Cultural Appropriation Essay

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La, Raymond 996901844 ASA 4 Spring Quarter, 2014 Michelle Carlson TA: Dennis Somera Modern Yellowface, Harajuku Culture, and the Construction of the Asian American Woman American pop culture recently received flak for cultural appropriation. Artists such as Katy Perry and Selena Gomez were criticized for superficially incorporating Asian images into their music. However, cultural appropriation and cultural tourism – and its consequences – are commonly seen in relation to traditional culture; this lack of attention towards visual representation of modern Asian subcultures – in relation to Asian Americans – dismisses the potential impact of these images. A visual analysis of Avril Lavinge’s “Hello Kitty” and Gwen Stefani’s appearances with the Harajuku Girls reveals that the use of Japan’s Harajuku subculture in American pop culture perpetuates Asian American stereotypes. Specifically, these acts contain characteristics of the submissive “lotus blossom” stereotype and the invisibility that comes from this stereotype. These characteristics result in an insidious formation of race; Avril Lavinge and Gwen Stefani’s cultural tourism constructs the concept of an American that excludes the Asian body through contrasts between themselves and the background Asian body. This racial formation relies on the idea that the two artists have become part of the Harajuku culture, yet they are clearly distinguishable from the homogenized Asian body. The “lotus blossom” stereotype is an Asian American female stereotype that portrays them as feminine, submissive, and desirable romantic interests for the white male protagonist (Tajima 309). Although the stereotype is the production of films fetishizing the “traditional Orient” culture, the stere... ... middle of paper ... ...culture. Although concerns about cultural appropriating cultural objects such as bindis, war bonnets, and kimonos have been receiving more attention, the effects of cultural tourism of modern Asian subcultures has been relatively ignored. This lack of attention may be due to the assumption of modernity as Western or a lack of an object that bears significant cultural meaning to the ethnic culture as a whole. However, if the potential effects are left ignored, cultural tourism of modern Asian subcultures may perpetuate harmful constructions of race. The visual analysis of Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavinge’s cultural appropriation of Harajuku culture reveals that it not only reaffirms Asian American female submissiveness and Asian American invisibility, but it also constructs meanings of race and whiteness that excludes American cultural citizenship from Asian Americans.
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