Speaking of stereotypes...
February 1, 2016 1:53 AM   Subscribe

 
Coldplay. Stockbroker rock. Next.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:01 AM on February 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


U1
posted by fairmettle at 2:14 AM on February 1, 2016 [15 favorites]


Goodness gracious me
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:41 AM on February 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Very strange article. For instance, the writer repeatedly describes Coldplay (a British band) as representing Hollywood. Coldplay is even used by the writer as a representative of US politics ( the writer makes the India has had a female head political leader already and the U.S. (Represented by Coldplay=Hollywood) hasn't yet therefore India is more politically enlightened argument ) . The music video is mainly a cliched (with positive cliches) travelogue plus Beyoncé doing a Bollywood scene (Bollywood itself is an extraordinarily voracious copier and repurposer and hybridizer of ideas and practices from other cultures' film and dance and music scenes (including traditional Indian arts and well, Hollywood ) - it's difficult to take "culturally appropriation of Bollywood" charges seriously ) .
I'm not sure why a positive travelogue , even if it's cheesy and cliched , is so objectionable . Throw in some beach and hotel / restaurant scenes and it could be a film sponsored by the Indian tourism board. Cliches are also not the same as stereotypes . The music video is not saying that the typical Indian is like this for goodness' sake .
Here's a more well-considered article on the video from The Hindu newspaper
posted by Bwithh at 2:58 AM on February 1, 2016 [27 favorites]


I don't get it... they're upset a music video doesn't present the most boring, corporate, grey (and realistic) version of their country? They want all the people to be wearing typical name brand attire, going to work at Cubicle Corp, and living the least interesting lives possible - that is, the life of the average actual person?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:04 AM on February 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


I keep making the joke that Coldplay are Foreigner for the iPhone era. I guess they finally heard it.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:05 AM on February 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Of course, there are candy coloured temples to provide perfect backdrops for goodlooking white men in tie and dye jackets to sing ballads to their lady love.

Yes that is very very bad, but come on it looks great, doesn’t it? It’s a music video, it’s a fantasy, if we can have at least one harmless area of life free from any expectations of political and moral rightness shouldn’t it be music videos? Is it too much to ask?

I don’t know, I may not be qualified to have an opinion on this in 2016, I grew up thinking Duran Duran’s Rio and Hungry like the Wolf and Save a Prayer were awesome (and I still think they’re awesome!) and you sure could pick them apart as far more offensive crimes than this (I mean, Hungry like the Wolf is a white British man hunting a body-painted black woman in the jungle, and at some point there’s a shot of her face and then the face of a tiger, lol... it wouldn’t stand a chance to even get done today). But those were the 80s and they had better songs. That helps.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:07 AM on February 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Point / Counterpoint: Africa
posted by Mchelly at 3:41 AM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning...then wrote a review of a video..

And, it's "tie-dye" not "tie and dye" (which, that isn't anyway...)..
posted by HuronBob at 4:01 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


There are cliches in this corporate rock video? I am shocked, I tell you, shocked!
posted by Devonian at 4:10 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


it could be a film sponsored by the Indian tourism board

It's a terrible song, but the video just looks like an extended tourism promotional ad, with happy kids and colorful people. I'd consider that something of a failure as a music video since they aren't usually trying to imitate tourism ads, but it's not any worse than one of those ads, either.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:08 AM on February 1, 2016


You know, tourism can also be based on unequal power relations, and tourist board ads can also be designed to appeal to the sensibilities of privileged outsiders, which can include attitudes that are insulting or damaging to the people who actually live in the places that are being proposed for tourism. Saying this is like a tourist board ad does not actually override the critique.

This discussion so far makes me a little sad: I thought we were going to try to do better on this stuff.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:18 AM on February 1, 2016 [19 favorites]




I think Beyoncé conceivably gets a pass- to my knowledge there is no controversial power dynamic between black Americans and Indians that would make a cross-cultural conversation appropriative. Also, she's Beyoncé and I and all non-lizard people of the world will do whatever intellectual acrobatics necessary to prevent staining her with anything negative.

