Here’s the clip from last night’s episode of Girl Meets World where there is a brief discussion of cultural appropriation as part of a lesson about being true to yourself.
In the episode, Riley decides to dress in the harajuku style in order to feel popular and accepted in a group of nerds at her school. When at a spelling bee, her friend and her father confront her with the fact that she actually knows nothing about harajuku culture and doesn’t even know how to spell the name.
While the words “cultural appropriation” aren’t directly said in the scene, I’m really happy with the way the subject is handled and the fact that children watching Disney Channel are being exposed to this. There are still issues with the diversity of actors being casted and use of stereotypes (there were some pretty terrible scenes with a Ukrainian bakery owner in the same episode), but this is a step in the right direction. Yay to the GMW writers!
So let me get this straight
It’s okay for the Japanese to “culturally appropriate”
European navy uniforms (for schoolgirl fashion especially kogal style and navy lolita)
Hawaiian and california surfer aesthetics (for Mameba fashion)
Blackface and a crude stereotype of American black hip hop and rap (for Ganguro and the aforementioned Mameba fashion)
Victorian English fashion and Rococo Era France for all manner of Lolita fashion
70s British punk aesthetics, and the Union Jack to be worn as personal adornment
The Chinese qipao for Qi Lolita, in which traditional chinese clothing is combined with the petticoats and Mary Janes of Lolita fashion (as well as Korean women’s clothing being used in a similar way)
For Decora to drench themselves in all manner of imported European and American character toys, from Barbie to the Powerpuff Girls to Thomas the Tank Engine to Betty Boop
For fairy kei and mori girls to deliberately cultivate the image of a girl lost in the woods, by wearing clothing and jewellery inspired by European Roma clothing and European fairy tales, such as the Brothers Grimm?
For all of these fashion subcultures to be so obsessed with the British designer Vivienne Westwood, that you could play a drinking game when you see someone in FRUITS wearing one of her designs, and that Japan is Westwood’s most important market outside of the UK, and her website can be found in both English and Japanese? How about the fact that many manga-kas who are contributers to the Harajuku styles such as Ai Yazawa, Kaori Yuki and Mitsukazu Mihara are unabashed anglophiles? Ai Yazawa’s comics are full of shout-outs to two of her favourite things, Vivienne Westwood and the Sex Pistols, and many of the characters dream of fleeing Tokyo to study fashion in London.
That in the 80s, one of the most popular street styles was “American Casual” in which teenagers went out of their way to make themselves look like extras in West Side Story or Grease, and tripped around the Pedestrian Heaven doing the peppermint twist and worshipping Elvis and James Dean and Marilyn Monroe?
Are we seriously complaining about “culturally appropriating” Harajuku Fashion? Seriously? Harajuku fashionitas are the last people on the planet who get to complain about cultural appropriation. If you want to play the “omg she doesn’t even know how to spell its name” then why is it all right to name a fashion style after a book about a child molester simply because someone liked the word and had never read the book? Are we seriously trying to say Japanese street fashion is somehow something holy and sacred? I’m pretty sure most of the punks scampering around Harajuku draped in rosary beads and crucifixes are not Christians.