One of the biggest aspects of the music industry are the accompanying videos made for the music. Just like movies or television programming, these videos often offer representations of race and gender similar to those we have studied in class. One example which I’ll discuss in this blog is Coldplay’s Princess of China, which received some critical backlash for it’s representation of Asian culture.
A very successful alternative rock band hailing from England, Coldplay released their fifth studio album Mylo Xyloto in the year 2011 to mainly positive reviews. One of the more anticipated songs from the album was their collaboration piece with R&B singer Rihanna, Princess of China and shortly after the album debuted, the two artists released the song’s official video. While the song itself has little to do with the country of China, the video came with a clear Asian theme to it, and received both praise for it’s design and originality and criticism for it’s stereotypical portrayals.
Starting out with a intro card similar to old Kung-fu films, the video then portrays both singers, Rihanna and Coldplay’s Chris Martin as struggling lovers in an Asian setting. The two then portray Asian characteristics in several different manners, from their outfits to their actions. The female lead is dressed in a style that is reminiscent of the Dragon Lady stereotype, giving her a sultry and mysterious appearance right from the beginning. At different points in the video, she is even seen as a multi-armed being, similar to a Hindu goddess. The male lead on the other hand, is dressed as some kind of ninja for most of the video, fighting off several other ninjas. As the two characters come together, they engage in a sword fight that would make the creators of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon jealous. Okay, so the fights aren’t actually that good, but the similarities are definitely there.
The reason some people took offense to the video is because it enforces the Oriental like perceptions that the West seems to have of the East. Ninjas, martial arts, swords, and the dragon lady are all present, front and center. Another factor is that none of the people involved in creating the video are actually of Asian descent. One review even pointed out the fact that the Asian actors in the video, all minor roles, are usually just evil ninjas for the male lead to fight, creating both implicit and explicit representations of yellowface.
When I first saw this video, I honestly didn’t really think too much about how it’s representation of Asian culture could be seen as a negative. After months in this class, I can start to see the reasoning. Traditional stereotypes are played out from beginning to end, and with the lack or representation of Asians in today’s media, they’re regulated roles in a video supposedly set in Asia is disappointing. Still, I don’t think any offense was intended by this. The video was simply meant to be a tribute to old martial art style films, and while it could have been handled a bit better, It was still an enjoyable video that I feel succeeded in it’s primary goal.