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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Avril Levigne Responds To Criticism About Offensive “Hello Kitty” Music Video

You may have missed the recent controversy surrounding Avril Lavigne’s new music video “Hello Kitty.” After all, the video was taken down the same day it was uploaded onto YouTube.

The video to Lavigne’s single “Hello Kitty” has received criticism left and right for its cultural appropriation. Simply put, it’s 3 minutes and 19 seconds of sushi, bright colors, expressionless Asian back up dancers and random Japanese words. All of this prompted Billboard to call the video an “embarrassment in any language.”

Even some of Lavigne’s most loyal fans (who wouldn’t even necessarily call the video intentionally racist) definitely saw why it was problematic to use a culture as a prop. They were certain that Lavigne would release an apology. Were they right?

Well, 21 hours ago, Avril responded to all the criticisms and allegations of racism.

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Now we can all let out a collective sigh and eye roll. Is this an apology for a lapse in judgement? Absolutely not. In fact, it sounds like the cop-out excuse: “I have an Asian friend so I can’t be racist against Asians!” Yup, we’ve all heard that one before. If she had noticed that she offended people and sent an apology because that was not her intention, our feelings would be different. Despite an overwhelming amount of people shaking their head at the video, Lavigne, as well as a number of fans, still don’t see the problem.

To reiterate what we said early, the reason people are upset over this video is because “it uses Asian culture as a prop. Even the expressionless back up dancers are simply a backdrop. There is a very big difference between embracing a culture and using it as an accessory. It is not appreciation to trivialize an entire way of life.”

Avril, why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?

 

 

Why People Hate “Hello Kitty” by Avril Lavigne

Yesterday, Avril Lavigne released the music video to her new single “Hello Kitty” on YouTube, but in a blink of an eye it was removed. Billboard called the video an “embarrassment in any language”  and Entertainment Weekly claimed that there “are serious questions about whether it’s offensive.”

Why?

Well it may have a thing or two to do with all the cultural appropriation. Lavigne’s video includes all things stereotypically Japanese — sushi, Japanese schoolgirls, bright pink colors and even expressionless Asian back up dancers. Throughout the video, Lavigne throws out Japanese words like “arigato” and “kawaii.” That’s right. Her lyrics are actually “Thank you! Cute! Cute!”  Apparently, there’s no need to have lyrics that make sense as long as you blurt out the most stereotypical Asian words you know.

As you can expect, audiences are torn. Loyal Avril fans have stood by her side and see nothing wrong with the video. Fans on her official website are claiming that “Hello Kitty” is far from offensive. In fact, they believe that the video should be praised for “doing something different.”

Of course, even more people are arguing that Lavigne’s cultural appropriation is far from new and different. We saw this with Gwen Stafani’s “Harajuku Girls,” with Katy Perry’s Geisha performance and especially in Alison Gold’s infamous “Chinese Food” video.

For loyal fans who are confused, the reason people hate Avril’s “Hello Kitty” is because it uses Asian culture as a prop. Even the expressionless back up dancers are simply a backdrop. There is a very big difference between embracing a culture and using it as an accessory. It is not appreciation to trivialize an entire way of life.

As Huffington Post explains, “Borrowing from another culture is most problematic when it plucks from a minority group (especially one that has been exploited or otherwise oppressed). Using aspects of another culture from a position of privilege is a means of additional exploitation in that it disregards the shared experiences that led to the development of the culture in question and uses ideas and traditions for their benefit.”

The video was removed from YouTube, but check it out here and tell us what you think. 

Cruel & Racist Statements Told To Asian Adoptee Children

Kim Kelley-Wagner never married, but she always knew she wanted children. So when she saw a story in Time Magazine about Chinese adoptees, she suddenly found herself looking into adoption.

After taking some time to be sure of her decision, she made the leap. In 2001, Kelley-Wagner adopted 10-month-old Liliana. Later, in 2008, she adopted 2-year-old Meika.

Adopting two daughters didn’t make Kelley-Wagner feel any less of a mother than the women who gave birth to their children. Being adopted didn’t make Liliana or Meika feel less like daughters. Unfortunately, many others didn’t seem to share their sentiments.

“The comments began right from the start,” Kelley-Wagner says. “We would be shopping, and cashiers or store clerks would say things like, ‘How much did she cost?’ or ‘You could have bought a car for what it probably cost to adopt her.'”

Some were so insensitive that they began attacking the younger daughter Meika who had a bilateral cleft lip and palate when she was born. People openly questioned why Kelley-Wagner didn’t choose a “perfect” child.

