Recent Posts

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hymn for the Weekend, or Bowie Does It Right

So I finally watched that Coldplay/Beyonce video that apparently everyone but me is talking about, Hymn for the Weekend. I won't bother linking to it. Apparently, some people are complaining that Beyonce is appropriating Indian culture, and others say a Black woman can't engage in cultural appropriation.

So fine, here's my two cents (Canadian, so their value is negligible). Beyonce might be Black, but she is still a representative and beneficiary of America's cultural colonialism - so of course she can and does engage in cultural appropriation in this video. But that's not what people should be worried about.

Because while she is appropriating Indian culture, this powerful Black woman is still doing it FOR THE WHITE MAN'S GAZE. The entire thing is from the white man's perspective; he is the active participant, while both the Black woman (however powerful - goddess and all) and the entire Indian culture are performers for his enjoyment. That's what offends me about this admittedly pretty video.

Privileged people CAN focus on native cultures without engaging in cultural appropriation. It IS possible. All you have to do is contrast Hymn for the Weekend with David Bowie's video for Let's Dance. This one is also performed by a white man, but the gaze is completely inverted: the entire thing is from the perspective of Aboriginal kids, while the white man, and ultimately his culture, are there just for entertainment (because, you know, the lyrics are inane).

The Coldplay video, I'm sure, is meant as a compliment to India. Rejoice: White Man approves. Bowie, on the other hand (and god knows it's hard to get any whiter than Bowie), keeps his fucking approval to himself and uses his privilege to empower the culture of his focus. Not himself: the kids. Imagine that. So while Coldplay uses often exploited beggars and street performers as decoration, Bowie focuses explicitly on exploitation - and with brutal honesty, even casts himself as an exploiter to boot.

So here you go: a perfect example of how to do it, and a perfect example of how not to. Pretty colors though.


Post a Comment