I am sad that this will be my last post. In turn, this will be a somewhat longer post. This week, we discussed Hello Kitty and cultural appropriation.
What is cultural appropriation?
As explained in the article “Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?” cultural appropriation is the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture of subculture by another. It is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture (1).
This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different or less nuanced than they would originally have (1).
Some examples of cultural appropriation are: “Hello Kitty” by Avril Levine; “Autumn Leaves” by Chris Brown; “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry (2013 AMA performance); “Asian Girlz” by Day Above Ground; “Entertainment” by Phoenix; and “Asian Swag” by Buckwheat Groats.
Each of the above examples culturally appropriate instead of culturally appreciate. These songs amplify Asian culture, but dehumanize Asians. In these songs, people of color are props, decoration, or scenery. In Professor O’Brien’s words, “Asians are no different from an Oriental rug.” This is unfortunately true in these music videos.
In contrast, “626” by the Fung Brothers is positive and affirms Asian culture. Though it does address some negatives and stereotypes of Asians, this song highlights and honors Asian culture. Similarly, “Bebot” and “The ALP Song” by Black Eyed Peas also highlight cultural differences. “The APL Song” narrates the story of a Pilipino elderly, which is rarely, if ever seen in popular music. Hopefully, more artists will appreciate Asian cultures instead of appropriating Asian cultures.
Fresh off the Boat “Philip Goldstein” (episode 8):
This week on Fresh off the Boat, the part that resonated with me the most was the ending. At the end of the episode, Eddie and Walter, the Black student who called Eddie “chink” during the pilot episode, make a connection. Interestingly, the two bond over a White Jewish band.
The narration (Eddie Huang): An Asian kid and a Black kid bonding over a White Jewish band. Only in America.
This again raises the issues of assimilation and racial triangulation. It is evident that both Eddie and Walter are trying to assimilate, since they are diehard fans of a White Jewish band. They attempt to fit in by adopting White culture.
Racial triangulation has two parts: relative valorization and civic ostracism. The issue of race brought up during the pilot episode returns as people of color who are lower in the hierarchy unite. In the racial hierarchy, Whites remain superior, while Asians and Blacks fight for the next tier. In terms of relative valorization, Asians are superior to Blacks. However, in terms of civic ostracism, Blacks are superior to Asians.
Overall, this episode was entertaining as usual. It was great to see another Asian kid at school with Eddie. Philip and Eddie do not have anything in common other than ethnicity, which illustrates that not Asians are alike. I mentioned this in a previous blog post (week 8): each ethnicity is special and unique, and unjust if each ethnicity were just thrown together and called, say ‘Chinese.’ Each ethnicity should be honored for its history and culture.
“Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?”