Why music videos need to stay culturally sensitive
No Doubt recently came under fire for a controversial music video in which its members dressed in Native American clothing.
First, I was confused, since I hadn’t heard anything from No Doubt in over a decade and had no idea the band was even still a thing.
Second, I was pretty disappointed that Native American culture was once again being disrespected by a society that has been brutally ignorant about how offensive its representations of Native Americans have been in the past, and continue to be now (there’s still an NFL team called the Redskins, for fuck’s sake).
However, No Doubt did realize the error of its ways, and whether through a conscious awakening, or due to mounting pressure and criticism, it decided to pull the official video from YouTube, and release an apparently sincere apology that acknowledged what it did and why it was wrong.
What bothered me, though, was that the band mentioned that it had consulted with Native American studies experts before going ahead with the video.
While the video might not seem blatantly offensive, it is a negative portrayal of Native Americans because it reinforces old stereotypes of them as primitive, violent savages that have been used all too frequently throughout American media. The use of tipis, headdresses and spear throwing were notable as ridiculously stereotypical.
Even someone with a minimal understanding of Native American culture should be able to acknowledge that the representation in the No Doubt video was not an accurate portrayal of Native Americans, whether modern or historical.
Moreover, I question the decision of a band with no Native American members representing them in a video. To me, this isn’t much better than an all-white band wearing blackface in a video. It’s unnecessary, and ultimately can be very offensive.
I understand that No Doubt did not produce the video with an agenda to humiliate or offend Native Americans. It could even be argued that the band’s attempt to represent Native Americans was a result of its interest in Native culture. The problem is that Native American culture has a long history and deserves the same amount of respect as any other culture.
No Doubt isn’t the only one facing criticism for its portrayal of Native Americans. Lana Del Ray and Khloe Kardashian have made similarly embarrassing media appearances in donning headdresses and other stereotypical native garb.
Urban Outfitters has faced severe scrutiny and even lawsuits for some horrendously offensive Native American-themed products (like Navajo hipster panties — really).
Taking an interest in native cultures requires us to look past the stereotypes we are constantly subjected to. There is a rich history to learn about and rich cultures and languages that exist within the Native American landscape.
Unfortunately, it’s just easier for people to see the same representations over and over again and decide that these portrayals are accurate depictions, when they are anything but.