Rather than allow these comments to anger her and her daughters, Kelly-Wagner decided to turn this into a project. Hoping to teach other people about their hurtful comments while simultaneously providing an outlet for her daughters to express themselves, she came up with a photo project where her daughters hold up the comments that were thrown at their family.

Both of her daughters agreed to the project and agreed that it could help bring awareness to how hurtful  statements can be.

Rather than respond with anger, Kelley-Wagner encourages her daughter to instead make people realize what they’re saying. “My advice to them is, leave your offenders speechless,” she says. “I think people are curious and don’t know any better.”

The daughters seem to be following their mothers footsteps. Kelley-Wagner recalls a woman who said she could not truly love someone she didn’t give birth too. Liliana then responded, “Oh, did you give birth to your husband?”

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Coca-Cola’s Multilingual SuperBowl Ad Produces Racist Criticism

I know what you’re all thinking right now: Not again. Not another instance of Americans showing their true –– and ignorant –– colors over social media for everyone to see. But yes, just as with the number of people who expressed their anger over the crowning of our first Indian American Miss America, Nina Davuluri, with tweets calling her a “terrorist,” so have SuperBowl viewers flocked to Twitter and Facebook to defend everything they believe to be “American.”

During the NFL SuperBowl, Coca-Cola aired a one-minute advertisement titled “It’s Beautiful,” which featured people of different cultures engaged in activities like dancing and watching movies, while “America the Beautiful” was sung in seven different languages. Coca-Cola posted a link to its Twitter with the caption “The only thing more beautiful than this country are the people who live here.”

Many people have praised the commercial for highlighting America’s diversity, but countless others have criticized it for not patriotic enough, because “in America, we speak English.”

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Miss Kansas had a few things to say herself.

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Watch the originally-aired SuperBowl commercial below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8iM73E6JP8

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Did HIMYM Go Too Far OR Have Asians Become Hypersensitive?

By now, you’ve probably heard about the controversial episode of How I Met Your Mother. If not, lets get you caught up.

The newest episode “Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra,”  continued an on-going joke throughout the show where Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) humorously slaps Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).

Segel’s character explains that he went through training in Shanghai, China to perfect his slapping skills. The show then reveals his three “masters” who turn out to be the other main characters sporting Asian attire, hair accessories, and even a  Fu Manchu mustache.

As you can expect, most of the Asian American community felt that all the “yellowface” used was a personal slap to our face. The episode angered so many viewers that  the hashtag  #HowIMetYourRacism blew up on twitter.

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In response to the massive backlash,  How I Met Your Mother co-creator Carter Bays tweeted his apology.

Hey guys, sorry this took so long. @himymcraig and I want to say a few words about #HowIMetYourRacism. With Monday’s episode, we set out to make a silly and unabashedly immature homage to Kung Fu movies, a genre we’ve always loved. But along the way we offended people. We’re deeply sorry, and we’re grateful to everyone who spoke up to make us aware of it. We try to make a show that’s universal, that anyone can watch and enjoy. We fell short of that this week, and feel terrible about it. To everyone we offended, I hope we can regain your friendship, and end this series on a note of goodwill. Thanks. @CarterBays@HimymCraig

— Carter Bays (@CarterBays) January 15, 2014

This is the point where opinions begin to divide. Some of the Asian community pointed out that while the apology is appreciated, something so obviously offensive never should have been aired. They have pointed out that we have had to hear this apology too many times and you would think that people would know to not use a culture as a costume. Angry Asian Man spilled out his sentiments by writing:

I appreciate apologies that acknowledge wrongdoing and avoid placing blame on the offended. People make mistakes. But this apology sounds a lot like the really really nice guy who hates it when people are mad at him. We get it, you feel terrible that we were offended. You feel terrible that you messed up. So how about actually addressing what you did to mess up? Aw, hell. I’m nitpicking at lackluster apologies.

Really, you just wish they’d had the sense to avoid this bullshit altogether. Obviously, as usual, that was asking too much. Now we all have that image of fu manchu’d Ted Moseby seared into our souls.

But then others in the Asian American community are disagreeing with the backlash all together. They claim that the apology is sincere, they acknowledged their mistake, and as a community, we are slowly opening the eyes of others. They point out that it’s a process and we need to allow people to see, acknowledge, and change their mistakes. This opinion can be seen with CNN host Don Lemon interviewing the popular Vietnamese comedian Dat Phan on his thoughts towards the controversy. Watch it below.

