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A liberal's view on cultural appropriation.

Discussion in 'General Debates' started by ADigitalArtist, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Well-Known Member
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    This thread was tangentially inspired by this one: Bill Maher's instructions for keeping the fun in Halloween.

    Note: These opinions are entirely my own, there's no liberal or leftist monolith on appropriation so expect a large degree of variation.

    Cultural appropriation is defined by wiki (here) as
    I both agree and disagree with this definition. Like Lindsay Ellis, (go see her video about what makes Moana a better film than Pochahontas.) my framing for cultural appropriation is as a neutral phenomenon. It can be harmless or harmful, additive or deleterious depending on the circumstances. To me thinking that all cultural appropriation is offensive or abusive is like when some creationists think gene mutations can only be deleterious. Neverminding that what construes positive or negative traits is largely established by the environmental contexts, the vast majority of mutations are neutral. Neither hindering nor helping. So too is cultural appropriation usually harmless.

    And without getting into cultural celebration/dissemination vs culture homogeny, participating in cross cultural activities is something most liberals enjoy.
    I throw a Japanese new years party every year because I grew up with exchange students and teachers and never lost my love for it. It includes wearing a type of traditional dress (a happi in my case.)

    However, there's a big difference between this, where I'm participating in a specific cultural festivity giving it the respect and understanding of deserves, and something like sexy 'Indian' costume which is both degrading and a charachiturization of an exploited people by the exploited. Worse, opposition is dismissed either with 'you're being too sensitive' or 'who cares, it's fun' which is a big ethical yikes. Creating and maintaining ethnic stereotypes 'for fun' is bad enough but when accidentally or intentionally using propagandic iconography then it really can't be called benign or neutral.

    Now, my response to how to react to cultural appropriation will be just as varied. I'm not big on cancel culture so it has to be a pretty extremely demeaning example for me to want to end it full stop (blackface and 'sexy Indian' costumes being one of few examples). Mostly I just want to talk about things without productive dialogue being shut down. Either by apathy, 'special snowflake' edgelording or dropping the 'r' word with every hat.

    So, with that said, tell me why you think I'm an over-sensitive SJW. You know you want to.
     
    #1 ADigitalArtist, Aug 23, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
  2. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Well-Known Member
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    Of course there were (mostly American Hispanics) who were offended. There was no monolithic thought on it. The original complaint filed to cartoon network was a Hispanic woman. However, there is a huge age gap in feelings about Speedy. To those Mexican-Americans growing up in the 50's, Speedy was a charicture meant to poke fun at Mexicans at the time. (1950's) However, it ended up backfiring and the character was reclaimed by Mexican culture. And it's not hard to see why. The format copying of Tom and Jerry made some hilarious connotations. Sylvester is 'the man' guarding the border/mouse hole and is incredibly inept at it compared to the jovial and intelligent mouse and Speedy generally becomes the hero of the story. So, like has happened dozens of times in history, something meant to degrade was reclaimed by the culture. Problem was, young Mexican-Americans did not have the framework to see the cartoon this way.

    It's worth noting that after the complaint, it was the network that censored and cancelled speedy, because capitalism is going to capitalism. But after it was cancelled it struck up all sorts of interesting dialogue that was worth having, and it did eventually come back (though not to CN, who claimed the cancellation was due to low ratings. Whether that's true or not, we'll never know.)

    So overall I'd call it a win scenario.
     
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  3. MikeDwight

    MikeDwight Active Member

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    Thanks to ADigital Artist for all the work they do on this forum, in my case, and everyone else's. This is the most straightforward nicest place to be.

    I totally respect and will read more ADigitalArtist's opinion and then I have my own thing to add. 99.999% of Americans are so addicted to our own imperialistic Nationalism. Its not Christian. It is so obviously not traditionally Christian. Other Nations who are Not inferior or Superior , are Orthodox from their own Nationalities churches, to other Nations, in the Orthodox world anyway for 2000 years. This happened in West Europe too obviously. Can you let live other nationalities in this Country as Americans speaking their language in separate Churches and communities? Really? That is the only Christian thing to do. It is Not Christian the Patriotic and Spiritual normal that we pushed late 50's into the 60's, and it says speaking English, everyone holding hands together, and going to all the same things, is a lockstep American.

    Well labourwave, I am interested in Actual scotsmen that perform the Bonnie Blue Flag , Bonnie being from their native language, which isn't appropriation with actual people using their culture, then returned after the Civil war, Ulster Scotland. That's an obvious theme in remembrance Woodrow Wilson the Ulster-Scotsman leading America. Its very hard for other cultures to promote their Own cultures And gain political prominence.
     
    #3 MikeDwight, Aug 23, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
  4. Labourwave

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    I don't really like that definition because of how value neutral it is.

