Not So Fine: Why Chris Brown’s ‘Fine China’ Video is Problematic
Upstanding citizen and all-around good guy Chris Brown’s latest offering ‘Fine China’ is, of course, free from any form of sexism, racism or general stereotyping. There is just the right amount of pelvic thrusting, and the choreography is completely original and not even remotely similar to that of Michael Jackson. (Is it too late for a belated April Fools gag?)
No matter what month it is, everything I’ve just said is a complete joke. (Yes I know, I’m very funny.) Though I doubt anyone reading this will be particularly surprised to learn that Mr Brown’s new video is completely and utterly offensive, I’m still going to have myself a nice little rant about the whole thing, and the numerous levels on which it deviates from the acceptable, not least the obscene amount of pelvic thrusting present at every turn.
Renowned theorist Edward Said’s essay ‘Orientalism’, in which he deals with the way in which the West perceives and negatively portrays the East in literature and the media, is easily recalled as one watches this video. Said notes that the East is often seen in Western media as the enemy; the oppressive, aggressive ‘other’, and this video embodies his theory completely.
This ghastly affair starts off in the somewhat futuristic family home of the pretty young Chinese woman Chris has set his sights on, and her stereotypically strict parents. As they sit at a table laden with sushi and green tea, the father informs her that she must stop seeing Brown. He tells her that “the leader of the Triad must live by a code, and as my daughter, so shall you.” So, just to clarify, he’s leader of a Chinese gang. Right. Her somewhat feeble protest of “You don’t even know him!” is met by the declaration that her new boyfriend a ‘thug’. Imagine! Calling Chris Brown a thug! So uncalled for, so cruel. Although, if I had a daughter who was dating Chris Brown, I may have somewhat broadened my vocabulary.
Chris then pulls up outside the house in his swanky car, and emerges to lean against it, contorting his face into the the most innocent, affectionate expression a girl could wish for. His unnamed love interest then runs down her driveway, into his arms and they drive off together. We then get these lyrics: ‘It’s alright I’m not dangerous/ When you’re mine I’ll be generous/ You’re irreplaceable/ Uncollectable/ Just like fine china.’ No Chris. Comparing a girl to a type of crockery due to her race isn’t okay.
He proceeds to a club, his ‘Fine China’ in tow, where he woos her further with excessive dance routines and high pitched screeches. He prances around in this way for several minutes, as she totters after him, until suddenly, an Asian gang bursts in, obviously sent by her father. Brown of course takes them all on and singlehandedly defeats them using martial arts (because they’re Asian you know). His lady friend, like the helpless little woman she is, stands back and allows Chris to do all the dirty work. Once he is surrounded by a pile of unconscious men, he sweeps her off her feet and they make to leave the club, after some further jiving from, you guessed it, Chris. Of course, upon exiting the club, they are confronted yet again by a larger gang of angry Asian men, this time lead by the father of his girlfriend. She walks over to her father upon his orders and is of course manhandled by his minions, where she weakly struggles. Not only is this feeble attempt to portray Asian culture as extremely oppressive, it is also lazy enough to stick to the damsel in distress theme, which is now, as it always has been, extremely boring. The video seeks to present the girl’s culture and family as anti-women when in reality the video itself is fiercely sexist. The female character is weak and submissive, her life controlled by the men in it.
Just as all looks hopeless and guns are pointed at our hero, an enormous gang of men (no Asians visible amongst them) emerge behind Chris, pointing weapons at the enemy. And then it ends.
The whole affair is reminiscent of innumerable Hollywood action movies in which the East is seen as the enemy; uncivilized, evil, callous men and beautiful, docile, victimized women. It all seems terribly outdated. Of course, I am awfully naive in that I tend to think that things of a blatantly racist, sexist, or problematic nature are awfully old-fashioned, when in fact they seem to be a key feature of modern Western society, as this video helpfully attests to.
What do you think of Chris Brown’s music video for ‘Fine China’? Join the conversation and share your insights in the comments below.
Written by Laura-Blaise McDowell