It’s not often that an embassy has to issue an apology to an entire country because of a video on YouTube.
Earlier this month, that’s exactly what happened when the Embassy of Japan in India posted a notice to its Facebook page, stating, “It was regrettable that this utterly inappropriate video had offended many Indian friends.”
The video in question was for a song called “Curry Police” by the group Candy Foxx. Japanese entertainers have long used stereotypes as the punchlines for jokes — remember the blackface Eddie Murphy impression or the JAL ad? — and it’s a style of humor Candy Foxx embraces in its other offerings, though those clips also poke fun at Japan.
The video for “Curry Police” has been taken down from the official Candy Foxx YouTube page but, because this is the internet, nothing ever really disappears and it has been re-uploaded to other channels.
The clip is set in the landscape of northern India, with bare-chested men in turbans and women wearing ghagra choli — a type of traditional Indian dress — taking part in a Bollywood-style dance sequence. In one scene, a man uses a piece of naan as his ticket to board a boat to Japan; in another, the owner of a curry restaurant is taken hostage by Japanese thugs, only to be led to a magic lamp that releases the Hindu god Ganesha (someone needs to let Candy Foxx know that the story of Aladdin’s lamp was an Arabic thing).
It’s worth noting that the footage of the thugs is recycled from a previous video, “Sushi Yakuza,” which includes a battle between Japanese criminal elements and a bunch of Indian cooks, with the yakuza coming out on top. That video is still online and has been watched over 47 million times.
The people behind Candy Foxx are no strangers to controversy. Two years ago, the same group went by the name Represent Earth and staged a publicity stunt that included fake claims of power harassment, ultimately landing the band Maximum The Hormone in trouble with its fans.
The “Curry Police” video has elicited thousands of complaints from both the Indian and Japanese community. Japan-based Indian YouTuber Rom Rom Ji put out a response titled “Indians Should Stand Together in Japan,” in which he cites previous instances of Indian stereotyping in Candy Foxx’s work and calls for a boycott.
“We have proven that nobody can dare underestimate Indians and together we can show them their right place,” he says in the clip. “Why can’t they feature Indians in their regular lives, wearing regular clothes?”
Rom Rom Ji adds that an apology Candy Foxx uploaded to YouTube shortly after the “Curry Police” video’s release — presented as English text and not delivered in person — is a mere face-saver and not a sincere attempt at correction.
Much like the incident with Maximum The Hormone, Candy Foxx’s actions have led to other Japanese YouTubers getting caught in the crossfire.
Namaste Kohei, who has long celebrated Indian culture and makes a brief appearance in the “Curry Police” video, was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and issued an apology in Hindi for his cameo. His was more in accordance with YouTube apology practices, though many Indian netizens still didn’t accept it.
Extolling his love for India and its culture, and his experience of having lived in India for eight years, Kohei explains how he was invited to be featured for just five seconds, and only read the lines he was told.
“I did not know how the video would shape; had I known, maybe I would not have participated,” he says, adding, “I have heard that the video was shot somewhere in India, and that an Indian man was hired as the director of the video.”
This is where things take a turn. Mayo Japan, another promoter of Indian culture with 994,000 subscribers on YouTube, also began receiving a torrent of social media abuse that was misogynistic, and sometimes violent, in tone. However, she had nothing to do with “Curry Police.”
In a clip she posted to YouTube titled “India got insulted by Japanese artists?,” Mayo acknowledges the problematic nature of the Candy Foxx video, refutes the rumors that she was somehow involved and expresses frustration over the anger directed her way. She shares screenshots of some of the messages she has received, even as she struggles to comprehend some of the vulgar and violent Hindi words and phrases.
In their effort to “safeguard Indian culture,” the Indian men harassing Mayo have instead exposed their own misogynist biases. However, just like those trolls don’t represent India, neither does Candy Foxx represent Japan.
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