BSO Talks to Zimbio About “Looking Hot” Video

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I was contacted by Zimbio’s Alicia Diaz Dennis for my personal thoughts on the “Looking Hot” video controversy and how No Doubters felt for her upcoming piece for the popular entertainment website. Alicia put together a really good article and I would like to thank her and the Zimbio team for granting myself another huge honor and opportunity to be involved in something like this.

** A small correction: The forum was not replaced due to the “Looking Hot” discussion threads. It was already planned on getting revamped before. **

Zimbio — In a sea of pop provocateurs, Gwen Stefani and her longtime No Doubt bandmates seem like the last people who’d court controversy for the sake of self-promotion. But when the band unveiled the music video for “Looking Hot” on November 2, the band attracted a glut of attention for all the wrong reasons.

The Melina Matsoukas-directed clip presented the band members playing “Cowboys and Indians” in some Wild West fantasy land, with drummer Adrian Young and guitarist Tom Dumont playing evil robbers and Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal playing fetching, fashionable American Indians. Gwen delivers the opening line, “Go ahead and look at me, ’cause that’s what I want” while tied up by the wrists, writhing around provocatively while her bandmate threatens her with a gun. In later scenes, she roams the countryside on a horse, wiggles to and fro in a teepee (with a wolf!), and dons a headdress to send smoke signals.

While many No Doubt fans were thrilled with the video, apparently pleased at the band’s return to the cartoonish theatricality of its glory days, others were disgusted by its obvious cultural insensitivity. The band was bombared with complaints about the video’s rampant stereotyping via Facebook and Twitter, and a number of threads regarding the video’s content popped up on the band’s official online forum.

“We are not a trend and we are not a fashion statement. We are human beings, we are nations, and we deserve respect,” longtime No Doubt fan Margaret “Emmy” Scott wrote in an open letter. “As a Native woman whose college educated mother chose to raise me on the reservation in order to be close to my culture and always be proud of who I am and where I came from, I was deeply offended by your trivialization of my culture.” The band’s forum has since been taken down and replaced, so none of these threads remain visible to the public.

By Sunday, the band had removed the video and issued an official apology:

“As a multi-racial band, our foundation is built upon both diversity and consideration for other cultures. Our intention with our new video was never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture or their history. Although we consulted with Native American friends and Native American studies experts at the University of California, we realize now that we have offended people. This is of great concern to us and we are removing the video immediately. The music that inspired us when we started the band, and the community of friends, family, and fans that surrounds us was built upon respect, unity and inclusiveness. We sincerely apologize to the Native American community and anyone else offended by this video. Being hurtful to anyone is simply not who we are.”

Adrienne Keene, the Harvard PhD student behind Native Appropriations, a forum for discussing the use and misuse of indigenous cultures in popular culture, initially felt positive about the outcome. At a cousin’s wedding when the video was released, Keene viewed the clip without sound on her phone. By the time she reached a computer, it had been removed.

“For me it felt like a win on a lot of levels, and I was so impressed that the [Native American] community came together so quickly to talk about why it was so harmful, and the fact that No Doubt reacted so quickly was commendable to them as well,” Keene explains. “But then I started seeing the fallout in the subsequent days. Because the apology didn’t really address why it was offensive or hurtful, it just was ‘We’re sorry that you were offended and we didn’t mean to be offensive’ — and they pulled the ‘We have Native friends so it’s okay’ card, so people didn’t really learn anything from it.”

Reactions to the controversy ranged from accusations of oversensitivity to righteous indignation over the so-called tyranny of the politically correct. “While things have come pretty far — two years ago, there wouldn’t have been this outreach from the community, and there definitely wouldn’t have been as quick as a response — there’s still a long way to go in terms of educating people as to why, exactly, these images are hurtful and why the practice of ‘playing Native’ isn’t something we should be engaging in,” Keene says, noting that no one in the Native American community has stepped forward to say they were consulted about the video.

Many of the video’s defenders have made the argument that rock and roll as we know it would not exist were it not for cultural appropriation. One commenter on The Guardian’s recent criticism of the video scoffed, “If being inspired by art or imagery from other nationalities is now a taboo, then much of the music, film, TV, painting and literature any of us have ever loved is also a taboo.”

