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Coldplay and Beyoncé show you how not to localise video

Published on February 19th, 2016

There are many best practices when it comes to localising video, but if there is one golden rule, we would have to say it’s this: don’t upset any of the cultures you’re trying to reach or represent. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Coldplay and Beyoncé for this great example of how not to localise video.

In fairness, Beyoncé only features in Coldplay’s “Hymn for the Weekend” and it’s not as if the British band produces its own videos. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of renowned producer Ben Mor and the Yaron Yashinski Studio of Tel Aviv, Israel. Nevertheless, it’s the stars themselves that are receiving most of the flak – so let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.

First, here’s the video that caused a stir

The video’s a visual feast for sure, and the production itself is worthy of Ben Mor’s lofty reputation. But it’s the cultural representation of India in this video that people are talking about. 

What are people so upset about in Coldplay’s new video?

Critics of the new Coldplay video label it as “appropriation”, accusing the band of misrepresenting Indian culture – and that’s putting it politely.

 

Sam isn’t the only one calling out Coldplay and Beyoncé for their portrayal of India in the video, and claims of appropriation in pop music is nothing new. Justin Bieber was singled out last year for his single “Sorry”, which drew inspiration from reggaeton, a popular genre to emerge from Latin America.

Chilean pop culture blogger Maximiliano Jimenez called out the Canadian artist on his blog, saying: “The new single by Bieber is a tutorial from Skrillex on how to make reggaeton for white people”.

This isn’t even the first time a Coldplay collaboration has touched on the appropriation topic. Some eagle-eyed Tweeters have pointed to a previous collaboration with Rhianna, entitled “Princess of China”, where the female artist dons a traditional Chinese gown.

 

Critics are basically coming at this from two angles: first, that some artists are guilty of misrepresenting cultures around the world, and secondly that they are doing so for their own gain. Some of the attacks on the video are pretty scathing too, – especially on the topic of Beyoncé’s portrayal of a Bollywood actress in “traditional” clothing.

So what are the lessons in all of this?

Well, there are numerous things to take away from the debate over this Coldplay video. Above all, it shows how carefully you need to treat cultures and the dangers of stereotypes. There are many fans of this video though, who argue this is cultural appreciation rather than appropriation. And the video has certainly made an impact, even if it’s a divided one.

For a music video, many will tell you there’s no such thing as bad publicity, although it would be interesting to know why the song didn’t feature in the weekend’s Super Bowl half-time show, where both Coldplay and Beyoncé took to the stage.

In terms of localisation, it highlights how careful you need to be when representing other cultures. The intention of this video may well have been to show the beauty of Indian culture, but it’s failed to impress a large number of Indian viewers in the process.

Major artists who release single videos for a global audience may be able to afford to upset a few crowds and settle for the publicity. For the rest of us though, this only goes to show how important video localisation is when we present ourselves to overseas cultures.

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Posted on: February 19th, 2016