Video: Katy Perry's 'Offensive' Geisha Performance At American Music Awards
At last night's American Music Awards, Katy Perry opened the show by performing her song, "Unconditionally"—while dressed as a geisha, complete with an elaborate Japanese-style set with cherry blossoms. And the whole thing upset some people. First, take a look:
Angry Asian Man ranted, "If you were watching the American Music Awards on Sunday night, no, that wasn't a big Oriental-flavored dream — Katy Perry did indeed open the show with an all-out cultural dragfest. Baby, it was Geishapalooza 2013. Her performance of "Unconditionally" was complete with kimonos, giant-ass fans, cherry blossoms and more. Why? Because geishas will apparently love your ass unconditionally. Get it? ... It's fun when white people get to play dress-up for the night, isn't it? It's better that way. Because remember, when you put actual Asian people on stage at the American Music Awards, racist people lose their shit."
The Daily Mail collected some outraged Tweets, including:
Oh, good. Katy Perry is dressed as a geisha. I was afraid her sharp vocals would outshine her racism.— Nathan Hatcher (@NATHANHATCHER) November 25, 2013
WSJ.com columnist Jeff Yang Tweeted:
Another observer noted:
And a contributor of Psychology Today explained, "If you don’t think Katy Perry was racist - let me ask you, what if she had performed in blackface? Perhaps a costume isn’t the same as changing skin color to you, but it is agonizingly close for me - I remember Mickey Rooney in buckteeth for his role as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Jonathan Pryce in Yellowface in Miss Saigon; Gwen Stefani in her Harajuku phase."
However, a Kotaku writer who observed that some people were offended about the mixing of cultures (Perry was wearing a cheongsam-kimono mashup), "As someone who lives in Japan, I see a similar mix and matching with Western culture all the time as well as seemingly endless appropriation of foreign cultures for entertainment purposes. That doesn't make it right or okay, but it shows that this isn't only an American thing or a white thing or whatever." But come on—didn't Perry read about the Jezebel post about the New York hipster party with the racist theme? And those hipsters cancelled it!
WSJ.com's Jeff Yang just posted a column noting the the song's lyrics say, "Unconditional, unconditionally/ I will love you unconditionally / There is no fear now / Let go and just be free / I will love you unconditionally / So come just as you are to me / Don’t need apologies." He writes, "The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, 'unconditional' worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy."