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Jesse Ferreras


Japan Isn't Offended By Avril. So Why Are We?

Posted: 04/28/2014 12:32 pm

Avril Lavigne
TPG via Getty Images

No sooner had Avril Lavigne released her atrocious "Hello Kitty" video last week than her legions of haters began accusing her of racism.

By and large, the train of outrage was conducted by white people in the west, by those with little connection to Japan.

Sourcefed called it a "racist appropriation of Japanese kawaii culture." Policy Mic said Lavigne was "one step away from squinting her way through this one."

And on our shores, Canada.com wrote that she treated her Asian backup dancers as "passive, adorable background decoration for a wealthy North American pop singer."

What did Japan think of the video? Funny, few seemed to ask.

A spokesperson at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. told TMZ that they were A-OK with it, that Avril "had only good intentions when making the video." He added that they'd be happy if discussions around the video helped people "discover the beautiful and rich culture of Japan."

It seems like Avril's critics were less concerned with learning anything about Japan or checking to see what the affected party thought.

For her part, Avril laughed off the accusations, saying that she made the video for her overseas fans, in Tokyo, with a Japanese director and Japanese choreographers.

Tokyo-based Twitter user @IdealDaddy said, "Huh? What is discriminatory about this video? Those who think it is discriminatory are the ones who are discriminatory."

Indeed, Avril's accusers engaged in their own discrimination when they didn't first think to hear from the affected parties. Why are they telling them what they should think and how they should feel, without listening first?

The reaction to "Hello Kitty" was similar to that which greeted Miley Cyrus when she performed at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Blogger Anne Theriault said the performance amounted to a "minstrel show," that she used black women as "props" when she smacked a backup dancer on the backside.

Reactions were mixed. Backup dancer Hollis Jane objected to be tokenized for her height. Fair point. It was hers to make.

Jezebel's Dodai Stewart criticized Miley for "accessorizing with black people" and for being a rich, white woman "'playing' at being a minority specifically from a lower socio-economic level."

But Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Lil' Kim all praised Miley, with the latter calling the artist "my little pumpkin."

When hipsters started wearing indigenous headdresses to concerts and festivals, A Tribe Called Red, an indigenous hip hop group, summed up best why the practice was offensive.

They didn't need a privileged, white yuppie to jumpstart the outrage on their behalf.

The point here is that it's a whole other kind of cultural appropriation when a privileged party tries to jumpstart the engine of outrage before the affected class has had a chance. In effect, it tells them what they should be angry about and assumes they don't have a good idea themselves.

Of course, privileged people can take a stand against racism. Allies are important. But they can also stand back and not overshadow the people who might be the actual targets of discrimination.

In the case of "Hello Kitty," we could have all waited to hear what Japanese people had to say, and maybe learned a thing or two about their culture, as the government hoped.

Perhaps we'll all learn more when white people stop rushing to take offence on someone else's behalf and start asking them what they think.


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  • 50. Aqua – "Barbie Girl"

    Just because a video gets 75 million hits years after it was released doesn't mean it's a great video. "Barbie Girl" is a prime example of that. Cheap sets and a terrible band acting to an annoying song is the recipe for this frustrating piece of junk. And when was Ken ever bald?

  • 49. Talk Talk – "It's My Life"

    At one point greenscreen technology had to have been a learning curve, at least it appears that way in the video for "It's My Life." Or at least we hope it is because it would be a decent excuse for how bad this video is. The whole thing features singer Mark Hollis singing in front of a background of different animals. It doesn't even make sense.

  • 48. N'SYNC – "Drive Myself Crazy"

    The concept of the 90s boy band performing in silk pajamas while being locked up in a mental institution with fans blowing in their hair should probably be the giveaway that this music video is painfully cheesy. Add in each member’s bad little acting montage about getting their hearts broken by a variety of models and you have a bad music video. And extra demerits for JT's dye job!

  • 47. Hanson – "MMMBop"

    It's hard to pick on Hanson because they seem like such nice guys, but what was going on here? One second they’re playing in their parents' living room, then they're planting flowers, then they're rollerblading and somehow they make it to the moon. It's like a bad home video…with space travel.

  • 46. Sisqo – "Unleash the Dragon"

    This video is so bad that it actually makes the film "Cloverfield" seem good. Of course you may not know that Sisqo made a video for anything other than "The Thong Song" but in this atrocity the forgotten singer saves the masses from a giant dragon attack at an unrealistically large Sisqo show. Even the dragon would rather die than listen to Sisqo.

  • 45. Prince – "Batdance"

    This video wasn't cheap, but it was sure an incoherent piece of junk. None of it really makes sense. Prince is some sort of strange Batman/Joker hybrid dancing around to sloppy choreography with additional Jokers and Batmen supporting him. It's all over the place, creepy and very Prince.