    I don't want to get dictionary lawyery in any sense, but I think the definition that people use when complaining about cultural appropriation is not this one, but a different one.

    Appropriate definition from Merriam Webster: ": to take or make use of without authority or right "

    "Cultural Appropriation is a much more specific concept than merely using item/concept X that came from culture Y where culture Y is not yours. Moreover, it does not include the use of other culture's items/concepts in a manner that is non-exploitative. For instance, using another culture's items/concepts in a way that is respectful or engages cultural exchange, sharing, and appreciation is not a form of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation takes place when cultural elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of members of the originating culture. All that cultural appropriation says is that it's not cool to take something that is important to other people and treat it like it has no meaning/value." (All quotes from-/u/KanyeTheDestroyer on reddit, who worded things way better than I could have).

    It is very hard to find the line between not-appropriation and appropriation in some instance, because this is a topic of ethics and ethics are hard.

    Using this definition, there are some clarifications that should be made:

    "It is possible to culturally appropriate something while, at the same time, praising what your are culturally appropriating. This occurs when people from a dominant culture take on elements of a minority culture that they think are cool or hip, while ignoring the burden imposed on the minority culture by those elements."

    "The imitator is play-acting, in a fetishistic manner, a specific aspect of the aboriginal experience. In
    doing so, it minimizes the lived experiences of aboriginal women, and downplays the fact that they
    are an extremely high risk culture group. Moreover, by sexualizing Pocahontas (and aboriginal
    women in general) it can perpetuate the kinds of stereotypes that contribute to the current extreme
    high rates of sexual assaults against aboriginal women. All of these factors arise because the person
    engaged in the appropriation is doing so from a place that is completely separate from the lived
    experience of the people from whose culture they are appropriating."
     
  5. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    Damned triggered snowflake SJW!!!

    Only kidding.

    I used to be very against the opposition to cultural appropriation. But I realise now that that was my ignorance and getting most of my information from antis. I think the concept is more of an American phenomenon. I mean it exists other places, but only as random extreme examples.
    So not being American it was a confusing concept for me.
    Like Golliwogs are still sold where I live. I don’t think maliciously, it doesn’t look like a negative stereotype. And really it’s just a doll to us here. But I don’t know how African Americans would feel about them.
     
  6. Enoch07

    Enoch07 It's all a sick freaking joke.
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    See you are wrong there.

    Speedy Gonzalez was a hero type. Just as was Tweety the Bird. Both of them are enemies of the "villain" Sylvester the Cat - Wikipedia.

    That's one of the problems with viewing things from an identity politics pov. It is only focusing on the stereotyped "identity", then deeming it racist or problematic based solely on that and totally ignoring the actual lore of the series.

    You created an issue that didn't exist to begin with. Just to have a problem to tackle and virtue signal at how virtuous and good you are whilst branding its creators and any fans of the cartoon as villainous racist.

    This is why people are sick of identity politics and have begun to reject its nonsese and false allegations.

    It didn't backfire because Speedy was a HERO type from the beginning! Him being liked was hoped for and INTENDED from the start!
     
    #6 Enoch07, Aug 23, 2019
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  7. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    See, I don't see how it's possible to make a character "the hero," and at the same time call that an attempt to degrade the culture from which that character is depicted as coming. And Speedy was definitely the hero. The same goes for Quick Draw McGraw, or rather his sidekick, the Mexican burro named Baba Looey, who was a very "good guy" by any definition of the word.
     
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  8. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I tend to think of cultural appropriation as not very easy to tell apart from simply learning from others.

    Of course there are such things as disrespect and satire, but I don't think they should be assumed.
     
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  9. Enoch07

    Enoch07 It's all a sick freaking joke.
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    Here is a racist cartoon. It is banned from broadcast in the U.S.

    Notice how it is only degrading. There is no positive light to the characters/lore/story.
     
  10. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    So, I'll start off by saying that I'm firmly left-wing liberal and that cultural appropriation as a concept doesn't sit right with me. I'll do my best to express why.

    First of all, it's the way it's very often used. I can only go by my own experiences here but the general use of the term "cultural appropriation" has overwhelmingly been presented as "this belongs to one group and only they can use it." It becomes outright cultural segregation with firm lines drawn between different groups. There are of course people (such as yourself) who will differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate uses of another culture but it's been the minority stance.
    Again, that's based on my own experience and it's possible I've just been unfortunate in who I've come across.

    Secondly and perhaps more importantly, if we're going to talk about cultural appropriation, we need to decide who does or doesn't belong to a particular group.That becomes incredibly sticky, particularly when we're talking about ethnic groups. It remains sticky even if we make allowances for respectful use of another culture. I'll use dreadlocks on white people as an example to try to explain this, since it's a subject that did the rounds a while back. You can substitute dreadlocks for something else if you don't personally find that to be cultural appropriation:

    If it would be disrespectful for a white person to wear dreadlocks as a fashion statement and they had a child with a black person, can the child have dreadlocks? If that child then marries and has children with a white person, could they have dreadlocks? And if they had children with a white person?
    At what point are you not considered "black enough" to have dreadlocks?

