Avril Lavigne has found herself in controversial waters again, and this time, it’s because of a so-called “racist” video called Hello Kitty she filmed in Japan. This past week, many cries of racism were flying around the internet regarding Lavigne’s video, which shows her dancing around various locations in Japan with stone-faced Japanese women behind her. The video is somewhat reminiscent of the famous 1985 Robert Palmer video with the identical-looking, expressionless women in the background. Shortly after the video was released, Tweeters began flooding the Twitterverse with tons of complaints about how very racist Lavigne’s video is. There’s one small oddity about the accusers, though. All of them appear to be white. Avril Lavigne’s “racist” video fiasco exposes what’s called the white savior complex.
The white savior complex is, according to the modern definition in Urban Dictionary: “…western people going in to “fix” the problems of struggling nations or people of color without understanding their history, needs, or the region’s current state of affairs.”
It can also refer, though, to situations in which white people decide something is racist and that they have to “save” the people it affects, such as in the case of the outcry over Lavigne’s video. A quick search for Tweets complaining about the video reveal a whole lot of white people exhibiting the white savior complex in all of its glory, but as Lavigne pointed out, it was directed in Japan by a Japanese person and conceptualized by people from Japan. When Lavigne pointed this out, she got lambasted, again by more white people, for the whole “it’s ok because I have Japanese friends” sentiment. In this situation, Lavigne can’t win, because one thing white saviors refuse to hear is that they have a complex, and that that complex happens to be incredibly annoying to nearly everyone except others afflicted with the same syndrome.
As author Teju Cole points out “The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.” He also sums up the main problem with the white savior complex this way: “those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them” and white saviors never consult the people being helped about the “offensive” thing.
Indeed, it is not really up to white people to dictate the feelings of those who they feel are “hurt” by “racism.” If the Japanese people who conceptualized, directed, and produced the video don’t feel it’s racist, why do white people feel that it’s their job to tell Japanese people they ought to feel and think differently?
Cole says white saviors behave in this way not to actually help people, but to fulfill their own emotional needs and have a satisfying experience for themselves. As a matter of fact, after the Avril Lavigne video kerfluffle, Japan came out and officially stated that its country views the video as positive. Shouldn’t Japan and Japanese people be allowed to decide for themselves whether something is racist as it pertains to their culture?
Not according to the white saviors. Definitely not. White saviors think they have the market cornered on every culture and what represents or misrepresents those cultures, despite the fact that the white people complaining have limited or no knowledge of the cultures themselves.
Guess what, white saviors? Hello Kitty exists in Japan and so far, not one Japanese person has published any complaint about the video; at least none that are apparent upon social media searches. Avril Lavigne’s “racist” video exposes white savior syndrome, and it’s time for white people to stop trying to control other cultures. Tweeter Zekoujaku @ZekiKadmon summed it up best when he tweeted: You know who hasn’t been calling Avril racist? Anyone from godd*** Japan. Just white people and their White Savior Complexes.”
By: Rebecca Savastio