The head-scratching collaboration of Coldplay and Beyonce released the music video for "Hymn For The Weekend" on Friday, and it broke the internet in all the wrong ways. The admittedly captivating video features frontman Chris Martin exploring the beauty of India and the band rocking out with locals while being pelted with color powders used in the Indian celebration of Holi. Queen B appears in interwoven vignettes as a Bollywood star dancing in front of wall of flowers in traditional Indian attire and with henna and headpieces.
The video's premise, especially Beyonce's attire and choreography, instantly sparked an online debate of whether or not Coldplay and Beyonce appropriated Indian culture.
Cultural appropriation is essentially a dominant culture "borrowing" customs, attire and histories from minorities often for profit, according to RaceRelations.About.com. A modern day example would be Miley Cyrus co-opting the twerk at her infamous 2013 VMA performance--a dance that was popular in the '90s party scene long before she was born and has centuries old roots in West African culture.
The social media response to the video was instant, decisive and incredibly varied...
If you discount the rabid passion from the Beyhive who will never speak ill of their queen, the fact that there's even a debate is because Beyonce is a black woman. There is an unspoken "we're in this together" mentality between people of color. While the #OscarsSoWhite controversy focuses more on the lack of representation of black people on the big screen, it also sheds light on even the absence of other races and cultures.
And if you go back to the definition of cultural appropriation, it's about one larger culture borrowing from a smaller one. Therefore, Beyonce capitalizing on Indian fashions and choreography could be just as appropriative of Coldplay using India as a backdrop for their ethereal video. Or Katy Perry dressing as African pharaoh Cleopatra in her "Dark Horse" video.
Conversely, the "Hymn For The Weekend" video embraces India and its residents. Directed by Ben Mor (who is Indian) and shot in Mumbai, it also features Indian actress Sonam Kapoor as well as local extras. Mor explained he wanted envisioned at video that captured the beautiful spirit of India. “Filming this video in India was a dream come true. Consider this video a love letter to India and to the beautiful people of Mumbai, Delhi and especially the residents of Worli Village," Mor told BlackDogFilms.com. Mor also explained that Beyonce's team came up with at least 20 "incredible wardrobe pieces" for the shoot, though they only needed two.
One could ask why didn't Beyonce wear Bollywood inspired ensemble instead of traditional garbs which essentially turns another cultural into a costume? But how does one celebrate other cultures without appropriating them? (See Michael Jackon's "Black Or White" video in which he highlighted different cultures without turning them into a gimmick). And how can we be free and expressive with art if there are so many limitations on it?
These are questions the entertainment industry will be forced to answer going forward, because they are under attack for its lack of quality representation from the very people who consume and fund it. If anything, "Hymn For The Weekend" has stoked the conversation about proper and quality representation of minority cultures, and as also created quite a buzz for Coldplay ahead of their Super Bowl 50 performance on February 7, where Beyonce is rumored to perform.
What do you think? Watch the video and respond below!