The Ever-Problematic “Hymn For The Weekend”

Oh Beyonce. Never thought you would disappoint me like this. Politically unaware white folk like the members of Coldplay, I can see committing cultural appropriation but Beyonce??? Why, God why! I guess it goes to show, defending one culture doesn’t make you a social justice expert/ responsible human for ALL cultures. tsk tsk.

There are many representation issues with this video.
*But before I explain, please do not be the ten millionth person to call an Indian person “butthurt because this wasn’t as bad as Slumdog Millionaire or Apu from The Simpsons or the Ashton Kutcher popchips debacle or Raj from Big Bang Theory” or literally any other poorly represented version of Indians in media because it is these “not noticeable to white folks but clearly offensive to POC” issues that are more insidious and harder to extricate from pop culture. Also do not tell me to be happy because India is finally being shown in a positive light because that is ALL it has going for it in this video.
Right off the bat, the video has no plot. The fact that it is based in Mumbai is not at all relevant to the lyrics or the storyline (which there isnt) . Instead it is a string of randomly juxtaposed tropes whenever India is represented in White media; the Hindu priests walking in ruins of a temple / other Hindu representation taken completely out of context, cut to a scene of Beyonce dressed in attire that looks vaguely Indian (there are literally hundreds of different styles that each have their own significance and depend on context) and Beyonce’s scenes are alternated with these priests suggesting she is also some sort of religious power which is inappropriate already. We cut to a scene of kids throwing color on each other (with no indication to the sacred annual festival of Holi which is the only time colors are thrown for which there is an 8000 year old significance/ history and religiously tied story), cut to a scene where Beyonce is backed by a kaleidoscopic background (which literally has no basis in India ever, and is tied to western Hippy culture which is Indian appropriation at its finest) and she is wearing mehndi on her hands which is also, again, not her culture and she clearly does not know the significance/ context of henna and the whole thing feels like a costume and not an identity which billions of Indian women actually have. Finally Beyonce continues to perform in a floral kaleidoscope background (again, none of those things have to do with Indian culture, more reminiscent of an EDM scene/hippy culture) and the last scene is Beyonce gesturing a namaste to camera.
The icing on the cake is the lyrics: repeated over the scenes of slow motion Holi, vaguely Indian music, kaleidoscopic effects, hazy floral scenes and underlying themes of Hinduism are the words “I’m feeling drunk and high, so high” over and over again. This entire video feels like a drug trip and almost all the commonly used tropes I just mentioned were also used in Major Lazer’s Lean On video, Iggy Azalea’s Bounce video, and numerous representations of Bollywood/Indian Culture in western media. Coming back to the point about this video having no plot or reason to have an Indian theme, it is clear that is exactly the role of India in this video; a theme. a costume. Something pretty to draw in viewers and then move on never understanding the weight of the culture you just used at your convenience. I would be hard pressed to find a time when the members of Coldplay or Beyonce wished us Happy Holi, or if they even know what it is despite doing a whole video on it. Or if these artists ever spoke out about the recent Chennai floods that left hundreds deads and thousands without homes. Not being explicitly racist is not something to be complacent about and it is not enough. This is not about being butthurt, or nitpicky or overly offended, this is about how time and time again in western media, Indian culture is cool but Indian issues are not.

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