“There’s a certain level of cultural borrowing that’s okay, and natural, and going to happen no matter what, especially in the realm of art and music,” Keene explains. She notes that some artists have incorporated aspects of indigenous cultures into their work respectfully: Earlier this year, Nelly Furtado featured Native hoop dancers Tony and Kevin Duncan (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara/San Carlos Apache) in her music video for “Big Hoops (The Bigger the Better),” for example. But this was different.

“It was them taking the images out of context and mashing together different stereotypes of Native people,” Keene says. “The other issue was it implied violence against Native women, because Gwen’s tied up for a lot of the video with two cowboys pointing guns at her. And because violence against Native American women is such an epidemic in the U.S., that’s definitely not an image that you want to be promoting.”

The implications of sexual violence were not lost on Angela R. Riley, the director of the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA, who posted a lengthy open letter to the band a few days after the video was taken down. In addition to noting that no one from UCLA had been consulted on the video, Riley pointed out some horrifying statistics about the violence American Indians face, including the fact that approximately one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes.

Keene can’t believe no one involved didn’t realize what they were doing was wrong. “Not one person was vocal enough to say, ‘Hey, we have a problem and we probably shouldn’t be doing this,’ that to me is amazing. Because you know it’s not just the band and the director who come up with the concepts and put them into action.”

Gwen and company are certainly not the first artists to appropriate Native American culture in their music videos. Juliette Lewis has been dancing around in feathers and war paint since at least 2008. Pop’s reigning dumpster diver Ke$ha sports both war paint and a feather headdress in her 2010 music video for “Your Love Is My Drug.” Apparently late to the trend, Lana Del Rey donned a war bonnet to play a tragic streetwalker in her 2012 video for “Ride.” But No Doubt is the first band to apologize and remove the offending video. Jenny Fowler, the founder of long-running fansite Beacon Street Online, says that not all fans were pleased over the band’s decision.

“[A] debate started when I posted the band’s official statement on the website,” Fowler says. “It’s really hard to bite my tongue after reading some of the comments — saying No Doubt has no backbone, letting the media walk all over them, etc. It was morally the right thing to do. And the appropriate thing to do. And their decision.”

Fowler thinks some fans may have taken the whole affair so personally because this is, unfortunately, the most attention the band has gotten in years: “A lot of No Doubters are just frustrated … We feel like No Doubt has worked so hard on this album and deserve all the best and success, which we haven’t been seeing. And this is the last thing they need when they are trying to make a solid comeback.”

Still, Fowler says that she’s learned something from it, as have many other No Doubt fans. “Sometimes it takes things like this to get the word out and bring light to issues. It was a very educational experience for myself and others, too,” she says.

34 Comments

  1. scott says:

    Sorry. I will go to the grave for No Doubt but this was complete crap. They did absolutely nothing wrong. They should pull every No Doubt video where Gwen has Hindu jewels or rasta colors and pull everything related to L.A.M.B. if ‘Looking Hot’ was “bad”. I will always be pissed about this. And I’ve been hopelessly addicted and devoted since I was 10 and saw them play at Spanky’s in Riverside in 1990. This was a ridiculous muting of creativity by a tiny group of overly sensitive people looking to create a controversy out of nothing.

    Reply
    • Ione says:

      I agree with what Scott says above. It’s too bad that their artistic visual art is being censored. It was clearly a spin on old western films – no one was being harmed physically and no laws were being pushed. and got blown WAY out of proportion. If we spent our lives trying to censor every little thing every single person took offense to, we would have one standard-issue outfit, one government-run TV channel with filtered content and art that is screened and ok’d by the government.

      I will happily defend the freedom of artistic expression even if it means there will be things I will (and have) find offensive. I have the ability to change the channel, to not look at it, and to voice my opinion, but I will not deny others their right to artistic freedom. We are not that kind of country.

      I understand WHY the band issued an apology and removed the video, and that is their choice. It’s a shame that they had to be bullied into that, though.

      Reply
      • Fabian says:

        Well said!!

        Reply
  2. tragic says:

    @scott agreed!

    Reply
  3. DP says:

    Good job Jenny, I liked what you had to say.

    Reply
  4. Vanessa says:

    I also agree with Scott. This whole thing is stupid and people need to lighten up a little.

    Reply
  5. Michelle says:

    Now Victoria Secret offended Native Americans for an Indian headress as well. Maybe a new thing begins?

