avatar
Jan Cao

[Bilingual Brew] Why Rihanna and Coldplay's "Racist" Video Doesn't Faze Native Chinese

[Please enjoy this Tea Leaf Nation bilingual brew. The article is first shown in English, and then in the original Chinese. 亲爱的读者,欢迎享受我们的 “双语茗茶”。英文翻译在上,中文原文在下。]

Rihanna and her nails, channeling an imagined China

Japanese Geishas; half-naked Ninjas covered in tattoos who look more like part-time rappers; Katana blades carved with Chinese characters, Indian Bodhisattvas with 1,000 hands; movements clearly cribbed from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “House of Flying Daggers.” The recently-released music video “Chinese Princess” (embedded below), which features Coldplay and a Rihanna clad in fake nails and bangs, has a lot of native Chinese laughing themselves silly, and has some Chinese-Americans fuming.

Not only did the video combine Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai and other cultures together into a simplified “China,” but it furthered the imagined stereotypes of Asian culture that seem to be a unique product of Western fantasy. To Asian-Americans, the attitudes this video represent form yet another challenge to the “equality” that Asian-Americans supposedly enjoy. 

You look like you're not from around here

This mode of thinking, constructed by the West, conceives of Asian culture and people as “the Other,” represented by an “Orient” which is mysterious, strange, and otherworldly. The reason that Asian-Americans get so angry about videos like “Chinese Princess” is that the conceived “Orient” it depicts alienates Asian-Americans and places them outside of the perceived mainstream of American culture. 

Compared to Asian-Americans, native Chinese audiences are rather unfazed about this video’s immature understanding of “Chinese culture.” Many netizens simply feel that the entire matter is something to either laugh or cry about. Writing on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, @夏优拉 wrote, “Hey! Don’t think that sticking a few chopsticks in your hair makes you a Chinese princess!” To these netizens, this video is a copycat farce from start to finish. The hilariousness of “Chinese Princess” is almost as obvious as it is with “Johnny English”–no one who has ever spent time in China could seriously think for a moment that this Hollywood star, made up as a “Chinese princess,” was the real thing. 

While mercilessly mocking the video’s director for having the chutzpah to make a Kung-Fu video while lacking any clear concept of Chinese culture, China’s netizens actually regard “Chinese Princess” with tolerance, much the same way they regard “Kung-Fu Panda”: At least the foreigners are trying! @晴空小熊 commented, “‘Chinese Princess’ is really just ‘Chinese Princess in my eyes.’ How many foreign singers really understand Chinese culture?” For Chinese netizens, the concept of “Chinese culture” is rich and complex, something that “foreigners” cannot muster. Therefore, these “foreigners” can’t help taking kung-fu movies seriously, or thinking that Japanese geishas all come from China.

But perhaps to further prove the inimitability of the Chinese culture, this American-flavored “Chinese Princess” has been localized through the work of online “subtitle groups” (字幕组), well-regarded online volunteers who tack Chinese subtitles on to videos and TV shows, unfettered by lax copyright laws. “Subtitle group” volunteers have always shown the inexhaustible imagination to render funny videos even funnier. They translated “We Found Love” into “Love of Weifang”, and “Where Have You Been” as “Fried Pancakes of Weihai”. [Weifang, a city in Shandong province, has roughly the same pronunciation in Chinese as "We Found" in English. "Fried Pancakes of Weihai" is also a rough approximate of "Where Have You Been" in terms of pronunciation. Weihai is another city in Shandong province.]  

This time, “subtitle group” volunteers simply renamed “Chinese Princess” as “Huanzhu Princess”, a famous TV show telling the story of a Huanzhu Princess in the Qing Dynasty. So now, on top of being the ambassador for Shandong cuisine, Rihanna is helping to promote the history of the Qing Dynasty with her new song.

She looks striking, but not remotely Chinese

A song that appears racist to many Asian-Americans has thus not caused much alarm among native Chinese. While Asian-Americans think the song’s Orientalism constitutes an unbearable insult, the native Chinese audience—the real “Other”—take no offense in such misreading. Instead, they have completely negated the truth and authority of the video by creating even funnier, and more misleading cultural misreadings.

While Hollywood and its ilk think of every possible way to push their Americanized “take-out” Chinese culture all over the world, the Chinese audience’s merciless meddling has turned it into fresh and authentic Chinese cuisine again. While different races in America fight for the “equal coexistence” of different cultures, the Chinese audience simply absorbs everything to make it their own. Or is this not the case in America, too? Perhaps they just won’t admit it.

[Translation by Fleur and David Wertime.]

山东公主和功夫熊猫:酷玩乐队和蕾哈娜的新歌《中国公主》

日本艺伎,上身半裸露着刺青看起来像是兼职饶舌歌手的忍者,武士刀,从左往右写的殿名”红花殿”,印度风格的千手观音,戴着假刘海的蕾哈娜以及她的欧式躺椅,加上明显从卧虎藏龙和十面埋伏里抄出来的造型和动作,这个MV让我的亚裔美籍室友气到半死,也笑掉了许多中国本土观众的大牙。

我那位研究亚裔美国文学的研究生室友在facebook上大骂酷玩乐队说:”你们是来真的么?这玩意简直没办法更种族歧视了! ” [WOW Coldplay, seriously? ... Can we be more racist as hell???] 不光是把中国日本印度泰国的不同文化形式全简化成了一个”中国”,还有那许多西方人才会搞出的bug--这个视频充满了各色对亚裔和亚洲的西方幻想和固定思维。对亚裔美国人来说,这个视频所代表的态度是对他们在美国所拥有的所谓”平等”的又一个挑战。亚洲人和亚洲文化被作为”他者”表现成一个神秘,诡异又超脱现实生活的”东方”,并被这个由西方人建构的思维模式所代表。拄如”中国公主”这样的视频让亚裔美国人感到愤怒的原因是,其所传播的”东方”概念只能把亚洲人作为美国人中的一个群体而集体异化,并被排除在美国的主流文化之外。

