As you've scrolled down your Facebook feeds, there's no doubt you've come across the phrase 'cultural appropriation' being bounced around. Cultural appropriation, in broad terms, is all about the stealing or imitating of other cultures without their permission. In the past few years, this issue has jumped to the forefront of pop culture.
Whether we're talking about Miley Cyrus taking 'twerking' from African American culture to further for her own capital gain, or Pharrell wearing a Native American traditional head dress for Elle magazine, the response is always very much a negative one. What is depressing about these instances of stealing significant elements from other cultures, is that people who come directly from these robbed communities end up feeling let down by their favorite stars.
Thor actor Chris Hemsworth is potentially guilty of the very same thing. On his wife Elsa Pataky's Instagram, there is a recently uploaded snap from New Year's Eve which includes Hemsworth dressed in a Native American dress for the party's Wild Wild West theme.
His hair is much darker, and parted in a different way. He also has Native American war paint on his face. Although you cannot see what Chris is wearing, there is a good chance it could also be some sort of imitation of Native American clothing.
Comments on the Instagram post have evoked a sentiment of uproar and disappointment, with many people of Native American ancestry feeling let down or even betrayed by the Australian heartthrob.
Native Americans have suffered enough abuse at the hands of white people. Why add insensitive and offensive cultural appropriation to the list? Use your privilege for good, people. #noexcuse #formerhemsworthfan
Another commenter replied:
How does anybody not know that dressing as "an Indian" is a bad look and racism isn't hot these days? Are they trying to be assholes? I don't know what's going on here, what the purpose of posting this photo is or if they're just too stupid and sheltered to know any better. Read a book! Everybody in the whole world knows that celebrating the genocide of the people you stole your land from is rather vulgar.
It's worth mentioning that cases of white people stealing elements of Native American culture (like Hemsworth) or African American culture (like Miley), is even more problematic because of the social history of western society, where Black and Indigenous peoples have been marginalized, oppressed and abused by Europeans throughout history.
I can see where this anger from some Instagram users is coming from. To see a person that represents the oppressive majority trivializing a culture that their ancestors were less than kind to, is not easy for anyone to witness.
This whole Hemsworth debacle reminds me of the controversy around Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six. Due to the insensitive jokes and the inaccuracies of Native American culture, a large number of Native American actors walked off set.
One upside to take from this incident, is that people speak up when celebrities (and normal people!) make mistakes like this; it means people become educated — or at the very least — aware of the issues surrounding cultural appropriation, which will hopefully whittle away at racist ideologies and divisions in our society.