Coldplay, on the other hand, couldn't possibly be ignorant of UK's colonial history here and the video is cliche and exoticizing of India.

On the other other hand, lots of India really does look like that. Maybe the modern, technological, middle class people of India would like to answer for the vast class disparities in their country?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:35 AM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


From andrewcooke's link: opponents of the clip have pointed to the fact that popular Indian actress Sonam Kapoor — a bona fide Bollywood star — is relegated to an eight-second cameo in the video, effectively playing second fiddle to the former Destiny's Child singer.

"Former Destiny's Child singer" is how one would describe Michelle Williams, not Beyoncé. Give me a break.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:42 AM on February 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


It’s a music video, it’s a fantasy,

And yet India is a real place. If you want to film a fantasy, set it in Bag End, but I see no difference between the west using India as set decoration and frat boys using ethnicities as Halloween costumes.
posted by maxsparber at 5:45 AM on February 1, 2016 [11 favorites]


the writer repeatedly describes Coldplay (a British band) as representing Hollywood.

Coldplay is managed by conglomerate Warner Music Group (American) on two of their owned labels Parlophone (German?) and Atlantic (American).

Chris Martin, as far as I can tell, has possibly lived in America since at least 2006, and definitely lives in LA right now in the house he bought in 2014. (Turns out it actually kind of hard to track down where super rich artists live.)

So while I wouldn't call them an "American group", the argument that since they are british they are divorced from American entertainment culture and "Hollywood" seems false.
posted by mayonnaises at 5:57 AM on February 1, 2016 [3 favorites]




The opposite of Coldplay is Hotwork. The opposite of India is...probably somewhere in the South Pacific. Ergo, Man have you seen Hotwork's latest, problematic video? It's a total maritime stereotype-fest!
posted by Bob Regular at 6:21 AM on February 1, 2016


I think the Root, because their focus is on black American culture, is going to be more interested in stuff that pertains to Beyoncé than stuff that pertains to Coldplay. And that plays into ongoing debates on Twitter and elsewhere about whether black American artists can be accused of appropriating other POC's cultures. But I'm not sure that's really the heart of this issue, which seems more to be about the video as a whole than about Beyoncé's particular role in it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:23 AM on February 1, 2016


ArbitraryAndCapricious: "You know, tourism can also be based on unequal power relations, and tourist board ads can also be designed to appeal to the sensibilities of privileged outsiders, which can include attitudes that are insulting or damaging to the people who actually live in the places that are being proposed for tourism."

It's true that this is possible. Has anyone seen any Indian tourism ads aimed at the Indian market, so that we can actually shed some light on the issue instead of defending or attacking it on hypothetical grounds?
posted by Bugbread at 6:29 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think that saying "The problem with Hollywood stems from their obliviousness to the existence of life outside their geographical boundaries" ignores the boundless cynicism involved here. It is not that media conglomerates are unaware of life out there; it is that they know they can't lose. More people will watch the video thanks to this small amount of controversy. Surely that is the only calculation involved, because there was nothing particularly memorable about the video itself, it was a string of colorful cliches meant to pep up a lifeless song. I think it is safe to say that most of the people involved with approving, financing, and creating the video are aware of cultural appropriation...it's just that they don't care, except insofar as it drives a few more viewers to the video, and driving a few more listeners to iTunes.
posted by mittens at 6:32 AM on February 1, 2016


Godawful song. I loved the taxi, though (they really exist).

Here's an interview of the director Ben Mor, whose brainchild the video seems to have been. From the interview:
    When you take a closer look at India, surrealism and psychedelia immediately come to mind, at least to mine!
Which... doesn't really help against the accusation that the video portreys India the way Western people see it.

