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.
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.
“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.
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.”