It’s always so hard to pare down my links to a manageable amount rather than pouring out the entirety of my bookmarks for the month. But between last time and now, I have read some incredible things! Here’s a sampling with the usual added commentary.
She finishes her brief segment on her Twilight Apologia grievance by doing a classic “see I’m a liberal ally to the brown folks” move straight out of a JK Rowling’s tweet: adding the link to the Quileute tribe’s fundraiser to prove that she’s not racist, she cares about ACTUAL problems that the Quileute folks face. Not something as trivial as representation in Twilight but REAL problems. Clearly she cares more about indigenous issues than the indigenous people she’s arguing with.
In any case, you don’t need to be native to know there isn’t much sincerity to someone who dedicates two hours to taking shots of whiskey for every “apology” they have to make. Quite frankly it would’ve saved her time to just upload a five second Youtube video of her telling us to eat shit. The same message would’ve been delivered expeditiously.
A lot of people think that ignoring a problem like racism in media – here anti-Native racism in Twilight and Pocahontas… and Ellis’ coverage of both after the fact – will just make it go away. Add in a heaping helping of Ellis weaponizing her white womanhood and lumping in real Natives trying to educate her in with the very legitimate harassment she does get… And you’ve got a disastrous approach in one.
I thought this piece by Ali Nahdee was brilliant, insightful, and is a must-read for people who genuinely care about representation in media, fighting anti-Native racism, and holding ourselves and our favorite content creators accountable. In this country, Indigenous communities are mistreated and misrepresented as the norm. Media is one of the biggest ways that their cultures are repackaged – often being boiled down to a single experience set up to serve for the whole – and it’s important to recognize when we and our favorite/popular cultural critics drop the ball on recognizing that.
Tabletop RPG games have always brought people together through collaborative storytelling and the way that players work in groups to defeat bosses. Prior to 2020, they were a way for people to connect with each other and have fun, whether it was as part of an active campaign with local friends or by joining the fandom for a streaming show hosted by celebrities. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, how we engage with these games and the fandoms for long-running campaigns has shifted to accommodate the ways that the world has changed, and how we’ve changed as a result. This means that many people are seeing and challenging how these fandoms and canons work for the first time, with streamers, podcasters, and a newer generation of fans coming together to make these spaces more accessible than they were in the past.
So much of global pop culture couldn’t exist without the contributions of Black Americans — especially TikTok, where some Black TikTokers took a stand this week by refusing to make dances to Megan Thee Stallion’s new song “Thot Sh*t.”
From streetwear trends to most of modern music, Black Americans are responsible for the development of what people across the world think of when it comes to pop culture. However, Black creators are often left behind once trends pick up speed; non-Black creators – especially young, white people – get the credit and media attention for things they didn’t create.
Normally, I’d write a whole huge thing about backstory and what inspired me in my work! However, I’m about to go start my little slice of weekend early (I have work to do tomorrow I think) and do some self care in the form of MOST OF THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS MOVIES.
So for now, I leave you with my gratitude.
I would like to thank Join The Party’s Eric Silver and Amanda McLoughlin for speaking with me for the D&D article – I learned so much from them and our conversation was delightful. Then, I would like to thank Dr. Matthew D. Morrison and Erick Louis for their insight in the TikTok piece. Their contributions were incredibly valuable for laying out the situation and I am honored to have cited them/their words in my piece.
Thank you all for reading, sharing, and engaging in good faith with my work. Please keep at it!!
July’s gonna have more good stuff too! I hope you’re excited!
Initially, I was just going to write like a TINY amount on the actual video for the DNA Remix that H1GHR just dropped for my Music Video Anatomy series on my site. But then Jay Park dropped that whopper of an essay in the comments for the video and I just… I had to do it to him. I had to make a video. Like my video pushing back at the content in the DKDKTV “bros drink soju and talk about BLM” video, this is just me airing my frustrations with a constant form of antiblackness I see. In this case, the way that Jay Park specifically talks down to Black Americans who express frustration with his persistent hood cosplay.
Setting: There is not much to say about the setting of this video beyond how this looks like the filming budget was light. Like I remember seeing a twitter meme asking for folks to name videos that looked like they cost $10 (an exaggeration, of course) and I honestly thought of this video immediately?
Sound: Written by Big Bang’s leader G-Dragon and with music/arrangement by Israel Dwaine Cruz, “Ma Girl” is a smooth R&B track that sounds like it was ripped from the 90s. It’s a love song with Taeyang crooning about missing a love that he fears that he’s in the process of losing, and I mean… in the end it is basic. It’s comfortable in its familiarity though, sounding exactly like something I could imagine hearing on the radio as a younger adult or teenager.
