Most think that cultural appropriation only happens to African Americans, Asians, or anyone that isn’t white. But that’s highly untrue. In fact, the LGBTQA community is often misrepresented in the media. Maybe not as often, but, they are. For example, this article on the Huffington Post, Jules Horowitz, a transgender himself, explains that transpeople need to be involved in telling trans-stories.
Hollywood has only really put one famous Transperson in the centre of the media when it comes to acting and depicting actual hardships they face; Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, is one of the first to show the challenges of being a transwoman. But, instead of allowing more transpeople to play transcharacters, Hollywood insists on using big-name actors, such as Jared Leto. But, it isn’t just the transcommunity that is being excluded. How many straight, male actors have you seen play a gay male in a film or television series?
How many gay, male actors have you seen play a gay male in film or television? The numbers are very different. Thankfully, Queerty. com has given us a list (and I can personally say I’m happy to see that they included Nathan Lane. God I loved The Birdcage. ) But, it’s not just the fact that Hollywood is getting straight men and women to play gay characters, it’s the writing as well. As I said before, I loved The Birdcage, even though it perpetuated that acidic stereotype that gay men, even if they’re burly, are screaming queens.
You never really actually see a show where the gay character isn’t casually gay—it’s not a big deal. You’ll never find a movie where the gay character isn’t wearing eye-liner or pursing his lips in every shot, or screaming or speaking with a lisp. Is it cultural appropriation? Somewhat. Is it cultural appreciation? Not really. I, personally, think this stereotype of gay men being horny, salivating predators is disgusting. I could rant for days, actually, but, for fear of ruining what was supposed to be a small paper, I won’t.
If one goes to their local tattoo shop, they’ll see several different things—maybe some generic, cookie-cutter tattoos like a tombstone or a cross, and then, if they look hard enough, they’ll see the classic cliche of Japanese kanji tattoos with little meanings below them. Are the meanings true? Maybe, probably not. Depends on the quality of the shop you’re in or just the intelligence of the artist. Or, maybe, the intelligence of the person getting the tattoo. In America, it’s not uncommon to find people with tattoos of kanji, Namaste or the Hand of Fatima, or, basically, any cultural symbol that Pinterest misinform them about.
Pinterest is a great site for cultural appropriation, alongside Google and Tumblr. One can find all these images that list different characters and symbols with very deep meanings for each one, and, if they were just a little bit more intelligent, they could realise that half those meanings are wrong. For example, in this link you’ll find a screencap of a Pinterest post detailing about the ‘inguz’ rune from one the Nordic alphabets, in this case the Elder Futhark. The post claims ‘inguz’ means “where there is a will, there is a way. ” The funny part about this is ‘inguz’ is not a rune at all.
The proper name is Ingwaz, if you’re using the Proto-Germanic name. If you want Old English, use Ing. But, if you want to be even more proper, simply call it Yngvi for that is the Old Norse name. Like many runes, the exact meaning can be unclear, but, from my research, the Ingwaz rune, when being used for writing purpose, is the letter ‘n’ and its direct meaning is “the god Ingwaz,” which is a name that “relate(s) to a theonym which appears to have been the older name for the god Freyr. ” (Source: Wikipedia. ) So, in truth, the tattoo depicted on Pinterest doesn’t mean “where there is a will, there is a way.
It basically means ‘Freyr. ‘ For years, Japanese tattoos were mysterious and later got to the point where they were embarrassing, cliche and down-right racist. Pinterest and Google have enabled people to go about and actually steal from other cultures—whether they be runes, Greek letters or even Arabic. This example isn’t exactly ‘high culture’ but more-so just stealing from cultures and misconstruing the meanings of sacred symbols and their alphabets. I personally have a large tattoo on my wrist, which features several different runes from the Elder Futhark alphabet. And I thought to myself—am la cultural appropriator?
Am I stealing from their culture? Did I get them just because they’re aesthetically pleasing? I can defend myself and say no, have vast Nordic heritage and I am greatly interested in the field of Scandinavian studies. The runes I chose are the runes th thought—from the magical view-point (assuming you know about their magical properties) would help me most in life. There’s a fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation—in my opinion, if you’re uneducated about it, you’re appropriating. If you educate yourself about it and treasure it, you’re appreciating.
When approaching the subject of cultural appropriation, the first thought that came to mind was simply “Halloween. ” In America, Halloween has always been a way of making money, mostly. Candy sales go through the roof, decorations are sold by the crate, but most importantly, costumes are sold like crazy—even though they’re sometimes incredibly racist and demeaning to various cultures, races and societies. And while one could branch this topic of cultural appropriation through clothing and costume to the fashion industries, I’ll keep it small, considering this paper is already longer than it should be.
The website I went to initially was Spirit Halloween, a very popular Halloween site apparently. My goal was to go look for costumes that were depicting a culture or race, such as Native American or Romani. I went under “Classic” costumes for women, and within two pages Thad over 10 tabs opens—and that is out of 6 pages. I’ll list the names of some of the most racist that I thought I could find within those first two pages. (Afterwards, I realised I excluded the ‘Beerfest Girls’ costumes, which, I think, are as equally culturally appropriating.
Of course, there were those that depicted ‘Gypsies’—which automatically was racist considering they used a slur to name their costumes. The costumes were ‘Gypsy Magic’ and ‘Crystal Ball Beauty. ‘ And then, there were all the Asian costumes! Who wouldn’t want to go dressed up as a ‘Geisha’ or a ‘Shadow Ninja’? I can tell you who would Katy Perry. But, I saved the best for last: the Native American costumes! Which, of course, were all incredibly sexually charged in both naming and appearance wise-depicting the Native American culture as skimpily dressed, tomahawk-wielding WHITE women!
Costumes such as ‘Native Princess’ and ‘Raven Native’ should be sure-fire ways to get that award at a costume contest, right? And if that doesn’t work, why don’t you go as ‘Sexy Dream Catcher’ or maybe Wild Spirit’ or the similarly named ‘Wild Frontier’! The incredibly sad part of this is that I only got TWO pages in, and lucky me, I found all of these highly offensive, skimpy costumes that sell these cultures for profit. I personally love Halloween, and I find sad that this is what it has become: racist, sexy costumes.
What I’ve learned from the Huffington Post on Katy Perry and the video where Melissa Harris-Perry slammed the media for misrepresentation of the Harlem Shake is that not just the American media, but the world as whole hijacks all these different cultures for purely aesthetic value. They like the way it looks or like the way it makes them seem. And for lack of a better word, it’s bullshit. If they’d only EDUCATE themselves on these things, maybe they could get away with it! As I said earlier, there is a fine line between CULTURAL APPROPRIATION and CULTURAL APPRECIATION.