How Offensive Was Katy Perry’s AMA Performance?

The pop star has been accused of appropriating Japanese and Chinese culture

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Katy Perry kicked off Sunday’s American Music Awards ceremony with a performance of her single “Unconditionally,” which immediately prompted the question: Is this racist?

Perry sang while dressed as a geisha — though her costume was really a mixture of the Japanese kimono and a Chinese cheongsam, reports Kotaku — while her back-up dancers were also dressed as geishas and spun paper fans. Other Japanese-influenced aspects to the performance included cherry blossoms, Japanese garden-like sets and The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Many viewers took to social media to praise the performance, but there were some who quickly dubbed Perry’s performance racist. Psychology Today‘s Ravi Chandra writes why some Asian-Americans were offended by the costumes and sets, noting that, “I’ve watched our cultures misappropriated and commodified time after time.  Frankly, many of us feel used as props to glorify White artists.”

While Perry has been known to dress in Japanese-inspired costumes before, the performance did bring to mind another pop star’s award show performance that was accused of cultural appropriation, which we are all still trying to recover from: Miley Cyrus’s now infamous VMAs appearance.

30 comments
Openminded1
Openminded1

What race card BS, now the Asians are bitching . What do they have an Asian version of big mouth Al Sharpton and instead of the NAACP, they have AAAAP. What a joke.

josuke9219
josuke9219

Not one performer in the show was dressed as a geisha, and to say they were just because they had on a kimono and traditional japanese style makeup, is in itself, pretty ignorant and racist, as it perpetuates the misinformation that only geishas wore/wear kimonos and their makeup like that. I saw her performance as being about the Sakura ( cherry blossom) season and what it represents in japanese culture. To sum it up, the cherry blossom is a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short, and in modern times has come to represent the love beginning and love ending, The blooming of the blossoms representing the beginning, and the falling represent a love lost. In my opinion, and the opinion of every japanese per I've asked,  it's not offensive at all, and it's executed very well.

TopherGlenn
TopherGlenn

If this is racist, then it's racist for Japanese game developers to use 'white' characters in their games. Stop co-opting my culture and race to sell copies of your video games without understanding my culture!

cheezlasagna
cheezlasagna

Anybody else noticing that the majority of the people calling it racist aren't even of that race? I'm Asian too and I didn't find that to be racist! Even in Asian shows do you know how many times we have mixed cultures? Check out the show "Paris By Night", we're mixing Chinese, Vietnamese, and American culture all together.

SynthiaRose
SynthiaRose

I thought it was really stupid. I'm not Asian and I sat there wondering what this had to do with the song. I thought "Does she even know the meaning, usage and history behind this stuff or is it just a fad for her?" I was offended. Cultural things are very precious and sacred to some and for someone to use it as just a spectacle is demeaning.  She was doing gestures as well and I highly doubt she knows what any of it means. 


If she's been fully immersed in that culture and she understands it, she can dress like that. But she used it just to have a unique performance and I thought that was superficial and in bad taste. She can wear an item in isolation, but she appropriated an entire Asian theme , likely without the right knowledge, cultural awareness and reverence.  It made me uncomfortable as I watched it, I couldn't get over how obtuse and clueless she was. Her lyrics are dumb enough; she didn't need this.


I felt it was racially frivolous and insulting, but not racist, per se. Cultural things aren't for shock value, idiot.

maria.eugenia.errobidarte
maria.eugenia.errobidarte

I don't think this is racist at all. The prop looked stunning and you could see there was no intentions of sending a racist message across. She is just putting on a show, which is what she's paid for. Either way, it's not racist to dress up as someone from a culture different to your own. It wouldn't have been racist either if she dressed up as a flamenco dancer - trying to represent Spain, or a matrioska - trying to represent Russia or anything else. We are in a world were different cultures are closer than ever to one another so there should be no harm in adopting ideas to yourself.

kglnyc
kglnyc

Yeah, this is so simple: it's racist. It's gross and stupid. Celebrities shouldn't appear in black-face/yellow-face and expect not to be called out as racist. Katy Perry should be ashamed of herself (is that possible?). 

luvina
luvina

@TopherGlenn That is hardly the same thing. If the Japanese were to lampoon what they thought of White Americans, they'd make everyone look iike they weigh 200 pounds. They don't do that in videogames, do they?

boldandworthy
boldandworthy

@cheezlasagna Have you also noticed people saying they are Asian because they hide behind a computer screen when they really aren't? Kinda sad, isn't it.

ttchaz
ttchaz

@SynthiaRose How do you know she is nor fully immersed in that culture? She may know more than you give her credit for. Her boyfriend is quite familiar with Japanese culture. Lighten up.

ttchaz
ttchaz

@SynthiaRose How do you know she is not fully immersed in that culture. Her boyfriend is, so perhaps she knows more than you are fining her credit for. Lighten up.