  • 44. Blood on the Dance Floor – "Bewitched"

    Blood on the Dance Floor is a popular band with young teenage girls on the Warped Tour circuit. Their style is mixing electro, pop and emo while wearing glam-goth make-up and singing filthy lyrics about sex they've probably never had. Their video for “Bewitched” is even more laughable than their description. Let's keep our youth away from crap like this.

  • 43. Village People – "Sex Over the Phone"

    This is the Village People's homage to 80s phone sex. The video is as painful as you can imagine. The group choreographs dance moves while holding retro phones in what looks like an entry level of "Tron." It's awful. There's also something not so believable about those guys calling up women to dirty talk.

  • 42. MC Hammer – "Too Legit 2 Quit"

    Hammer's presence in this video feels like a mix of Eddie Murphy and Milli Vanilli. He presents himself as one of the softest and most terrible hip-hop artists of all time. Those dance moves…those outfits…not exactly a surprise that Hammer time was a short time. (Though we admittedly still know the "2 Legit" hand signals.)

  • 41. LMFAO – "Sexy and I Know It"

    Congratulations. You took an awful throw-away pop song by a fast fashion pop act, incorporated Jersey Shore, Wilmer Valderrama and Ron Jeremy into the video with a dancing robots and men "wiggling" in leopard print thongs. Your video is terrible and we know it.

  • 40. Justin Bieber – "Confident"

    All Justin Bieber jokes aside, this video wouldn't be one of the worst of all time if the Biebs didn't try to act in it. His acting chops are almost as pathetic as his mustache. It's cringe-worthy watching him trying to seduce a young girl. Also, it makes you feel bad for the girl.

  • 39. Kings of Leon – "Radioactive"

    What was Kings of Leon thinking with their "Radioactive" video? The band frolics around as Christ-like missionaries at an African school, hugging the kids and performing in a barn. The whole thing feels indulgent, confusing and borderline racist.

  • 38. Kanye West – "Bound 2"

    We have to believe that Kanye West made this video bad on purpose right? He must be having a laugh at us because there's no way he could think this video is great. Kanye on a motorcycle with a topless Kim Kardashian straddling him while driving through a scenic green screen backdrop -- such a trainwreck can't be by accident.

  • 37. Miley Cyrus – "Wrecking Ball"

    This thing really speaks for itself, doesn't it? The naked wrecking ball riding. Hammer licking. The singer's tears. Miley Cyrus and director Terry Richardson must have read the handbook on how to make the tackiest music video possible. But it remains a killer pop song.

  • 36. Alice Cooper – "Welcome to my Nightmare"

    If Alice Cooper is going to sleep in an old gothic looking bedroom, there's a good chance he’s going to have some nightmares. The only problem is the monsters that come to haunt him are wearing lame drug store Halloween masks. Then they do a choreographed dance. Way more terrible than spooky.

  • 35. Men Without Hats – "The Safety Dance"

    What was Canada's Men Without Hats thinking with this video? A renaissance village with little people dressed in strange costumes running around what appears to be Sherwood Forest.? None of it adds up. We see dancing but where's the safety?!?

  • 34. Elton John – "I’m Still Standing"

    Elton John defined horrible '80s videos with "I'm Still Standing." Campy dancing, bad body paint, tipping bondage dressed doormen with glitter and John sporting a safari hat are just a few of the painful moments in this disaster.

  • 33. Billy Squier - "Rock Me Tonite"

    This is the video that destroyed Billy Squier's career and he will be the first to admit it. It's a painful watch. It’s almost as if Squier decided to reenact the underwear dancing scene from "Risky Business," only without any irony and with far less grace. How did he ever give the director the go ahead?

  • 32. Bloodhound Gang - "The Bad Touch"

    A music video that intends to be hilarious but falls completely flat is always awful. The Bloodhound Gang fell flatter than a board with "The Bad Touch." Watching grown up men run around Paris in monkey costumes while shooting blow darts at women and trapping little mimes plays off as more pathetic than anything else.

  • 31. Lady Gaga – "Judas"

    Lady Gaga has made a career out of ripping off Madonna and her "Judas" video is a prime example…only done really badly. The video sees Gaga trying to steal Madonna's risqué use of "blasphemous" Catholicism and mixing it with modern art to shock us. The problem is it's all been done and plays off like a clichéd snooze fest. But don't worry, Gaga's piercing vocals will keep you painfully awake.

  • 30. Cher - “If I Could Turn Back Time”

    This is the infamously terrible video of Cher performing almost naked on a battle ship and straddling a canon for a bunch of sailors who don’t seem to care all that much about her. If a naked, ship-straddling Cher is your thing, you might like this. But odds are you won't.

