chinese and Japanese imagery. After Perry's show was widely criticized as disrespectful to Asian culture, you'd think Lavigne might have reconsidered her video.
By Wednesday evening, Lavigne took to twitter to issue her predictable defense of the video:
RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video…
MTV reports the "Hello Kitty" video disappeared from YouTube after its Tuesday debut, but the video is still up on AvrilLavigne.com.
What do you think of the "Hello Kitty" video?
News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.
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