“But Does He Know How to Wind You Up?” Gwen Stefani Samples The Sound of Music
by Jane Park — University of Oklahoma
February 19, 2007 – 04:05
A student emailed me a link to this video after I mentioned Stefani’s exoticization of the harajuku girls, her performatively submissive Japanese backup dancers, as an example of Orientalism in pop culture. Here we see them jerking about mechanically in blond wigs (in kawaii imitation of their leader), who literally “winds them up” with a huge key displaying the “G” symbol (presumably for “Gwen”), which recurs throughout – as wallpaper, guitar, cross, and faux-swastika. Like the film it samples, this song celebrates the postwar liberal values of the US by consuming and containing difference. Maria gives up her freedom as a nun to marry Captain Von Trapp and assume the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood. In this sonic remix Gwen has become the captain, appropriating Japanese femininity as well as Black hip hop style to articulate her empowerment as a white female diva in the post-feminist era.
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