No Doubt turned itself into the PC police

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Sweet mother of Al Jolson—does political correctness have to ruin everything we’ve held sacred over the years? Given what’s gone down this week with No Doubt, your local Block Watch committee will soon be busting kids who spend their Saturdays playing cowboys and First Nations.

As you might have seen on the Intraweb, No Doubt landed in a big heap of trouble for “Looking Hot”, the new single off its comeback release, Push and Shove. The band assumed, quite correctly, there was nothing that heterosexual American males of all races would love to see more than singer Gwen Stefani writhing seductively while tied to a post. Not to mention straddling a strapping white stallion, half naked, while riding that massive thing between her legs like Hyapatia Lee in Indian Summer. Or thrusting her barely concealed crotch lasciviously at the camera in front of a raging… Er, you get the idea.

Where Stefani and company evidently erred is that they chose to sell the sizzle with a video that, back in the un–PC 1950s, would have been described as being centred around cowboys and Indians. “Looking Hot” is set in the kind of Old West frontier town where the men are all white and spend their days at the saloon drinking whisky, smoking cigars, and banging the petticoat-wearing prostitutes. Those playing the cowboys include No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and guitarist Tom Dumont.

On the flip side of things, we’ve Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal representing the pure and noble First Nations. Kanal plays a stoic warrior locked in the town jail after losing a dustup out on the frontier. (He’s also occasionally shown in shadowy profile, channelling his inner Flea, the big question there being “Where in the hell did a First Nations fellow in the late 1800s find an electric bass?”)

Whatever. As with most No Doubt videos, everyone’s too busy staring at Stefani to notice those three other guys anyway. And by the first couple of frames of “Looking Hot”, it’s obvious why the band decided to go the tobacco-stained-crackers and indigenous-peoples route, namely because it gave Stefani the chance to play dress-up—dress-up in a fashion that makes you thank Chief Joseph that No Doubt didn’t go with its original plan of setting the video on a muddy pig farm in rural Kazakhstan. When you’ve got a legitimate Betty at your disposal, you don’t black out half her teeth, throw a grease-stained head scarf on her, and wrap her in a mangy yak overcoat.

What we get instead is Stefani looking hotter than Pokahotass in Lap Dances With Wolves. The trouble, apparently, is that we’ve got a white woman dressed up in traditional First Nations garb, including a sexy feathered headdress, fringed ghost-bear-white pants, haute-frontier-couture bracelets, and a crimson pyjama ensemble that would give Wild Bill Hickok an erection.

And who are we rooting for in “Looking Hot”? Here’s a hint: it’s not the stinking white man, which is to say everyone goes home happy when the Indian (played by the South Asian Kanal) throws a tomahawk and cuts a rope that metaphorically frees the white indigenous woman from honky town.

Despite all this, No Doubt was in an uncomfortable position this week. Some First Nations members—no one has actually come out and said who—got upset at the group pretending to be Indians. As a result, the band quickly did a mea culpa, willingly pulling the video from all the places that play music videos these days, which is to say YouTube and Vimeo. It also apologized for “Looking Hot” on its website with: “Although we consulted with Native American friends and Native American studies experts at the University of California, we realize now that we have offended people.”

To that, it’s hard not to say “What the fuck?” The message here is pretty simple: the First Nations folks are completely and outrageously hot, while the filthy fucking ghostfaces are a bunch of drunken assholes. More to the point, Stefani isn’t pretending to be anything other than a white chick playing dress-up; it’s not like she painted herself Ralph Lauren Buffalo Blood Red for the shoot.

If you want to get offended about something, people, might we suggest the Red Hot Chili Peppers pretending to be members of the Silver Surfer tribe in “Give It Away”? Everyone knows those motherfuckers don’t know shit about either Galactus or the long-struggling people of Zenn-La. Someone call the PC police.

Follow Mike Usinger on the Tweeter at twitter.com/MikeUsinger.

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26 Comments

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A. MacInnis

Nov 8, 2012 at 2:19am

Betsy, I have no clue how to leave this comment on your site, but - ASIDE from the issue that white people appropriate culture from a position of power, you might want to consider that cultural appropriation, "dress-up" and so forth are common all over the world; they're not exclusively crimes of the white race. In Japan, I saw, among other things, Japanese kids with their hair dyed blonde, driving around Tokyo in imported American station wagons in imitation of California surf culture (I never determined if they were actual surfers or just liked the fashion); Japanese kids who had darkened their skin (not clear if it was by tanning or other means) and gotten their hair kinked or Afro'd to appear more black, and/or who were dressing in imitation of (black) American hip-hop artists, sporting bling and big baggy coats; Japanese reggae bands, playing with the idiom and iconography of Jamaican culture and/ or Rastafarianism (some are really good - check out Dry and Heavy); Japanese kids adopting the fashion of western punk, skankin' it up to Joe Strummer while wearing porkpie hats; the famous Yoyogi park greaser guys, dancing in their leather to American rockabilly; and so forth. These appropriations are, as you say, partial - these kids are only taking what they like from their source cultures - and are often based in misunderstandings and fantasy versions of the international other they're imitating; these kids are lacking any real understanding of the lived experience of the people they're imitating or the forms they're recontextualizing. One wannabe gangsta kid in the school I taught at kept doing graffiti of the word "clips" on his desk; it took me awhile to figure out what he was up to. If he learned one thing from me - and really, I think that's about all he DID learn - it was how to spell "Cripps."

