Hello Kitty, Kitty

Music sites across the internet are awash with criticism towards, Canadian pop rocker, Avril Lavigne’s latest video Hello Kitty. As a fan of Avril’s previous music, I thought I’d take a wee look. Have a look for yourself, below.

First thing I’d say, is that it is dang catchy, very cutesy pop music. Which is fine. But, I feel that there is a section of the music buying public, who liked the Avril who sang Sk8tr Boy, not this perky, girly nonsense. Those people need to understand that a music artist, be it Cradle of Filth or One Direction, they will not recycle the same music album after album. They will progress, change their sound to get more sales or keep with their own tastes. Music is something artistic, and art is influenced by what goes on around you. As a result, as a person’s life changes, the music that they wish to create may also change. You can argue about it being marketed as the Hello Kitty song, and being appealing to young children. Sitting here on a Hello Kitty bed, with a Hello Kitty plush beside me, actually makes me think this song is marketed at me, actually. Yeah. Awesome.

The video is set in Japan, with cute Japanese girls as backing dancers, as Avril sings about a pre-teen slumber party. Or that is what it sounds like to me. There have been cries that this video is racist, particularly to the blank expressions and dance routine of the backing dancers.

“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.”-Avril Lavigne

Fair enough comment to make, right? Except, it feels a bit like when a racist person says they have a ‘black friend’ as if that proves they aren’t racist. I don’t think that is the intention at all, but I can’t help shake that thought out of my head. But, what she is saying is true. Avril is very popular in Japan, so has ended up doing a video that may appear similar to other Japanese pop videos, in a manner of it’s styling. Possibly paying homage to the music scene that has made her feel accepted. Looking back at Qwen Steffani’s LAMB dancers, I find that more offensive. Love, Angel, Music and Baby were 4 Japanese dancers that followed Gwen around like puppies, in many music videos and tours. These people didn’t have a voice, but became a big part of Gwen’s act. Maybe I wasn’t aware of it, but I didn’t see such a negative reaction for that. And that act actually did make me feel strange seeing it.

In this world, where cultural appropriation is becoming a majorly debated topic, people call foul of any person seen not respecting other cultures. Some people don’t have the capacity to believe that they could disrespect something just by wearing an item of clothing, for example. If something looks cool and interesting, some people want to be a part of it. They maybe don’t know the intricacies of the culture, but that doesn’t mean they disrespect it. However, if someone from the culture, which you are borrowing from, does get offended, they should be listened to. If what you are wearing is from another culture, it is not your voice that matters when someone from that culture is offended. There is a belief that is instilled in some ‘white’ people, that they have the right to anything. This is not true, and people should respect one another, no matter their colour or heritage.

Do I think the video is offensive? It’s more rubbish, than racist, in my opinion. BUT, racism isn’t something that I have experience in, so I don’t feel qualified to base a decision on it. Qwen Steffani’s Japanese phase made me feel a lot more uncomfortable than Avril Lavigne’s one. The crass advertising of a children’s product is what turns my stomach more than the Japanese theming.

Foreign Interests

How many times have you cursed the Anime and Manga fans who clog up book shops, or rolled your eyes at people pretending to be Japanese?

As annoying it is, to see people looking at different cultures and favour them over there own, looking at different cuture to your own is intriguing. And as the Western world becomes more Americanised, you have to look further afield to look at a completely different culture. After America, the other country whose culture is a huge influence, especially to the younger generations, is Japan.

Japan seems like a different world, when compared to the UK. Of course, not even Japan is immune from Americanisation, what with KFC becoming THE Christmas meal in Japan and McDonald’s appearing in every major town. There are still enough differences, to make studying the culture interesting. The big interest in everything Japanese is thought to have started in the late 80s/early 90s, when Japanese companies Nintendo and Sega took the forefront of computer game technology, and each sold millions of consoles around the world. After people got a taste of the cute characters, people started to purchase into Anime and manga, so much so, that almost every book shop in the UK now stores a Manga section bigger than that of the more traditional superhero comics. Then thanks to the popularity of Pokemon, Hello Kitty and singers like Qwen Steffani mimicking Japanese style, more and more people have confessed to being ‘Japanophiles’.

Whilst, you may get the idea that I don’t like Japan, this is not the case. I still play Pokemon on a regular basis, and I have read my fair share of manga. And although they have a harder working schedule than us in the UK, they also seem to enjoy their life a lot more. So, it has been suggested, that people see this positive outlook and try to mimic what they see to try and improve their quality of life. There is truth in that, if you pick up a new hobby that you enjoy, it will improve your quality of life, because of the simple fact that it makes you happier. And, it doesn’t matter who you are, if something makes someone happy, and it’s not harming anyone else, they should be able to do whatever it is.

As a person who will admit that she likes looking at the differences between here and Japan, I am going to recommend Tofugu for people to have a look at. It is a blog which looks at various parts of Japanese Culture, and may answer some of the questions you may have in your head.