Avril Lavigne’s ‘Hello Kitty’ Music Video Sparks Backlash and Controversy

April 23, 2014

Avril Lavigne’s music video for “Hello Kitty” has sparked a backlash and is generating much controversy. While she is getting much attention for these visuals deemed objectionable for the stereotypical use of elements of Asian culture, it’s not like the the intended effect.

Updated below with Avril Lavigne’s response to the controversy.

The 30-year-old Canadian pop superstar has seemingly unwittingly sparked a furious backlash. How bad? Well, not only is the video no longer on YouTube, but several august sites are savage in criticism. Just the title alone are notable. While Billboard took the anguished route — “Avril Lavigne ‘Hello Kitty’ Video Is An Embarrassment In Any Language” — GQ on the other hand turned it into an endurance sport for the daring — We Watched Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” So You Wouldn’t Have To.”

Co-written by her husband, Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, the song itself is already a bit grating. It’s not melodic although perhaps in the hands of the right DJ there may be a danceworthy club mix in there somewhere. But the video itself sees Avril Lavigne dressed in an impossibly cutesy attire; a black top and a miniskirt that seems to be a ruffled curtain stolen from a child’s nursery. She romps her way through candy stores and city streets with four Asian women backup dancers in tow who all have eerie expressionless faces, as if they are perhaps androids.

It it an irritating visual that makes use of cultural elements in a typically insensitive manner, as if they are just so many props and accessories.

And that has not gone unnoticed. The backlash far surpasses the backlash that Katy Perry got for her Geisha-inspired –and indeed Geisha-stereotyped — performance at the American Music Awards. It really begs the question how do such videos get produced? When one considers all that is involved from the choreography to the four dancers themselves to the hair, the makeup, the location scouts, well, the list goes on and on. No one speaks up and says, so to speak, this emperor has no clothes!

She Tweeted “Here it is!! #HelloKittyMusicVideo.”

In fact, you must follow the link in the Tweet if you want to see the video; it leads to her Web site. The video has been pulled from YouTube and copies pop up from time to time and are quickly pulled.

The uproar on Twitter from the general public is resoundingly negative as well. While she has not responded to the backlash, on Twitter she has retweeted some of the positive comments notably “Avril is chucking colourful cupcakes, candy & fun at you in new #HelloKittyMusicVideo! KAWAII!” The Twitter user seems to have no problem evidently with her appropriations.

Well, as always, the Internet will survive and no doubt so will Avril Lavigne herself. These days the only way an artist gets any attention for a music video is to do something outrageous. For Miley Cyrus it was swinging naked on a wrecking ball. For Beyonce and ‘XO’ it was inexplicably using audio from the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy to preface the video. Thus for Avril Lavigne it’s taking ‘Hello Kitty’ on a romp through Asian stereotypes.

Update. Avril Lavigne took to Twitter to defend the video. She Tweeted: “RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video specifically for my Japanese fans, WITH my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers AND a Japanese director IN Japan.”

The ‘Hello Kitty’ music video is back on YouTube; you can see it below.

Pictures: PR Photos

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