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Miranda Kerr’s photo shoot for Vogue Japan stirs up controversy

42 Comments
By Krista Rogers

Geisha, samurai, manga. Those are the three themes that Peruvian photographer Mario Testino used in his recent photo shoot with Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr for the special 15th anniversary November issue of Vogue Japan. While Kerr is no stranger to Japanese television commercials (need laundry detergent, anyone?), her recent photos have been stirring up controversy due to the vaguely ethnic-looking style of the fashion used in the shoot.

Take a look at the photos below and then decide for yourself what’s going on here – is it cultural appropriation, or cultural appreciation?

About a week ago, the 31-year-old Australian beauty uploaded three photos from her photo shoot for Vogue Japan to her Instagram account. Testino is best known for his work on a 1997 photo shoot of Princess Diana of Wales, as part of a special spread to celebrate the magazine’s 15th anniversary. In the accompanying interview, Kerr also talks about the reasons for her success as a model and a number of beauty secrets.

Despite her unmistakable good looks and popularity in Japan, some Internet users were upset by the apparent cultural appropriation taking place in the photos. Others were angered by the fact that the magazine didn’t choose a Japanese model to pose for the 15th anniversary issue of its Japanese-language version, instead electing to dress a foreigner up in a rather strange series of "Japan-inspired" outfits.

According to Testino, “I wanted to represent ancient and modern Japan with these three characters. Japan has geisha and samurai, as well as manga, and I hoped to express these themes through Miranda to the Japanese people.”

Personally, the whole situation reminds me of the backlash after Katy Perry’s "garbled Chinese-Japanese fusion geisha-style" performance (for lack of a better term) at the American Music Awards last year.

Vogue Japan is one of the pricier (and decidedly heavier) fashion magazines on the market. It goes on sale on the 27th of every month with a cover price of 700 yen per issue.

Source: Naver Matome

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42 Comments
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Controversy with who?

Haven't seen any Japanese people complaining about it.. just other people assuming they know what people might think.

I hope they had someone on hand who knows about Kimono to make sure there wasn't any particularly bad misinterpretations of any particular part of the style.

Miranda Kerr is a fairly regular feature of interviews and advertising in Japan.. she isn't entirely disconnected.. I would be surprised if anyone is particularly bothered.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Much ado about nothing.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Katy Perry also went Egyptian in a music video.

Professional activists need to keep the melting pot hot.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

And?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The pics are tastefully done. Its no Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffanys or Japanese comedians doing white face with absurd enormous prosthetic noses.

Why can't someone who's not of that culture where its traditional dress if they think its beautiful (kimono)? Or they think its fun (cowboy hat and boots)? Or for cringe worthy tourist photo-ops (those stands at tourist sites where you can put on a wig or robe that reflects that areas culture)?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Photography is a form of art and just like any practitioner of any artistic field, a photographer consistently utilize artistic license as he/she sees fit.

Artistic license is entirely at the artist's discretion. It is intended to be tolerated by the viewer by a willing suspension of disbelief. It is useful for filling in gaps, whether they be factual, compositional, historical or other gaps. And it is used consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally or in tandem.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Who cares?

Absolute non-issue.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Some people just love to complain about everything.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

cultural appropriation

Who makes up idiotic phrases like this? Political correctness again on the march. Instructing people how to think and express themselves.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I wonder how famous Miranda Kerr is your countries? I ask American friends and family about her and they have no idea who she is and could care less about Orlando Bloom since he has gone into oblivion. Both are like gods in Japan.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Funny, I was staring at this pic on a train yesterday and thinking it was quite a captivating image.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Others were angered by the fact that the magazine didn’t choose a Japanese model to pose for the 15th anniversary issue of its Japanese-language version

Just out of curiosity from someone who doesn't read girly magazines, but is it normal for them to use a Japanese model in the Japanese-language version?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

is it cultural appropriation, or cultural appreciation?

It is amazingly beautiful, completely unique and a pleasure to look at. It is art, and transcends petty bickering over the idea that a culture and all its products "belong" solely to anyone.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Would it also be considered cultural appropriation when a Japanese businessman wears a suit and tie?

