Thursday, April 24, 2014

Katy Perry, Andrew Garfield and their cultural clichés

While celebrities are followed around by paparazzi and their statements to the media are often taken out of context, cultural digs and religious riffs are not always made in good taste.

Pop sensation Katy Perry and Andrew Garfield, the latter famous for suiting up as the web slinger Spiderman in the big screen reboot of that franchise, are two such Hollywood stars currently stirring up attention.

Known for varying her look in her music videos, Perry's promo for her latest single, Birthday, has her donning many disguises. One of her personas is that of
, an Orthodox-like bar mitzvah DJ who has a tendency to tell off-putting jokes about rabbis.

It's not the singer's first ethnic misstep.

Last year at the American Music Awards, she was called out for donning geisha dress during a performance. Her antics put her in the same musical company as Selena Gomez, Drake and Avril Lavigne, to name but a few who've been criticized for some questionable ethnic depictions in their videos.

Meanwhile, in a recent interview with Time Out London and in other previous statements, Garfield says Spiderman's alter ego Peter Parker is Jewish, if only by association, having grown up as a socially awkward science wunderkind in Queens, the easternmost and historically Jewish borough of New York City.

"I hope Jewish people won't mind the cliché, because my father's Jewish. I have that in me," said Garfield.

Spiderman is of course the creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the wildly gifted and legendary Jewish comic book team. And Lee's orphaned teen Parker is not so fundamentally different from DC Comics' Superman. One is entirely human and the other one is an infant sent from another planet, but both wrestle with their own deep sense of morality and the great responsibility that comes with having their great powers. Their stories speaks to us on multiple levels.

Intentional or unintentional instances of cultural impropriety? You be the judge.  

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