...So do you mean to imply that these Japanese kids should not do such things - borrow and play with the surfaces of cultures other than their own? That there's something fundamentally wrong with such moves? ...Or are these things only a problem when white people do them?

Because if you're willing to concede that there's a place for cultural appropriations and cross-fertilizations when Japanese people appropriate aspects of western culture, can it not be that SOME of the same things are driving white youth in appropriating aspects of Japanese culture? Maybe the boundaries of separate cultures are actually more fluid than you're conceding, eh? Maybe cross-fertilizations can produce new, vibrant culture, even if they began in appropriations? (I'm particularly a fan of Jewish reggae - some of which is also very good - because we see Jews RE-appropriating some of the terminology that the Rastas appropriated from THEM in the first place... back and forth it goes...).

By the way, I'm not actually writing this in defence of Mike's article or the No Doubt video, which I haven't seen. I can see it being offensive, particularly given the actual historical reality of the genocide of First Nations people, and the long history of white appropriations of First Nations culture - because stuff like this has been going on basically since we started stealing the continent. I'm mostly just responding to your weblink, where you sound a bit, err, strident, puritanical, and humourless... Maybe I've got you wrong, tho'.

Outside Looking In

Nov 8, 2012 at 3:58pm

Since in the real America the "cowboys" and the "Indians" were the same race and species and originating from different historical periods, much like Washington and Geronimo, and Howard Hughes and Burt Reynolds, and Americans don't come in Persian or asian or negro, but white or red or tan, this explains some military intelligence behind the democracy of electing Obama post 9/11, especially in the military intelligence superpower nation of America which isn't actually even a democracy, in case you didn't know. Ka-ching!! Ms. Stefani and company sound to be someones government workpiece, or shall we say blunt instrument, musical pun intended or not. Whether it's the bad guys or someone on the side of our allies, I cannot be entirely certain. Either way, it's LOOKING HOT!!

Nyla

Nov 9, 2012 at 10:11pm

I'm glad No Doubt had the sense to pull the video, it shouldn't have been made in the first place. I'm one of those First Nations you mentioned and there was more then some, there was a lot from various different First Nations across Canada and the United States. It's no longer the 50's or 60's or even the glam 70's anymore.

It's about time First Nations reclaimed their own image, not all of us live in teepees, or ride horses, it wasn't common for women to wear headdresses since it was the men who were warriors and had earned them. So for No Doubt to continue to sexualize (as you clearly pointed out that's all you noticed) the image of Natives causes more damage then good.

I also happen to be an Aboriginal woman, I happen to be the 1 in 3 that have gotten sexually assaulted so not I don't think the video or your view is correct. It's unhealthy and damaging. Here is an article that I hope will help you understand why A LOT of different nations among First Nations are speaking out against this kind of dress up.
http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-i...
This is also a good link to a blog that speaks about this:
http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.ca/2012/11/guess-we-can-add-victori...

I hope that you have a better understanding
Thank you

Larissa

Nov 9, 2012 at 10:39pm

This in nothing but racism and misogyny all over the place.
A. MacInnis, you are ignorant almost beyond belief.

marie wood

Nov 9, 2012 at 11:03pm

i have to say , That article on No Doubt sucked and was hugley offensive That No Doubt video and song were horrible and distasteful and complete garbage. That is certainly not the no doubt i was used too in the old days. I had hoped we were done with all this sexism and exploiting women and others in the 90's when we were rid of hair metal...why are we going backwards?????...somebody needs to pull a nirvana again and rid us of this crap they are calling music.

A. MacInnis

Nov 10, 2012 at 9:50am

How's that, Larissa? Read my last paragraph. Once again, I'm not talking about the No Doubt video, or Mike's article. I'm speaking to the OP, Betsy, and talking about Betsy's website, devoted to PC finger-wagging about westerners appropriating Japanese culture... which doesn't really work for me, given how much energy the Japanese invest in appropriating the west. I would have put my comment THERE, on her website, ideally, but couldn't find the "comment" button on her site...

B. Real

Nov 10, 2012 at 3:08pm

Of course as soon as something involves First Nations they have no right to feel slighted. It's a new era, get over yourselves white people. It's no different than black face. History is rearing it's ugly head so get used to it

David Bloom

Nov 11, 2012 at 1:10pm

Mike Usinger's ignorant rant demonstrates exactly the kind of self-absorbed privilege that offended First Nations people about this video in the first place.

What, aboriginals shouldn't be offended by sexualized appropriation because it made them look hot? Grow up.

Paulo Ribeiro

Nov 11, 2012 at 1:56pm

Mike, You really are out of line. You really must have no idea what is happening to aboriginal women all over North America, you really must be totally oblivious to how this kind of imagery is not only offensive, it is actually harmful. Are you aware of what's happened in the past? Do you have any idea what's going on now? Do you have any idea of how frequently aboriginal women are preyed upon? Not just somewhere out there, but here, right here in this city, in Vancouver. Do you have any idea? You're supposed to be educated. Go learn something about it.
This isn't about political correctness, it's about not acting like an asshole, which I'm sure you're not. But you do come across as one.
No Doubt should have known this too but at least they recanted.
You should too.

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