Lady Gaga loves to use her wardrobe to get people talking, but one of her recent outfits caused more of a stir than she likely bargained for. The “ARTPOP” singer spent part of this week in Tokyo, frequently updating her Instagram with shots of all her exploits. But one particular image got Gaga’s monsters up in arms. The singer posted a photo of her posing in the city’s Roppongi district, clad in a colorful jumpsuit with the words “color” emblazoned across the front in Korean characters. A couple Japanese commenters saw the outfit and took offense, accusing Gaga of cultural insensitivity, saying that she’s ignorantly conflating Korean and Japanese culture.
Kotaku found a thread on Japanese forum 2ch discussing the gaffe, titled simply “Roppongi Wandering Lady Gaga [in] Japan, in the clothes of Hangul [Korean] characters! South Korea and Japan [are the same to] the Caucasian eye.” Or at least that’s how Google translates it.
There’s been a lot of animosity between Korea and Japan as of late, so certainly folks were a little sore over the photo. The comments ranged from accusing Gaga of cultural ignorance to simply lumping her with all the rest of the “dumb Americans” who think Korea and Japan are the same place. “Make no mistake, when Gaga is in South Korea, she’ll wear clothes with Japanese and the Rising Sun,” one person wrote. On Gaga’s Instagram, a fan wonders, “Why is she wearing a Korean outfit in Japan…” Another says, “Roppongi with Korean letters. That’s pretty stupid in my opinion.”
Now, cultural appropriation is a serious problem and it’s obviously important to educate oneself about different cultures and traditions. Although, I’m not sure if Gaga was intentionally trying to offend anyone or make any assumptions about Japanese culture by wearing this jumpsuit. This, to me, seems more akin to her wearing a T-shirt that says “Dolce Vita” in Berlin or a “Bonjour” T-shirt in the U.S. It’s not a statement on a culture, it’s an innocuous jumpsuit. She made no reference of wearing a Japanese-themed outfit. To her, it was just a look.
Besides, Gaga had a pretty good education. I’d like to believe she knows that South Korea and Japan are two very different countries.