  • 29. Rob Zombie - "Dragula"

    We get it Rob, you really like horror movies. But making a music video about how much you like your haunted car that just features flash frames of scary imagery and you head-banging stinks. No matter how much spooky make-up you wear.

  • 28. Rednex - “Cotton Eye Joe”

    This video mess is what you get when you take a bad one-hit-wonder Swedish techno group and throw them in a dirty barn for an electro hoedown. That's one party that nobody should ever go to.

  • 27. Wham! - “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”

    Carlton Banks must have stolen his moves from George Michael's "jitterbug" dance in this video. The fashion is atrocious, and the feel good "Choose Life" vibe is so artificially sweet that it might give you diabetes. Don't even get us started on the black light sequence.

  • 26. Joey Lawrence – "Nothing My Love Can't Fix"

    Who would have thought a Joey Lawrence music video would be one of the worst ever? That's a rhetorical question. His video for "Nothing My Love Can't Fix" features every cringe-worthy stereotype a terrible 90s video could ever have. Bad lip-synching, lame moves, corny posing, spray paint and one talentless hack of a singer.

  • 25. Britney Spears – "Gimme More"

    Britney's video for “Gimme More” was shot when Britney was at her worst. Maybe not her bald, umbrella swinging worst, but at least at her most uninspired. "Gimme More" features a disinterested, rough looking Spears half-assing her dance moves and being a reluctant pole dancer. It's kind of a bummer.

  • 24. Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson - "Whatzupwitu"

    It's not really a stretch that Eddie Murphy has two of the 50 worst music videos of all time. This atrocity happened to involve Michael Jackson for "Whatzupwitu" (intentional spelling). The whole video features the pair floating around in the fake looking sky singing while Murphy wears a wife beater and delivers his crap vocals. MJ must have lost a bet to be part of this mess.

  • 23. Right Said Fred – "Too Sexy"

    "Too Sexy" is definitely not what this video is. Watching the bald English shirtless duo gyrate on a catwalk is not what we signed up for with that song title. They seem to think its funny, but it's not. It's awful. Thanks for nothing guys.

  • 22. U2 – "Numb"

    Sure U2 tried to get experimental with their song "Numb" from back in the early 90s, but their video was far less interesting. Featuring the Edge sitting numbly in a chair, getting picked and prodded at by the band members in a dark room while he tries to mumble the lyrics to the song is boring and clichéd.

  • 21. Ace of Base – "The Sign"

    This was a huge song years ago, but it seems like they had no idea it would be by the looks of their video. It seems like the band shot it in someone's dark basement and knew a guy with a green screen, a fan and basic graphic and editing skills. Corny interpretive dancing, no instruments, a couple awkward dudes, introductory animations and fake fire make this a truly terrible video.

  • 20. Survivor – "Eye of the Tiger"

    Sadly, one of the greatest pump-up songs of all time has one of the worst music videos. "Eye of the Tiger" features the members of Survivor walking menacingly on a mission toward…their practice space? Then they get all soft and just start playing their instruments in front of a gold garbage bag background. Then they somehow get soaking wet. None of it makes sense and it sucks.

  • 19. Eric Prydz – "Call On Me"

    Depending on your level of misogyny, you may actually think that this is a great music video. But Prydz's "Call On Me" video seems like everyone on set didn't have a concept and just wanted to hang out with a bunch of half-naked sweaty girls.

  • 18. The Beach Boys – "Kokomo"

    Just because the beach boys are old guys doesn't mean they had to make a terrible music video. "Kokomo" looks like a karaoke lyrics video infused with some footage of the Beach Boys performing at what could be a private gig at a Hilton hotel in Hawaii.

  • 17. Kiss – "Tears Are Falling"

    If something involves Kiss, you know it's going to be garbage one way or another. But this video is truly trash. Kiss with no make-up, performing in front of a fake volcano and getting emotional about women. What a disaster on film.

  • 16. Marilyn Manson – "Heart-Shaped Glasses"

    Manson's video for "Heart Shaped Glasses" really just felt like a big, shameless way to show the world that he was having sex with his at-the-time, way younger actress girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood. The video features the couple simulating sex in different settings, with a fake performance intertwined between the smut. They eventually have sex while being drenched in blood as the finale. Classy stuff.

  • 15. Limp Bizkit – "Nookie"

    It's fitting that one of the worst songs ever has one of the worst music videos to match. The entire video features the band playing the crappy song while Fred Durst seems to be walking nowhere in particular followed by a pack of good looking women. The biggest let down of the whole thing is that Durst wasn't really locked up at the end.