 

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So now we turn towards the real question. Did How I Met Your Mother go too far? Are we tired of hearing all the excuses given to us when all we’re asking for is respect for our culture? OR is Dat Phan correct in saying that we have become hypersensitive and not everything concerning Asians should cause offense?

Watch the How I Met Your Mother clip below and tell us what you think. 

 

Golden Globes 2014: Where are all the Asian People?

Story by Taylor Weik. 

As 5 p.m. drew closer and closer this past Sunday, my Tumblr dashboard began filling up with red. High-resolution photos of glamorous celebrities posing in their designer gowns and tuxedos on the red carpet were already making their way to the Internet, and the Golden Globes hadn’t even started.

 

I eagerly browsed the #gg14 tag on Tumblr while simultaneously searching online for a link to stream the red carpet event and the awards show itself. As someone who has spent more money on movie tickets than she’d care to admit and had at one point considered declaring film and media studies as a major, awards season is for me what the Superbowl is for my tailgate party-attending football fanatic friends. For a few hours on those special Sunday nights –– though I may be watching from a dimly lit computer screen and in pajama pants –– I couldn’t be happier.

 

I indulged in red carpet hour as always and watched as the ever-so-chic Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest made their interview rounds. Bradley Cooper. Jennifer Lawrence. Julia Roberts. Bryan Cranston. They came by limo, paused for questions and were swept away for photos. So many familiar faces from my favorite TV shows and movies flashed on the screen, but there were plenty more faces I didn’t see.

 

I could count the number of Asian people I saw on one hand. Little Aubrey Anderson-Emmons from Modern Family pranced around and comedian-actor Aziz Ansari attended (he also was one of three actors who announced the Golden Globe nominees back in December), but otherwise the turnout was discouraging. Phil Yu, founder of the popular Angry Asian Man blog, tweeted “Playing “Asian Spotting” while watching the Golden Globes is like the most boring game ever.”

The lack of Asian American actors, directors and crew members in the entertainment industry is nothing new to us. Browse the list of big movies set to release in 2014 and you won’t see any Asian American actors credited until almost half of the year is over, in May, when Ken Watanabe’s name appears in the new Godzilla reboot.

 

But at least last year at the Golden Globes, we had some representation in the form of successful actors like Lucy Liu, who wowed viewers in her long side braid and iconic floral Carolina Herrera gown on the red carpet. At least last year, Life of Pi was nominated for multiple awards, including Ang Lee for Best Director of a Motion Picture.

 

No one of Asian descent was nominated in the Golden Globes this year –– again, not a big surprise –– but the fact that I didn’t see many Asian people in the red carpet coverage says a lot about who is represented in Hollywood and who is continued to be left out of it.

 

Granted, some Asian Americans were represented in the form of dazzling dresses and six-inch heels. Kerry Washington flaunted her baby bump in a creamy Balenciaga number designed by Alexander Wang, and Jimmy Choo was a popular choice for pumps (Sandra Bullock) and clutches (Taylor Swift). But future awards shows better start recognizing the Rinko Kikuchis and Ken Watanabes out there –– I’m not sure how much longer I can stand having Hollywood equate “Asian American” with only designer bags and shoes.

 

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Can You Spot The Difference? Unnecessary Edits For Mindy Kaling’s ELLE Magazine Cover

February 2014 is Elle’s annual Women in TV issue. They’ve decided to feature four of television’s top celebrities: Zooey Deschanel, Amy Poehler, Allison Williams and Audrey Magazine Winter 2011-12  covergirl, Mindy Kaling. The four actresses all received their very own cover. This is reason to rejoice, right? An Asian American actress is finally being ranked equally in mainstream media!

But wait. Is she?

It doesn’t take much effort to spot the blatant difference between Kaling’s cover compared to the others. Many upset readers have pointed out the very obvious difference that Kaling’s cover is the only one black and white. Sure, the actress still looks stunning, but why are the other women not also in black and white? Why did they feel the need to take away the color of the one woman who was not Caucasian?

Other readers have pointed out that while the other three actresses received full-body covers, Kaling’s cover is a cropped close up.

Is it a coincidence? Is it just chance that Kaling (who happens to not fit the stereotypical body size of American actresses) is the only one who doesn’t receive a full body cover? Is it mere coincidence that the one person of color gets the black and white photo? Did they simply fail to notice that the other three photos are consistent and similar while Kaling’s is not?

Tell us what you think.

 

CONTROVERSY ALERT: Tiger Mom Claims “Some Races Are Superior”

Amy Chua is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, she gained the nickname “Tiger Mom” through her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother which advocated for a strict “Chinese” parenting style as well her belief that Chinese mothers are superior.