与美籍亚裔相比,中国观众对这个视频对于”中国文化”的幼稚理解并不太在意,许多网友只是觉得这整件事有点令人啼笑皆非。新浪微博网友”骑驴子找乐子”发表了一条评论说:”中式流苏耳坠、韩式璎珞发簪、日式堆积假发、泰式长甲套一窝蜂地上,楞把娇滴滴的riri小妞(Rihanna)拱成了插一头花的刘姥姥 – -!” “夏优拉“则说,”喂!别以为头上插了几根筷子就是中国的公主!!” 在他们看来,这个视频从头到尾就是一场东施效颦的闹剧。”中国公主”的好笑之处几乎和”Johnny English”一样明显——没有谁会把片中化着在本土亚洲女性中从未流行过的好莱坞亚洲女星妆容的”中国公主”当真的。

敢不敢告诉他他不是华人?

在无情嘲笑导演对真正的东方文化没有清楚的概念却硬要看着武侠片打肿脸充胖子的同时,中国网民对”中国公主”也多少带了一种看”真人版《功夫熊猫》”的宽容心态:人家已经很努力了嘛!微博网友”晴空小熊“说,(”Princess of China”)”最多算是是Princess Of China in my eyes。外国歌手又有哪个真正了解中国文化呢?” 在他们看来,”中国文化”这个概念的复杂和多元,是”外国人”所不能掌握的。因此,他们把武侠片当真,把日本艺伎当成中国特产也是无可奈何的事。

当然,也许是为了更进一步证明中华文化的无可复制性,这首可以和美式外卖中餐相媲美的洋味十足的”中国公主”在各大字幕组和热爱恶搞的网民的口口相传中,又一次被本土化了。这群义务为广大观众提供字幕福利的网友们总有无尽的想象力来把已经很好笑的东西弄的更好笑。继把”We Found Love”翻译成《潍坊的爱》,把《Where Have You Been》取谐音《威海油饼》,并在其他歌曲的翻译中多次出现山东地名后,这次的”Princess of China” 变成了济南大明湖的《还珠格格》。被网友戏称为“山东唯一指定天后”的蕾哈娜,不仅代言山东美食,也开始代言清宫秘史了。

这整件事的来龙去脉,仔细想来饶有趣味。对与歌手同处一个国家的美籍亚裔来说,这首歌的MV是赤裸裸的种族歧视和侮辱——其中包含对作为”异域文化”的”东方”完全凭想象而作出的武断定义可能造成对本国某个民族的集体”异化”。当”自己人”唯恐被作为”他者”理解并诠释的同时,作为”他者”的中国观众却对这种误读毫无异议。相反,他们用更滑稽,更无厘头的误读,彻底否认了这种误读的一切可能的真实性和权威性。当以好莱坞为代表的美国快餐文化想尽办法把他们用地道洋味食材和过度的电脑特效造出的”洋快餐”推广到全世界的时候,中国观众手下无情的添油加醋让这道菜又重新变成了一道新鲜的中式餐点。美国的各色人种为了多元文化的”平等共存”而奋斗着;中国观众则毫不客气地把所有文化统统变成了自己的文化。其实在美国又何尝不是这样呢?他们只是不承认罢了。

34 Comments
Jump To Comments
avatar

Jan Cao

Jan Cao is a senior and a comparative literature concentrator at Brown. She loves watching Japanese TV dramas and cooking.
  • anonymous

    This song was inspired by an old Chinese story about a fairy that lived on the moon and saw her loved one once a year. I don’t see the problem why Coldplay and Rihanna should make their own verison of this story. We should not think of everything as racist just because they sing or do anyhing about another culture. People are so touchy!

    • Archie

      Absolutely true statement. “People are so touchy!”

      • random asian american

        so is it okay to distribute a picture of the white house lawn w/ watermelons on it, after obama got elected?  stereotypes are funny until it offends you.  idiots that think this video is any kind of representation of china has no impact on people in china, so it’s easy for the chinese in china to dismiss it as stupid.  however, those same idiots in america, in enough numbers, can make life miserable for asian americans.  it makes total sense for asian americans to be more upset than the “real” asians, not because they’re some how less authentic as asians, but because they are more affected as americans.

        • JP

          This is very well stated, and is a more effective statement than some of the other (rude) rhetoric on this page. The dominant American culture (to which I genetically belong) is not tolerant or particularly interested in the special-ness of other cultures. One of my children is adopted from an Asian background, and this has made me more conscious of how the dominant images of beauty and desirable-ness in the world’s media, and hence values, are tilted against her. Even within the Chinese language, a doll is a “洋娃娃” literally “Western baby”. So, my white children were called this, but not my adopted daughter.

          I think it is important for us to listen and learn from “random Asian American” and “Asian American Phd” and to recognize that their comments reflect hurt that is felt by many. This is much wiser than to assault others with offensive or disgusting comments.

    • tbone

      What if Coldplay made a video stereotyping African Americans.  Do you think they can get away with it?  I think they would not have to guts to do so because everyone in the US would be calling them racist.  Would you also say that “People are so touchy” in that situation??? 

      Its easy to say “people are so touchy” when its not your group that is being stereotyped. 

      • Archie

        What are you talking about? My “group” is stereo-typed every day in film, literature, advertising, common everyday conversations, etc. I don’t get touchy about it, it has happened and will always happen.

        Often stereotypes are created because they are true. Cold Play is clearly off the mark, but as Chinese netizens mention, its because Asia is often so far removed for many in the West. African Americans are far from far removed to those in the west, so there’s less of an excuse to be so off the mark.