  • 14. Alanis Morissette – "Head Over Feet"

    Even though Alanis made a killing off selling what seemed like a billion copies of "Jagged Little Pill," it looked like the production budget was all gone when she made this boring video for "Head Over Feet." The whole video features Alanis singing close up in a black room, and the most excitement comes when she starts playing the harmonica at the end. What a snoozer.

  • 13. 3Deep – "Into You"

    The video concept for 3Deep's "Into You" must have read "take two soap opera stars and a dude who can sort of sing, rent a house in the suburbs and a with a big fan and get them to take their shirts off in front of it." The real question is what is worse, the video or the group?

  • 12. Heidi Montague – "Higher"

    Remember when one-time reality TV star Heidi Montague tried to be a pop star? Hopefully not! But she made this cheap video for her song called "Higher" with her husband Spencer Pratt directing it. It looks like he shot it on his iPhone.

  • 11. Color Me Badd – "I Wanna Sex You Up"

    There's nothing more seductive than cheap suits with giant shoulder pads and choreographed dancing in a construction site, right? Wrong. Mix in some badly acted, clichéd seduction scenarios and you have one of the cheesiest and worst music videos ever. And no, sadly that's not Kenny G in the band.

  • 10. Eiffel 65 – "Blue"

    Hopefully Eiffel 65 got a discount on the CGI used in the video for their one big hit "Blue" because it's total crap. Just like the song, the video is an uninspired hunk of junk featuring cheap looking blue aliens head bobbing to the offensively bad beat while travelling through space. Hopefully they're in search of an asteroid that will destroy them and Eiffel 65.

  • 9. Duck Sauce – "Big Bad Wolf"

    "Big Bad Wolf" is horrible because it’s nasty. The video features dirt bag guys with Armand Van Helden and A-Trak's heads as their genitalia. The howl at women and do a variety of filthy, gross things that should make you squirm in your seat and make you try to forget that you ever saw this damn video.

  • 8. The Darkness – "I Believe in a Thing Called Love"

    If this video was ironic, it would definitely be a great spoof. The only problem is it wasn't. Sure the Darkness was inspired by glam rock and hair metal, but they liked it a little too much for the 2000s. The space ships, floating heads, one-the-nose innuendos, flames and the hot tub guitar solo. This video was a joke gone wrong.

  • 7. Vanilla Ice – "Ice Ice Baby"

    There are tough guy hip hop videos and then there's "Ice Ice Baby." Vanilla Ice tries his best to convince you he’s a hard-ass by rapping in pajamas and dancing hard in a waiter's outfit with his buddies. He even hangs out in an ally with his name spray painted on the bricks…what a tough guy. Bad video…word to your mother.

  • 6. Milli Vanilli – "Girl You Know It’s True"

    The treatment: Lip-synching men in tights wearing colourful blazers with giant shoulder pads while testing out some of the worst dance moves ever produced in the 80s. The video also looks like it took place at a student picture day. Worst of all, it's Milli Vanilli.

  • 5. Paris Hilton – "Stars Are Blind"

    When your family has more money than god, you can totally pay to have a music career and shoot a video, no matter how terrible you are. Here's the evidence. Paris Hilton rolls around and frolics with some dude on the beach to her awful song. Totally stock.

  • 4. Corey Feldman – "Duh"

    Why does Corey Feldman think he's Michael Jackson? And more importantly, why is Corey Feldman making music videos? The child star turned "singer" released this hunk of crap that features him emulating Jackson in what has to be an act of delusion. He also says he's "the best rapper ever" and recreates a terrible homage to "I Love Lucy." This belongs at the bottom of the music video trash can.

  • 3. Eddie Murphy – "Party All The Time"

    Before even viewing this music video, you should probably have an idea about what you’re getting into. The thought of Eddie Murphy as a pop star…come on people. The video appears to be a one-take effort of Murphy arriving at the studio to record “Party All the Time” and Rick James just happens to be producing it. This is about as legit as Murphy ever having a #1 movie again.

  • 2. David Hasselhoff – "Hooked on a Feeling"

    You can't help but feel like the Hoff’s music career is a joke that everyone's in on except for him. His video for "Hooked on a Feeling" is so atrociously bad that you have to assume it was intended to be that way. But he's so into it! The cheap green screen effects, the Hoff flying and the offensive imagery of him jumping around with African villagers are brutal. At least Germany loves him.

  • 1. Rebecca Black – "Friday"

    The worst music video of all time is probably an obvious one. It's Rebecca Black and her atrocious internet phenomena that was "Friday." Everything about this video is the worst ever. The lyrics, the music, the effects, the acting, the hip-hop feature, the braces, the underage driving. It was disturbingly bad and makes you feel sorry for Black who was a prime target of international ribbing after the video spread like herpes around the internet.


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