April 19, 2005
Written by C.N.
Salon.com has an article by MiHi Ahn about pop singer Gwen Stefani’s version of Asian fashion: an entourage of four Japanese American dancers whose jobs is to, in essence, be media props — a 21st century version of the geisha. As the author writes,
Stefani has taken the idea of Japanese street fashion and turned these women into modern-day geisha, contractually obligated to speak only Japanese in public, even though it’s rumored they’re just plain old Americans and their English is just fine. . .
Stefani fawns over harajuku style in her lyrics, but her appropriation of this subculture makes about as much sense as the Gap selling Anarchy T-shirts; she’s swallowed a subversive youth culture in Japan and barfed up another image of submissive giggling Asian women. While aping a style that’s suppose to be about individuality and personal expression, Stefani ends up being the only one who stands out.
It’s not only Stefani whose big kiss to the East ends up feeling more like a big Pacific Rim job.
You can make up your own mind about what exactly the “Harajuku Four” represent to you, but like others, I see this as another unfortunate example of Asian culture being fetishized, dehumanized, and commercialized for the consumption of Americans who want a taste of Asian-ness, but not too authentic — made mild enough for their own Americanized tastes.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Gwen Stefani’s “Harajuku Four”" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/04/gwen-stefanis-harajuku-four/> ().
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