WTF. That's really the only natural reaction to Day Above Ground's music video for "Asian Girlz." This week, the little-known American rock band posted the video to YouTube, and it's quickly turning into viral gold. And not in a good way. All we can say is that it takes offensiveness to a whole new level.
Actually, that's not true — there's so much more we can say about this video, even though it may not even be necessary. As you've probably noticed if you watched the video (below), "Asian Girlz" plays on every imaginable stereotype about Asian culture: "I love your sticky rice," "Ninja p***y," "I've got your green tea boba," "Yeah, shark soup (What? F**k it, we'll eat it)," "Superstitious feng shui s**t, "Best nails in the city," etc. etc. etc. (At this point, we still haven't even begun to skim the surface of this song's offensive lyrics. For a more complete rundown, check out this blog post.) Toward the end of the song, the lyrics forgo all attempts to even form sentences, instead devolving into a straight-up list of cheap clichés, from "Bruce Lee" to "Toyoto" to "Fried Lice."
Then, beyond the lyrics, there's the visual content of the video. The sight of an Asian woman stripping and dancing for a group of white men in a cage is a disturbing display of othering and fetishism. Also, if they're going to make this a video about one single Asian woman, they can't apply their wide array of stereotypes from different Asian clutures to her. China, Japan, Korea, and the host of other nations that make up the continent of Asia are all completely different countries with their own distinct cultures and traditions (this should really go without saying, but alas). And it just so happens that while Day Above Ground is singing about the Chinese Zodiac and spicy tuna, the model dancing in the video is actually Vietnamese-American.
Even without the stereotypes and cultural insensitivity, the whole premise of this song is problematic. "You're my Asian girl/she's my Asian girl" objectifies an entire population of women, implying that they are all essentially the same and that their most defining feature is their ethnicity. And don't even get us started about the opening melody, the karaoke scenes, and the line, "so baby marry me/come sit on my lap/or we'll send you back." Seriously, even the font for this video is racist.
And what's more is that the song is also extremely misogynistic — a fact that probably gets overshadowed by its over-the-top display of racism (it's truly remarkable that this isn't parody). But let's not forget the "girlz" in "Asian Girlz." Lines like "Bitch, I love you," the threat to "send you back," and all of the gratuitous, unreciprocated nudity pretty much embody everything that's wrong with female objectification and sexism. Some have pointed out that at least the woman in the video isn't in the cage. Is that the only good thing we can say about this music video? At least the half-naked dancing woman is not inside the cage? It really doesn't matter that she's large and outside the cage if the rest of the population of the fantasy world of this video is small and inside it. It's like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman all over again.
When Day Above Ground initially posted the video on Sunday, they included this message:
"This song is us, Day Above Ground, making fun of ourselves (and many, many other guys) obsession with the always lovely, Asian Woman. It pushes this concept to an absurd level, but at the same time is endearing & submissive.. WE ARE NOT RACIST, HAHA! I mean, look at our band, it's multicultural!! The guy in the bow-tie, our cutie bass player, was born in Indonesia, and he steals the show!! Please don't take this tongue-in-cheek tribute to some of the most gorgeous women on the planet too seriously!! You'll ruin the fun of it all!! Thanks for watching, sincerely!!"
Amidst the initial barrage of criticism, the band quickly removed the video and then re-posted it on Monday with a more professional (i.e. lacking in exclamation points, all-caps, and other middle school text message grammar) statement:
"We appreciate all the criticism and support. Our song "Asian Girlz" was not written with any malicious, hateful, or hurtful intent. We know it is racy and does push the boundaries further than other songs out there. Understand that we do not promote or support racism or violence. We love everyone no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation. Please respect our decision to delete any violent, insensitive, or hurtful comment and also one that supports racism. We hope that we can continue with our lives with much love and peace."
Nice try, guys, but it's a little too late for your attempts at damage control and pleas for your safety. But what is it that really makes this video so horrible? Is it the incorrect spelling of "girls"? The band's questionable decision to have two lead singers? That one guy's frosted tips? The fact that the whole thing is so disgusting? Yep, that might be it. Oh, and musically, it really hurts our ears. It's just a bad song all around.
But then again, maybe the fact that it's not a good song and has no chance of reaching airwaves is a blessing in disguise. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," while certainly nowhere near the sheer scale of this tune's offensiveness, is a highly problematic song, and it also happens to be a chart-topping hit.
Why does this exist? Can it go away like those racist Big Brother contestants? Oh wait, they're still on the show. Super.