Controversy Over Miranda Kerr’s Vogue Japan Photoshoot: Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation

 

Miranda Kerr is certainly no stranger to Japan. This time last year, the 31-year-old Australian model attracted quite a bit of attention for her odd, Japanese detergent commercials. Well it looks like she’s back and this time, she’s on the cover of the special 15th anniversary November issue of Vogue Japan.

While this excited many Kerr fans, much of that excitement was replaced with confusion when shots from the photo shoot were released. It was immediately clear that the actress was dressed to look like a geisha, a samurai and even an anime character. Of course, this begs the question: Where is the line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and what does this categorize as?

Most seem to be leaning towards cultural appropriation. Angry netizens question why a Japanese model wasn’t used for the 15th anniversary issue of  Vogue Japan. After all, the magazine is a Japanese-language magazine. Despite Kerr’s undeniable popularity in Japan, Japanese readers have been shaking their heads in disapproval of the choice to have a foreigner in “Japanese-inspired” outfits.

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However, others have come to Kerr’s defense including the photographer of the photo shoot, Mario Testino. In response to the controversy he explained, “I wanted to represent ancient and modern Japan with these three characters. Japan has geisha and samurai, as well as manga, and I hoped to express these themes through Miranda to the Japanese people.”

Some Kerr fans have even used cosplay as an example of cultural appreciation and note that race does not matter when avid fans dress up as their favorite anime or comicbook character. They argue that this photo shoot does the same. To others, the rebuttal for this argument is simple: this is not cosplay. This is a magazine which creates influence and for some, shapes beauty standards.

Kerr has not released her opinion on the matter, but she has been putting up photos on her Instagram since earlier this month.

Check them out below and give us your verdict. Is this cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation?

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Forever 21 Tweets Their Clothes Are “Straight Outta Compton,” Triggers (Another) Controversy

Popular fast-fashion clothing chain Forever 21 has once again found itself in hot water for tweeting out a photo that some claim is another case of cultural appropriation. On Thursday, the L.A.-based retailer tweeted “straight outta Compton” with a a photo of a white model wearing three different T-shirts referencing the City of Compton as well as hip-hop/rap artists Ice Cube and N.W.A.

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Though the tweet was quickly deleted, it wasn’t long before the image made its way around the Web, eliciting an array of responses. Some were interested in purchasing the clothes:

“(@Kariinaxo) Forever 21 has all these cute WuTang and NWA shirts omg I want them all”

“(@It_Aint__ME) Ooo i want that compton shirt”

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However, such comments were greatly outnumbered by those expressing disappointment and frustration over the new line, being very critical of what they viewed as the inappropriate commodification of African American culture for the sake of business and trend.

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The “Statement Making Compton Tee” and “N.W.A Muscle Tee” are now unavailable on Forever 21’s online retail site, though it is not certain if the controversy surrounding the T-shirts is the reason for their removal.

This is not the first time that the mega-retailer has been accused of cultural appropriation. In 2011, their “Oriental Girl” necklaces sparked a firestorm of criticism.