Following accusations that her latest video “Hello Kitty” objectifies Japanese culture, Avril Lavigne has responded on Twitter: “RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video specifically for my Japanese fans, with my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers and a Japanese director in Japan.”
The pop star released the video for the EDM-tinged track “Hello Kitty,” which she wrote with husband Chad Kroeger of Nickelback fame, on Monday. The song features Lavigne singing the Japanese word for “cuteness” before a chorus that goes, “Hello Kitty, you’re so silly.” In the video, Lavigne freaks out with mock excitement while being served sushi and sake in between clips of the singer walking around Tokyo. A quartet of Japanese backup dancers flank the singer, with that and other scenes raising eyebrows on the Internet.
Earlier this week, speculation grew that YouTube had pulled the official video off their site. A spokesperson for Lavigne tells Rolling Stone that the video was never officially posted to YouTube so as to not to conflict with a VEVO premiere and that any removals were from fans ripping the video and posting it to YouTube.
Late last year, Katy Perry faced similar accusations of racism following her geisha-themed performance of the Prism track “Unconditionally” on the American Music Awards. The pop star wore a kimono and danced with backup dancers and taiko drummers dressed in what the New York Daily News described as “cultural garb” on a stage adorned with cherry blossoms and a Shinto shrine. She, too, scoffed at the controversy, saying, “Geishas are basically, like, the masters of loving unconditionally.”
In 2004, No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani defended herself against accusations of racism when she featured “Harajuku Girls” in several videos around the release of her Love. Angel. Music. Baby. solo album. At the time, comedian Margaret Cho called her performances a “minstrel show.”
”She didn’t do her research,” Stefani told Entertainment Weekly. ”The truth is that I basically was saying how great that culture is. It pisses me off that [Cho] would not do the research and then talk out like that. It’s just so embarrassing for her. The Harajuku Girls is an art project. It’s fun.” Moreover, Stefani said she was “surprised how racist everybody was” about the women themselves. ”Everybody’s making jokes about Japanese girls and the stereotypes,” she said. “I had no idea [I’d be] walking into that.”
Lavigne’s eponymous fifth album was released last year.