No Doubt pisses off Native Americans with new video

Indigenous writer Lisa Charleyboy has an opinion piece up at the Guardian's "Comment is Free" section about No Doubt's awful new video (screengrab at left). "Exploiting 'hot' Native American stereotypes is never OK, she writes.

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  1. In before: Notre Dame, ‘everything is appropriated’, ‘they probably have better things to worry about’, ‘quit looking for offense’, ‘PC gone mad!’, “I know a Native American who doesn’t care’, and ‘what’s wrong with white people playing pretend Indian?”

  2. “The bottom line is that cultural appropriation is never OK.”  Disagree.

    [On further reflection it is kind of stunning to me that this sentiment could be uncritically endorsed on this site. To the extent Boing Boing has a governing ethic, it might be that sometimes appropriation is OK (remixing, fanfic, etc.) and sometimes it’s not OK (straight up copying for profit without permission), and drawing the distinction requires serious thought. In this case, if there is something about this No Doubt video which is qualitatively different from Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” video, which “remixes” Catholic religious imagery for erotic effect, it’s unclear to me what that difference is. The video may be inappropriate, but the reason can’t be that Gwen Stefani is never ever allowed to wear Native American garb.]

    1. Seriously.  What’s next, shall we stand up against miscegenation?  I can’t be bothered to watch the video…maybe it is racially insensitive!  But if it is, it’s not because someone wore an outfit they aren’t allowed to wear because of their race.

    2. Well, Catholicism is a popular and powerful religion, whereas Native Americans are an ethnic group that haven’t been treated so well for a few centuries. But I agree with your underlying point: “cultural appropriation is never okay” is a big oversimplification.

      EDIT: Charleyboy herself seems to get that. For example, the way she uses phrases such as “…tricky and difficult terrain to tread…” and “…be sure to present accurate and respectful representations…” doesn’t seem compatible with the absolutism suggested by her “never okay” statement. I think she must have a narrow and non-obvious definition of “cultural appropriation”.

  3. If anyone wants to actually watch the video, here’s a link: http://en.musicplayon.com/play?v=775232

    Sorry to be typical white dude, but I don’t see what the big deal is. Punk boots, wallet chains, guitars, all different races, I don’t think this videos is supposed to be an accurate representation of Native American struggles so much as a pastiche of different western tropes. 
    And I just used “pastiche” and “trope” in the same sentence so I feel pretty accomplished for the day. 

  4. Folks, you can be a remix culture hawk with no respect at all for Native “no appropriation” demands, and still hate No Doubt’s “Custer’s Revenge HD” video for its dumb-as-shit racist tropes.

  5. UCLA Indian Studies Director Angela Riley Open Letter to No Doubt

    Excerpt from PDF letter at the link:

    The music video demonstrates the height of cultural misappropriation and a complete indifference towards and ignorance about contemporary Indian people. The video at once employs Native imagery and symbols, many of which still hold deep spiritual and ceremonial significance for Native Americans –including feathers, tipis, and fire – while at the same time situating such imagery in a (largely inaccurate) set of depictions of Indians at the turn of the century as primitive peoples fighting cowboys (and losing) in the Wild West. In this sense, the video diminishes Native people and Native cultures while, simultaneously, co-opting Indians and indigeneity for exploitative gain. In essence, it represents the grossest kind of cultural misappropriation.

    Most importantly, however, the video is rife with imagery that glorifies aggression against Indian people, and, most disturbingly, denigrates and objectifies Native women through scenes of sexualized violence.
    Much like the 19th century paintings advancing the ethos of manifest destiny1 – the belief that the United States was destined to expand across the continent, bringing civilization and light to a primitive people – the video draws on familiar tropes of the conquest of the continent and, concomitantly, the ravage of the Native female. As lead singer Gwen Stefani writhes, partially dressed (as an Indian) and shackled in ropes while overseen by domineering white men brandishing pistols, today real Native American women in the United States are in a state of crisis.

    1. I’ve been shocked to see headdresses popping up in fashion shoots lately, and been baffled as to how the people involved in the shoots don’t understand how insensitive it is. That and the Manifest Destiny t-shirt dust-up with The Gap recently makes me wonder what the hell is happening that there are so many involved in these things who are so ignorant as to the racism happening around them.

      http://modelsasindians.tumblr.com/

    1. Don’t forget the Braves! I almost had a stroke watching the sudden death game between the Cardinals and the Braves. The Tomahawk Chop just needs to stop.

    2. Right? Insane. Can you imagine a team called The Yellowskins? Not to mention the incredibly racist mascot of the Indians. Imagine if there were a team called the Cleveland Negroes and their mascot was a pickaninny. 

