Amidst the still-brewing controversy of No Doubt's Looking Hot music video, the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA has posted an open letter to the reunited band.
"The music video demonstrates the height of cultural misappropriation and a complete indifference towards and ignorance about contemporary Indian people. The video at once employs Native imagery and symbols, many of which still hold deep spiritual and ceremonial significance for Native Americans while at the same time situating such imagery in a (largely inaccurate) set of depictions of Indians at the turn of the century as primitive peoples fighting cowboys (and losing) in the Wild West. In this sense, the video diminishes Native people and Native cultures while, simultaneously, co-opting Indians and indigeneity for exploitative gain. In essence, it represents the grossest kind of cultural misappropriation."
But then they reveal the even deeper harm done, addressing the sexual crime issues their community faces. Making it a point to note Gwen Stefani's "writhing" as a stereotypically-dressed character during a scene of "white men" aggression, the Center elaborates further on the cultural wound inflicted, saying:
"Most importantly, however, the video is rife with imagery that glorifies aggression against Indian people, and, most disturbingly, denigrates and objectifies Native women through scenes of sexualized violence. Much like the 19th century paintings advancing the ethos of manifest destiny – the belief that the United States was destined by God to expand across the continent, bringing civilization and light to a primitive people – the video draws on familiar tropes of the conquest of the continent and, concomitantly, the ravage of the Native female. As lead singer Gwen Stefani writhes, partially dressed (as an Indian) and shackled in ropes while overseen by domineering white men brandishing pistols, today real Native American women in the United States are in a state of crisis."
The Center then explains how "one in three American Indian and Alaskan Native women will be raped in their lifetimes."
They also address their suspicion in the band's apology. While they applaud most of it, they note:
"While No Doubt’s apology claimed to have consulted "Native American studies experts at the University of California," to our knowledge, no such person from UCLA was consulted about the video prior to its release."
But they're also still very open to forgiveness, offering:
"Nevertheless, in furtherance of our educational and collaborative mission, we extend to you an invitation to engage with the American Indian Studies Center and the Los Angeles Indian community, as we see this unfortunate incident as presenting an opportunity for growth and mutual understanding."
We would love to see that.
As we've said before, we applaud the band for taking full responsibility, but we understand that harm has still been done. So, that being said, we'd think it would do wonders if the band took this opportunity to spread awareness on the issue at hand through their platform.
They can totally turn this thing around with the right tools if they wanted to. Instead of letting it be, they could use their fame to help fight the problems the community faces. And in that sense, maybe the end-result will become something ultimately greater had no video been posted at all.
What do U think about that? Any ideas from your point of view?
CLICK HERE to read the letter in full.
Hopefully everything can truly resolve itself here. It's an unfortunate situation all around but one that presents great opportunity nonetheless!
[Image via Judy Eddy/WENN.]