People Are Coming After Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” For Cultural Appropriation

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ariana grande cultural appropriation

Republic Records

People are coming after Ariana Grande for using Japenese characters in her “7 Rings” music video teaser on Monday morning.

In the words of Elle Woods: Why now? Why this sperm? I thought it was weird when she used Japenese characters in the artwork for “Imagine” but nobody seemed to care then. She’s also gotten anime tattoos that no one seemed to care about either… this isn’t news. Now that woke Twitter has gotten ahold of the “7 Rings” teaser, though, it’s like ~a thing~. Ari got in trouble for cultural appropriation before when she got a henna tattoo and for playing into racial ambiguity (like the Kardashians have). Some people think Ari’s crossed a line, others think people are overreacting and I’m just going to lay it all out here and then go back into my corner.

Here’s the video (which, controversy aside, looks so dope — amazing how Ariana has single-handedly brought back the color pink):

And just because no one seems to have noticed, here’s the artwork for “imagine” :

One commenter pointed out that she was using Japenese as an aesthetic:

And then a bunch of people in that poor girl’s thread pointed out that as a K-Pop fan, she’s inadvertently using ‘Korean’ as her aesthetic and that the very artists that she stans on her page, in turn, use black culture as an aesthetic. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism!

Going through this specific thread, we see people arguing that by using a K-Pop aesthetic, the original poster is just appreciating their culture, which in turn means that Ari is just appreciating Japenese culture. This then moves into an argument regarding whether an artist of Ari’s influence can simply appreciate a culture without using it to exotify her image.

Ari, for the record, does speak Japenese, but in this case, her use of Japenese characters could be considered commodifying the language as a rich white woman who stands to profit greatly from the consumption of this record while the culture she has used to promote it gets nothing.

This is not the first time the “thank u next” hitmaker has been accused of cultural appropriation. Ari has also been accused of using a “blaccent” in interviews before and for leaning into her racial ambiguity. (She’s italian, by the way.) Once again, some people were up in arms, and other people were very confused.

This Refinery29 article said the claims were a bit of a reach, despite acknowledging a larger societal problem of using racial exoticism as a beauty technique.

This same pattern of some people being really mad, some people making overarching excuses, and others just being like “ya, ok, true. but chill” was seen again when she got a henna tattoo and people got mad. Some people defended her by pointing out that she practices Kabbalah, which doesn’t really excuse it, and others got distracted trying to take Gigi Hadid down for henna, too, when she’s high-key half-Palestinian.

All I’m going to say is that the mad people can be mad; they have a point. The stans can continue stanning, they also have a point. At least it’s not as bad as the whole Gwen Stefani Harajuku phase fiasco of 2004. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to navigate these intricate and highly emotional waters of appreciating and acknowledging cultures outside of your own while being careful to do so in a way that doesn’t offend anyone within these cultures. I also can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be a part of a culture that people co-opt for their own gain and aestheticize while still practicing ingrained, implicit racial biases, possibly unknowingly.

It’s a dialogue that it is good to have, but attacking strangers on social media who are just trying to be good people might not be the best way to go about it. This poor rich white lady has been through so much this year that I am inclined to cut her a little slack, but also as someone who is now retreating back into her WASP-y corner of listening and learning, I understand why others feel like slack has been cut for people like Ari for hundreds of years and the time for change is now.

Anyway, stream “7 Rings” on Friday.

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