Avril Lavigne has been taking a ton of heat from her Japanese-themed "Hello Kitty" video, which was leaked on Wednesday. Some have called it racist, while others have said it's just plain terrible.
Lavigne has apparently seen the criticism -- or at least heard of the complaints -- and has fired back about the alleged racism in the clip, which features the "Skater Boi" singer playfully dancing with four identically dressed Harajuku Girls, chowing down on sushi, and drinking sake.
RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video…
— Avril Lavigne (@AvrilLavigne) April 24, 2014
https://twitter.com/AvrilLavigne/status/459151395254317056 …specifically for my Japanese fans, WITH my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers AND a Japanese director IN Japan. — Avril Lavigne(@AvrilLavigne) April 24, 2014
We reached out to a few people affiliated with the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago to get their take on the clip. Neither thought it was racist, but one was slightly troubled by the video.
"I don't find it racist in any manner," says JCC's Stephen Toyoda, who hadn't seen the clip prior to our inquiry, but viewed it before offering his comments. "It just seems to be her homage to Japanese culture. People may not like the music, but as far as the imagery, I don't find it offensive."
Saira Chambers, an event coordinator at the JCC who also operates the Kawaii Study Japan blog, concurs. "It's not racist, it's just somewhat insensitive," she says. Chambers posted the clip on her blog on Wednesday with the headline "Avril Lavigne...Kawaii So Insensitive?" and asked her visitors what they thought of the video.
Chambers adds the video plays on Kawaii culture, which focuses on the cuteness in Japanese culture. "Kawaii culture historically is almost kind of anti-feminist, even though it has feminist roots, but she says things about rolling around in your underwear with friends and whatnot, which seems a little counter-intuitive, especially as a message to young women," she says.
"Hello Kitty tends to be an icon for younger girls. Those are the things that I find most problematic about it. It's also silly in a way that makes it hard to take Japanese culture seriously."
Yet Chambers goes on to add that Lavigne's heart may be in the right place. In the past, she points out, Lavigne has collaborated with J-Pop duo Puffy Ami Yumi. "That gives her a little credibility," she says. "I'm sure her intentions were good, but someone dropped the ball."
Lavigne isn't the first artist to take heat for hijacking Japanese imagery. In the past, Gwen Stefani and, more recently, Katy Perry have also been criticized for their use of Japanese culture in their music, videos and stage performances.