Orientalism in Western pop culture has always been very prevalent. In movies such as Aladdin, Mulan, and Indiana Jones, as well as several tv shows, other cultures are crudely and unfairly depicted. I believe with the rise in asian representation in movies in tv, however, this issue is finally starting to get better. One area of entertainment, on the other hand, seems to get away these Eastern interpretations with ease. This is the music industry.
Musicians like Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and several other pop stars unapologetically put out music and music videos that are full of orientalism. Take Katy Perry’s music video for “Dark Horse”. It is full of exaggerated asian and egyptian clothing and imagery. Nicki Minaj’s video for “Chun-Li” can’t even get past the title before it reveals its orientalism. Once you start actually watching the video, it’s just her talking in english with Chinese subtitles lazily plastered along the bottom of the screen. The only significance Chun Li has is that it was a character in the video game Street Fighter. I could keep naming these music videos (Post Malone’s “Rockstar,” Coldplay’s “Princess of China,” etc…)
There’s something about the music industry that has always seemed to have an immunity towards backlash. Only in very extreme cases of racism, sexism, or homophobia are artists ever called out on their behaviour. As we are starting to usher in a new era of tolerance in pop culture, I believe this issue needs to be addressed.