I must tip my hat to the PR team behind Avril Lavigne’s latest music video for the song “Hello Kitty”. I haven’t heard anything about the 29 year old, eyeliner-obsessed pop star in years, but in one week saw multiple articles about the release of her newest video. All were describing the obvious reasons why having robotic, emotionless, Japanese backup dancers is offensive, and exploring the extent to which Japanese Kawaii culture was appropriated in the making of the video.
Of course I watched the video to see for myself, and by the high number of views, I’m assuming you did too.
They were important criticisms that needed to be made and heard. With her insensitive, “RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!!” response on twitter, Lavigne only ramped up the outrage (and therefore publicity).
Because no one who eats sushi and hires Asian employees can be racist, of course. 23, 700,000 views later, she probably is laughing out loud.
An article in PolicyMic describes why Avril must have known that the video would stir up racist controversy.
Before this video, Lavigne was the subject of approximately zero American attention. Now, she’s trending on Facebook because she was racially insensitive — and good luck getting the song out of your head.”
It takes us back to the mantra that “any press is good press.” No one comments on how terrible and repetitive the song is, but they do comment on it’s racist portrayal and appropriation of culture.
Some have tried to defend Lavigne and claimed that the video is simply a surface level portrayal of Japanese culture. That cute and colourful candy stores do exist, girls do dress like that, and your sushi chef may have a disposition that serious. However, the emotionless, robotic dancers who only ever crack a smile when an overly animated Lavigne shows them a picture of themselves, are a bit too much to ignore.
And by a bit, I mean a lot.
Before this video and the reaction it stirred up, I didn’t know that Lavigne was even producing new music. I knew her as once famous for her rebellious, punk image, now married to Chad Kroeger, and still dressing as if she were both in her teens, and in the 90’s. So considering that I’ve now watched her new video twice, once in curiosity and once to gawk some more, I have to respect her creativity team on some level.
I doubt that the number of songs paid for on iTunes will resemble the numbers on YouTube, but Lavigne was definitely in a North American spotlight she hasn’t seen in years.