Sterylene Munroe sings a hymn for Cultures, as represented by videos like Coldplay’s Latest.
Coldplay’s Hymn for the Weekend’s been churning out some seriously polarized opinions since its release last month. As a student of film studies it was a cinematic experience. Damn, Beyoncé was a cinematic experience. But, as someone who is socially #woke and has spent hours online, reading up on issues of race and culture… I knew of (and pardon my French) the shit storm that would ensue. Time then, to cue in that big bad A-word—
“Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture.” Seems pretty harmless right? What are the odds that people take offense when you appropriate their culture? Well, they do take offense; because more often than not, one ends up:
- sexualizing said culture
- infantilizing said culture
- recreating and reinforcing existing stereotype of said culture, or
- exploiting said culture for profits
Obviously a music video isn’t half as bad at appropriating culture as those white girls who made fun of you and your mom for wearing henna or bindis when you were in middle school. And then plastered their entire face with bindis after white icons Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera sported the bindi at the 2005 VMA.
Misappropriating culture is wrong and I cannot even begin to emphasize on why. To start with, the banality of the creative choices that Coldplay makes is what gets to me. The using India as a backdrop to peddle ideas of a mystic-colorful-land-trope had been used so many times it has worn thinner than Kanye West’s coffers. There is the mandatory levitating god man. And the street kids who just really love Holi. They love it. Really. A lot.
Then, there’s the onslaught of visual information. So by the time you recover from Coldplay’s lack of creative initiative you are sucker punched with a visual of Beyoncé wearing chain mail on her face. No, that thing definitely isn’t Indian. This is followed by a lot many other confusing visuals where we see her wearing a headgear that (I am a good 94% sure) isn’t Indian.
Yes, she looks like the queen she was born to be – but that lipstick shade is so bad. It is SO UNFLATTERING to her complexion.
But all said and done, good interpretation of India, or bad – Coldplay managed to remain pretty inoffensive about things.
Though, back home, Sonam Kapoor’s five second cameo managed to irk people off instead of all that blatant gentrification that Beyonce was indulging in.
Why people were visibly disappointed with the video is because Beyonce herself, is a huge spokesperson against cultural appropriation. Her latest video for ‘Formation’ makes a very strong political stance against the police brutality in the USA. She is also a very active #BlackLivesMatter supporter.
Turning artists into champions for your causes is ridiculous – because they don’t owe you anything. Their stance on a political or socio-cultural issue doesn’t make them the patron saint of said cause. However, if they are; as individuals invested in a cause then one does wonder how moral their blind-sighting of that cause for their own convenience, is.
So when Beyoncé is a part of interpretations like this it hits harder – because, appropriation is wrong. It is wrong when people of a different culture commercialize your heritage because they tend to not know the significance or the responsibilities that come with them adopting it. Wearing a blackface* is offensive to the black community because it was their skin color that got them subjugated in the first place. The blackface comes with 400 years of slavery, segregation, institutionalized racism and race-related violence. Are people who sport the blackface willing to deal with those things?
Same goes for the Native American headgear which has become the go to aesthetic at music festivals such as Coachella and NH7. Would you like to be on the wrong side of a genocide that resulted in the organized culling of over 100 million native Americans?
Bottom line? I don’t think Coldplay appropriated or appreciated Indian culture in the Hymn for the Weekend video. The music video could have easily been shot in Colombia or South Africa and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the song.
They decided to shoot it in India, for the kicks, and that’s that.