US funk, soul and pop singer, Bruno Mars was caught up in a cultural appropriation controversy earlier this year after he was accused of ‘appropriating’ African music. (Does this sound familiar? Wasn’t Elvis Presley condemned for a similar thing sixty or so years ago?). African American celebrities ended up coming to his aid.
Mars’ mother is Filipino and his father is Puerto Rican and Jewish.
To me, this proves that nobody can win the new aawar of cultural appropriation.
…the act of using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing you understand and respect this culture.
From further reading I’ve done, I think cultural appropriation is about power, especially the power that the British had for decades over African and indigenous peoples (Aboriginal Australians, Native Americans, etc).
As I said above, this has become an unwinable culture war. It is seen as nothing more by many people as an encroachment of free speech and expression.
A frankly absurd new rule I’ve been hearing and reading about is don’t write about something about a minority that you aren’t part of. Now, this is encroachment of free speech and expression. People should be able to write about and from any perspective that they like! As long it doesn’t aim to portray negative stereotypes, (unless in the form of satire or black comedy), why shouldn’t they? Should I be able to write a novel about a Syrian refugee, even though I’m not one? Yes! But I’ll make sure that I researched the topic, made sure I didn’t undermine their experiences or stereotype them.
Writing and the arts in general often require a level of research, sometimes extensive. At times, actors work in certain fields to get real – life experience on what it’s like to do that job.
Then, there are representations of minority groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community. Sure, some shows have done a fairly poor job of it. One thing that has annoyed me in the past is when a character is allegedly LGBTQ+, but are in a sams – sex relationship only briefly and their same – sex relationship, or alleged attraction is never spokwn of again. Then, there are shows that porttay lesbian or bi women, but seem to appeal to straight men.
One show has done things differently is Channel Eleven’s Neighbours. In 2010, teenager Chris Pappas, (played by James Mason), came out as gay.
Since then, Neighbours has had other LGB characters: Steph Scully (Carla Bonner), who has dated men and women on the show and jas been outed as bisexual and David Tanaka (Takaya Honda) and Aaron Brenner (Matt Wilson), a gay couple.
None of the actors (to my knowledge), are LGB, but the way Neighbours portray the LGB community I think should be commended.
Eight years since Pappas came out, many of Neighbours’ fans are eagerly waiting tor the marriage of Brennan and Tanaka, with comedian Magda Szubanski set to play their celebrant.
Negative stereotypes can be harmful. It’s important not to dehumanise others. However, people should be able to express themselves and write, act or other things without being seen as nefarious.
What do you think of cultural appropriation and media representation of minorities in general? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.