There was some hyped-up 'controversy' in Seattle a while back about a local non-Japanese woman employed as a sushi chef and accused of cultural appropriation. Similarly, non-African Americans who pursue careers as rappers or practice certain dance moves are sometimes accused of appropriation.

In short, appropriation (if that is what you want to call it) happens all the time — it's a good thing, not a bad thing.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

One of the Japanese news blogs should run a survey to see what actual Japanese people think. I'm almost 100% certain they'll all support this utilization of Japanese fashion and be genuinely bewildered by all the pot stirring.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I actually like the last two pictures.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

lt came across to me as more a paying of respect to the various aspects of Japanese culture than anything else.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Lovely!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Agree with probie : non-issue. Although I do love imitating her "irerudake" from her laundry commercials.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As defined on Wiki, "Cultural appropriation is most commonly used to denote the use by cultural outsiders of a minority, oppressed culture's symbols or other cultural elements."

I would agree with this definition. As such, Japanese are by no means a minority in any sense of the word, and most certainly are not oppressed, being the third largest economy in the world.

There's nothing wrong with these images whatsoever. Anyone looking to take offense desperately needs to cut back on their caffeine intake.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

She looks great. I wouldn't complain if an asian dressed up a Caucasian in a respectful manner like this.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Not quite sure what would be controversy about the photos. Fashion industry will be fashion industry.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wasn't too long ago that Japan was all too willing to impose Japaneseness on anyone in the vicinity.

Times have changed.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Who the heck cares, it just fashion. Anyway, who is complaining anyway? "Some internet users" does not mean much.... you can find "some internet users" with just about any opinion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I for one become outraged whenever I see a Japanese model in a magazine wearing Western-style clothing such as a suit or a pair of trousers. Where will this all end?!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Whoever's got twisted panties over this, remember: If you take fashion seriously, you will be going through a lot of pairs of twisted panties.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How would Native Americans think if they saw a blonde dressed in traditional garb, or something like it? I can kind of see the point, but at the same time, fashions are always borrowing from other cultures, so why not?

That folks is called sitting on the fence, lol

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

...some Internet users were upset by the apparent cultural appropriation taking place in the photos. Others were angered...

"Some" and "Others" - who are these people and why do their opinions warrant an article? Seems like "some" are trying to make something out of nothing here.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

some Internet users were upset by the apparent cultural appropriation taking place in the photos

It's called 'Post Modernism'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Incredible, so , again we see racism from the white folks in the west, complaining how one of their stars are truing to be Japanese ? WHAT IS THIS, so, in that way, should we kick every rocker, hip-hop and rap artist from Japan , because they want to look as westerners ? It seams people tolerance in the world is at lowest poing ever , I believe this is the result of the Internet, its a place where people are used to say every tiny thing they got on their minds, and also, the place where all kinds of racist people can express their hate toward other cultures ? What is wrong with world today ? The terms as weeabo , wapanese , are all used as terms of actually hating Japan culture, they hate everything that is good, instead to try to embrace positive aspect of Japan culture, why people from long time history watched other cultures ? To see what good they can apply on them self's , thats how culture exchange work, but today, its quite opposite.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I think the issue is not the fact that she's Miranda Kerr, but the fact that Vogue magazine managed to put on the cover beautiful an artistic photos with a foreign model and taken by a foreign photographer, i think that those who complain are just jealous

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Appalling journalism - which I note Japan Today has simply republished, rather than written themselves (thank goodness).

We are told that this photo shoot is controversial, but there isn't a single quote from anyone (let alone someone sane and credible) to back this up. For my part, I simply don't believe that the Japanese are so ridiculously petulant and histrionic to have any problems with this whatsoever.

Has this journalist never heard the expression 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'?

