Note: I wrote this blog for my tumblr after watching the No Doubt Looking Hot video just hours after it was uploaded. Several hours later it was taken down. I have edited the post slightly for here.
It always amazes me how record companies, band managers and everyone else involved in the creative process of putting together a music video (especially for a well known international band) don’t realise the kind of criticism that goes on online about appropriation and racial profiling. I mean the first thing I thought of when watching this video is the Native American dress up and how it will be ripped to pieces on the internet, and I only think that because I’ve seen it happen many times before.
Perhaps it is a publicity decision to do something that will have a backlash but it’s not outright offensive to people who wouldn’t consider cultural appropriation a negative thing or even a ‘thing’ which exists because it’s just not on many people’s radar of awareness. Watching stylised native american dress makes me uncomfortable because I think what will people say, is this offensive or not? am I allowed to enjoy it?
I love No Doubt and I also happen to like aspects of this video i.e. the sexy red dress she wears when she’s in the ‘shaman tent’ looks ace. Even the most likely offensive styling of Native American dress is that we’ve seen many times before has been stepped up a gear with feather headdress making an appearance in a mohawk style and beaded feather jewellery cascading around Gwen as she kicks up sand in the desert. Will cultural appropriation, specifically of Native Americans, ever be made clear that it’s not cool by someone or something that has a wider reach?
A lot of people simply won’t find it offensive in any way as they have no reason to. It’s not each stand alone music video, photo shoot, runway show, magazine editorial which uses cultural appropriation that will do considerable damage but the collective stance they takes which make this type of racism appear ‘okay’. People may say it’s a ‘celebration’ of different cultures but who is that to decide?
How much does western society need to stylise and glamourise a topic as brutal as the Indian massacres to cause major controversy? I don’t know much about the history of North America but you can see clearly in this video Gwen and her bandmates as Indians throwing spears at a gang of cowboys in between lip synching and dancing around a campfire in some kind of party / spiritual ceremony. I assume there will be a lot of people offended by the trivialising of such massacres. I just wonder where all the discussion of appropriation is leading to and if and when it will really have an impact beyond blogs online.