One of the big bugaboos of western culture right now seems to be the idea of “cultural appropriation”. I, personally, don’t give a toss about cultural appropriation – not only do I not consider it a thing, I consider it something that – except in the most egregious of cases – is just the product of people looking for offense and with too much time on their hands. (And by egregious, I mean something about on the level of cosplaying as Al Jolson).
That being said, if one can manage to discuss it without the ridiculous elements of offense, it can still be an interesting topic.
Now that we have established that I don’t find it offensive, and now that we’ve also established that I wish to talk about it simply from the perspective of “I find this interesting”, I think I want to make the rather bold statement that the Japanese are some of the worst cultural appropriators on the entire planet.
Witness… Babymetal. Singing Ave Maria. While appropriating many, many elements of Catholic culture. The amount of appropriation from just this one video is mind-boggling.
It is fascinating to me how the Japanese seem to have no problem whatsoever with lifting cultural elements out of other cultures – including a great deal from western culture. Their religion, when they actually practice one, is Buddhism, laid upon a Shinto foundation, and they, for the most part, have zero interest in the actual traditions and beliefs of any sect of Christianity. And, yet, they have appropriated many parts of Christian culture, including weddings, holidays (such as Christmas), and, as you see here, even parodying some of the rites and rituals of Catholicism.
If they were upset about our appropriation of Japanese culture (such as kimonos, martial arts, etc) this would be supremely and flagrantly hypocritical, but that’s the cool thing – they don’t really care either. They, by and large, seem to like it when we appropriate things from their culture as our own. It seems to matter a bit that we be somewhat respectful when we do, but appropriation just seems to, erm, be a part of their culture.
And, to be honest, that is, frankly, cool. I love to see what the Japanese do with what they’ve taken from western culture. They’ve taken game shows and turned them into something completely and totally off the wall – a type of entertainment that we, quite frankly, could not even get away with in the west. They’ve taken our fast food and put their own spin on it in ways that we would find just plain weird. They’ve taken our entertainment culture and blended it with their own in such a way that it’s created their own dedicated fandom. They’ve taken our pop culture and somehow turned it into a juggernaut in a way that we haven’t managed to do in the west. And still, even after having taken all those things, they still manage to, for the most part, keep what is important about their culture. And then they send it back to us!
We in the west have given the Japanese a large part of their modern culture. And they, in turn, have made that uniquely their own and given us our culture back, mixed and matched and stirred and shaken, and what we get back is somehow different and cool and better than what we gave them. And how wonderful is that!
And if there were no cultural appropriation, we’d have none of it.
This is why I think those who are perpetually offended over imagined identity slights really need to get a life. Sincerely.
Appropriate my culture all you want, people of Japan. I’m great with this. Just make it available for me to appropriate right back if you would be so kind, don’t get too upset if I, say, dress as a samurai for Halloween, and I think we’ll get along great.