Is Taylor Hatala’s new video a symptom of the kind of trouble CL could face in the US?
Canadian dance duo Taylor Hatala, 11, and Larsen Thompson, 14, have made a big name for themselves over the past few months with their slickly produced and choreographed videos and precise moves. Their most recent video to Beyonce’s Run The World was an equally impressive affair, that was until about halfway through when 2NE1’s I Am The Best dropped and we got this:
As you can see, the clothing choices in the second half of the video are an orientalist nightmare. Because the group are Korean, whoever made the clothing choices for the video clearly thought it would be most appropriate would be a Chinese-Japanese qipao-geisha fusion costume. Despite the fact that none of these clothing traditions originated in Korea and even if they had gone for a hanbok or other traditional Korean choice, it still wouldn’t be appropriate because that is not even close to what 2NE1 or any K-pop band ever wear on stage (except during Chuseok and Seollal specials). But they’re Asian so it’s cool.
As Angry Asian Man put it:
I get it. This is the part where they drop the K-pop track… so naturally, you have to throw in all this random Asian shit. Or rather, someone’s ridiculous, lazy approximation of Asian-ness. What, no pandas? How about a friggin’ samurai sword? The thing is, all of this seems completely unnecessary. They could have pulled it all off without the culturally appropriative bullshit.
Who run the world? White girls playing Asian dress-up, apparently.
The two girls shouldn’t be held responsible for this – they are still children after all – but there were adults involved in the production of this video who should have known better.
The video itself is a symptom of the odd moment going on in Western popular culture in regards to its relationship with Asian, Asian American and other of-Asian-ethnicity performers. On one hand, the representation of (particularly East) Asian performers is more present than ever before with shows like Fresh Off the Boat (recently renewed for another season) and rising stars like The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun and more Asian actors in major Hollywood films like Kim Soo-hyun (the other one) in the last Avengers and Lana Condor in the upcoming X-Men movie. Online media – particularly Buzzfeed – has also been doing a lot to improve the representation of Asian Americans. K-pop has also been facing growing acceptance in the west lately with more in-depth profiles of Korean artists (often thanks to Asian American journalists like Jaeki Cho and Donnie Kwak) and less plastic surgery shock pieces. There was also of course the surprise hit I Am The Best for 2NE1 thanks to Microsoft – no doubt the reason it was even featured in this video.
On the other hand, there are still ridiculously backward, often racist, things happening on a regular basis. The producer of ‘Make It Pop’, a K-pop inspired Nick series, reportedly refused to cast any young Asian men to play the lead characters in the show, Emma Stone was recently cast as a half-Asian Hawaiian character (supported by an all-white cast despite being set in a majority Asian state) for the upcoming Cameron Crowe movie Aloha and of course there’s still the odd Katie Perry as a Geisha type fiasco that happens every once in a while.
It’s against this backdrop that CL is planning her American advancement. It’s clear that there’s never been a better chance than ever before and that it could well be worth the risk. However little things like this are constant reminders of the stereotypes and prejudice she’ll have to face if she wants to get to the top (or even anywhere near it).
But maybe that’s why it’s so important CL or another female Asian pop star like her takes to the international stage.