An Israeli singer is being accused of appropriating Japanese culture for wearing a kimono onstage.
On Saturday, Netta Barzilai was declared the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest during the annual international competition show’s 63rd broadcast (Conchita Wurst is perhaps the show’s most memorable winner in recent memory), after singing her original hit “Toy” onstage in Lisbon, Portugal.
While the lyrics, which referenced themes such as bullying, the #MeToo movement, and female empowerment, were positively reviewed on social media, other aspects of her performance were not.
In particular, critics called out the 25-year-old’s outfit, which included a pink, red, and black robe and her her hair styled in two high buns. She also rocked a pink smoky eye and exaggerated eyeliner all while doing the chicken dance in front of walls decorated with gold waving cats, which symbolize good luck in Japanese culture.
Online critics called the references to Japanese culture “disrespectful” and people aren’t pleased with her references for what seems like entertainment’s sake, since her song had nothing to do with Japan — aside from a mention of “taking my Pikachu home.” According to The Independent, Barzilai is a noted fan with Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff, and Snorlax being her favorite characters.
Twitter users had a lot to say.
— Stanners (@cheesecakebase) May 12, 2018
— Rosy (@Rosy_Jayne) May 12, 2018
— Zing Tsjeng (@misszing) May 12, 2018
When did it become appropriate to culturally acquire Japanese culture and turn it into a caricature? #Eurovision #Israel Bit disrespectful? What would happen if someone else reduced #Israel to the equivalent of waving a Pikachu around…
— Gar Sin Chong (@TwoShotEspresso) May 12, 2018
how to win #Eurovision
dress up like you're asian
sing in english
imitate a chicken
be none of the above
— jp (@cracked_skye) May 12, 2018
It should be noted that some did come to Barzilai’s defense.
— Luisa Lyons (@luisalyons) May 12, 2018
I'm just going to say this: I voted for Netta; it's a great song by a geeky girl. And unusual. I didn't see any cultural appropriation – if you did, fine. I didn't and I voted for the song. It's a music competition! #Eurovision
— Innocent Loverboy (@innocentlb) May 12, 2018
Its not cultural appropriation as long as it is done with admiration of the culture. Netta has said that she chose this theme because it is something that she really loves a lot and she wants to promote it. Context matters!
— bobertoflop (@robertitoAnM) May 13, 2018
Her most notable supporter’s seemingly Gal Gadot, who shared a clip from the show on Instagram. The Israeli actress wrote in the caption, “Yay!!!!!! I’m so happy for Netta!! Congratulations on winning eurovision 2018..!” Gal Gadot wrote on Instagram. “You represent the real wonder in women. So much Truth, confidence and talent. You stand for diversity and you bring fresh beautiful light to the world.and thank you all for voting!!! X.”
In a video for CNN, Barzilai said, “Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for choosing different. Thank you for choosing daring. I love you, keep that going. Do good to others, be good to yourselves.” She has yet to respond to the controversy.
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