Now, she’s making headlines once again by taking that belief one step further.

Chua, a Chinese American law professor at Yale, joins forces with husband Jed Rubenfeld to write The Triple Package. The point of this book? To prove that certain groups of people are superior because they have innate qualities that make them more likely to succeed in life.

The Triple Package lists these groups as most likely to succeed in America: Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles and Mormons. As the title indicates, the duo believe that these cultural groups have three traits in common which make them inherently more superior than others: a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control.

“Mormons have recently risen to astonishing business success,” the authors write. “Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates. Indian and Chinese Americans have much higher incomes than other Americans; Jews may have the highest of all.”

According to NYDailyNews, the book also explains why some cultural groups, including African Americans, “might not have what it takes to reach the top.”

The authors seem to recognize that they are making rather controversial claims, but are standing by their work. The books publisher, Penguin Press, released a statement yesterday in support of The Triple Package.

“We are proud to be publishing ‘The Triple Package’ in February and we look forward to a thoughtful discussion about the book and success in America,” the statement read.

Although the book will not hit shelves until February, it has already gathered a handful of criticism (for obvious reasons) from critics and public alike.

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Audrey’s Top Ten Stories of 2013

2013 was quite the year for Audrey Magazine. Not only did it mark our ten year anniversary, it was also the launch of our revamped website. While we’re more than excited to kick off this new year, let’s take a moment to look back on all the stories of style, beauty and inspiring Asian Americans of the previous year.

Ranked by which stories were the most popular of the year, we bring you Audrey’s Top Ten Stories of 2013!


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1) Breaking The Asian Myth | Asian Hair
“If there’s one Asian stereotype we’re all very familiar with, its Asian hair. No one knows when this actually happened, but at one point people began thinking that all Asian women had the same kind of hair…”


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2) Not For Weak Stomachs: Removal of a 25-Year-Old Blackhead 
“In September we showed you the results of sleeping with makeup on for an entire month and called it a horror story. Now we take that back. We take it all back. Apparently, that wasn’t a skincare horror story at all. This is…”


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3) Korean Twin Sisters Unrecognizable After Plastic Surgery 
“It’s no secret. In Asia, plastic surgery is becoming more and more common. In fact, double eyelid surgery is so typical that many girls have been known to receive the procedure as a graduation gift. Aside from these minor procedures, just how far has surgery entered Asian culture? According to some, surgery has become a very serious ordeal…”


2013 d4) World’s 15 Most Followed Asian Female Celebrities on Twitter 
“1. Indonesian entertainer Agnes Monica (@agnezmo) — 8,326,171 followers
2. Japanese-Swiss-Polish Brazilian TV personality Sabrina Sato Rahal (@sabrinasatoreal) 3. Indonesian singer Sherina Munaf (@sherinamunaf)…”


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5) Korean American K-Pop Star Embroiled in Nude Photos Scandal
“Korean American singer Ailee has been receiving enormous attention from the Korean media after nude photos of the K-pop star surfaced on the Internet. Allkpop, a popular New York-based K-pop website, published censored versions of the photos last night, igniting a firestorm of controversy…”


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6) The Ultimate Guide to EXO
“EXO is separated into two subgroups, EXO K and EXO M, which promotes in Korea and China respectively. But together? This boy band totals to 12 members. Overwhelming? Just a bit. As much as we wanted to get to know the line-up for KCON, was learning all 12 members worth it? YES. The answer to that question is a very enthusiastic yes…”


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7) False Rumor: Philippines Disqualified From Pageants For The Next Two Years 
“In the midst of all this good news for the Philippines, a strange rumor has begun to spread. According to The Adobo Chronicles, the  Association of Beauty Pageant Franchise Holders (ABPFH) has disqualified the Philippines from international beauty pageants for the next two years claiming that Filipina candidates had an “enormous advantage” this year…”


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8) Asians in Fashion | EXO-K for Ivy Club Autumn 2013
“With the rise of EXO’s popularity, we can confidently say that  Ivy Club made quite a good decision to have the boys model and endorse their Autumn 2013 look…”


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9) Extremely Racist Responses to Olympus Has Fallen
“Its no secret that we still face racism today. Every time I start to believe that I live in my ideal/equal world, acts like this bring me back to the reality that we still have a long way to go…”


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10) Where I Went and What I Bought: Seoul
“I took a dream vacation last month. Not to some tropical hideaway surrounded by crystal clear waters. Not to a romantic European capital overflowing with crumbling palaces and fine wine. No, I went on a shopping vacation. To Korea…”