        Sounds like you are being a little touchy.

        • tbone

          What are you talking about?  You said that “Asa is often so far removed for many in the west.  African Americans are far from far removed to those in the west,”  Asian Americans are not far removed from those in “the west” and Africa is far removed from the west.  So why is it that its not okay to stereotype African Americans while its fine to stereotype all Asians? 

          Just because you are fine with being stereotyped doesn’t mean other people have to be fine with it.  Also, read the comment by asian american phd, explains the situation perfectly.  

          • Archie

            African Americans and Africans, as groups of people, are very different from one another. As are Asian Americans and Asians. 

            Just because one Asian American got pissed about a Cold Play video, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with that Cold Play video, or that other people should be outraged. 

            Many more people didn’t get outraged, making it more likely a non-issue that some touchy people have primed up about, rather than an issue that really needs this much attention.

            Music videos are art. Art can be interpreted in many ways. In this case, a viewer has chosen to interpret the semiotics in a way they feel is unfair. Many others have viewed the semiotics far less harshly. 

          • Asian American PhD

            You fail to recognize that this one Asian American happens to be a professional academic who is both teaching at and receiving her PhD from an Ivy League university. Throwing around words like “semiotic” (which by the way, you used poorly) does not make your point valid. I might also add that your previous contention that stereotypes are valid is also equally bullshit — stereotypes are largely created by white supremacy and imperialist strategies in order to subjugate and oppress minorities. (One only needs to consider the stereotypes of Africans that were created by white slavers in order to justify black slavery to understand how insidious such stereotypes are, and how baseless and stupid your argument is.)

            Quite frankly, you either fail to think rigorously or are simply uneducated for thinking that there is this huge essential difference between African Americans and Asian Americans that somehow makes it okay to be racist as hell against Asian Americans, whereas it is not at all acceptable to be anti-black. You’re pretty much saying that Asia in general is “so far removed” from America, that it is okay for non-Asians to treat Asians like shit, but somehow because Africa is not as far removed (?? yeah, see, your logic makes no sense), it is not okay to do that. Which just goes to show the fact that you either are an Asian (or Asian American) suffering from some major internalized racism and have drank way too much white out that you can’t see your own yellow-brown skin, or you’re a non-Asian who’s anti-Asian and wants to justify your exclusionary strategies of those who fall within the Asian diaspora. 

            What is the most hilarious thing about all this is you felt it was a smart idea to even use the term “semiotic” while suggesting that art is for art’s sake — which, by the way, is an outdated 19th/early 20th century idea that has long since been considered obsolete within the academy.  Seeing as the entire field of semiotics was developed in order to completely DISPROVE the idea of “art for art’s sake” you’re kinda majorly kicking yourself in the face there. Anyone who understands semiology knows that art as meaning and as representation performs discursively, and as just about every single poststructuralist theorist who is interested in meaning has pointed out so many times, discourse can be extremely dangerous. Especially when it is popular discourse which reinforces harmful representations of any group of people. (See Roland Barthes, “The Rustle of Language”; Michel Foucault, “Archaeology of Knowledge,” “The History of Sexuality,” “Power/Knowledge”; Jacques Derrida, “Of Grammatology”; Judith Butler “Gender Trouble,” “Bodies That Matter”) 

            I might also point out that you even said “Cold Play is off the mark” and that contradicting yourself is not good form in any discussion — which you do repeatedly. I’d say it’s good time to do yourself a favor and bow out of the conversation, but since I have a feeling that you’re going to keep on going, I might as well point out that you clearly did not even bother to read what I wrote or even care enough to Google terms like “yellowface,” “minstrel show,” and “Orientalism.” If you want to say these are just “opinions” some Asians have — well, many of these “opinions” that I’ve described thus far are based off the research of the most reputable scholars on Asian American history and critical race theory in the world. (See Edward Said, “Orientalism,” “Culture and Imperialism”; Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, “A Critique of Postcolonial Reason”, “In Other Worlds”; Homi Bhabha, “The Location of Culture”; Henry Louis Gates, “The Signifying Monkey”; David Goldberg “Anatomy of Racism”; Paul Gilroy, “Against Race”; Robert Lee, “The Orientals”; Lisa Lowe, “Immigrant Acts”; Anne Anlin Cheng, “The Melancholy of Race”; Achille Mbembme, “On the Postcolony” and many, many more.) 

            Though, what would they know? They’re just world-class scholars. Clearly they aren’t as smart as someone who can’t even substantiate an argument with sound logic.

          • Archie

            “You
            fail to recognize that this one Asian American happens to be a professional
            academic who is both teaching at and receiving her PhD from an Ivy League
            university.” So that means you are incapable of being touchy, wrong, biased,
            rude, flawed, etc? You fail to recognise I don’t care.

            “Which
            just goes to show the fact that you either are an Asian (or Asian American)
            suffering from some major internalized racism and have drank way too much white
            out”. Throwing around race and color like that, as if it somehow defines a
            person, or their argument is a pretty lowly act for such an esteemed intellect.

            “(See Roland Barthes, “The Rustle of Language”; Michel Foucault,
            “Archaeology of Knowledge,” “The History of Sexuality,”
            “Power/Knowledge”; Jacques Derrida, “Of Grammatology”;
            Judith Butler “Gender Trouble,” “Bodies That Matter”) You
            really expect me, or anyone else, to go and read these references. I’m sure you
            don’t, you just wanted to pull your cock out again so we can all see how big it
            is, didn’t you?! They say modesty is a key characteristic of Asian cultures, guess
            you’re a little too far-removed from the REAL Asian culture to be imbued with
            such a virtuous characteristic.