    For me, that was a major point that soured me to cultural appropriation as a concept. Defining culture, race and who belongs where is a road I personally don't want to go down.
     
    #10 Erebus, Aug 23, 2019
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  11. Milton Platt

    Milton Platt Well-Known Member
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    I don't understand why it is a bad thing for one culture to adopt facets of another culture if they find them useful. How is that a bad thing? Why is it necessary to have such a tribal way of thinking?
     
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  12. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Well-Known Member
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    It's not a bad thing. That's what the thread was about.
    What's bad is not cultural dissemination, but cultural stereotyping in ways that hurt minorities. Or using the adoption of culture in a way that takes advantage of the minority. Such as working at oversimplified and twisted 'tiki luau' for wealthy non-natives the only way many polynesian get to experience their culture. Because the tourism industry has made it too expensive to live as they had within their own home.

    Things like that cause deleterious effects on the minority culture.
     
  13. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    I agree about the tourism thing,

    But I feel like “stereotyping in ways that hurt minorities” might be a little subjective.
    You mentioned Speedy earlier. But as others have pointed out and I will join them, Speedy is the protagonist. You’re supposed to react to him positively. I’m not sure why you insinuated that his being embraced was a sign of the character “backfiring.” Perhaps because you associated his character traits as negative? But he is quick witted, clearly intelligent, happy go lucky and generally good natured. So why would that be hurting anyone? Perhaps one could argue the representation is not the most enlightened. But the character has been around since like the 40s or whatever. It’s pretty damn liberal in context.

    In animation, the art form relies on exaggerated features as it’s bread and butter, stereotypes are inevitable in the medium. Some are arguably organic, others are so negative they may as well be propaganda for white supremacy groups.

    I’m not against interpreting media through a feminist lens. But I feel like sometimes that fails to take into account other nuances that may exist as well.
     
  14. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    I’m liberal and I think you are stereotyping all Indian women as conservatives, if liberal Indian women can wear sexy Bollywood dresses I think it would be racist to say that Western women can’t
     
  15. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    Perhaps I’m wrong, but the OP may be referring to American Indians, as in the folk native to the Americas before colonisation.
    But if I’m wrong, the OP can inform me.
     
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  16. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Well-Known Member
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    I'm going to respond to this part because the rest is the same sort of oversensitive reactionary that tells me you only skimmed what I wrote.

    The difference between tweety and speedy is, of course, one was an ethnic stereotype in a political environment which was turning on Mexicans leading up to "Operation Wetback." Having a protagonist or positive qualities despite the stereotype doesn't mitigate the damage any more than when we talk about the the crows in dumbo, or the or the 'Indian chief' in Peter Pan, who both were 'good guys' and aided the hero.

    But anyway, you miss my point entirely. While it's perfectly acceptable to discuss the problematic aspects of the stereotype, I clearly stated that speedy's case was clearly a win. And I find it quite amusing that Speedy became a 'eff you border control' hero to Mexicans and Mexican Americans, even when that was never intended.
     
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  17. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Well-Known Member
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    I'm taking about this: [​IMG]
    The original thread was about costume stereotypes.
     
  18. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise

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    Pocahontas barbie? o_O
     
  19. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Well-Known Member
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    The backfiring I'm talking about is that Speedy became an 'eff you border control' hero to Mexican American viewers, that was never intended.
    But consider for a moment this:
    [​IMG]
    This is a protagonist good guy character being portrayed using not just simplified cartoon signifiers but outright propagandic depiction. Whether or not it was intentional. Good intentions and all that.

    I agree that nuance matters, I love nuance. There's a lot of interesting history surrounding many a problematic subject worth discussing.
     
  20. ADigitalArtist

    ADigitalArtist Well-Known Member
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    I might be fortunate in that the people who I get to talk about cultural appropriation with are largely literature and social studies type people rather than the tumblr/reddit/blog/other social media sources people are used to hearing it through. Though I suspect some of that noise is being filtered through memetics. 'A Jewish mother complains about school nativity play. PC culture is going crazy!'

    But I can safely say that my considerationwith cultural appropriation is NOT about preventing cultural dissemination and preserving 'all cultures must be seperate.' That's a white nationalist right wing thing. I *like* cultural mixing. But I understand that colonialization left an impact that makes oversimplifying, reductionism or misuse of cultural artifacts by a minority culture which was exploited by colonialism to be way more harmful than, for example, mexican-asian fusion restaraunts.

    Here's the video I was talking about earlier, btw, if anyone is interested.

     
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