Japanese art and culture has been admired and copied in the west for over a century. 'Japanesery' (also spelled Japonaiserie, ie. art influenced by Japanese styles) was very popular in Europe in the late 19th century.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Open a magazine about kimono fashion in Japan and you will see so many designer kimonos in wild prints done up very modern and paired with things like hats and high-heels, Japanese models wearing kimonos "wrong" in the name of art and fashion. Or watch a seijinshiki in the countryside and see some Japanese gyarus wearing ridiculous kimonos with inch-long bright red nails etc. It's ok if Japanese people play with kimono but not foreigners? I think these photos are very tasteful and not at all ridiculing Japanese traditions. It doesn't need to be an issue.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Despite her unmistakable good looks"

She looks creepy in this photo.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

She looks more like Padme from the Star Wars prequels than anything else.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I guess they needed to have her wear an elongated, giant plastic nose so it would be more clear she was a foreigner, I mean, like they do when appropriating and depicting foreign culture and foreigners. Japanese people spend so much time worrying about what others think of them and desperate for praise that they throw fits when someone else tries to express the beauty of Japanese culture because the model or actor expressing the message is not Japanese. I think they get even more upset when it's done well. Hell, they even get upset and send sushi-police out to make sure you're making sushi the right way in other nations but pointing out it's Japanese food and not being made in Japan (so can't be the best), etc.

The pictures are fine, and people here can't whine about 'misrepresentation' or what have you given some of the things they publish with regards to foreign culture.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

We are told that this photo shoot is controversial, but there isn't a single quote from anyone (let alone someone sane and credible) to back this up. For my part, I simply don't believe that the Japanese are so ridiculously petulant and histrionic to have any problems with this whatsoever.

Agreed Bill Adams. One can easily trace the source and the ones commenting on the "controversy" aspect are that of western counterparts. (Matome Naver)

Japanese people spend so much time worrying about what others think of them...

Can someone help this poor brother out?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

So basically, according to the non Japanese commentators here, its OK to have a non Japanese person in traditional Japanese clothing to celebrate the anniversary of Vogue magazine in Japan. It's like having an asian headlining an All American (trademark) event... oh wait, that never happens

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

The article explained it all with this phrase:

some Internet users were upset

...and you'll note that the article never actually provides a QUOTE from one of those "internet users". Based on how the article is written, you could make the argument that only four people out of the whole internet community were upset with the photos and model choice.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Miranda Kerr’s photo shoot for Vogue Japan stirs up controversy

What a load of PR (that's public relations) rubbish!

The Japanese aren't offended by this spread, it's the mag trying to sell copies. Remember folks, controversy sells magazines, movies, novels etc etc etc.

Love the way some folks here fell for this hook-line-and-sinker. I wonder how many went out and bought the mag just to see what was so controversial.

Take a look at the photos below and then decide for yourself what's going on here - is it cultural appropriation, or cultural appreciation?

This was the first I had heard or read of this so-called controversy. If my wife or any of her friends would have been offended I would have heard about it a while ago.

But, just incase there was some top-secret Japanese only PC outrage, I asked. Her reply was honest and typical, she looked at the pictures and said, "She looks okay, whose complaining?"

So, to echo my wife's own question, who exactly is complaining about these shots?

No one is, it's the mag trying to sell copies, the news putting in a filler story, the PC crowd latching on to another story and the Japanese haters complaining about the Japanese.

Come on now guys and gals (don't want to offend the over sensitive feelings of the PC crowd), think about it, where is the controversy coming from and what Japanese outlet is so offended?

Answer, none.

cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation

Gee, how many Japanese people use these Lib PC code words? Think about it...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So basically, according to the non Japanese commentators here, its OK to have a non Japanese person in traditional Japanese clothing to celebrate the anniversary of Vogue magazine in Japan. It's like having an asian headlining an All American (trademark) event... oh wait, that never happens

I don't think Japanese people see it that way. Vogue is a foreign publication. Besides,'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.'

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So basically, according to the non Japanese commentators here, its OK to have a non Japanese person in traditional Japanese clothing to celebrate the anniversary of Vogue magazine in Japan

Doesn't look like any "traditional Japanese clothing" I've ever seen. Looks vaguely Japanese, sure, but hardly traditional garb.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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