            “I’d say it’s good time to do yourself a
            favor and bow out of the conversation, but since I have a feeling that you’re
            going to keep on going, I might as well point out that you clearly did not even
            bother to read what I wrote or even care enough to Google terms like
            “yellowface,” “minstrel show,” and “Orientalism.”
            Nope, I didn’t. I’m aware of these concepts, though they didn’t change my view
            of this Cold Play video.

            “(See
            Edward Said, “Orientalism,” “Culture and Imperialism”;
            Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, “A Critique of
            Postcolonial Reason”, “In Other Worlds”; Homi Bhabha, “The
            Location of Culture”; Henry Louis Gates, “The Signifying
            Monkey”; David Goldberg “Anatomy of Racism”; Paul Gilroy,
            “Against Race”; Robert Lee, “The Orientals”; Lisa Lowe,
            “Immigrant Acts”; Anne Anlin Cheng, “The Melancholy of
            Race”; Achille Mbembme, “On the Postcolony” and many, many
            more.)” There you go, flashing that penis of yours again. 

            Anyway, while were making assumptions about
            people’s race, ethnicity, self-value, etc, based on what they’ve written in a
            few small posts, let me guess: 30-something pudgy American girl. Identifies as Asian-American, though, deep down, battles with her identity crisis every day. Hair not longer
            than the base of her neck. Wears thick framed glasses for that hipster look.
            Wants to feel sexy and be loved by a man, but would never admit that, instead,
            gives off a lesbianesque aura that really doesn’t work for her in any substantial
            way. 

          • Asian American PhD

            Oh my goodness, thank you for the wonderful laugh and hysterical ad hominem filled response! I’m not even going to justify most of your comments with a good response because they’re so incredibly idiotic. (As I said, I knew you weren’t going to stop!)

            That being said, since you are so interested in what I look like, prior to entering the PhD program I’m currently in, I was in the entertainment industry in the US and Japan and was frequently mistaken for talent. And I still look the part. Actually, better, since I’m more fit now. I might add that I’m in my mid-twenties. I’m not sure why it matters to you what I look like, and it’s really quite sad that you feel the need to fall back on that kind of baseless argument when your intelligence and logic was rather spectacularly smashed. By a woman. 

            Deal with it. 

          • Archie

            You have proven yourself not only racist, but sexist too. 

          • tbone

             I don’t understand what your problem is Archie.  If you are not offended by the Coldplay video that is your choice.  But why is it that you feel the need to come on here call everyone else who is offended “touchy”?  I just don’t get it. 

            Also, ad hominem responses don’t really add anything to the discussion.  If you have and valid and logical responses to counter Asian American PhD, I would love to read it. 

        • SSay

          Firstly, look at a map. Asia is around the same distance as Africa, in fact closer. You are obviously speaking of African-American people as opposed to Asian-American people whom you OBVIOUSLY don’t consider “-American” at all. What you are saying is within YOUR culture you do not know of many Asians, therefore they are far removed from all culture and it’s okay to stereotype an entire culture you yourself do not understand.

          Asians being “far removed” from your radar further perpetuated the Media’s marginalization & missunderstnading of Asian culture and the African culture you speak of is something that was mostly robbed of African American people in this country, luckily it makes that culture more acceptable to you. tLastly, the point is not that your culture, or any culture is not sterotyped, the point is–why in this instance, to Asian American’s it’s okay, and the rest it’s racism? (Hint: It fucking isn’t.)

          It sounds an AWFUL LOT like you’re defending racism here: “stereotypes are created because they are true.” Good luck with that.

  • anonymous

    This song was inspired by an old Chinese story about a fairy that lived on the moon and saw her loved one once a year. I don’t see the problem why Coldplay and Rihanna should make their own verison of this story. We should not think of everything as racist just because they sing or do anyhing about another culture. People are so touchy!

    • Archie

      Absolutely true statement. “People are so touchy!”

      • random asian american

        so is it okay to distribute a picture of the white house lawn w/ watermelons on it, after obama got elected?  stereotypes are funny until it offends you.  idiots that think this video is any kind of representation of china has no impact on people in china, so it’s easy for the chinese in china to dismiss it as stupid.  however, those same idiots in america, in enough numbers, can make life miserable for asian americans.  it makes total sense for asian americans to be more upset than the “real” asians, not because they’re some how less authentic as asians, but because they are more affected as americans.

        • JP

          This is very well stated, and is a more effective statement than some of the other (rude) rhetoric on this page. The dominant American culture (to which I genetically belong) is not tolerant or particularly interested in the special-ness of other cultures. One of my children is adopted from an Asian background, and this has made me more conscious of how the dominant images of beauty and desirable-ness in the world’s media, and hence values, are tilted against her. Even within the Chinese language, a doll is a “洋娃娃” literally “Western baby”. So, my white children were called this, but not my adopted daughter.

          I think it is important for us to listen and learn from “random Asian American” and “Asian American Phd” and to recognize that their comments reflect hurt that is felt by many. This is much wiser than to assault others with offensive or disgusting comments.

    • tbone

      What if Coldplay made a video stereotyping African Americans.  Do you think they can get away with it?  I think they would not have to guts to do so because everyone in the US would be calling them racist.  Would you also say that “People are so touchy” in that situation??? 

      Its easy to say “people are so touchy” when its not your group that is being stereotyped. 

      • Archie

        What are you talking about? My “group” is stereo-typed every day in film, literature, advertising, common everyday conversations, etc. I don’t get touchy about it, it has happened and will always happen.

        Often stereotypes are created because they are true. Cold Play is clearly off the mark, but as Chinese netizens mention, its because Asia is often so far removed for many in the West. African Americans are far from far removed to those in the west, so there’s less of an excuse to be so off the mark.

        Sounds like you are being a little touchy.

        • tbone

          What are you talking about?  You said that “Asa is often so far removed for many in the west.  African Americans are far from far removed to those in the west,”  Asian Americans are not far removed from those in “the west” and Africa is far removed from the west.  So why is it that its not okay to stereotype African Americans while its fine to stereotype all Asians? 

