Racist claws attack Avril Lavigne for “Hello Kitty” music video

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Singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne used Japanese backup dancers in identical Hello Kitty costumes for her controversial “Hello Kitty” music video.

Delia Rush, Staff Writer

It is not new for artists to receive criticism for referencing foreign cultures in their songs or music videos, like Gwen Stefani’s “Harajuku Girls” and Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally,”—the star wore a kimono and had her backup dancers dress as geishas—but none of them have stirred controversy like Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” music video.  The Canadian singer-songwriter’s single, “Hello Kitty” has been called out for being undeniably racist and mocking of the Japanese culture.

Admittedly, Lavigne hasn’t always been much of a conformist and has stuck out as outrageous since the beginning of her music career.  She was the pop rocker/ punk chick of the 2000s.  Deny it all you want, but there is no doubt that we did not all rock out to “Sk8er Boi” in our pre-pubescent years.  Her alternative sound, classified as punk pop, brought her songs to the top of the charts within her early years of fame.  Lately, her career has been quiet, emerging to the music scene occasionally with some popular singles.

On Nov. 4, 2013, Lavinge released her self-titled album, which includes “Hello Kitty.” The video for “Hello Kitty” was released on the AvrilLavigneVEVO YouTube account on April 23.  Many consider the video to project racist concepts, mocking the Japanese Harajuku culture.

In the music video, Lavigne is seen singing along to “Hello Kitty” on a brightly colored set with stuffed animals and candy, along with four Japanese dancers behind her for the majority of the video.  The dancers remain expressionless throughout the video.

Although Lavigne has been under fire for the music video, the majority of her fanbase, which is actually in Japan, has not taken offense to her video.  In fact, most of those who took offense to the music video are based in the Western Hemisphere.

Lavigne defended herself and her video in the twitter-sphere: “I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan.  I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video… specifically for my Japanese fans, WITH my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers AND a Japanese director IN Japan.”

However, one could see why critics would claim the music video to be racist.  The song itself is not applicable to the Japanese culture at all.  The extent of reference to Harajuku culture is when Lavigne says “Hello Kitty” and the opening of the song, “Min’na saikō arigatō! K-k-k-kawaii!” which roughly translates into “Thank you, you rock!  Cute!”  The subject of the song is like any other pop song of today, revolving around sexual themes on top of being extremely repetitive.

Lavigne’s critics accusing her of objectifying Japanese women is a more valid claim.  In the music video, the Japanese backup dancers silently prance behind the singer as she walks down the streets of Harajuku, waving and saying “Arigato” to her fans.  However, the critics’ claim fall short of valid since the Japanese hail the singer as a cultural hero, who only had good intentions when making the video.

“We would be happy if the discussions surrounding her song and music video results in more people discovering the beautiful and rich culture of Japan,” said the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C.

Lavigne’s only crime regarding her “Hello Kitty” controversy is her Japanophile sentiments which prompted her to write this trainwreck of a song.  Let’s hope that someone teaches Lavigne to use Japanese correctly the next time she attempts to make a “kawaii” video.