7 Biggest Moments of Appropriation in 2014, Because We Kept Receipts

2014 is coming to a close, and what a year it was. For great TV, for great film, for great celebrity Instagrams, for Solange's incredible wedding cape that was true ascension. But, as Roxane Gay pointed out recently in her column for The Guardian, it was also the year of outrage, when we truly began to push our idols off their pedestals and hold them accountable for their actions. What with the extreme racial injustice that has erupted in the past few months with protests for justice for Mike Brown and Eric Garner and so many other black lives that have been lost, we can't ignore the connection that has to the world of celebrity culture.

So in the spirit of calling out your faves as problematic, here's a look back at some of the more questionable appropriation from certain famouses throughout the year. We kept receipts. (No particular order, because it's difficult to rank such badness).

Blake Lively and the Antebellum South, October

This was the year Blake Lively decided she wanted to curate a lifestyle and sell it to the masses, a la Goop and Martha Stewart (who is salty about everyone trying to hone in on her business). In October, Lively really kicked things off over at her site Preserve, with an astoundingly ignorant photoshoot inspired by the “Antebellum South.”

The racist ignorance was detailed in Lively’s college-freshman style writing of the copy—”The term ‘Southern Belle’ came to fruition during the Antebellum period (prior to the Civil War), acknowledging women with an inherent social distinction who set the standards for style and appearance. These women epitomized Southern hospitality with a cultivation of beauty and grace, but even more with a captivating and magnetic sensibility.”

Bonus points to Lively for debuting the photo shoot on Columbus Day, another institutional holiday celebrating appropriation and colonization. It was a perfect storm.

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Taylor Swift and "Shake it Off," August

Taylor Swift has been generally innocuous throughout her career, and her album 1989 was one of the biggest of the year. She might be America’s sweetheart, but that doesn’t make her impervious to mistakes. Though everybody might not agree with this one, I found her appropriation of black culture pretty transparent and offensive in her “Shake it Off” music video that she dropped in August. Earl Sweatshirt from Odd Future took to Twitter and nailed it when he said: ”haven’t watched the taylor swift video and I don’t need to watch it to tell you that it’s inherently offensive and ultimately harmful… perpetuating black stereotypes to the same demographic of white girls who hide their prejudice by proclaiming their love of the culture.”

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Katy Perry and "Dark Horse," February

Katy P! Perhaps the queen repeat offender of appropriation and ignorance of aforementioned appropriation and then more appropriating. It would almost be impressive if it wasn’t so frustrating. In 2014, she started on by setting an ankh with the word “Allah” on fire in her “Egyptian-inspired” music video for “Dark Horse,” which was later edited out in response to a Change.org petition to remove the blasphemous imagery.

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Katy Perry and "Birthday," April

You didn’t think it would be a one-hit wonder of cultural misunderstanding for KP, did you? When she released the trailer and later the music video for her song “Birthday,” many were horrified at her caricature of a Jewish man, named “Yosef Shalum.” All around horrible and anti-semitic, it was not a good look.

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Miley Cyrus and the "Nae Nae," October

Another repeat offender and misunderstander, Miley Cyrus this year seemed to be so OVER twerking and moved on to appropriating another black dance, the Nae Nae. As Kadeen Griffiths points out, though twerking might be a trend to Cyrus (and, unfortunately to many fans, a dance craze they think that she invented), her fleeting obsessions are just a form of cultural tourism. Dances like the Nae Nae and the twerk have complex histories, but they get lost when Miley Cyrus becomes obsessed with them as a trend and later discards them when she gets bored.

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Nasim Pedrad Playing Bobby Jindal on 'SNL', April

This one is more complicated for me because Pedrad is a woman of color, but when she played Governor Bobby Jindal in a cold-open on Saturday Night Live, it was a painfully obvious example of the total misunderstanding at SNL of diversity. Not ALL brown people look the same, FYI.

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Avril Lavigne and Hello Kitty, April

This absurd train-wreck of a music video (I use that term loosely) from Avril Lavigne was hilarious to me, just because of the level of ignorance. She makes a mockery of Japanese culture in the most ear-grating song possible. Two for two.

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