          Just because you are fine with being stereotyped doesn’t mean other people have to be fine with it.  Also, read the comment by asian american phd, explains the situation perfectly.  

          • Archie

            African Americans and Africans, as groups of people, are very different from one another. As are Asian Americans and Asians. 

            Just because one Asian American got pissed about a Cold Play video, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with that Cold Play video, or that other people should be outraged. 

            Many more people didn’t get outraged, making it more likely a non-issue that some touchy people have primed up about, rather than an issue that really needs this much attention.

            Music videos are art. Art can be interpreted in many ways. In this case, a viewer has chosen to interpret the semiotics in a way they feel is unfair. Many others have viewed the semiotics far less harshly. 

          • Asian American PhD

            You fail to recognize that this one Asian American happens to be a professional academic who is both teaching at and receiving her PhD from an Ivy League university. Throwing around words like “semiotic” (which by the way, you used poorly) does not make your point valid. I might also add that your previous contention that stereotypes are valid is also equally bullshit — stereotypes are largely created by white supremacy and imperialist strategies in order to subjugate and oppress minorities. (One only needs to consider the stereotypes of Africans that were created by white slavers in order to justify black slavery to understand how insidious such stereotypes are, and how baseless and stupid your argument is.)

            Quite frankly, you either fail to think rigorously or are simply uneducated for thinking that there is this huge essential difference between African Americans and Asian Americans that somehow makes it okay to be racist as hell against Asian Americans, whereas it is not at all acceptable to be anti-black. You’re pretty much saying that Asia in general is “so far removed” from America, that it is okay for non-Asians to treat Asians like shit, but somehow because Africa is not as far removed (?? yeah, see, your logic makes no sense), it is not okay to do that. Which just goes to show the fact that you either are an Asian (or Asian American) suffering from some major internalized racism and have drank way too much white out that you can’t see your own yellow-brown skin, or you’re a non-Asian who’s anti-Asian and wants to justify your exclusionary strategies of those who fall within the Asian diaspora. 

            What is the most hilarious thing about all this is you felt it was a smart idea to even use the term “semiotic” while suggesting that art is for art’s sake — which, by the way, is an outdated 19th/early 20th century idea that has long since been considered obsolete within the academy.  Seeing as the entire field of semiotics was developed in order to completely DISPROVE the idea of “art for art’s sake” you’re kinda majorly kicking yourself in the face there. Anyone who understands semiology knows that art as meaning and as representation performs discursively, and as just about every single poststructuralist theorist who is interested in meaning has pointed out so many times, discourse can be extremely dangerous. Especially when it is popular discourse which reinforces harmful representations of any group of people. (See Roland Barthes, “The Rustle of Language”; Michel Foucault, “Archaeology of Knowledge,” “The History of Sexuality,” “Power/Knowledge”; Jacques Derrida, “Of Grammatology”; Judith Butler “Gender Trouble,” “Bodies That Matter”) 

            I might also point out that you even said “Cold Play is off the mark” and that contradicting yourself is not good form in any discussion — which you do repeatedly. I’d say it’s good time to do yourself a favor and bow out of the conversation, but since I have a feeling that you’re going to keep on going, I might as well point out that you clearly did not even bother to read what I wrote or even care enough to Google terms like “yellowface,” “minstrel show,” and “Orientalism.” If you want to say these are just “opinions” some Asians have — well, many of these “opinions” that I’ve described thus far are based off the research of the most reputable scholars on Asian American history and critical race theory in the world. (See Edward Said, “Orientalism,” “Culture and Imperialism”; Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, “A Critique of Postcolonial Reason”, “In Other Worlds”; Homi Bhabha, “The Location of Culture”; Henry Louis Gates, “The Signifying Monkey”; David Goldberg “Anatomy of Racism”; Paul Gilroy, “Against Race”; Robert Lee, “The Orientals”; Lisa Lowe, “Immigrant Acts”; Anne Anlin Cheng, “The Melancholy of Race”; Achille Mbembme, “On the Postcolony” and many, many more.) 

            Though, what would they know? They’re just world-class scholars. Clearly they aren’t as smart as someone who can’t even substantiate an argument with sound logic.

          • Archie

            “You
            fail to recognize that this one Asian American happens to be a professional
            academic who is both teaching at and receiving her PhD from an Ivy League
            university.” So that means you are incapable of being touchy, wrong, biased,
            rude, flawed, etc? You fail to recognise I don’t care.

            “Which
            just goes to show the fact that you either are an Asian (or Asian American)
            suffering from some major internalized racism and have drank way too much white
            out”. Throwing around race and color like that, as if it somehow defines a
            person, or their argument is a pretty lowly act for such an esteemed intellect.

            “(See Roland Barthes, “The Rustle of Language”; Michel Foucault,
            “Archaeology of Knowledge,” “The History of Sexuality,”
            “Power/Knowledge”; Jacques Derrida, “Of Grammatology”;
            Judith Butler “Gender Trouble,” “Bodies That Matter”) You
            really expect me, or anyone else, to go and read these references. I’m sure you
            don’t, you just wanted to pull your cock out again so we can all see how big it
            is, didn’t you?! They say modesty is a key characteristic of Asian cultures, guess
            you’re a little too far-removed from the REAL Asian culture to be imbued with
            such a virtuous characteristic.

            “I’d say it’s good time to do yourself a
            favor and bow out of the conversation, but since I have a feeling that you’re
            going to keep on going, I might as well point out that you clearly did not even
            bother to read what I wrote or even care enough to Google terms like
            “yellowface,” “minstrel show,” and “Orientalism.”
            Nope, I didn’t. I’m aware of these concepts, though they didn’t change my view
            of this Cold Play video.

