Margaret Cho's not laughing about Gwen's Harajuku Girls

162052__gs_lDo the Harajuku Girls who accompany Gwen Stefani in her videos and public appearances cross a line into offensive territory? Margaret Cho thinks so. Well, sort of. ”I want to like them, and I want to think they are great, but I am not sure if I can,” the comedian writes in her blog. In Cho’s mind, ”a Japanese schoolgirl uniform is kind of like blackface,” but on the other hand, given how few high-profile Asian Americans there are in mainstream pop culture, she argues ”at least it is a measure of visibility, which is much better than invisibility.”

Lest Cho lose heart, however, today’s TV Tattle links to an article in that cites a surge of Korean American actors on network TV, including roles on Lost, Kitchen Confidential, Grey’s Anatomy, and several midseason series. With such an encouraging trend emerging, perhaps the always hilarious Cho won’t have to ”settle for following any white person around with an umbrella just so I could say I was there.”

What do you think? Does Cho have a valid argument? And if Stefani sang about her desire to have enough money to possess, dress, and name four adult black women, or Jewish women, or lesbians, would she be facing a greater public outcry?

addCredit(“Gwen Stefani and the Harajuku girls: Kevin Mazur/WireImage”)


Comments (55 total) Add your comment
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  • Shana

    Remember, she stole a song originally performed by an old, Jewish man in a Broadway musical about Jewish ghetto life in Eastern Europe (If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof)for this album, as well as the Japanese schoolgirl posse. I found the song annoying because she IS, in fact, a VERY rich girl!

    • Mimi

      Actually that is incorrect, Rich girl was a cover she did by Louchie Lou & Michie One- “Rich Girl” a 90’s reggae song. But besides that, regardless of race these girls are paid backup dancers, since when does any background dancers really have a voice? Their main job is to make the artist look good, and in this case promote the Japanese Harajuku fashion that she became inspired by and tries to make marketable in America. They actually DID have a little segment I saw on youtube once introducing them all. It still isn’t right to use people as props period- look at Nicki Minaj using a pope dress alike as if he were a handbag to go with her outfit.

  • EP Sato

    Well, if Gwen had a back up band of hot Asian women (think the 5,6,7,8’s but with talent) it would be a lot more okay.
    But somehow, I keep imagining Gwen on some wooden block,inspecting the teeth on these women and such, saying “this one is good, this one is not so good”, etc. If her posse was made up of several young teenagers from Africa who she dressed up in rags and never let speak, I am sure a few people would be pretty upset…

  • miv

    i think it’s a bit ridiculous to compare it to blackface! for her it was about a style movement she saw in japan and embraced it and tried to make it mainstream. i’m not a fan, purely because i think the first couple of times i saw it, it was cute. the 2nd million times i saw her with her crew was just tired.

  • B

    I didn’t mind them, but they are gettng tired. Throw them a blanket and pillow. However, I don’t see what’s so different from her carting around a posse of general stereotypes when many rappers and R&B artists have scads of entourage with them that embrace a different stereotype or fashion ethos.

  • Isabel

    It is very offensive; she treats these girls like they are her pets…The just follow her around and strike poses without speaking or deciding what they can wear or how they can act. Paris Hilton treats her dogs better than Gwen treats these girls

  • HumanityCritic

    I can see why Margeret feels funny about that..

  • B

    Yes, Isabel… these women do not have voices, but is their lack of a voice (as a paid model/companion) any different from models on a runway promoting fashion, which is what Gwen is all about anyway… fashion instead of substance?

  • Liza

    I’ve never liked Gwen’s “girls”, especially when she appeared on TRL and said that she was surprised everyone else could see them and how she was sure she just imagined them. They are real people and even though they are capable backup dancers/singers, they are treated like photo props most of the time. I never really noticed the race thing, they are supposed to be Japanese Harajuku girls after all but it does seem offensive. By the way, I am a hispanic girl. And, If I saw a white artist with 4 hispanic girls following them around, not speaking and wearing color matching and reavealing clothing I would be really disgusted.

  • brandonk

    I don’t know if Gwen should be criticized all that much for the Harajuku girls’ style, although I’m sure she dictates a lot of what goes on. Still, Margaret’s thing about schoolgirl dress being like blackface is silly, since the Japanese girls are the ones who started wearing that sort of thing themselves. Gwen just picked up on it and incorporated it into her act.

  • Keith

    What’s offensive is that she has these girls’ (the Gwenihana Four only purpose is to perpetuate stereotypes of Asian women as voiceless, subservient (the upcoming movie based on Arthur Golden Geisha fantasies isn’t going to help debunk these stereotypes either) and exotic.
    It has been reported that these girls are actually either Asian American or speak fluent English but are contractually obligated to stay silent. Also, her lyrics actually discuss taking home Harajuku Girls and giving them names! As if they were less than human, which is the whole problem to begin with.
    I have absolutely no qualms with Cho comparing the Harajuku minstrel act to blackface. Race in America has always been more than black vs. white. Because racial dialogues rarely include Asian Americans, any injustice that happens against an Asian person is dismissed. The way that Harajuku girls are portrayed TODAY (and a lot of Asians for that matter. Didn’t anyone watch “Without a Trace” the other night? Sheesh) is exactly how African Americans were portrayed by Hollywood 70 years ago. A minstrel act is still a minstrel act.

  • Cara

    At this point it’s just boring – enough already. Unfortunately for Gwen, she is the type of ‘artist’ who needs a gimmick instead of being able to rely on her music.

  • To keith

    the link didn’t work, unfortunately, because i didn’t realize some of the things you wrote and wanted to read more about them.

  • To Cara

    “Race in America has always been more than black vs. white.”
    I’m glad that more Asians are stepping up and wanting to be heard now.. but DO NOT COMPARE THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE TO THAT OF THE ASIAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Its not even close. Loook I’m gonna have to use the card .. as a matter of fact its called the Slavery Card. You may not want me to mention is but its there .. you can’t escape it. Attempts to try to equate (insert minority group here) historical experince is the same as the african americans experience is well kind of questionable.

  • JrsyGrl

    Keith’s link doesn’t work because it has the second parantheses included in the link. Try this…

  • Keith

    I never said the Asian American experience was exactly like the African American experience. Though ALL people of color have faced their own form of struggle throughout the history of America.
    However, to say that other peoples of color did not see similar acts of injustice and opression is still seeing race in America as solely black and white. Visit a reservation. Read about the building of the TransContinental Railroad.
    So while I am NOT equating the Asian American struggle with slavery, I AM saying, however, that the portrayal of Asians in the mainstream media in 2005 is exactly how African Americans were portrayed in 1935. This is the point of Cho’s original blog. There are millions of Asian Americans; yet, the only time they are ever seen are in subservient, stereotypical portrayals. Stefani’s Harajuku Girls is just another example of a LONG tradition in American pop culture.
    The Salon article is up. Try accessing via this link:

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