Monday, April 11, 2005

My Appropriation

My Appropriation

Today Salon ran an interesting tirade on Gwen Stefani's use of Harajuku Girls as props in videos and overall entourage. Of course, the reviewer felt the fetishation a cold and commodofied parasitic relationship between the innocent Harajuku street freaks and the evil Stefani empire that's built on pushing designer denim and a clothing line (appropriately named l.a.m.b, as in easily led as a...). Yeah - it's probably not the bigger of all evils (pole-dancing as liberation and other vapid arguments at whatever-wave feminism Camille Paglia is surfing), but Gwen is doing the gosh-these-Japanese-girls-are-just-like-manga-robots kind of wink to audience. She knows they are a prop and nothing more... So they do ridiculous pantomime bows and make with the stereotypes so whitey in Omaha will relate somehow. Oddly enough however, the Harajuku teens - ones that I've also photographed when I went to Japan - play and perform for the camera. These are girls who want to perform as larger than life comic book stereotypes (bloody nurse, evil victorian dollie, sexy blade-runner teen). And contrary to the parallels the writer makes to the other NYT photo essay that was highlighting Japanese teenage girls, these are not the demure teens the Danish photographer Hellen van Meene was focusing on. Those were schoolgirls being stopped in the street and thrown into whatever western-fixated gaze the viewer wants to initiate. These particular girls however (the Harajuku gang) are ones that are staging their own music videos. They design their own costumes and make their own stories. Which is probably why Gwen really has it all wrong (she'd be singing back up if they would allow her).

Originally uploaded by Wickidboy.

Speaking of feminist backlashes - Andrea Dworkin died?! First the pope (on one extreme puritanical end) and now Dworkin. I had been just reading about her biography, how it was frenzied and paranoid (alas - I did not know she had been raped in a Parisian Hotel a few years ago) but recalling the essays in college that we read and watched Not a Love Story in the interests of staring a dialogue (but more to shock anyone who didn't have any position on pornography before). She was someone that caused lefties, gays and artists to just shudder - killjoy, irritant and brimestone preacher of extremes. She and Catherine McKinnon had single handedly dismanteled the constitution in the interests of what would later become known as the "greater good"... She'd give the right wing a good stereotype of the left wing gone heretic, and she'd be the stereotype of an unfunny feminist. In alot of ways though - her extreme views, born out of alot of terrible shit in her own life, gave way to modern sexuality because everyone I knew in the 90's were quickly running from the repression and shame that both the left and right could instill. I remember her affect on liberties gave way to how people personally felt about pornography (moving beyond good vs evil paradigms and soviet-like extremism that she had fostered a decade before). Art would become more provacative and transgressive in an effort to push boundaries (Madonna, Bruce La Bruce, and Pedro Almodovar notwithstanding). People started to open up to sexuality as discourse because it was almost as if the crazy person in the room had made some extreme claim that got everything thinking. I guess you don't really know your monsters until you see them and their body of work... Like Susie Bright acknowledges, she's someone who clearly defined the opposition, someone who didn't join, felt probably shunned, had anger in her life as the core of her being. At least we can say she had an impact...

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