            “(See
            Edward Said, “Orientalism,” “Culture and Imperialism”;
            Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, “A Critique of
            Postcolonial Reason”, “In Other Worlds”; Homi Bhabha, “The
            Location of Culture”; Henry Louis Gates, “The Signifying
            Monkey”; David Goldberg “Anatomy of Racism”; Paul Gilroy,
            “Against Race”; Robert Lee, “The Orientals”; Lisa Lowe,
            “Immigrant Acts”; Anne Anlin Cheng, “The Melancholy of
            Race”; Achille Mbembme, “On the Postcolony” and many, many
            more.)” There you go, flashing that penis of yours again. 

            Anyway, while were making assumptions about
            people’s race, ethnicity, self-value, etc, based on what they’ve written in a
            few small posts, let me guess: 30-something pudgy American girl. Identifies as Asian-American, though, deep down, battles with her identity crisis every day. Hair not longer
            than the base of her neck. Wears thick framed glasses for that hipster look.
            Wants to feel sexy and be loved by a man, but would never admit that, instead,
            gives off a lesbianesque aura that really doesn’t work for her in any substantial
            way. 

          • Asian American PhD

            Oh my goodness, thank you for the wonderful laugh and hysterical ad hominem filled response! I’m not even going to justify most of your comments with a good response because they’re so incredibly idiotic. (As I said, I knew you weren’t going to stop!)

            That being said, since you are so interested in what I look like, prior to entering the PhD program I’m currently in, I was in the entertainment industry in the US and Japan and was frequently mistaken for talent. And I still look the part. Actually, better, since I’m more fit now. I might add that I’m in my mid-twenties. I’m not sure why it matters to you what I look like, and it’s really quite sad that you feel the need to fall back on that kind of baseless argument when your intelligence and logic was rather spectacularly smashed. By a woman. 

            Deal with it. 

          • Archie

            You have proven yourself not only racist, but sexist too. 

          • tbone

             I don’t understand what your problem is Archie.  If you are not offended by the Coldplay video that is your choice.  But why is it that you feel the need to come on here call everyone else who is offended “touchy”?  I just don’t get it. 

            Also, ad hominem responses don’t really add anything to the discussion.  If you have and valid and logical responses to counter Asian American PhD, I would love to read it. 

    • brownGuy

      wait, so if it is inspired by a Chinese story, what’s with the references to Hinduism (many-armed goddesses)? Why take all of Asia’s diverse cultural history and mash it into one unsightly form?
      Btw, what’s with all the Japanese imagery as well? Chinese culture != Japanese culture.

  • Kaz Ross

    Can you post a link to a subtitled version?

  • Kaz Ross

    Can you post a link to a subtitled version?

  • Asian American PhD

    As the unnamed Asian American PhD roommate who was not only quoted out of context but quoted without permission, I do not appreciate this piece and find it appalling that the issues that I actually discussed on my private Facebook wall — which, by the way, I might add this is a complete breach of my privacy –were poorly represented at best, and misrepresented at worst. The equation and comparison of the Asian American response with the native Chinese response is sloppy thinking and extremely irresponsible, being that it suggests that Asian Americans are somehow silly for being upset with the video and blowing things out of proportion while Chinese bask in the glory of their triumphant counterdiscursive codings of yet another silly foreigner representation of “Chinese culture” which is nothing to worry about or be even remotely upset by. 

    This piece ultimately suggests in the most passive aggressive backhanded manner that Asian Americans are downright stupid for even being upset at all in the first place — as the perceived target of ridicule is supposedly not Asian Americans but “real” Chinese (or the “real Other” as the author rather glibly puts). And therefore the Asian American response is somehow unjustified. It also suggests that Asian Americans should, like the Chinese, “take no offense in such a misreading” and “regard ‘Chinese Princess’ with tolerance, much the same way [the Chinese] regard ‘Kung-Fu Panda’.” The problem with such a suggestion is the fact that not only does Asian America constitute the most diverse ethnic diasporic population in the world, but Asian American issues have virtually nothing to do with the Chinese mainland or the Chinese response due to both the historical specificity of anti-Asian and Orientalist sentiments within the United States.

    To begin, the suggestion that the video simply represents “yet another challenge to the ‘equality’ that Asian-Americans supposedly enjoy” is flat out bullshit, considering that “equality” is not something that Asian Americans actually enjoy, being that Asian Americans are the only collective ethnic group in the history of the United States that are still considered the perpetual foreigner within the country — an axiom agreed upon by virtually every single professional academic who works in Asian American Studies including Robert Lee, Anne Anlin Cheng, King Kok Cheung, Lisa Lowe, Sauling Wong, Colleen Lye, Elaine Kim, Daniel Kim, and many others.  One only needs to consider the recent Linsanity example, which often represented second generation Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin as either Chinese, Taiwanese, or just flat out Asian (and not American) to demonstrate the troubled claim to American citizenship and nationality that constitutes the Asian American experience. We might also consider how slurs that suggest Lin’s dick is somehow small (which recirculates the stereotype of the emasculated Asian) were tweeted by prominent news anchors alongside Floyd Mayweather’s racist diatribe telling a reporter that Lin’s yellow ass needs to go make him some sushi rolls and that Lin needed to be stomped down. It would be completely impossible for any American to even consider that a white, black, or Latino ballplayer would be treated with the same kind of backlash. (One only needs to consider, with a bit of a wry laugh, how impossible it would be for news anchors to say things like “Kobe Bryant, who is a black player” or “Lebron James, the African player” — or how angry the vast majority of America would be if Kobe or Lebron were represented by purple drank, fried chicken, and watermelon, the way Lin was represented with fortune cookies and chopsticks.) 

