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Feminspire | April 24, 2014

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Not So Fine: Why Chris Brown’s ‘Fine China’ Video is Problematic

Not So Fine: Why Chris Brown’s ‘Fine China’ Video is Problematic

chris-brown-fine-chinaUpstanding 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

  • Jennifer Elford

    I can’t help but wonder if the outrage would have been less if the words ‘like fine china’ hadn’t actually been in the lyrics and just the title?

    • Crystal

      Nope. Still bad.

    • May

      Well, I think even if the words were in the title, people would be able to connect it to the fact that it is based on the fact that his girlfriend is Chinese and to the fact that multiple racist generalizations about Chinese culture are being made, so yes, I believe it still would have been a pretty big outrage.

      • sam

        I really hope you realize the song and it’s title are all written and chosen before the film clip is even though of… But I have a feeling the mind of a feminist is to preoccupied with being stuck in the 1980′s to notice any like that.

    • Laura-Blaise

      Well while the lyrics are pretty bad, I’d still say the video is more problematic over all than the words themselves, and so my level of outrage would have been the same.

  • musique1

    get over it! its just a music video & it bangs!

  • smoke

    lol this article can’t be serious. Youre seriously offended or just looking for an arguement?

  • Wow.

    Wow, this is a really stupid article.

    • GentlemanDennis

      How about I said you’re ignorant enough?

  • Wow.

    Like, this is seriously idiotic. One, he was going for a cheesy, MJ vibe, movie-like, music video, hence the plot. Had the Gangsters been black, and the girl been black no one would have given nary a f*ck about this. Two, he wasn’t comparing her to a piece of cookery because of her race, if you listened to the lyrics you’d know that???? And if we’re talking about ‘racism’ here, let’s talk about dubbing Chris Brown a thug, huh? This right here is why I don’t mess with white feminists. Lol

    • Guest

      Chris Brown was referred to as a thug because he beat a woman senseless, which has nothing to do with his colour. The point is that the gang and the girl were not black, they were Asian and the stereotyping of Asians in this video is a problem. Simple as.

      • Yeah

        No, This article is stupid.

      • Nicki

        But I reckon it was cool all the times she was the aggressor and he tried to take the high road. Nah, they were a toxic couple that never should have stayed together as long as they did because neither of them could keep their hands to themselves. I love how everyone STILL loves to vilify him after she decided he was good enough for her to take back. They were both wrong, he was a lot more wrong, but can we just move on? Sheesh!

  • Beez

    Chris Brown is just trolling at this point, right?

  • ben

    Aww, these comments make me sad. Y’all can’t recognize that this video is racist as hell? Delicate asian girl rescued from her oppressive kung fu family while eating sushi in a cheongsam?

  • smh

    This isn’t even racist some of it is just Asian culture which is obviously the theme of the video (Fine CHINA). If you know Chris you know that he’s really in to anime and Japanese art so I just took a lot of aspects of that culture. smh whoever wrote this was obviously looking for something to go at him about

  • mr

    just like vagina..

  • zombieprincess

    Not dangerous? HA! Generous? With his fists? Favorite? To hit? Worth the chase.. teehehehehe. Give me a weapon!!! WHAT? Oh her love.. Did he say feel in your skull?..oh soul :) my bad. HAHAHAHA -.- I don’t particularly like him.

  • Nancy

    Calm your titties, people! It’s not that serious… First, as stupid as comparing a girl to fine china is, I’m pretty sure the song wasn’t intended to woo an Asian girl. How it translated into that in video is an artistic choice he made along with the producers of the video.
    Second, all the actors in this video are terrible. I was more shocked by thats than anything else.
    Third, originality is overrated. Chris imitates MJ, Lady Gaga imitates Madonna…who cares? And people need to get off his dick, he’s the best actor in this video AND probably had a blast shooting it. All the hating in the world won’t change that.
    Finally, I agree with that last point: modern society is all about stereotypes. Live wih it.

  • JW

    Love this song and like the video. I REALLY loved the video that he shows on his twitter page. He was dancing alone throughout that entire video before four guys joined him towards the end. Portions of that one-take performance were incorporated into this video. Say what you want about his personal life (which is his business, by the way) but there is no denying that this dude is one talented mofo. Disagree all you want but it’s the truth. Well done Breezy!

  • mom

    song was composed before the video. song, then video. think. common sense. use it.

  • Sunny

    Is there anything Chris Brown doesn’t do that isn’t problematic? You could write a book on the problematic things he does at this point.

  • JubJub

    Chris Brown isn’t a talented man. He writes generic, autotuned pop songs that you can’t tell from each other. This song is below average, expectedly, and for anyone that maybe doesn’t think the video is a bit racist/sexist, surely you agree it was a bad idea having an Asian “bad guy/love interest” in a song called ‘Fine China’. Whoever came up with that deserves a medal.

    Also it’s hard to be convinced by any of Brown’s songs when he has assaulted previous girlfriends. It’s just not believable that he treats his girlfriends like “uncollectable fine china” when previous girlfriends of his have had their faces smashed like… oh… “fine china”.

  • jennifer

    Guys this video is about treating a girl like “fine china”, its not in anyway trying to be racist. Although it may come across as a bit stereotypical

  • moe

    the literal meaning of thug is not associated with gangs, or anything. THUG LIFE is the complete opposite of having the money to succeed in life, meaning someone who comes from a poor family and becomes successful is a thug. THUG LIFE is a acronym for The Hate U Give Lil Infants Fucks Everyone. so chris brown is a thug but not in the sense that he is a violent person he is a thug because he came from being not so rich to becoming super rich

    • Lisa

      now my mind’s just blown, yo.

  • Ash

    you obviously are looking too far into it, it would be dumb and awkward to put any other race of girl in it seeing as in ITS FINE CHINA. And the video is a take of of Michael Jackson, so the fight scene was simply a connection. Yeah the video isnt racist, you are definitely over thinking.

  • cafewill

    I love the video and song. Chris pays homage to the King Of Pop and puts his own personal take on it. This is entertainment not a political documentary. Get serious about real problems and then do something about it. Organize a food drive, Mentor at risk kids. Write a letter to Congress about doing their jobs. Just my 2 Cents.

  • HayleyChen

    What the hell kind of Chinese family eats sushi in their home? Not mine. They don’t like Japanese anything. Eating in my qipao on a sunny afternoon? Yeah freaking right; those things make everyone feel fat.

    True, the video is ironically racist, particularly in the fact that the Asian family is naturally part of a gang, but, honestly, from all the Chinese I know, if their daughter was going to date a black guy they wouldn’t like it. And if it was Chris Brown, they would kill him. I think if Chris Brown tried to date anyone’s daughter, they would kill him.
    What I want to know is, if the father was willing to let his gangbangers manhandle his daughter, why didn’t he just let Chris date her?

    • Kittybat

      this is such a great response, including insightful/true nudge about qipao’s and their ability to suffocate, that nothing else need be said. Thumbs up.

  • Yassine Ouertani

    pls the name of the asian girl??

  • TheLinkinFighter

    Oh my lord, I completely agree with you. Moreover, I find this song incredibly ironic seeing as if Chris Brown treats his “fine china” like he does his women, all of his nice plates must be in pieces. As a woman who wishes for a day when men and women stand on equal ground, seeing all the people so willing to condone the deeds of this abusive man is difficult.