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This Week in Racism

This Week in Racism - Avril Lavigne's New Music Video Isn't Racist, It Just Sucks

Avril's back with a generic new single, and desperate for attention. What better way to get everyone talking than by doing something totally stupid/offensive?

Welcome to another edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking news stories on a scale of one to RACIST, with “one” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.

–Avril Lavigne—perhaps the most boring pop star of her generation—is back; redesigned and remixed for another run at glory. At the advanced (for the music industry) age of 29, Avril seemingly has no idea what kids are into, which led her to making a tone-deaf, idiotic music video that the media quickly branded as racist.


When Let Go, her massively popular debut albumcame out in 2002, she was 17. "Alternative Rock" radio was still dominated by shitty nu-metal. Teenagers into rebellion wore flared jeans with fucking buckles all over them, and pretended to know how to skateboard. If you bought a CD copy of the Daredevil soundtrack, wore Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirts to church, and could name more than one member of the band Staind, you probably also liked Avril.

Under the guidance of heavyweight production duo, The Matrix (not related to the equally dated movie), Let Go tapped into a generation's butt rock-tinged disillusion and "fuck you" attitude. Mall punks finally had their moment of glory in the early 2000s. Let Go sold 18 million copies worldwide and also totally fucking sucks ass. Avril was of her time and has never quite escaped it, like a pixie-punk Han Solo in carbonite. Her most recent, self-titled album pretty much sounded identical to everything else she's ever done. There were a few girly pop songs, plus some fake attempts to seem sincere in the form of overwrought, mopey ballads about introspection. I don't see a lot of people expressing sincere nostalgia for the lyrical ingenuity of "Sk8r Boi," and that's because her music has always been vapid.

Since she never melted down or did anything remotely interesting outside of prouncing David Bowie's name in a way Americans were not used to, Avril's stuck around the public consciousness. There's been just enough going on in her personal life to allow her to stay semi-relevant. She married—and eventually divorced—fellow Canadian wastoid Deryck Whibley of Sum 41. She magically ditched him for someone even lamer: Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger. Nickelback, despite being the audio equivalent of cutting your dick off and leaping from a rooftop, is one of the biggest selling bands of all time; a modern-day equivalent of the Eagles. They're a successful group no one you know admits to liking.


Avril appeared as though she was just going to disappear from the spotlight, content to pop up on the cover of People every time she decided to spawn a new press release… I mean, child. Instead, she started the comeback no one asked for on Wednesday with the release of a new music video for a song titled "Hello Kitty." The video, embedded above, depicts a fun, carefree Avril frolicking through Japan flanked by a gaggle of stoic Asian accessories.

In place of turgid navel-gazing, Avril's song is a would-be club banger. The song is Katy Perry without all the "witty" double entendres. The raccoon eyeliner that has become synonymous with her "brand" remains, but now she's dressing like a cartoon version of a raver in 2006. Only a person who became a multi-millionaire (and totally lost track of trends) before turning 18 could think that fetishizing Japanese culture was still cool. It's been a full decade since Gwen Stefani caught a big pile of shit for the Harajuku Girls. Eastern "curiosities" like omakase, Pokemon, Godzilla, and tentacle porn are pretty mainstream in America now.

Maybe that's why it's so jarring to see Avril flail around in this video. It's calculated, but the formula got all screwed up. The girls in the background might as well be animatronic bears at Disneyland, but that's true of all back-up dancers. It's that she picked this shit to steal, after we've already gone through an identical debate 10 years ago.


The tone-deaf insensitivity of the video is typified by the scene with Avril—sporting a retro plastic camera, which like Avril, is a cultural anachronism from the early 2000s—taking a photo of the four unmoving, scowling Japanese dancers as though they were, themselves, a tourist attraction. I'm sure she really loves Japan, but what Japan clearly represents to her is an aesthetic to commodify, just like any celebrity who engages in cultural tourism. It makes for a motif for your video. It gives the designers working on your world tour a template to follow. It's a way to brand yourself, to give people like me an excuse to talk about you.

What's sad about this isn't that Avril is making a farce of Japanese culture. Americans have been doing that for 70 years. It's sad that she totally whiffed when she picked a culture to appropriate. While Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, and Sky Ferreira shoot videos with spectacularly handsome black men sporting implied criminal records, Avril is freaking out over a plate of sushi. It's the pop culture equivalent of wearing board shorts to a funeral.

Instead of getting people talking about how edgy and forward-thinking she is, Avril's going to get a few more down votes on YouTube and a couple embarrassing appearances on late-night talk shows. Not racist, but also not worth it. 3

–Nevada cattle "baron" and conservative icon Cliven Bundy, the man thumbing his nose at the rule of law by refusing to pay the government over a $1 million in federal cattle grazing fees, did his cause a major disservice by getting caught by the New York Times using racially charged language:


“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids—and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch—they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

In addition to the Times revelation, New York magazine claims the above video is of Bundy spouting rhetoric identical to the aforementioned quotes. Republican Senators Rand Paul and Dean Heller, previously supporters of Bundy, have come out against his rather antiquated opinions on race relations. I guess Paul and Heller were surprised that a guy who raises cows in the middle of nowhere would advocate for black people to go back to an agrarian way of life, even if that way of life included bondage and violence. Who would have guessed that a man flagrantly defying federal law would think that government subsidy is antithetical to freedom? Maybe Rand Paul and Dean Heller just never thought about it. Oops. RACIST


–Gil Voigt, a Cincinnati teacher we previously covered for telling his student that "we don't need another black president," has been officially fired for his actions. He'd been suspended pending review, and I guess the review came back. Voigt claimed he was misquoted, and actually said, "I think we can't afford another president like Obama, whether he's black or white." One version of this incident is racist, one isn't. We'll never know the truth, yet espousing political views of any sort is probably a bad call when you're a public school teacher. He may not actually be a racist, but Ol' Gil is out of a job either way. Hey Gil, you know who else is gonna be unemployed soon? Barack Obama. 7

The Most Racist Tweets of the Week:

Pass out the role sheet, Dune Coon McGoon, I need to fucking leave for my job.

— Smith (@metalheadCDN) April 18, 2014

Lol see why ion like Angie's wetback ass ? Get on my nerves

— Jackie♥ (@xoxo_jackie100) April 24, 2014

Bout to wash the boo with my little brother. If he helps me good I'll buy him chink food. I'm a good ass brother lol

— VEAH! (@DbSniff) April 24, 2014

If the word nigger offends you, leave right meow.

— Andy (@Offroadornah) April 24, 2014

Beyoncé hasn't done anything special to change the world but be a overrated nigger

— WEST COAST (@LanaDaiIy) April 24, 2014

Follow Dave Schilling on Twitter.