A lot of the time, discussions about diversity, racial equality, and pop culture can be disheartening. A quick look at Racebending or Racialicious is a good reminder of how far we still have to go when it comes to respecting all cultures, especially in the media. But sometimes, good things happen. People and companies take steps forward. And when that happens, we should talk about it. It’s nice to be able to talk about what people are doing right instead of what they’ve done wrong.
With that in mind, I wanted to share this nice story from the Native Appropriations blog. To make a long story short, the company Paul Frank held a “Dream Catchin’ Pow Wow” party in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for Fashion’s Night Out, with a “Neon-Native American Pow Wow theme” complete with plastic tomahawks, feather headdresses, and a drink called the “Rain Dance Refresher.” On her blog, Adrienne wrote up a post about why the party was so offensive to Native Americans and several others wrote, tweeted, posted, or spoke about it as well.
This story could have had the same sad ending many others have: a half-hearted corporate apology but no real change. Instead, Adrienne got a phone call with the president of Paul Frank Industries, Elie Dekel, so they could discuss what went wrong and how to do better in the future. The company outlined several steps they would be taking to right the wrong, including removing Native-inspired designs from their digital/online imprint, working with a Native artist to make new designs, and collaborating with Adrienne and Beyond Buckskin blogger Jessica Metcalfe on a panel about the use of Native imagery in the fashion industry. You can see more about Paul Frank’s plans here.
It’s really nice to see a conversation about the appropriation of Native culture have such a positive outcome. Congratulations to Adrienne, and kudos to Paul Frank for stepping up, apologizing, and earnestly looking for a way to do better.
In other positive news, check out this handsome guy who was cast as Magnus in the upcoming Mortal Instruments movie based on the YA novel by Cassandra Clare:
In this Tumblr post, Clare describes why she was adamant that Magnus be cast as Asian. So many characters of color have been whitewashed in the book-to-movie transition; I’m glad to see that Magnus isn’t one of them.
3 thoughts on “Happy Friday, Happy Developments”
Wow. Thanks for bringing this story to our attention. I teared up reading the Native Appropriations blog.
Holy crap, Godfrey Gao is not hard to look at is he? I think the paul frank thing is a positive development. I hate to see cultural segregation in the arts and in business. It is good and right that there is Native imagery or influence in “mainstream” fashion and media, or Asian or African imagery. It just has to be done tastefully, sensitively and in consultation with people who know something about it.
@Michelle: I definitely teared up a little too. It’s just so nice to see this kind of story have a happy ending!
@Gsprendergast: Agreed. I’m hopeful that the “in consultation with people who know something about it” part will happen more in the future. And re: Godfrey Gao, all I can say is YES.
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