That said, I always cringe whenever Paris is depicted in music videos, too, or in any other Hollywood productions for that matter. I'm sure there are tons of real life locations that get the same fantasyland treatment in videos, although I understand that exoticizition feels different at the receiving end when what's depicted is part of the developing world.
posted by sively at 6:41 AM on February 1, 2016


I think the Root, because their focus is on black American culture, is going to be more interested in stuff that pertains to Beyoncé than stuff that pertains to Coldplay. And that plays into ongoing debates on Twitter and elsewhere about whether black American artists can be accused of appropriating other POC's cultures. But I'm not sure that's really the heart of this issue, which seems more to be about the video as a whole than about Beyoncé's particular role in it.

I wasn't suggesting that Beyoncé was the key factor in this issue, and as far as the Root is concerned, I think they're loath to criticize Queen Bey no matter what she does. But this isn't like those 1930s and 40s movies where Lena Horne's singing scenes would be cut out before showings in southern markets and it really wouldn't affect the overall story. For whatever reason Beyoncé's vocals and appearances are fairly entwined in the whole video. I think her part in it is as open to criticism as is Coldplay's. (Interestingly, her vocals are uncredited on the song itself.)

It'll be interesting to see whether Coldplay does a live version of it at the SuperBowl with Beyoncé in costume and backed by a bunch of Bollywood-style dancers.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:10 AM on February 1, 2016


It's revealing to juxtapose Coldplay's India next to its historical predecessor. From Colonial India and the Making of Empire Sinema: Image, Ideology and Identity by Prem Chowdhry (link):
India emerged in Hollywood films in 1902 in Thomas Edison's Hindu Fakir, the first motion picture with an Indian theme of which there is any record. It concentrated on 'mystic India' and projected an oriental land and people, full of mysterious, frightening, strange things, repulsively fascinating to a western audience due to their 'uncivilized' and 'barbaric' nature. Such films merely reproduced the orientalist discourse so attractive to the white races, a vision which the USA shared with the rest of the western white world. This film, regarded as the ancestor of a whole series of motion pictures, provided the backdrop to the cinematic adventures of the British Indian army.
Since the music video is such a visual medium, it's also useful to highlight film techniques. From The Imperial Imaginary, a paper by Shohat and Stam (quoted in the above book) (link):
For the European spectator, the cinematic experience mobilized a rewarding sense of national and imperial belonging, on the backs, as it were, of otherized peoples. For the colonized, the cinema (in tandem with other colonial institutions such as schools) produced a sense of deep ambivalence, mingling the identification provoked by cinematic narrative with intense resentment, for it was the colonized who were being otherized.

...

The cinema's ability to "fly" spectators around the globe gave them a subject position as film's audio-visual masters. The "spatially mobilized visuality" of the I/eye of empire spiraled outward around the globe, creating a visceral, kinetic sense of imperial travel and conquest, transforming European spectators into armchair conquistadors, affirming their sense of power while turning the colonies into spectacle for the metropole's voyeuristic gaze.
posted by yaymukund at 7:12 AM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Yahoo Style article reminds me of an elder relative asking me, "why do you have to take pictures of the poverty?!" in Country Also Having Modern Advances. It was about 10 of the 500+ pictures.

Not that I like the video. Video was bleh. It does look like a tourism ad aimed at young white guys. Come see the shrooooms of India!
posted by zennie at 7:31 AM on February 1, 2016


I keep making the joke that Coldplay are Foreigner for the iPhone era.

At least Lou Gramm could sing.
posted by jonmc at 7:57 AM on February 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes that is very very bad, but come on it looks great, doesn’t it? It’s a music video, it’s a fantasy, if we can have at least one harmless area of life free from any expectations of political and moral rightness shouldn’t it be music videos? Is it too much to ask?

