Katy Perry's Geisha Getup Follows in Beatles Tradition, Asian American Group Says

Katy Perry's Geisha Getup Follows in Beatles Tradition, Asian American Group Says

Perry could renew interest in Japanese culture with AMAs show, group president notes

Katy Perry's geisha-themed opening performance at this year's American Music Awards has been targeted as possibly racist by some, but at least one Asian American group is giving Perry's show a thumbs up.

In fact, the group's president says, Perry was following in the footsteps of another respected music act: The Beatles.

See video: AMAs: Katy Perry Goes Geisha With ‘Unconditionally’ Opener

In a statement to TheWrap on Tuesday, Aki Aleong, president of Media Action for Asian Americans — which earlier this year protested the Fox comedy “Dads” as racially offensive — said that Perry's performance “could renew appreciation” for Japanese culture — much like the Fab Four brought attention to Indian culture by visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“We did not find Katy Perry’s performance at Sunday night’s American Music Awards to be offensive. It’s not racist for a non-Asian person to wear Asian clothes,” Aleong said. “If it was so, the Beatles would’ve been criticized for wearing Nehru jackets back in the ‘60s. By going to India, learning meditation, dressing in Indian clothes, and George Harrison taking a fondness to the sitar, the Beatles brought attention to Indian culture and enabled it to be considered and enjoyed by millions across the world.

Also read: Katy Perry to ‘Naked’ Female Pop Stars: ‘Put It Away’

“Likewise, we know from past interviews that Miss Perry loves Japan and its culture, so her performance could’ve been paying tribute to an aspect of that culture and could renew appreciation for it,” Aleong continued.

While Perry's choice of the song “Unconditionally” in combination with the geisha theme of the performance likewise raised eyebrows, Aleong says the song is ultimately about female empowerment.

See video: Katy Perry ‘Roar'ed At by PETA Over Wild Animal Cameos

So, sorry, outrage junkies … no controversy here.

“Some have asserted that because her song ‘Unconditionally’ is about a woman giving total devotion to a man that performing it as a geisha reinforced stereotypes about Asian women being submissive,” Aleong said. “In fact, if you look at the lyrics of the song, it’s the total opposite. In it, she’s singing to a man who’s insecure about showing his true self to her. She reassures him that it’s OK because she’ll love him no matter what. In other words, she’s the strong one in the relationship.”

  • HJ

    1 Asian American group says this is OK and you think there is no controversy? That's a funny attitude. Plenty of other Asian American groups here in the US are still outraged by it, and petitioning for an apology. Good to know that The Wrap subscribes to racism and its acceptability. The next time someone participates in a yellow-face performance, I'll know that The Wrap has already deemed it OK.

    But as far as I'm concerned, yellow-face performances are not acceptable, just like minstrel shows are not acceptable.

  • René Astudillo

    I'd really like to hear from non-Asian Americans, i.e., Japanese living in Japan if they found Perry's peeformance to be offensive.

    • bigwheels

      I have some Japanese friends. They either don't care, or are flattered by Katy Perry's interest in Japan.

      You are correct in saying it's only a particular group of people blowing this storm in a teacup, while the group that's supposedly targeted, is fine with it. Figures… It's in many people's best interest to be offended. For example, commentary journalists, bloggers, etc. And that's something to think about.

      • Anony

        Everyone put your computers away, we have an expert here with “some Japanese friends”! Genuflect at the authority that is before you!

        Nevermind that you are asking a group of people, though involved, are not going to be, nor expect to be, affected by racist American stereotyping. Sure, when you're thousands of miles away it looks like appreciation; when you're up close it is clearly appropriation of your culture so someone else can make a couple bucks. When you're thousands of miles away, the Americans who will think of you as a sex-doll because of media representations are way too faint to hear.

        But of course, that's all BS, because this guy right here has “some Japanese friends”. We're all wasting our breathe people: “bigwheels” here had a scoop long before anyone – even Japanese Americans – heard anything. So please, Asian Americans, Japanese Americans among them, quit whining, you don't know anything.

  • seekjho

    What in the world is this Aki Aleong blabbering about…?

  • The Wongster

    All I got to say is you need a better writer. You say that Perry can renew the culture just like the Beatles did back in the 60's with India. And the Beatles were not criticized by the public for being racist.

    1) The difference between the 60's and 2013 is a 50+ year gap of technology and social media. Perry's performance could be said that it is a world-wide broadcast through social media like youtube and facebook. If the Beatles did the same Indian song now I bet you they will receive the same flak as Perry. In addition, race was a big issue for “Asians” yes it was a big time for the Black Civil Rights Movement, but that issue pretty much dominated that decade. Asians/Indians, America could care less.

    2) “going to India, learning meditation, dressing in Indian clothes, and George Harrison taking a fondness to the sitar” I don't see Perry going to Japan to learn tradition, culture, or taking a fondness for their thousand year history. I don't even think she would even care for that.

    3) You say that she renewed Japanese culture in this article, I do not see the point or proof in where she did just that. In addition, you are comparing Perry to the Beatles. There is no competition here, the Beatles is a legacy, you cannot relate the two together.

    4) How is this female empowerment? I am no female but I would have just left the guy instead of loving him unconditionally. Loving someone unconditionally, yeah no. Part of life is learning to let go, male or female.

    5) I am not saying that you cannot dress up like another culture. If you are going to do it, do it right, especially during these extremely racial times.

  • Jon

    Sorry, Katy, but Anime Fans and Chinese Food made your concept outdated. India was just another foreign land before The Beatles went there.