    While these things may not seem to be “that big of a deal” to those who fail to think rigorously and/or are simply uninformed, what the piece fails to recognize is over 200 years of systemic oppression and legalized forms of exclusion within the United States against the Asian diaspora. As early as the 1860s, the Chinese American population was targeted with laws that stipulated how much air Chinese Americans could breathe in San Francisco; that forced Chinese migrant workers to pay unbelievable taxes and fees; that forbid Chinese Americans from owning land or business; that prevented Chinese migrants and Chinese Americans from any claim to American citizenship (denying them naturalization in the case of migrant workers and downright denying citizenship to native-born Chinese Americans); that forbid any Chinese American from speaking in court against a white man; that forbid all Chinese Americans from marrying another race; that branded all Chinese women prostitutes and barred them from entering the United States — an act which not only created the first bachelor society in the United States but also was, as many scholars argue, a form of genocide; that expelled and deported Chinese Americans en masse or held them on Angel Island; that forbid all Chinese migrant workers from even entering the United States in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act; that segregated Chinese Americans and forced them to live in ghettoes, etc. etc. etc. The laws that specifically targeted Chinese migrant workers and Chinese Americans go on at length, and it was not until 1942 that the restrictions against Chinese American immigration were lifted to a quota of 100 immigrants per year — a fact which later changed in the 1960s. (Laws aside, Chinese migrant workers also had to deal with the fact that it became quite the sport to scalp and lynch Chinese men for their queues in violent hate crimes.)

    But while Chinese Americans were slowly gaining more rights as we entered into the 20th century, it must be noted that other ethnic groups within the Asian American diaspora were being treated like absolute shit. There were, for example, Filipino indentured servants who were forced to work plantations in Hawaii (similar to the indentured servitude of Chinese railway workers during the 1800s); the Chinese Exclusion Law of 1882 was also later expanded to all Asian “races” to forbid them entry into the United States in the 1920s. We might also consider the fact that during World War II, Japanese Americans on the West Coast and Hawaii were rounded up like cattle and thrown into concentration camps throughout the Western United States. Or how, during the Vietnam War Era (a war which was entirely manufactured by the United States), Vietnamese American communities and businesses were firebombed and Asians that looked Vietnamese were often subject to violent hate crimes and lynching. Scholars have also documented hate crimes against Asians that have continued to this day, which include mass murder sprees against Asians just because they were mistaken for Japanese, and individual victims such as Vincent Chin and most recently, Danny Chen.  

    To say that Asian Americans enjoy equality is, quite frankly, complete bullshit, and could only be said by someone who is not actually Asian American or have experienced what it even means to grow up in an America that continues to exclude Asian Americans on the basis of our perceived foreignness — and it is this perpetual foreignness, in particular, that is further emphasized and reinforced by videos such as Coldplay’s “Chinese Princess” which produce the kind of discourse for mass audiences that leads to the history of exclusion and violence Asian Americans have experienced within the United States since the 1860s. I was under the impression that it does not take a lot of rigorous thought to understand how fucked up it is to have Rihanna dancing about in yellowface, or the fact that this video is essentially a luridly exotified minstrel act. But clearly, as evidenced by this sloppy piece, those who feel the need to criticize Asian Americans for their response to this video do not understand or simply are not educated about the history of minstrel acts in the United States or just how wrong yellowface (like its counterparts blackface or redface) happen to be — or how these acts function as a continuation of the historical forms of exclusion, exotification, fetishization, and Orientalism that have rendered Asian Americans as perpetually foreign and therefore rightfully subjected to hate crimes and other forms of anti-Asian racism that continue to occur today in the United States.  

  • Asian American PhD

    As the unnamed Asian American PhD roommate who was not only quoted out of context but quoted without permission, I do not appreciate this piece and find it appalling that the issues that I actually discussed on my private Facebook wall — which, by the way, I might add this is a complete breach of my privacy –were poorly represented at best, and misrepresented at worst. The equation and comparison of the Asian American response with the native Chinese response is sloppy thinking and extremely irresponsible, being that it suggests that Asian Americans are somehow silly for being upset with the video and blowing things out of proportion while Chinese bask in the glory of their triumphant counterdiscursive codings of yet another silly foreigner representation of “Chinese culture” which is nothing to worry about or be even remotely upset by. 

    This piece ultimately suggests in the most passive aggressive backhanded manner that Asian Americans are downright stupid for even being upset at all in the first place — as the perceived target of ridicule is supposedly not Asian Americans but “real” Chinese (or the “real Other” as the author rather glibly puts). And therefore the Asian American response is somehow unjustified. It also suggests that Asian Americans should, like the Chinese, “take no offense in such a misreading” and “regard ‘Chinese Princess’ with tolerance, much the same way [the Chinese] regard ‘Kung-Fu Panda’.” The problem with such a suggestion is the fact that not only does Asian America constitute the most diverse ethnic diasporic population in the world, but Asian American issues have virtually nothing to do with the Chinese mainland or the Chinese response due to both the historical specificity of anti-Asian and Orientalist sentiments within the United States.

    To begin, the suggestion that the video simply represents “yet another challenge to the ‘equality’ that Asian-Americans supposedly enjoy” is flat out bullshit, considering that “equality” is not something that Asian Americans actually enjoy, being that Asian Americans are the only collective ethnic group in the history of the United States that are still considered the perpetual foreigner within the country — an axiom agreed upon by virtually every single professional academic who works in Asian American Studies including Robert Lee, Anne Anlin Cheng, King Kok Cheung, Lisa Lowe, Sauling Wong, Colleen Lye, Elaine Kim, Daniel Kim, and many others.  One only needs to consider the recent Linsanity example, which often represented second generation Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin as either Chinese, Taiwanese, or just flat out Asian (and not American) to demonstrate the troubled claim to American citizenship and nationality that constitutes the Asian American experience. We might also consider how slurs that suggest Lin’s dick is somehow small (which recirculates the stereotype of the emasculated Asian) were tweeted by prominent news anchors alongside Floyd Mayweather’s racist diatribe telling a reporter that Lin’s yellow ass needs to go make him some sushi rolls and that Lin needed to be stomped down. It would be completely impossible for any American to even consider that a white, black, or Latino ballplayer would be treated with the same kind of backlash. (One only needs to consider, with a bit of a wry laugh, how impossible it would be for news anchors to say things like “Kobe Bryant, who is a black player” or “Lebron James, the African player” — or how angry the vast majority of America would be if Kobe or Lebron were represented by purple drank, fried chicken, and watermelon, the way Lin was represented with fortune cookies and chopsticks.) 