KimHughes
KimHughes

Her performance was tastefully done..leave her alone

Sam_Wright
Sam_Wright

@maria.eugenia.errobidarte I understand your point, but you're wrong. There is harm and great offense in "adopting ideas to yourself" (otherwise known as Cultural Appropriation). Think about this; every year when Halloween rolls around, hundreds of kids take to the street dressed as "Mexicans" or "terrorists" or simply "Chinese." The problem with this becomes that you can't encapsulate an entire culture in one costume on one person, so imagery and cultural customs and traditional dress are "borrowed" from the cultural background and smushed together into something that is not only easily recognizable, but also not representative of that culture. Often offensively so. What's more, these elements aren't used with the intent of educating the public about the culture in question, they're often used to make something seem "exotic" and eye-catching so more people will buy it(or watch it). The problem here is not only inaccuracy (such as perry's costume, and for that matter entire performance, being a muddling of Chinese and Japanese cultures), but insensitivity to an entire (or in this case TWO) cultural history. So. You're wrong. Not because trying to represent a different culture accurately is wrong (diversity should always be cherished). But because representing a culture with only stereotypes and easily recognizable imagery is not representing a culture at all. It's representing the stereotypes. And that's racism.

vthompson1984
vthompson1984

@kglnyc She didn't have white face or yellow face - she wore a fashion - same thing as you ever dawning a cowboy hat or boots - are you a cowboy?  

#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

@kglnyc 

wearing a kimono and tying your hair back in a bun isn't "appearing in yellowface." this is nothing more than PC libtards getting butthurt over nothing

themidnightmatinee
themidnightmatinee

@luvina@TopherGlenn 

Check out the new fat and blonde (The cheap stereotype of a white person in Japan is a blonde one) American characters added to Steetfighter IV and Tekken 6.

vthompson1984
vthompson1984

@luvina @TopherGlenn Way to prove your point about not being racist.  Not every white american weighs 200 pounds and they do give their anime round eyes and have surgeries to get "white" eyes.  That is racist?


Hh7
Hh7

@vthompson1984 You're oversimplifying. Historical context always matters. White people have not been oppressed, systematically mass murdered, experienced institutionalized  racism, enslaved, or unjustly incarcerated. They have, however, done (and continue to do) this to other races. In addition, white people have forced other ethnicities to assimilate to "white" culture (ex. "kill the Indian, save the man") and been the leading force in globalization, so a Japanese person wearing a cowboy hat is not the same as a white person wearing a culturally sacred kimono. Nice try. Katy Perry is ignorant.


EthanJoseph
EthanJoseph

How much does she have to commit to "acting asian" before it's insensitive and ignorant. At some point you have to realize as a person who is of equal worth and value, their culture is part who and why they are who they are and you don't have a right to use their heritage as your accessory of the day.

luvina
luvina

@#libtardedamerica @kglnyc I'm Japanese, and I found it tasteless, gross, disrepectful, stereotyped appropriation of "Asian" culture. Don't you get that she's riffing off of Madam Butterfly (because the song is "Unconditional"), which, of course, was another piece of Orientalism by an Italian by way of an Englishman?
And that stereotype of the "submissive Oriental woman" has plagued me for decades. It's an extremely destructive stereotype.

Hh7
Hh7

@vthompson1984 You're oversimplifying. Historical context always matters. White people have not been oppressed, systematically mass murdered, experienced institutionalized  racism, enslaved, or unjustly incarcerated. They have, however, done (and continue to do) this to other races. In addition, white people have forced other ethnicities to assimilate to "white" culture (ex. "kill the Indian, save the man") and been the leading force in globalization, so a Japanese person wearing jeans is not the same as a white person wearing a culturally sacred kimono. Nice try, but it's not the same. Katy Perry is ignorant.

vthompson1984
vthompson1984

@boldandworthy @KimHughes then no one should wear a cowboy hat unless they are white.  No one should wear Native American jewely unless they are Native American and Asians should stop getting surgeries to make their eyes round.  And all the japanese children that are wearing american clothing should just stop because it is racist.  See how stupid you sound.


silvestris
silvestris

@Hh7 stop being a racist.  All people are individuals.  Do you really think no white person has been oppressed?  Do you really think every non-white person has been?  Oppressed is oppressed... it's not somehow worse if it is done on the basis of a modern conception of race.  When the Japanese were oppressing the Chinese during WWII, I don't think any of them were saying it was really okay because they are all the same race. Nor did the Native American tribes who allied with European settlers to fight against enemy tribes. 

Your statement only begins to make sense (and only barely) if you fail to see people as individuals and see them only as members of a given group.  I bet Katy Perry has never oppressed anyone of any race.  Only if you stereotype her as a "white" and therefore hold her responsible for the historical actions of other people you also stereotype as "white" can you possibly try to make the statement above.  And that's racist. 

If you really think racism is bad, you should stop practicing racism.  It's not okay just because you are being politically correct and being racist against whites.  When you do that, you are perpetuating the idea that some people are better than others solely on the basis of their purported race... an idea the most ardent KKK member would support.  As long as you keep treating people as members of a group and keeping score as to which group has been the worst, you keep the "us and them" mentality alive.  You invite people to defend their group by pointing out the misdeeds of the other groups.  It underscores the differences and ignores the much more significant things we all have in common.  It is exactly the kind of thinking (that some races are worse than others) that led to oppression in the first place.


I didn't see the performance in question, but why does it have to be offensive?  Couldn't it be also that Perry was celebrating Asian culture in doing so?   


Razvaz
Razvaz

@Hh7 @vthompson1984 When someone "blacks up" the race is part of the entertainment. You can do whatever you like with someone elses culture if it's respectful. Geishas are designed as entertainment, it's not sacred, it's art.

If anything, imitating a cowboy is more offensive, it's part of their identity.