    Reply
  6. Austin says:

    Great article, MAYBE this whole incident might promote No Doubt’s comeback? Hopefully, but really Push and Shove had to be a single! But it didn’t, that would really bring attention to their comeback

    Reply
  7. Jess says:

    Way to go, Jenny! I also agree with Scott.

    Reply
  8. scott says:

    If you missed or want the ‘Looking Hot’ video I have it downloaded- I was able to catch one of the last links before it got pulled. I’ve burned a few copies for some No Doubters already. I’m more than happy to do it. Email me: theycallmescottyb@gmail.com. Because some more people have asked I just ask that the cost of the shipping and the DVD be covered? $6.69 has been the average cost to those I’ve already sent it to, and to make it more “worth it” I’m also including the ‘Settle Down’ and “Push and Shove’ videos as well, so all 3 ‘P&S’ era vids so far on one DVD. I’m not trying to cash in, I’m simply trying to allow true fans the opportunity to see this video, as I think the whole “scandal” is completely ridiculous. I am in NO way trying to go against the band or ANYTHING like that- the video has been pulled off the world wide web and it cannot be seen by those who (stupidly, in my opinion) might take “offense”. This is strictly for hard core lovers of the band, the true fans, who believe this was a bad move for promoting this record and want to continue to show their full support to the band as much as possible like I always have, do, and always will. So go ahead and email me if you’re interested. Like I said, several fans from the sites have already gotten theirs and emailed me and loved it. I’m not shady, I’m a life-long No Doubter, and I’m here for my fellow No Doubters in this time of need! ;)

    Reply
  9. Amanda G says:

    I’m still shocked that no one in their management team told them that this wasn’t a good idea. I knew as soon as I saw the video that people would be offended. Although, I did not think it would lead to them pulling it. They are being seriously mislead by their record label/management… It’s a shame that this era has started off so rough…

    Reply
  10. Katie says:

    Amanda G, you said exactly what I was thinking…

    Reply
  11. Romy says:

    I think all the Native American bleeding hearts should hand over the money to pay for a replacement video for Looking Hot. I think it will be Gwen, Tony, Tom and Adrian in grey suits, staring blankly ahead whilst sitting on cardboard boxes in a deserted field. Although homeless people will probably get offended by the cardboard boxes.

    Reply
  12. Cata says:

    It is so sad to see that some people don`t understand that someone else felt offended. I think that all fans know that No doubt didn`t with bad intentions and it was pretty good that the band issued an apology and removed the video.

    * excuses for my bad english :-)

    Reply
  13. Paddy Mulholland says:

    its obvious cultural insensitivity

    It was a pop culture representation of Native America, that’s all! Were any of the content in the video specifically offensive or inflammatory, I’d support the backlash. But this is a classic case of people seeing what they want to see and gleaming something false from it. If no offense was intended and offense was taken, the problem is with the people who took offense. No Doubt and Melina Matsoukas caused no offense. Those who were offended caused it to themselves. Just because you’re offended doesn’t make you right.

    Reply
    • Paddy Mulholland says:

      The opening four words are a quotation from the article, btw. I italicised it any it didn’t work. Just to highlight what a conspicuously biased article it is.

      Reply
  14. pchorsedoc says:

    Good article and good comments by Jenny. I also agree with Amanda G. It is amazing that nobody thought twice about the images associated with this song – it just doesn’t make sense, in my opinion. The lyrics for Looking Hot just don’t fit with the vibe of the video, even though in a fashion sense the costumes and backgrounds were quite pretty. The whole thing feels surreal – what a shame that we don’t have a video for this fun song.

    I am very grateful that NxD has released this record and are doing as much promotion and traveling as they are. I hope they are having fun with it and I know the fans are giving them a great response. I want to see them tour so much, that’s why I love them, and I wish them all the fun and success they so deserve. As they continue to play the live shows I think the buzz about them will increase – touring for them is always a big success as 2009 proved.

    I really hope they release a concert DVD for this era. LOVE.

    Reply
  15. JxSxPx says:

    I can’t with some of you. I had written a big, long write-up explaining why taking down the video and issuing an apology was a good thing to do, how the video was insensitive and why, but everyone seems to think No Doubt did no wrong. There’s a difference between being inspired and showing appreciation for a different culture, and spitting out something that’s cartoonishly stereotypical.