It's too much to ask to give music videos a pass to perpetuate stereotypes.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:22 AM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that Foreigner crack is not cool. Just close your eyes and imagine human bag of choloroform and NyQuil Chris Martin trying to rock out on "Head Games." Or literally any song.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:50 AM on February 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Without wading too deep into this, I will only note that, in contrast to garbage like this, the Devanagari रानी "rani" for "queen" that appears throughout the video, along with the transliterated कोल्डप्ले "cold play" at the end, appears to be correct throughout. Which is kind of an improvement? And to be fair, whoever made the video did seem to have a genuine fascination for the kind of old-school projection technology (bioscopes, old lenses) that can still be found outside of the big metros, which comes through in a few places. I (perhaps wisely) just watched the video on mute, so in my mind the lyrics were obviously about the trials and tribulations of small-town projectionists.

Also, is there an oral history or something of how the debacle that was Outsourced got made? Because I want that, very badly.
posted by Stilling Still Dreaming at 8:51 AM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why Beyoncé and Coldplay's Latest Music Video Is an Example of Cultural Appropriation by Priya-Alika Elias

India has always been positioned as a shallow vessel that exists for Westerners to "find themselves."...

One common defense of appropriation is that it is appreciation. However, appreciation respects the complexity of the original culture. "HFTW" doesn't feel appreciative or respectful. It's lazy to position Kathakali dancers in the same frame as North Indian dancers when the former are South Indian. It's callous to use religious iconography as a cool background for a white rock band. It's disrespectful not to give South Asian people starring roles in their own stories. In every video like "HFTW," they're extras or backup dancers. Just as in Iggy's and Diplo's videos, there is no Indian front and center. Actual Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor (a powerhouse in her own right) could easily have been given as much screen time as Beyoncé, who plays the Bollywood actress in the video. Instead, Kapoor is relegated to the role of an extra: blink and you'll miss her two-second appearance.


This pretty much sums up a large part of my feelings and analysis - American and British wealthy entertainers commodifying Orientalist images of India through their means of producing images, and in these images, they displace the original people who should be front and center. Pass. This is cultural appropriation. Just looking at a performer's skin color does not give a full nuanced understanding of what is going on, there are a lot of tropes going on with this video that goes directly back to damaging exoticism.
posted by yueliang at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


Needs more field artillery.
posted by flabdablet at 9:35 AM on February 1, 2016


Can People of Color Culturally Appropriate? Yes. BUT… by Fatimah Asghar

Because many communities of color are set next to each other in the U.S., we often end up in a series of cultural exchanges that can be mutually respectful and important to our survival or negotiating of America. My friends of color would often hang out with me for Eid and dress up in our traditional clothes. We constantly exchanged food and recipes. I would go to their houses for Easter, Christmas, and Kwanza and participate in all of the rituals that came along with those holidays.

The key here was that we were active participants in celebrating each other, not erasing each other. We were invited by each other to participate in customs, not just donning them because we thought they looked or sounded cool. We also weren’t gaining social or economic capital from partaking in each other’s cultures.


This article also articulates it better than I would, that yes, these are the ways that Beyonce and Coldplay culturally appropriated. It's not just white people who can do this, cultural appropriation is treating entire cultures as an aesthetic commodity to be worn. The music video is a whole, big advertisement for some othering gaze of India, and it is supercharged and imported due to the nature of the music industry and celebrity.

This reminds me of once, where I had discussions with Chinese-American friends over whether buying and wearing a 'kimono jacket' was culturally appropriative. We decided that it was, because a) it was divorced from its original context, with no other discussions of how it came to be b) it didn't really resemble a kimono at all, it could have just been named "flapsleeve jacket" c) clearly sold for profit d) It just didn't seem Japanese, wasn't given to us by someone Japanese, and used 'kimono' as an exotifying marketing term. So it was a big pass.

