This week I have finally joined the legion of Beliebers. It turns out millions of pre-pubescent girls can’t be wrong. His catchy beats and simple, but effective lyrics, “my mamma don’t like you and she likes everyone,” (BUUUUURN!) are impossible to deny. Also, the kid really can sing and he’s pretty easy on the eyes, even if these old-ass eyes still see him as a child.
In addition to making these impossibly catchy tunes, he’s also making some epic videos, most notably the one that features him for absolutely none of it. I love this whole fucking 3 minutes and 25 seconds. The dancers in Bieber’s Sorry, choreographed by the insanely talented Parris Goebel, are incredible. The sassiness of the moves, the sexiness of the attitudes and the lack of fucks given for the sentiment of the song makes this is big hit with me. However, after watching it for the 300th time it occurred to me that as fierce as all these ladies are, none of them are fierce and black.
Look, before you dive on me like we’re in the Comments section of Jezebel.com, my issue with the lack of diversity in the dancers is due largely to the fact that the moves these chicks are busting out are ripped straight out of the dancehall and none of those chicks are likely to be Dancehall Queens. Here is my question, when does it stop being appreciation and become appropriation and why are we so quick to accuse white women, but not men of this behaviour?
From Kylie’s cornrows to Native American Headdresses at Cochella and Glasto it seems that there is little one can do these days to avoid offending someone and being accused of appropriation. So I find it suspect that while white ladies like Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus get called out for appropriating black culture in their videos, Justin appears to have gotten off without so much as a cocked eyebrow.
Articles praising this video are abundant. The idea that it’s empowering, due to the lack of penis and that it seems to be one big, sexy dance party are ideas I can get behind. However, you can’t deny that there is something missing when you watch these ladies drop, wine and butterfly. These dance moves are deeply ingrained in Caribbean culture and to exclude women who represent this culture is irresponsible.
The dancers in the video are Kiwi choreographer, Goebel’s crew. According to Rolling Stone, the mastermind of the video hasn’t even met Bieber. “They asked me to create the video, I made it, I sent it to them, and they loved it. They just posted it.” This is giving a whole hell of a lot of control to someone who isn’t even associated with the artist. It also essentially means that Bieber’s hands are clean, but I still expect more from someone whose fans cross all cultures. There must have been a moment that the man himself saw this visual representation of his music before the whole world did. Why not ask to add a few more dancers?
Bieber has long been a respected artist in the R&B community. So much so that since 2010 he’s been nominated for and won multiple BET (Black Entertainment Television) awards. I’m happy to give Bieber credit for representing women of different shapes, sizes and ethnicities in this delightful romp of a video, but I won’t be patting him on the back too hard just yet because I think this oversight is lazy.
Time and time again white women are called out for wanting to “steal” the best parts of a culture, but then not be prepared to align themselves with said culture’s agendas. Us white vaginas are also painted as being insensitive to other cultures’ struggles and I get it, our privilege does occasionally get in the way and we fail to see how our often good intentions are actually offensive. Well I’m calling out a double standard here.
If Miley and Taylor are unable to borrow from black culture and twerk without criticism, why is Bieber and his bevy of dancing beauties excluded from this kind of fallout? It’s great to celebrate different cultures, but on this occasion I need to point out a bit of theft, no matter how petty some people may feel it is. #Sorry.