    While these things may not seem to be “that big of a deal” to those who fail to think rigorously and/or are simply uninformed, what the piece fails to recognize is over 200 years of systemic oppression and legalized forms of exclusion within the United States against the Asian diaspora. As early as the 1860s, the Chinese American population was targeted with laws that stipulated how much air Chinese Americans could breathe in San Francisco; that forced Chinese migrant workers to pay unbelievable taxes and fees; that forbid Chinese Americans from owning land or business; that prevented Chinese migrants and Chinese Americans from any claim to American citizenship (denying them naturalization in the case of migrant workers and downright denying citizenship to native-born Chinese Americans); that forbid any Chinese American from speaking in court against a white man; that forbid all Chinese Americans from marrying another race; that branded all Chinese women prostitutes and barred them from entering the United States — an act which not only created the first bachelor society in the United States but also was, as many scholars argue, a form of genocide; that expelled and deported Chinese Americans en masse or held them on Angel Island; that forbid all Chinese migrant workers from even entering the United States in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act; that segregated Chinese Americans and forced them to live in ghettoes, etc. etc. etc. The laws that specifically targeted Chinese migrant workers and Chinese Americans go on at length, and it was not until 1942 that the restrictions against Chinese American immigration were lifted to a quota of 100 immigrants per year — a fact which later changed in the 1960s. (Laws aside, Chinese migrant workers also had to deal with the fact that it became quite the sport to scalp and lynch Chinese men for their queues in violent hate crimes.)

    But while Chinese Americans were slowly gaining more rights as we entered into the 20th century, it must be noted that other ethnic groups within the Asian American diaspora were being treated like absolute shit. There were, for example, Filipino indentured servants who were forced to work plantations in Hawaii (similar to the indentured servitude of Chinese railway workers during the 1800s); the Chinese Exclusion Law of 1882 was also later expanded to all Asian “races” to forbid them entry into the United States in the 1920s. We might also consider the fact that during World War II, Japanese Americans on the West Coast and Hawaii were rounded up like cattle and thrown into concentration camps throughout the Western United States. Or how, during the Vietnam War Era (a war which was entirely manufactured by the United States), Vietnamese American communities and businesses were firebombed and Asians that looked Vietnamese were often subject to violent hate crimes and lynching. Scholars have also documented hate crimes against Asians that have continued to this day, which include mass murder sprees against Asians just because they were mistaken for Japanese, and individual victims such as Vincent Chin and most recently, Danny Chen.  

    To say that Asian Americans enjoy equality is, quite frankly, complete bullshit, and could only be said by someone who is not actually Asian American or have experienced what it even means to grow up in an America that continues to exclude Asian Americans on the basis of our perceived foreignness — and it is this perpetual foreignness, in particular, that is further emphasized and reinforced by videos such as Coldplay’s “Chinese Princess” which produce the kind of discourse for mass audiences that leads to the history of exclusion and violence Asian Americans have experienced within the United States since the 1860s. I was under the impression that it does not take a lot of rigorous thought to understand how fucked up it is to have Rihanna dancing about in yellowface, or the fact that this video is essentially a luridly exotified minstrel act. But clearly, as evidenced by this sloppy piece, those who feel the need to criticize Asian Americans for their response to this video do not understand or simply are not educated about the history of minstrel acts in the United States or just how wrong yellowface (like its counterparts blackface or redface) happen to be — or how these acts function as a continuation of the historical forms of exclusion, exotification, fetishization, and Orientalism that have rendered Asian Americans as perpetually foreign and therefore rightfully subjected to hate crimes and other forms of anti-Asian racism that continue to occur today in the United States.  

  • Daclaud Lee

    I’m Chinese American and I didn’t think this video was either stereotyping or racist. I don’t even like Rihanna or Coldplay, but I didn’t think this video was racist because most of the images of the “Orient” are medieval fantasy (comparable to Lord of the Rings or something like that).

    If they had, bucked teethed guys in straw hats toiling away in rice paddies, then I would say the video is racist, but that wasn’t the case. I mean seriously, how many Asian dudes do you see with tattoos like the guys in the videos? If they wanted to stereotype, they would have gone with straw hats, which, really do offend the hell out of me because the Chinese had MANY styles of hats and not very many of them were made out of straw.

  • Daclaud Lee

    Off topic: Honestly Asian people selling straw hats (instead of Imperial hats or even communist hats) at Asian themed stores are more racist than this video because they conjure up images of rice farmers. Now why the hell would you want everyone to think you’re a f*cking rice farmer wearing a goofy looking PEASANT style straw hat?

    Believe me, I’m not ashamed to say that the communist Mao military hat is the SHIT! A lot better than American styled baseball caps, that’s for sure! Also the 1700′s, 1800′s style Ming Dynasty hats were also pretty cool looking, much better looking than those goofy European Renaissance hats (reference: Warlords movie with Jet Li). Even the Mandarin skull cap is pretty good looking (minus the faux-queue hair of course), because it kind of looks like a pirate’s bandanna. Chinese Americans have to have more pride in their country instead of trying so hard to be White or even Black.