A high point is the feature where G-Dragon and T.O.P pinged that part of my brain that had imprinted on the group back in the day before I went back to being a casual fan for the better part of a decade? They’re so YOUNG here!!
Styling: Yes, I see those cornrows. In “Ma Girl”, Taeyang really showcased the Light Skinned Energy TM that he’d become known for in some circles of international VIP and wider K-pop fandom. (Okay, look… it’s largely the Black parts, but still.) It’s not enough that he sounds like Omarion in this track… he has to look like him too. Back in 2008, while Black fans of K-pop (they were there, trust me) undoubtedly caught themselves kekeing over the visuals in this song and praying for Taeyang’s poor scalp with those tight ass braids.
“Ma Girl” looks and sounds like this for a reason.
Back in Cultural Appropriation in the Age of K-Pop Part One, I mentioned that:
As talented as Big Bang was when introduced to the Korean pop landscape, they were still functionally a Korean B2K cover group. Voice, visuals, and styling all pointed to the same conclusion: that Yang Hyun Suk clocked that Korean audiences wanted popular Black music… but not from Black people.
Last installment, we dove into BTS’ debut single “No More Dream“!
Title: 눈누난나 (NUNU NANA)
The main recognizable settings for “Nunu Nana” are a restaurant kitchen doing double duty as a gambling den, what looks like a loading dock behind a set of shops with plenty of room for a red convertible to serve as the main focus, a building under construction and used for money laundering, and a music show stage.
The car itself is a really notable set piece for me because you have three moments where It’s a huge hip hop focus: in the beginning where Jessi’s on the car and a dancer is throwing her back out in front of it, where Jessi is twerking on it after washing the hood, and then the end when she and Hyori are hanging around and in it.
It feels like calling back to video vixen visuals only Jessi is, across the video, both the star the vixen dances for and the vixen herself and while that could be good… with Jessi, it’s… just kind of funny to me.
In this video, we’re looking at the recent dustup with ATEEZ Hongjoong’s cornrows, KQ Entertainment’s statement in response to criticism, and how even here fandom is full of people who CHOOSE to be antiblack *to their fellow fans* in the name of their idol favorites.
So, I started watching Korean’s Honest Drunk Opinions on Black Lives Matter, Dreads and the N-word with a Black American on YouTube.
This is Daniel – Danny from DKDKTV. And so it has this introduction where he’s like talking to Mike, who is the black American.
And it’s like, the introduction already rubs me the wrong way, because it’s like, “should Koreans be expected to educate themselves” and it’s like Koreans aren’t infants.
Y’all need to stop infantilizing yourselves and your peers because y’all aren’t babies. Like, we should all be expected to educate ourselves about cultural sensitivities about complicated subjects.
Like if you’re going to have a platform, especially like DKDKTV does you should definitely be expected educate yourself and those guys really haven’t across the years. It’s been very like this – they have yet to do a video on blackness specifically and like anti blackness that hasn’t been kind of like shit.
And like when they brought it up in the past like when with Amber they called Amber’s like moments of anti blackness about the cops harassing that black man in the California train station. They call it a mistake her saying that he deserved what happened to him. And so these aren’t – these aren’t people that I really want talking about race, anti blackness, whatever, in general, but especially if at least one of the two is coming into it from this position of like we shouldn’t really be expected to care and like and like their their past has just been not great.
And so like, we are not even a minute in and I’m like *heavy sigh*
I know that not a single one of y’all wanted to know that there’s going to be a South Korean musical version of Tupac’s life called All Eyez on Me performed by a cast that, as far I can tell, only has a single Afro Korean performer at this moment.
I know I sure as hell could’ve lived my life without knowing.
But here we are, with this knowledge fresh in our minds.
One of the recurring comments when K-pop fans talk about cultural appropriation as performed by idols is “so and so isn’t appropriating culture, they’re APPRECIATING it”. The idea that appreciation renders conversations about cultural appropriation null and void is clearly a belief that many of these people have and the thing is –
These idols probably genuinely appreciate what they know about Black culture, but when they go to take it into themselves and perform Blackness, that appreciation becomes appropriation.
This video talks about that appreciation often leads to appropriation in these circles, how j-hope’s appreciation in his and Becky G’s version of “Chicken Noodle Soup” sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and antiblack backlash in BTS’ big ole fandom, and why intent doesn’t matter when the impact is kind of harmful.
If you want to know more about my thoughts on the way Black hairstyles are appropriated within K-pop and why that matters, check out my video from August.
And of course, I’ve got my lengthy article on cultural appropriation for y’all to check out!
This isn’t entirely tied to the video’s content, but it’s related to what inspired me to put together this video:
The end of September, j-hope from BTS came out with “Chicken Noodle Soup” with Becky G. It’s an updated take on the 2006 song which was apparently one of his biggest inspirations as a dancer.
