Wednesday, 27 November 2013

An open letter to Katy Perry and Johnny Wujek

Dear Katy and Johnny

Hope you don’t mind me addressing you thus – it’s quicker to type! 

Embarrassingly, I caught up with the world and watched the full video of Katy’s performance last night. It’s my friends, you see. The last time I ventured out onto the internet, they sent me some news of Rowan Atkinson’s (Mr Bean’s) passing. I was absolutely gutted until I found out that this was yet another hoax. Since I always take a break after going on a rollercoaster of emotions, or indeed any rollercoaster, I came off the net and watched the telly, which, being British telly, didn’t mention ‘Unconditionally’ in the headlines.

Anyway, I watched Katy’s performance of ‘Unconditionally’ at the AMAs, and I loved it!
The colours were gorgeous and went so well with the aesthetic, and as for Katy’s dress, it was sooo pretty! Given how hot a stage filled with lights can be, I can understand why a furisode - qipao/cheongsam cross came about; for me, the blending of these two iconic styles of dress give Katy’s performance a pan-Asian look that is heavily influenced by both Chinese and Japanese culture.

Katy, I felt that all your dancers were treated with respect by you and your team, and that by adopting the gestures and dance moves you and your dancers used, you didn’t denigrate. You didn’t portray East Asian culture, Asian women, and all women in general, as second-class, ie I saw nothing to suggest that the women were submissive, ‘hos’ and ‘bitches’, and I saw nothing to suggest that East Asian culture is ‘ching chong’, ‘cheesy’ and ‘corny’. 

However, I think the sentiments in ‘Unconditionally’ are applicable to anyone who loves (Christian marriage vows, anyone?) and that perhaps many people felt quite uncomfortable at your choosing such a quintessentially East Asian look when you expressed such powerful emotions through your song. 

They saw what they wanted to see, but here’s what I see (and I am speaking as an overseas Chinese / fake Englishwoman): I see a singer about to release a new single, and who had to tour the world to promote this single, and who found inspiration for presenting this new single.
It just so happened that the inspiration originated in Japan and because of staging practicalities, necessary adaptations were used.

In short, Katy, I feel that though you did use pan-Asian culture to get attention (and in honesty, I think you need to, given the industry you’re in), you didn’t exploit pan-Asian culture for shocks, jests and jeers. 

What you and Johnny did wasn’t racist to me. All I saw was kungfu, hard work, respect for yourselves and others; plus reverence, thoughtfulness and respect for East Asian culture. Please take comfort in that.

By doing what you both did, you’ve introduced many to East Asian culture and opened up dialogues on what racism really is, and for that, I thank you. 

Congratulations on the release of ‘Unconditional’; I hope to hear more soon!


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