      1. Yes, it is offensive. However, the Irish were not almost entirely wiped out in the cause of America’s Manifest Destiny. Do you have a point?

        1. Oh no. Are we really going down the “who was discriminated against” road?

          Maybe the Fighting Irish is unique in that it seems to have been adopted by Irish-Americans themselves for a school they were heavily represented it. If Native American University called themselves the Native American Fighting Native Americans it might be similar. It’s not like the Redskins at all.

          1. No, we’re not. At all. And yes, you’re correct in that it’s not the same. (although there are Irish people that find it offensive.) And my point still stands. 

      2. That argument always seemed strange to me.  Is it implying that because Irish people are not offended  that other races should not be?

        And why are we assuming that the Irish logo isn’t offensive to actual Irish people?  Did someone go to Dublin and ask people on the street if they were offended by it?  Honestly the image of the belligerent Irishman, shillelagh in hand, is not exactly complimentary, and was employed as justification for English oppression.

  6. I’m sorry but I see things like this as being a bit silly. There’s a simple reaction one needs to take, stop supporting an artist you don’t like.

    If you feel they’re offensive, or they do something you don’t like, stop giving them money. I stopped going to movie theaters for three years because I felt movies were getting crappy. Later I’d see said movies after they’d been in theaters, they were in fact, bad. I’m glad I didn’t pay the premium of a theater to see them. When movies started getting better, I started having a reason to go to theaters again. If you don’t like a musician, don’t support them. Tell others to not support them for the same reason, but don’t out-right try to tell them “censor yourself” because at that point, I’d rather people KNOW what they did was jacked up, I’d rather they deal with what they did rather than simply remove it. =/

  7. Was it Gwen that hired two asian women to follower her around, or was that Madonna? I can’t remember. 

  8. I wonder if bands with Mohawks from the punk era would have been able to exist today with such over-sensitivity. Would we even have had Bow Wow Wow? Would Adam and the Ants have been able to sing about being Kings of the Wild Frontier?

    “the video is rife with imagery that glorifies aggression against Indian people” – except that the heroes are the band members, and the band members are portraying the Indian people, so it isn’t… Oh why bother to explain it. No Doubt should have stuck to their guns and kept the video in circulation. There will always be someone complaining somewhere about something.

    1. I wonder if bands with Mohawks from the punk era would have been able to exist today with such over-sensitivity. Would we even have had Bow Wow Wow? Would Adam and the Ants have been able to sing about being Kings of the Wild Frontier?

      No, those bands would not even be allowed to EXIST.  Give me a break….

      Never mind that Adam and the Ants were mostly trying to look like dandy English highwaymen…

      1. “Beneath the white is a red-skin suffering, from centuries of taming,” Adam and the Ants, Kings of the Wild Frontier.

        I’m an Adam Ant fan and a dressing-up apologist, and even I find that line troubling.

  9. Here’s a handy idea for No Doubt: If you make a video, and you intend to “include and honor” a culture, but the reaction of that culture is lots and lots of outrage, FIX IT BEFORE YOU RELEASE IT. (This would be “including” the people in the process, and “honoring” their outrage.)

    Here’s another handy idea, for the people in this comment thread: If you’re not part of the culture that is offended, TRY TO LEARN WHY IT OFFENDS. It might come in handy some day, if you, say, meet an attractive member of said culture and wish to be friends.

    Xeni Kate Beaton recently posted some videos of people doing Native American hoop dances in music videos. They were awesome!

    This video is ass. Cher was less offensive. It is, like almost all music videos, a fashion commercial selling the No Doubt brand, by putting the lead singer into a stereotypical “Cowboys and Indians” plot to emphasize her attractive body and her “punk” spirit, which are the tentpoles of the No Doubt brand.

  10. “The bottom line is that cultural appropriation is never OK.”

    This is a preposterously limiting notion.  Just about everything interesting in art or music for the last 2000 years has come about because one culture took on something they found interesting from someone else and did something new with it.

    The Angela Riley letter seems a load of academic babble.

    She says the video is “Much like the 19th century paintings…” without identifying any that bear a resemblance and have the same themes.  This is typical academic vagueness used to hide poorly supported thesis.

    “the video draws on familiar tropes of the conquest of the continent and, concomitantly, the ravage of the Native female.”

    I think she’s got that backward.  THE TROPE was Native Americans ravaging white females. That’s what all the scare stuff was about.  I grew up in the age of TV westerns and I can’t recall that Native American women getting ravaged was a common theme.

    She actually regards the presence of *fire* in the video as impermissible.

    “depictions of Indians at the turn of the century as primitive peoples fighting cowboys (and losing)”
    Losing? Where?

