On January 29 of this year, the British band Coldplay released its controversial video for its pop hit “Hymn for the Weekend.”
In the weeks since its release, the video has received both praise and criticism for its colorful Indian backdrop, particularly in relation to the question: is this video an act of cultural appropriation or of cultural appreciation?
Most seem to believe that Beyonce—whose role in the video is to play a Bollywood actress in a movie being watched by Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin—is guilty, but hardly any condemn Coldplay’s part in the video which is odd, considering the video is for a Coldplay song.
While it is true that Beyonce is not totally innocent, she is most definitely not the sole culprit in this case of what I see as cultural appropriation.
For one, this is Coldplay’s video, not Beyonce’s. With the amount of information I have been bombarded with in the past couple of weeks about this video, I thought Beyonce had written this rather bland song and starred in its disrespectful video.
I didn’t realize that the video was not her video until I watched it for the second time. I honestly think that is ridiculous.
If Beyonce is guilty for merely appearing in the video, then Coldplay must be triply guilty for writing the song and creating the video in the first place.
Secondly, this is not the first time Coldplay has gotten away with releasing a video misrepresenting and using a different culture for their own gain
Back in 2012, they released “Princess of China” featuring the pop music icon Rihanna. Much like “Hymn for the Weekend,” the content of that video—a mash up of various stereotypical Asian cultures that I’m assuming represented “China”—bore no real relevance to the song it was paired with, save the title in which the name of the Asian country was placed strategically.
Interestingly enough, when reading old articles about that video, Coldplay’s role is excused once more and the finger of blame is pointed at Rihanna.
To add insult to injury, in “Hymn for the Weekend” Coldplay perpetuates much of what so many movements are trying right now to eradicate: the sexualization and replaceability of women of color.
By placing Beyonce in the role of the beautiful Bollywood actress—and minimizing the role of the actual Bollywood actress featured in the video: Sonam Kapoor—Coldplay demonstrates a disrespect not only for Indian culture and its arts, but equates any woman of color with any other.
On top of that, Beyonce is mostly featured in the video as the sexy woman dancing on a movie screen for the viewing pleasure of Chris Martin, instead of being depicted as the equally talented vocal queen that she is.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Beyonce is not guilty of cultural appropriation—many many media outlets have already made it clear that she is. I just wanted to make it clear that it is unjust to ignore Coldplay’s prominent role in the faults of this video.
I thought it necessary that Coldplay also receive at least equal criticism while the controversy of this video is still relevant. Both parties are guilty, and that needs to be recognized.