Cultural appropriation or appreciation?


Screenshot| YouTube

Screenshot of “Hymn for the Weekend” video by Coldplay and Beyonce.

Recent controversy regarding the latest Coldplay and Beyoncé collaboration in “Hymn for the Weekend” sparked Internet outrage after the single debuted Sunday.

Released before the group’s joint-Superbowl performance with Queen Bey, claims of cultural appropriation surfaced immediately after Beyoncé entered the scene sporting traditional henna and a sari.

The music video, filmed in India, has been accused of highlighting only a portion of Indian culture, which perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes of never-ending street dancing, Holi celebrations and vibrant cityscapes.

Twitter user Atiya Hassan shared her disappointment on social media following the release: “So upset by Coldplay using my culture as a prop for their music video. India isn’t just street kids and exotic women,” Hassan tweeted, hashtagging #HymnForTheWeekend.

Others, like Jessica Campbell, took to the comments sections of sites such as “The Root” to question the intent of the video.

“Why are they wearing t-shirts and jeans and [Beyonce] had on this elaborate costume?” Campbell asked. 

Campbell makes a valid point: the members of Coldplay are dressed in simple t-shirts colored by the colored powders of the video’s endless Holi celebration.

Shehnaz Khan, a writer for The Huffington Post, responded to define the boundaries between appropriation and appreciation. “Nowadays it is impossible not to borrow something along the lines, hence why globalization even exists, but, most times people don’t borrow; they steal,” Khan said.

Khan defended the artistic value of the cinematography and the message. “For starters, how can Beyoncé, a black woman, appropriate another culture, which faces the same amount of daily discrimination and prejudice as HERS?” Khan said. “The main point is, in this instance appropriation is void, as she is playing a Bollywood actress, therefore in my opinion it does not apply.”

There’s a valid argument to make on both sides. It would be impossible to capture the essence of true Indian culture in a four-minute video between shots of Chris Martin and Queen Bey, but this certainly has potential to appropriate portions of the culture.

Beyoncé portrays a Bollywood actress and she embraces the exotic Hindi beauty and wears it well and respectfully. Beyoncé appreciates the culture and brings it to life—not to mention she owns the screen while doing so.

Coincidentally, “Hymn for the Weekend” sits in the number one spot on Indian iTunes charts. Even The Times of India has come to defend the “rani”— or “queen” in Hindi.