Cultural Appropriation? – The REAL issue

While I was watching the last lecture, I was kind of rolling my eyes at the video clips that talked about cultural appropriation. Because in my opinion the ‘appropriation’ taking place is on a surface level, i.e. hair, at best. All I can see is people creating more divisions between themselves over something that is not even their identity. I say this because I believe that we are not our body, it is not something to be identified with, so how can one person truly take your culture and appropriate it, if it is just on the level of an image?

I think that the true issues of cultural appropriation have been trivialised by people getting offended about a white guy wearing a Native American Headdress on Halloween for example, or indeed an ‘image’. The true issue when it comes to cultural appropriation is using an image of a Native American chief, that was murdered in Columbus’ time, for the logo of a football team.

Music is something that should be open to all, what gives a particular group the right to own a music genre? Yes, they can be the original creators, but I feel that if you want to get angry that a ‘white’ artist copied the aesthetics of your culture, it is more a problem with yourself, because you could choose to be proud of the people keeping it to the roots of the culture. I argue that it just furthers divisions to care weather ‘Riff-raff’ wears grills or not.

I have done some research and I will provide links to Tom MacDonald, a hip hop artist who explains what I am trying to say in a much more efficient way:

This song addressed cultural appropriation, more so in the second verse, he states “On Halloween, for one evening only you wear what you want, unless it’s a poncho, headdress or afro, you’ll piss someone off.” Tom echo’s my sentiments, I do think that our issues with supposed cultural appropriation has become trivial, especially in hip-hop, we have a culture of having to be politically correct and as such anything can be deemed offensive.

A line in this song stands out to me, “We all bleed the same, Martin Luther King or Kennedy. They’re angry I’m reciting the facts, he’s white and he raps, he stole the culture right from the blacks… You’re letting history perpetuate the hatred within, then you paint me with the same brush you painted slave owners with!”

This just accentuates what I mentioned earlier, how we allow ourselves to get angry at superficial copying of culture when the real culture still exists, we are not our body, so why does it matter if a white person braids his or her hair? What should matter is that person’s intentions with what they are doing, what is their message? Do they stand with the oppressed? Do they try to be a character they are not on the inside, while purporting to be someone else? On the level of the physical body, we shouldn’t care.

Just watch this sarcastic/satirical music video and hopefully you will understand what the true problems are. “Black Power says I’m the problem, Girl Power says I’m the issue,
Gay rights think I’m tryna stop ’em, all of y’all trippin’ I’ll get you some tissues.” He is judged based on his skin colour as the problem and cultural appropriator.

“If I was black I’d hate America, appropriate my character and sell it to Caucasian men who wish they were from our area!” Here Tom highlights the actual issue with cultural appropriation, the systematic oppression of black culture by way of ‘white washing.’ It isn’t the individual artist (clearly) as Tom is standing with the oppressed, rapping and wearing braids, he is genuine is his music and views, his appearance is to pay homage to the culture he is a part of. He is saying that he isn’t the problem because his heart is in the right place, his intention is not to oppress or ‘steal’ a culture, he supports it wholeheartedly.


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The movie that I watched for this weeks blog post was ‘Snowpiercer’ directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho. Snowpiercer is a film that follows the events of a failed attempt to counteract the effects of global warming, resulting in a worldwide catastrophe that freezes the Earth.  The only survivors reside on train ruled by a class system that spawns a rebellion from those at the back of the train, who seek to redistribute the privilege and wealth that the passengers at the front of the train enjoy.

The film was partly made in Tyrol, Austria to shoot snowy scenery, however, ninety per cent of the film was shot on set. The film is a combination of many genres, including action/adventure, science fiction, and thriller.  It bears the attributes of an art-house film with its creative presentation while its visual execution maintains the quality and excitement commonly associated with blockbuster Hollywood films.

In my opinion, one needs a broad cultural knowledge to be able to perceive this film in totality, I do not possess all that is required to understand the film so I will be answering the blog questions to the limit of my cultural understanding.

Cultural knowledge needed:

Firstly you need to understand class systems, which is the obvious theme we should all notice right away. We need to understand that oppression is a universal thing (shown through the diverse characters in the tail carriage). Due to my cultural background and my experiences I have a different perspective and feeling about what oppression is like. The film showed that just because someone is a white blue-eyed male does not mean life is a breeze and not-oppressive. It also displayed that bashings by authorities are not just limited to African-Americans like the media shows.

To understand the context of the film one must be able to grasp religious themes, especially Christian in nature. The engine is referred to as, “Sacred,” the people are in a “pre-ordained position,” the conductor is referred to as the “divine keeper of the sacred engine.”

There is a scene when in the middle of a bloody fight, where the train is approaching a bridge (which represents a year passed when reached) and everyone stops fighting to look out the window. From my cultural understanding, I saw the scene as representing our shared humanity, in those moments all ideology, beliefs and identifications were washed away, they all became one.

The conglomeration of different cultures in its creation is important to remember as current films are marked by globalization. The main language in the film is English, however, there is some Korean. Snowpiercer is a film whose themes, like its making, transcends borders and boundaries, combining culture in a fascinating way.

This is the best I can explain what I watched in the context asked of me, I used my cultural background to the best of my ability hopefully I shed some light of understanding on how this film can be perceived and enjoyed, thank you.



The ‘TV’ that I consume

I am one of the people that does not consume traditional television. I gravitated early on in my adult life to streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix for my entertainment. When Netflix first arrived, it is interesting to note that it was not available in every country. There were a lot of people all over the world without access, who used a VPN, a virtual protection network, which makes it appear as if you are in the US for example, so that they could watch content.

The shows/movies that I watch come from all over the world. Netflix has shows from the US, UK, France and Japan, just to name a few. I understand that a vast number of people are able to learn about the world and cultures through TV, however, my experience has been somewhat different.

It is kind of hard for me to talk about the TV that I consume because it never really shaped me. The things that shaped me have come from real-life experience living in different countries. I am a global person because I have lived and interacted on a global scale. I have been immersed in the culture, witnessed the vibrant and the mundane. I remember when I was a young boy in Egypt, playing in the street with local boys for hours. During the time I lived in Cambodia, there was a group of kids playing soccer, they could not speak a word of English, save for “Hello” I joined them in a game.

The only thing that TV has ‘taught’ me about the world I live in is that it is filled with violence and division, most of what I have seen on the screen is negative imagery and headlines advising me to be fearful. I feel that Youtube and Netflix have created opportunities to consume forms of positive media. For example, on Youtube, I can handpick exactly what I want to watch based exactly on my interests. The content creators are mostly independent and as such, I can consume highly positive and thoughtful content. It is because of what I chose to consume on Youtube that I have developed in areas that I desired to, for example, I learnt a lot about eastern culture and spirituality, where otherwise I wouldn’t have.

YouTube taught me that the world in which I live is full of incredibly talented people who are able to pursue their passions and dreams. Youtube is like a global village of content creators who share everything from their art to travel experiences. You can watch a travel program on TV, but that is highly constructed, however, you can watch a vlogger on Youtube who is able to showcase a place in a raw and unfiltered way. Platforms like Youtube have alleviated reliance on institutions to learn a lot of things. I learnt how to play the guitar from Youtube videos, others have even learnt languages. There is vast access to different cultures and perspectives. My ‘TV’ is YouTube.