This is not a homage. It’s so freaking offensive and there is so much cultural appropriation of Asian cultures going on here despite the title being called “Princess of China.” Orientalism/white saviour complex AND treating all Asian cultures at the same? Are you freaking kidding me?
Still unclear to me why they called it Princess of China. How orientalist is that, considering China is never even mentioned in the song. There’s just this sort of vaguely asian sounding guitar, which is…what? Supposed to make it clear the song is about China considering all Asian countries are the same, right? White people LOVE appropriating asian culture, and playing the role of asians, and I guess Coldplay is no different. Love all those nameless asians in the background, standing around as you butcher a ton of Asiatic cultures, Coldplay! And Rihanna doesn’t get a pass here either. Ugh. People today.
EDIT: I thought I would add some more of my thoughts after articulating them on a facebook conversation I had about this - these quotes are directly taken from there:
“I think appropriating other people’s cultures without the slightest bit of respect for them is racist. And I also think that this kind of appropriation (which is done almost overwhelmingly and exclusively by white people, I might add) has been so built into our own culture and our own media, that we don’t even think about it as racism. That is really problematic. Just because something like this happens all the time, and just because we’re really used to seeing white people take from other cultures willy nilly, doesn’t mean that it isn’t incredibly problematic. Racism doesn’t just happen when someone says to themselves ‘I hate Asian people, lets shit all over their culture because they’re inferior’. Racism, I think actually most racism, happens when people simply continue to take part in cultural appropriation and ignorance like this, without necessarily bad intent behind those actions. I’m sure Coldplay didn’t mean to offend anyone, you know? But in a culture where black, asian, and native roles in television and film are systematically erased and re-cast with white people, and when it is hard to name even on two hands, significant asian actors in mainstream television and film (not to mention of course, other ethnicities), it’s just shitty to see one more example of white people picking and choosing from asian culture because they think it’s exotic and cool, and casting asian people in the background to make it authentic. As a final note, lets all appreciate for a moment that throughout all of the planning for this video, all of the costume fittings and all of the actual shooting, no one fucking realized that geishas, which is what Rihanna is portraying in this video, are actually FROM JAPAN. THEY ARE FROM JAPAN. Jesus, would a wikipedia search have killed somebody?? I expect a lot from people, I know. But that is like the lowest possible expectation level. And they didn’t even meet that.”
You don’t need to intend to be racist to actually act racist. I agree that intent is important, and that’s why in a situation like this, I’m not going to come out and say ‘COLDPLAY ARE HUGE RACISTS, THEY HATE ASIAN PEOPLE’. But not knowing about this stuff is not an excuse. Being unintentionally ignorant is still ignorance. These guys have huge media exposure and a ton of influence, and when you spend hundreds of thousands (or more?) of dollars on a video where you ‘accidentally’ confuse China with Japan? No, I’m not okay with that. It literally would have taken them 15 seconds to look it up.
Also, sorry, just to clarify something else: I think it’s important to note that all cultures obviously borrow heavily from other cultures, and there isn’t (necessarily) anything racist about that at all. Especially in fashion, for example, which really brings trends from other cultures to the mainstream here in North America. But there is a really big difference between dressing up like a Geisha (which I’ve already explained is problematic in that they think it’s from China) and dressing up ‘like an Asian person’, which is what they’ve done with Rihanna’s makeup here - the eyebrows and the eye makeup have been used to heavily imitate the ‘slant’ that is really commonly associated with Asian facial features, which I think is really problematic.
There’s just a lot of cultural appropriation happening here, which I think is different Tim from what you mention about general cultural stereotyping that sort of happens everywhere in all cultures. Obviously cultural stereotypes exist, and not all of them stem from racist or colonialist intentions, but more from, as you say, simply not having a nuanced view of those cultures. But making a music video where you turn those cultural stereotypes (incorrect cultural stereotypes I might add, which I think is the really important thing here, considering nothing about this video screams China) into a cultural and artistic site that millions of people are going to watch? I think that changes the situation a little bit.
And hey, I agree with you that this is not necessarily something that a lot of people are going to care about - I mean, it is after all just a music video. But letting cultural appropriation and unintentional ignorance reproduce at a mass level simply because no one thought it was important enough to challenge, is passively accepting it. And I don’t accept it. Coldplay can do so much better! This seems like such a cop out - they have the ability to be so much more creative, without being ignorant. Even unintentionally.