Princess of Asia

On Tuesday in class, we discussed cultural appropriation specifically in music. During class, we watched several music videos including, Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty,” Gwen Stefani’s “Harajuku Girls,”A Day Above Ground’s “Asian Girls,” and Coldplay’s “Princess of China,” Our discussion for Coldplay’s video was cut short as class ended, but I continued to think about it.
I have been listening to Coldplay for the longest time and had never seen the video for “Princess of China” before. When Mylo Xyloto came out, Princess of China easily became one of my favorite songs because I enjoyed listening to it (aka not for special meanings, etc). Because of that, I never really looked that closely at it — looked up the lyrics or saw the video, etc. After watching that video, I am very confused for several reasons. The first reason is what we discussed in class – this song is called “Princess of China” which should mean that the video should take place in China and have Chines characteristics, right? Well, while the video does include those things, it also includes things from other Asian cultures. Isn’t this song about China?
After I got out of class, I listened to the song again and tried to listen more closely to words to try and get some closure. I could not, however, because I could not hear anything that talked about China at all. I looked up the lyrics just to make sure I had not missed anything and could still not find anything related to China directly in the lyrics.
My next step in this investigation was to go online and try and search for the meaning of the song. Maybe I was missing something deeper. The best that I could find was that this song about was a breakup where she was his princess because of how much he valued her and how in love they were. The China part possibly comes in from the idea that China dolls and plates, etc. are very fragile and easily damaged, just like his princess. This is a very subtle reference, but in a way it reminds of the lotus flower image of Asian women.
One of the things that also struck me about this video is the that Rihanna and Chris Martin are presented. The way that Chris Martin was marching/walking with such purpose as he was going up to the “castle” in a way sort of reminds me of Orientalism in the sense that he is the White man going to take away or save the Eastern princess (Rihanna).
At this point, the song and the title now make a little bit more sense… However, I feel now like the video was very forced, where they have the word “China” in the title so they need to do something in the video that relates to the idea of China-ness… except then they added so many other cultures so it becomes very confusing – especially when adding in Rihanna’s sex appeal considering she is supposed to be this delicate, fragile China doll.
In the end, the song ended up making sense to me, but the way in which the music video was executed, which is supposed to be bring the story in the song to life, makes no sense leaving the viewer very confused.
@Coldplay, pls explain.
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