#TBT – GWEN STEFANI x SOPHIE MULLER | 2005

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GWEN STEFANI FT. SLIM THUG, “LUXURIOUS” – SOPHIE MULLER (2005).  In light of the recent flack re: Avril Lavigne’s awful new “Hello Kitty” video, let’s look back to the queen of mid-2000s cultural appropriation, Gwen Stefani.  Gwen knew how to do it right – fetishize the external elements of a culture that is very much not your own, but don’t stop at the lazy, surface-level stereotypes.  You’ve got to go hard if you’re going to appropriate a culture, so go all in.  Go to the park barbeque!  Wear your boxers out of your pants!  Roll around in piles of pinata candy!  You think you’re going to dominate another culture just by visiting a Tokyo candy shop?  You’ve got to live that life if you’re going to make it your own.  Is appropriating a completely foreign luxury culture (Harajuku street-style) worse than appropriating a local underprivileged culture (L.A. chola style)?  Hard to say.  Gwen got called out a whole lot less about “Luxurious” than she did for her “super-Kuwaii”-ing in “Hollaback Girl,” but this one strikes me as a bit harder to palate ten years later.  It’s incredible that we’re still having this discussion after all this time – every other month some beautiful white-ish lady puts out a music video that makes use of some not beautiful white-ish cultural trope and gets her throat ripped out by one half of the internet and moronically defended by the other half.  This obviously isn’t going to stop happening, so it’s time we had a real conversation about it – one that takes into account that yes, filming yourself hanging out in East L.A. (or Shibuya District, or the D.R., or Paris) is always no matter what cultural imperialism, but that maybe cultural imperialism isn’t always such a bad thing.

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