    1. I grew up in the age of TV westerns and I can’t recall that Native American women getting ravaged was a common theme.

      Haha, there are any number of famous movies and stories having Native American women falling for hunky white heroes….which is itself a similar trope for stories involving white men and Asian women and so on…from Pocahontas, John Smith, Sacagawea and on and on  “Don’t kill him papa, I love him!”……

      But yeah, I presume white directors weren’t keen on showing Native American women being raped by whites. As you’ll notice in her letter, in real life that is how it’s likely to go down.

      This is a preposterously limiting notion.  Just about everything interesting in art or music for the last 2000 years has come about because one culture took on something they found interesting from someone else and did something new with it.

      Every fallacy I mentioned earlier has been touched on…
      Yeah, being influenced by Mexican Mariachi music (for example) just isn’t quite the same as putting on the outfits and acting like a childish buffoon playing dress up……. 

      If you can’t see the difference between cultural exchange and being buffoonish than god bless your bliss I guess…

  11. It’s obviously supposed to be portraying the humanity of native-Americans and, the psychotic nature of white people, in a spaghetti western motif.

    I find the the lack of context in videos for no doubt pop-songs offensive.  I didn’t find it particularly mocking.

    war is war. There isn’t a nice black and white stance to sit in judgment on. It’s not as if all native-American tribes were peaceful. It’s not as if the peace we reached was just. As I said it’s not a black and white issue and, it’s reference isn’t offensive in that it exists. Insensitive- sure. If over 100 years is too short a time period to explore a bygone era, we shouldn’t keep pumping out ww2 movies- that’s exploitative. Nobody says a damn thing about it.

    If the argument is about the continuing native-American struggle, certainly the video references it’s historical basis and, there are better efforts to be put into that modern cause, other than complaining that a music video is insensitive. Really I think people don’t like to be reminded that they don’t get involved in the modern struggles and, this outlet let’s them to continue a false sense of superiority.

    1.  we shouldn’t keep pumping out ww2 movies- that’s exploitative

      What’s happening here is more akin to a (non-Jewish) German woman making a video bumpin’ and grindin’ in a “sexy” Jewish shtetl…..

  12. Here’s the thing that people seem to not understand. If you are not part of the culture that being appropriated, then you don’t get to say whether or not it’s offensive. If Native groups are telling you it’s offensive to them, why don’t you just FUCKING BELIEVE THEM. (If you want to respond with ” . . . but I know this Native American person and they don’t think it’s offensive, blah, blah,” – stop.)

    1. This video was poorly done and in poor taste. However, the cultural veto you are willing to give “groups” is essentially unworkable. I don’t need a Native person to tell me this video is in bad taste, but I will not believe it is in bad taste because a professor and an activist tell me it is.

      1. Funny considering how historically thin skinned you are about Catholicism, which is purely a choice of religion and not a race…..

        Little Native American girls that watch this are still Native American girls when Stefani finishes goofing, and grinding and tosses away the costumes.

      2. And as a non-Native person, your take on what’s offensive to Native Americans is what matters. Not an actual Native American’s.

  13. “The bottom line is that cultural appropriation is never okay”.
    Like rap music, chess, firearms, numbers, metaphors, even law… it all came from somewhere else, people digested it, appropriated it, and used it differently. That’s the definition of culture, no?

    1. Cultural appropriation is a part of life. And also, people whose culture is being appropriated have EVERY RIGHT to complain.

      What’s so hard to understand about that for people?

  14. I dunno, to me it felt like a light pastiche/pantomime of cultural representations rather than any kind of reality – it’s reference point was clearly movies and not reality.  It also seemed to follow more or less a modern, revisionist western iconography, where the whites are the villains ( the Lone Ranger looks particularly nefarious) and the Indians are the heroes (well, they are the band.)  I dunno, if somebody made a music video of Muhammad humping a goat people would defend it as an inalienable expression of free speech.

    1.  I think that gives it too much credit.  It’s basically a dumb fashion shoot as video, with currently “hot” Native American garb and sex used to try to sell their brand as an otherwise horrible band.

  15. After all of the fighting over the appropriateness of the Washington Redskins name, someone actually bothered to ask Native Americans how they felt. 90% were fine with the name, 9% felt it was offensive. source: http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/NewsDetails.aspx?myId=89

    This is one person’s opinion on the ‘No Doubt’ video. Maybe it would be a good idea to get the opinion of more than one Native American and for the rest of us not try to speak on their behalf… they’re quite capable of doing that themselves.

    1. So if 9 out of 10 people aren’t offended by something  then the one offended person’s opinion isn’t important?

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