Katy Perry (Sorta) Addresses Cultural Appropriation Critiques

DeRay McKesson (left) and Katy Perry (right) recording an episode of McKesson’s podcast. (Photo credit: Katy Perry livestream / screen grab from YouTube video posted by Kiwi in Munich)

In the latest episode of DeRay McKesson’s podcast, “Pod Save the People” (Episode 8:  “When You Have to Face Yourself”), McKesson interviews singer Katy Perry. During the conversation, Perry and McKesson discuss many topics, including the subject of cultural appropriation.

Perry has been heavily criticized — including by this blog — for multiple incidents of racial insensitivity and cultural appropriation, including at the 2013 AMA Music Awards when Perry dressed as a geisha in an Orientalist staging of her song “Unconditionally” (video after the jump). Perry was also accused of racism and appropriating black hair for her music video, “This Is How We Do“, wherein the singer was shown wearing cornrows and eating watermelon.

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APIA blogosphere round-up of great Katy Perry posts

It's true: this dress is Orientalist vomit.
Katy Perry warbles during her neo-Orientalist opener to the 2013 American Music Awards.

Last Sunday, Katy Perry was really, really Orientalist. Although the whole set was horrific, every rain-cloud has a silver lining. In this case, Katy Perry’s incredibly racist four-minutes of glory at the AMA Awards sparked some truly phenomenal critical writing from the Asian American blogosphere and social justice organizations.

Here is a round-up, in no particular order. Please leave a comment to add anything I missed!

The Uninspired Orientalism of Katy Perry

Katy Perry did this last Sunday. I was busy watching zombies.
Katy Perry did this last Sunday while I was busy watching zombies.

For most Americans — nearly 11 million by Nielsen ratings — this past Sunday night was the airing of the second half of The Walking Dead‘s two-part Governor back-story post hoc origin story. For about 5 million TV viewers — that’s right, less than half of those who tuned in for a random The Walking Dead episode — Sunday night was the AMA Music Awards (that’s “American Music Awards” for all you Redditors; although, in retrospect, there should totally be “Ask Me Anything” awards).

One of you 5 million viewers blew the Internet up when you let the rest of us know that the Awards was opened by Katy Perry in the latest Orientalist catastrophe to invade our living rooms. A lot of Asian Americans (and media critics in general) commented yesterday about it.

I didn’t, because I was in the middle of the Yale gunman scare all day. Turns out that if even an hour of your day is spent contemplating the room at work that you’re going to turn into a (hopefully) bullet-proof safehouse, you end up way too distracted to write about arguably meaningless stuff like pop culture. Who knew?

But, this afternoon, I finally buckled down and watched all four minutes of the Katy Perry opening act of the AMAs. And, yep, it’s pretty racist: YouTube video, and my commentary after the jump.

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