I also saw sweatpants with some 'tribal symbol' that I had no idea was legitimate or not, or if it was, what it was doing on a pair of $40 sweatpants. I didn't want to buy it, because I don't want to wear something that I don't support or understanding, especially if it may be sacred to someone else. People of color can also make these decisions too.
posted by yueliang at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


"The problem with Hollywood stems from their obliviousness to the existence of life outside their geographical boundaries, or is it that they are just in denial? Only if they entertained the intention of discovering how much this country has expanded in every field starting technology, banking and FMGC to space science, but then the sight of a peacock dancing in the rain bewitches them more!"
For one incredible moment there I thought that these were actually the lyrics from Coldplay's new song, and I thought "Hmmm, brave move... Better than their usual output... But ultimately, still a bag of shit."
posted by ZipRibbons at 10:07 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Point / Counterpoint: Africa

Oh wow, I have been avoiding this on my Facebook feed for a solid week now, but I clicked on it here and my God. I guess I didn't expect them to be . . . serious about it? The total lack of wink-wink-nudge-nudge-aren't-we-goofy somehow makes that video really unpalatable.
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:41 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm skeptical of there being a way to make a music video set in another country and not have it come off as appropriative and/or not inclusive enough, unless it is a collaboration with an artist from that country. Take the artist out of the video and create a narrative with local actors, maybe? Maybe. But music videos are probably not a great venue for nuanced representation of another culture.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:44 AM on February 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not sure what is it about premedieval India that enthralls Hollywood so much that they pertinaciously refuse to grow out of those days. They are basically a delusional species of artists and need to be shaken up from their hallucination.

But music videos are probably not a great venue for nuanced representation of another culture. Yes on Grumpybear. Music videos are just about shiny colorful spectacle, not trenchant sociopolitical analysis.

However we can still criticize when we get things wrong, and I completely understand being attracted to the art and culture of other cultures and being clueless about how your efforts and interests read to others. I'm white and grew up loving a lot of world music (sneer if you want) and I'm sure I committed all kinds of faux-pas that were maybe more acceptable in the 80s-90s than they are now , owing to the dialogue of social media, and this new feedback system is generally a good thing. I once asked my friend if I was 'too white' to be wearing a batik shirt, and did I look like a douche? I certainly didn't mean to come off as clueless white person but sometimes you have to look beyond just your superficial aesthetic appreciation of other cultures and examine how your consumption of those cultures reads. Because those beautiful colors and shiny pretty things have tons of loaded meaning and history behind them that, for those of us who're white, we just don't have the same personal experience and we don't read the symbols in the same manner. It becomes just beautiful stuff, and it is awkward to find out that what you think is artistic apprecitation is trivializing or fetishizing someone else's history and culture. The feedback process is awkward, but we just have to go through it and evolve.

I think part of the reason we who are white romanticize some non-white cultures is that we're looking for some kind of spiritual redemption that's really a form of escapism. Fascination with "Orientalism" has a long, long history in counterculture, going back to the 19th century. I think we're trying to escape the problems of our own culture and projecting an idealistic purity and innocence onto other cultures. We do this a lot with Native American culture; even though I studied with an anthropology professor that discussed that, we all {whites} found ourselves doing it. My personal theory is that it fits in with our Garden of Eden mythos, that subconsciously or consciously, we think of these cultures as being like the innocent Garden of Eden before western/industrial/christian/colonial corruption set in. We want a perfect, pure innocent world, and we project that mythology onto this beautiful art and ritual that we see.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


OTOH, how fantasies of spiritual purity relate to Chris Martin's getting drunk on the weekend and so high, so high, so high, ...now that I really couldn't tell you.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:18 PM on February 1, 2016


This is ridiculously cheap.
posted by nicolin at 12:33 PM on February 1, 2016


Yes that is very very bad, but come on it looks great, doesn’t it? It’s a music video, it’s a fantasy, if we can have at least one harmless area of life free from any expectations of political and moral rightness shouldn’t it be music videos? Is it too much to ask?