In the initial images that he shared (via BTS’s twitter
account), j-hope appears to have some kind of twists in his hair that are
clearly reminiscent of the kind of twists that primarily are associated with
Black hair – as in, Black people‘s hair.
I’ve been in my feelings since I saw those photos.
But then, I am always in my feelings about Korean idols
wearing hairstyles they think are necessary in their quest for authenticity in
hip-hop. Every single time it happens – and it happens often – I find my
One thing I and other Black K-pop fans – especially those a bit further along on our own journeys to unlearn internalized antiblackness – have come up against as we make our way through these fandom spaces and enjoy content form performers is that we’re constantly put into positions where it feels like we have to choose between our identities as fans of a group or the industry and our identities as Black people.
So when a performer or a group of performers does something that’s antiblack or that makes Black fans feel like they’re not being seen as actual fans or even as people, that sort of feeling rears its icky head.
Another issue in
how cultural appropriation of Black culture and Blackness leads people to devalue the culture and people they’re
copying: across my research for this essay series – and this installment in
particular – one thing that keeps coming up is how little people care for Black members of the fandom spaces and for
Black people in general.
One way that they
do this is in the way they talk about hip hop and rap.
How many times have you seen people talk about how they didn’t actually like hip-hop or rap until they listened to it from a Korean artist because that version of the genre was so much purer?
I see it primarily with the rappers currently in idol groups, but I don’t doubt that hip-hop artists in Korea who are outside the idol industry get hyped up in a similar way.
Rap from Black
USians is always associated with violence, poverty, grasping for unearned
power, misogyny, etc.
The image of a
rapper to Koreans and to many non-Black fans engaging with this music –
especially outside of the US – is someone closer to Fetty Wap in “Trap Queen”
or Snoop Dogg in the nineties than Jidenna in “Long Live the Chief” or Janelle
Monae and Missy Elliot in uh… anything.
Like there’s no attempt to understand that there’s diversity in hip-hop in the US, that rappers and Black people come from all walks of life and are valid because of it.
“Ideas, cultures, and histories cannot seriously be understood or studied without their force, or more precisely their configurations of power, also being studied.
Edward Said, Orientalism
“Dressing up as “another culture”, is racist, and an act of privilege. Not only does it lead to offensive, inaccurate, and stereotypical portrayals of other people’s culture … but is also an act of appropriation in which someone who does not experience that oppression is able to “play”, temporarily, an “exotic” other, without experience any of the daily discriminations faced by other cultures.”
Near the end of
January 2019, TK Park of “Ask A Korean” fame took to his site in order to talk
about the response from (primarily) Black people to the article he and Youngdae
Kim had written for New York Magazine/Vulture about
the history of Korean hip hop.
In Park’s article
“K-pop in the Age of Cultural Appropriation,”
he argues that the idea of cultural appropriation is “inapposite” to K-pop
because “K-pop is a product to imperialism by the West, and in particular the
Park unpacks this statement across the article to some various levels of success, but essentially his goal lies in removing the very potential of/responsibility for the appropriation of Black American culture from Koreans and Korean Americans. He does this, in part, by repeatedly bringing up the aftermath of the Korean War and the long arm of US imperialism as reasons why Black people “can’t” complain. (I’m legitimately Not Kidding about this shit.)
He makes it about privilege as he scolds the (presumed Black) audience for daring to have opinions about how Black music and culture are repackaged by many Korean hip-hop and pop artists and discussed by them and their fans.
I’m gonna be honest here: If the first thing I’d seen from BTS had been their super cringey, wannabe hood phase back when they’d first debuted, I probably wouldn’t be able to give a shit about the group now.
BTS hit the ground running as a faux-hood group. Their whole thing was like… setting them up as this socially conscious street gang. Everything about their look in 2013 was this manufactured look that showed what K-pop stylists and folks in the industry viewed as a path to proper hip hop.
Their look, their style, and their sound was pretty much what happens when you take an approach to hip-hop that sees Blackness and Black people as commodities to be transplanted onto and consumed by non-Black people.Read More »
Part passive aggressive stress valve, part honest attempt at expressing my continuous frustration with JKR, this first post for Letters to the Author is me at my grouchiest. Future posts will be more moderate. Maybe.
I can’t remember exactly how old I was the first time I read a Harry Potter book I was either nine or ten years old. It was before I moved to Florida and before I knew that there was a certain kind of magic that really only existed in books like yours.
As a small child, I didn’t notice how poor your portrayals of people of color were or how lacking all forms of representation were. You got so much praise for the women you wrote, but aside from my own headcanons about Hermione’s implicit blackness, only a handful of your women were like me.Read More »
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