    This isn’t just “pop culture representations” or “their art.” It’s taking someone’s cultural, historical, spirtual and racial identity, dumbing it down, and churning out a product that hits on every single stereotype you could think of as “Native American.” It was culturally insensitive, and the people being angered/offended by it aren’t overly sensitive or babies or PC police. They’re bringing up a legitimate and valid concern about their culture being shown in a grossly ignorant light. Those headdresses, staffs, clothing garments, etc mean something to them. And let’s not get into the fact that it was like ~10 different tribes shoved together in the video.

    The band didn’t meant to offend, but they did. They took responsibility for it, and everyone should just move on. One of the larger issues at work here (ignoring the other side of the issue for a minute) is how NO ONE in their camp told them it was a bad idea. I honestly can’t believe that nobody stopped for a minute and said, “You know? This may be a really bad idea now that I think about it. Maybe we should reconsider.” The band didn’t need this controversy. We, as fans, certainly didn’t need it or see it coming. This era has been so rough going though. I don’t think that there’s anything that can salvage it at this point.

    Reply
  16. Anthony says:

    I feel like it’s the native’s fault for not promoting what they find offensive to the general public. I watched it as your average US citizen and thought nothing of it. The african-american community makes it very clear to everyone what is offensive and what is not; I think the natives should have taken the same initiative.

    Additionally, I feel like the same thing happens in Hawaii, but no one says a thing. Because they’re not babies.

    Who knew that this very American idea of Cowboys and Indians would be a big deal? This is like a nod to our parents/grandparents generations where these wild-west movies were all the rage. I also feel like the native american community should be glad that glimpses of their culture is being popularized.

    Reply
  17. doom says:

    i don’t think this ‘controversy’ will will help the success of the album whatsoever. mainly because it’s not respectful. people usually benefit from ruffling feathers when they are being controversial by pushing strong personal beliefs, breaking down taboo’s and steroetypes. this video was just not interesting and was as controversial as disney’s pocahontas. this wasn’t pushing ideas worthy of respect. whats exactly was it saying? nothing more than a fashion shoot.
    i think the reason the album is not doing well is because of the album itself. in my opinion it’s amazing, but in terms of marketing and promotion they shouldn’t be trying to compete with one direction or rihanna. they should have taken a more low key route. play down the pop, play up the indie, nerdy side of nd. it’s always been there and the fans respond to it.

    Reply
  18. Laura says:

    God some of the people on here are idiots.

    Reply
  19. JxSxPx says:

    “I feel like it’s the native’s fault for not promoting what they find offensive to the general public. I watched it as your average US citizen and thought nothing of it. The african-american community makes it very clear to everyone what is offensive and what is not; I think the natives should have taken the same initiative.”

    They’ve been trying, and until recently, no one has been listening. And you’ve got a bunch of people claiming that they just need to “move on” or “get over it.” I’m not saying you’re one of them, but, for some reason, the Natie population is one group that has been collectively marginalized and ignored for decades. Again, not saying you’re one of those people doing that to them, but I’m just detailing some of the obstacles they’ve faced.

    It’s hard to start a discourse when no one wants to listen to what you have to say. Hopefully, enough people will view this as a teachable moment and learn something from it. There’s a wide difference between being inspired and borrowing things from a culture, and appropriating it for stereotypical purposes.

    “Who knew that this very American idea of Cowboys and Indians would be a big deal? This is like a nod to our parents/grandparents generations where these wild-west movies were all the rage. I also feel like the native american community should be glad that glimpses of their culture is being popularized.”

    Those wild west movies were decried as racist and disrespectful back then too. But no one listened. And if the glimpses of their culture weren’t based in stereotypes that people don’t know about, I would agree with you. But headdresses are like stripes and medals of honor in our military, the more feathers you have = the more heroic deeds you did. And they’re only for men, since they could’ve been earned through war or leadership, and those roles were primarily male-dominated. So seeing someone overtly sexualize their image/culture and wear clothing and use objects as props in a fashion shoot was understandably considered insensitive.

    Reply
  20. Simon says:

    Doom – I agree about the band going the more indie route. It’s so crazy how all of this has unfolded. From my perspective the band is just going through the motions now. I apologize for being such a Debby Downer about things but I really don’t see the band having success off of this record. I’m keeping my fingers crossed though that they will break away from Interscope after this and do an album on their own.