We who are white are just used to dominating the dialogue & living in an echo chamber. We just have to evolve and listen to the feedback of others on how we're used to dominating culture. I'm not saying everybody on the internet is right, but the whole business of "does everybody have to ruin things with their PCness" is lame and a lot of it comes from my peers. We just have to listen to the feedback; we have new media outlets now, it's not just a one way stream of us pushing our cultural norms onto everybody anymore. This isn't just oh, those tiresome PC people, this is cultural and social evolution.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 1:05 PM on February 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes that is very very bad, but come on it looks great, doesn’t it? It’s a music video, it’s a fantasy, if we can have at least one harmless area of life free from any expectations of political and moral rightness shouldn’t it be music videos? Is it too much to ask?

I mean, I guess it is too much to ask. It'd be nice if POC and/or people of other ethnicities could have their ancestry and culture not treated like ah fuck it why even bother having this conversation again
posted by qcubed at 1:20 PM on February 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Have none of you ever seen a Bollywood version of New York? Right, so I did, and watched one a few days ago, in West Africa. Not everything is THE WEST vs. X, it's a big world out there. The whole appropriation conversation is such a Euro/Western phenomena.
posted by iamck at 1:55 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


As an Indian, cultural appropriation is a very very confusing topic to me.

As a culture, we have been proud of being able to assimilate elements from other cultures, civilizations and make them our own. I doubt if we have always understood the context and complete significance of the elements we incorporated. And I am sure, in our 5000 year history, there have been lots of groups that have been marginalized, subsumed and left behind while some elements of their culture and symbols live on as part of a larger cultural canvas. Was our assimilation cultural appropriation? did we do wrong? Should we not be proud of our ability to assimilate elements from other cultures?

Take holi for example. This festival is now known as a pan-Indian festival. Both govt and people love to show it as representative of India and Indian culture as a whole. But, if you asked people about the origins and significance of holi and why/how colors were associated with it, all you will get is a miracle story involving Gods which is, most probably, post-hoc explanation of incorporation of a custom from some long forgotten culture. We adopted an agricultural festival, originating in parts of north-western India, which welcomed spring and created a mythology around it.

Hell, some people have started celebrating Halloween in India without any concern about its origins, significance or mythology. I am sure that within next 20 years, Halloween would be a big celebration in India. Its fun, it allows people to dress up and celebrate. No one is going to care or know about the origins of Halloween.

Having said that, this video is not so much guilty of cultural appropriation but being lazy, superficial and unimaginative. If, despite having huge budgets, there were the best images they could find, they are not being much better than most tourism dept ads I have seen.

That brings me to the next point. Most of the images I see here could be straight out of the tourism promotion videos launched by various Indian govt agencies. Are they being appropriative? I am not sure.

This type of view of India (mystical! colors! customs! princesses! castles! poor!) is something that has been done long before and lot better by Rudyard Kipling. This is just boring.

Taking this definition of cultural appropriation from an article mentioned above:
"Cultural appropriation occurs when members of a dominant group take elements and symbols of another culture for their own economic or social gain while simultaneously devaluing and silencing the bodies, opinions and voices of the oppressed culture."

As far as I understand, a key component of any appropriation is taking the elements of a culture while simultaneously trying to erase or denigrate the people of that culture. And by that definition, there are many examples of cultural appropriation.

But then, the definition means that if you are respectful and tolerant towards another culture, you can take elements from them without being accused of appropriating. But I think, some would have a problem with this interpretation.

Would it be ok to wear kimonos if you were respectful of Japanese culture but didn't have any knowledge of its significance in the culture?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's almost as if there are very differing views on it depending on whether you're Indian-American or Indian-Indian. It's almost like this is a topic that has different impacts on people depending on where they live and their life experiences.