    Reply
  21. JxSxPx says:

    I think there’s a vast and wide difference between being a Debbie Downer and being realistic about the prospects of this era. The band is totally going through the motions, and it’s showing in their performances and the material that they’re releasing.

    There’s no other way to view it. The album flopped, Settle Down flopped, Looking Hot probably won’t even chart or get any airplay – that’s the reality of the situation. The general audience has moved on. They didn’t promote it enough. Of course, this could be a good thing to happen to them. Maybe it’ll make them hungry for it again.

    Reply
  22. Amanda G says:

    I think breaking away from Interscope would be a great idea, and maybe it would give them the inspiration they have been so desperately trying to find for the past 4 years. They are way too comfortable and they seem to be surrounded by “yes” people. Unfortunately, Gwen seems to be pretty tight with Jimmy Iovine so I don’t know if that would happen…

    Reply
  23. Simon says:

    You would think that Gwen being that close to Jimmy Iovine would result in better promotion for the album. Maybe if they played some smaller venues they would be more inspired too. For all the talk of inspiration on this album I really don’t hear much. You’re right Amanda, they probably are surrounded by those type of people.

    Reply
  24. Michelle says:

    I guess my one question is why are kids cowboys and indians halloween costumes not offensive? We have military halloween costumes, all kinds of cultures are represented in every way but I never see that brought up. You have japanese culture used all the time in fashion not as they way they want it, and hula girls are on dashboards. People wear US military as fashion now. I think with so much freedom of speech this stuff is going to happen and just get worse.

    Reply
  25. Michelle says:

    Oh and I agree with the promotion, Settle Down is good on the CD but as a live song it’s not the best to be your first promotion.

    Oh and as another cultural thing look at Catholic faith probably the most used Madonna, Lady Gaga all portray it as a cartoon or something else, the cross is used in all kinds of no flattering ways that are demeaning to the symbol of Christianity, I think if you have a symbol it’s going to be used in art, pop culture etc comes with the nature of having a strong symbol. Imitation is the best form of flattery some say just as another view.

    Reply
  26. nxdboy says:

    I’m about to get real. I can literally sit down and watch ANY music video, tv show, commercial, painting, website, movie, ever made and point out something that may be offensive and make an intelligent argument as to why it may be offensive. Does that mean that we should get offended and delete it? Here’s a hypothetical scenario: If someone called me a fag as a “gay bashing” term, I have the right to get offended and I most def would! Now, If someone said the word fag in my presence, and explained to me that they were referring to a cigarette, and I still get offended, then guess what? I CHOSE to get offended. In response to the article, if I wanted to learn about Native American culture, I can research online myself. It’s not NO DOUBT’S duty or obligation to educate the public on N.A. culture. I have a very small percentage of N.A. blood in me and I think the culture is beautiful and I don’t mean any disrespect. My bottom line is, if you were still offended after the apology, then you WANTED to get offended. I think the band did the right thing by apologizing but think they should have kept the video up. Although I don’t agree with it, I respect their decision and applaud them for how they handled the situation.

    Reply
  27. Austin says:

    oh come on JXSXPX its only been two months since the albums release, you cant call it a flop now

    Reply
  28. JxSxPx says:

    Yeah, you can. It’s in the bottom 25% of the album chart. So, it’s anywhere between 75-100. And “Looking Hot” failed to chart anywhere on the charts. The numbers aren’t good. There’s no salvaging them either. It doesn’t take longer than a month to gage if something is a hit or flop. Push & Shove by every sales statistic is a commercial failure.

    The numbers do not lie. Don’t believe me? A quick Google search will prove it.

    Reply
  29. Matthew says:

    I have been wrestling with how I feel about this whole issue. I’m a long-time no doubter and also an ethnic studies scholar. The video was visually stunning as far as fashion goes but I guess I felt most uncomfortable with violence toward Natives being a theme. How would people feel about a slavery themed video or a holocaust themed video? Its the same thing. Genocide is genocide. I think it has been the tendency to ignore the plight of Native Americans as a genocide.

    Reply
  30. Stacy says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that maybe the person who directed the video wanted this controversy in order to gain attention? Other videos she has directed have had major controversy, such as the Rihanna video, and it seems that this is a way she can get exposure. Unfortunately it was at the expense of No Doubt.

    Reply

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