It's almost like there's no real answer, outside of being able to say, that this notion of "Can we not have this overrun by PC and PoC talk" is bullheadedly wrong on so many goddamn levels.
posted by qcubed at 2:00 PM on February 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


I fully get that music videos are largely about escapism, and celebrities dressing up in fabulous clothes, and dreamy landscapes, and that's all fine. Just understand that in the age of Twitter and thinkpieces, the days in which white musicians could use black and brown people as props without expecting widespread scrutiny, mockery, or pushback are rapidly drawing to a close.

- Tasneem Raja for NPR's Code Switch
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:01 PM on February 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


Several people have said, "This looks like it could be produced by the Indian tourism board." Let's go to the tape and review the last several television commercials from their campaign, "Incredible India"!
Northeast, 2015
Jammu and Kashmir, 2015
Incredible India :20 TVC, 2014
Incredible India :15 TVC, 2014
Incredible India ad, 2013

Tl;dw - the Incredible India campaign shows more wide-open landscapes.
posted by rednikki at 6:28 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


The best Bollywood-style music video is still Basement Jaxx's "Romeo".
posted by drinkyclown at 7:28 PM on February 1, 2016


I didn't actually see most of the video. Turned it off as soon as the fingernails-down-the-blackboard autotuned vocal started.
posted by flabdablet at 10:10 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Have none of you ever seen a Bollywood version of New York? Right, so I did, and watched one a few days ago, in West Africa. Not everything is THE WEST vs. X, it's a big world out there. The whole appropriation conversation is such a Euro/Western phenomena.

Punching up, punching down.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:41 PM on February 1, 2016


Another good article a friend shared with me, who was unsure of what to think of the whole thing and this article helped educate her:
Orientalist Fantasy: Coldplay's Hymn for the Weekend
posted by yueliang at 11:16 PM on February 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Punching up, punching down.

This is hugely glossing over all the intricacies of not only internal Indian geographies/culture/class, but also reducing ethically lines for cultural exchange to directed by something as ludicrous as GDP.
posted by iamck at 11:58 PM on February 1, 2016


So you're arguing that cartoonish portrayals of India perpetuate suffering, and furthermore that my portrayal of that fact was so cartoonish as to perpetuate suffering.

That's a fair cop.

What do you think the video should have shown?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:23 AM on February 2, 2016


What do you think the video should have shown?

Why are we asking the question? I don't know if there is a should - I'm suspect on a single narrative or rulebook dictating art. I think the inability of anyone to be able to come up with the what the "correct" portrayal should be is indicative of the fluidity and confusing nature of cross cultural exchange.
posted by iamck at 2:03 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]




It's not merely "cartoonish", "cheesy", or "cliched" but rooted in a legacy of colonial propaganda. To call that cartoonish is akin to calling minstrelsy cartoonish— yes, they are both "cartoonish" but it's awfully generous to divorce the aesthetic offense from its political context.

TheLittlePrince said: And I am sure, in our 5000 year history, there have been lots of groups that have been marginalized, subsumed and left behind while some elements of their culture and symbols live on as part of a larger cultural canvas. Was our assimilation cultural appropriation? did we do wrong? Should we not be proud of our ability to assimilate elements from other cultures?

Yes, I'll pick historical consciousness over fragile nationalism every time!
posted by yaymukund at 10:32 AM on February 2, 2016


Someone above rightly suggested that this issue might be read differently by Indians, and Indian-Americans (and, I'll add, British Asians and members of the diaspora elsewhere).

Punching up, punching down.

This, too, will probably be read differently by Indians/various diasporic communities. I strongly suspect that a lot of Indians would not appreciate the view that they are "punching up", especially when it comes to matters of pop culture. Hindi-language pop culture is one of the most robust industries in the world; it dominates U.S. pop culture not only in India, but also in many other countries in South Asia and Africa (and, increasingly, it's making inroads in parts of Latin America).

I'm finding lately more and more examples of how the impulse to be good allies can lead to kneejerk reactions that utterly ignore (or grossly warp) the complex contemporary reality. Under such circumstances, the impulse can in fact lead us to adopt stances that actually very closely resemble condescending neocolonialist "protection" of those who don't actually need (or want) to be treated as vulnerable.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 10:45 AM on February 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


(sebastienbailard, I realize "cartoonish" may have been your summary of a viewpoint you don't necessarily agree with. Regardless, my comment wasn't directed at you specifically.)
posted by yaymukund at 10:49 AM on February 2, 2016


This, too, will probably be read differently by Indians/various diasporic communities. I strongly suspect that a lot of Indians would not appreciate the view that they are "punching up", especially when it comes to matters of pop culture.

Heck, even K-Pop is borrowing some things from Punjabi culture--the song Catallena from last year quite literally lifts the chorus from what I understand to be a Punjabi wedding folk song.
posted by qcubed at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Under such circumstances, the impulse can in fact lead us to adopt stances that actually very closely resemble condescending neocolonialist "protection" of those who don't actually need (or want) to be treated as vulnerable.

Ehhh, I don't know. Victimless crimes can still be crimes. If pop culture presents us with a pale reflection of a formerly robust orientalism, it's a nice kind of immune-system reaction to say, "yikes," even if nobody is going to get hurt by it.
posted by mittens at 5:08 PM on February 2, 2016


I don't have a problem with the video. Just wish Coldplay would go away.
posted by raider at 6:36 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


The XO Jane article was great, thanks for linking. It illuminated why some of us from an older generation who are used to a certain kind of 'multiculturalism' (in a superficial sense) don't understand when we think our good intentions are being read as offensive. I grew up white (and still am :) ) and loving a lot of the art of other cultures, going to WOMAD, seeing Baraka, etc, and so 20 or so years ago, I totally would've made the video and I understand why people would not see anything offensive in it, it's just a travelogue, a pastiche of striking images etc etc. The article also explains why that was once ok, to a degree: the author's parents had to go up against outright denigration of their culture yet still proudly upheld it and were pleased to see others celebrate it; appropriation was not an issue to them. But for the second generation, there is so much conflict about it when they are wrestling with assimiliation, especially when you're a child/teen who's going to have your every difference picked apart by your classmates:

So that’s why we are upset when someone wakes up one day and decides to exploit our turbulent identities as a disposable fashion -- and by doing so be rewarded as a paragon of globalization and cultural acceptance. How dare they regard Indian fashion as effortlessly cool and chic while we make it look “fobby,” or a stubborn adherence to our culture that purports us to be “fresh off the boat.”
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:09 PM on February 3, 2016


The XO Jane article was an interesting perspective.

It explains cultural appropriation charges as "knee-jerk responses" being born out of the anger against the discrimination faced and the struggle in having an identity. And makes it sound as if the parents were just happy with whatever crumbs came their way but the next generation wants more acceptance and assimilation before it will give up cultural appropriation charges.

Sort of a quid pro quo, acceptance in exchange of sharing my culture. Also, it is angry about someone else benefiting out of it when the people from that culture are not getting anything.

I can see the point about treating culture as an IP of some sort. "If you are going to use it, the people who originated it should get some benefit or at least be recognized and accepted". Reasonable.

But there are challenges in treating culture as an IP and putting up high costs for its use. It will create barriers around cultural exchange and familiarization and make the process slower, problematic and formal.

For example, it doesn't see that for someone in India, this new semi-american generation trying to create a culture of their own combined from american and Indian fragments can be seen as an appropriationist as well. To purists in India, seeing someone try to fuse Bharatnatyam with popping is cultural appropriation as well. (I find the video very cool by the way).

The point is we all are cultural appropriationist from someone's perspective. And if everyone is going to be considered guilty, perhaps, its time to decriminalize that behavior or at least reduce it to a misdemeanor instead of screaming blue murder.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 7:41 AM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just wish Coldplay would go away.

Yes please.
posted by homunculus at 9:46 PM on February 7, 2016


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