Selena Gomez's performance of her new single "Come and Get It" at Sunday night's MTV Movie Awards had everyone on the Internet saying things like, "Daaaaang, Selena! You're like, way hotter than that jerk J.Biebs right now! Twerk it, girl!" But when it came to her Bollywood-inspired performance, complete with a tabla beat, some Punjabi infusion, and a straight up bindi, Hindu groups weren't so much #TeamSelena as much as they were #TeamCulturalAppropriationisKindOfShitty.
The thing is, American pop being inspired by Bollywood is totally okay, because Bollywood music epitomizes everything that pop music should be. The recipe for pop music success usually reads: pumping beats, catchy lyrics, flashy outfits, and approximately 4,343,702 backup dancers. Bollywood has got that game on lock. What's not okay is taking things a step too far and appropriating religious symbols for the sake of performance. Selena donning a bindi might appear to be a cute lil' homage to India, but according to Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, "The bindi on the forehead is an ancient tradition in Hinduism and has religious significance. It is also sometimes referred to as the third eye and the flame, and it is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol… It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed."
PREACH, Rajan Zed! But everyone else seems to think Zed and other Selena haterz are being too sensitive. "It's unfair to single her out in this scenario," said Micah Jesse of Huffington Post Live, "because Gwen Stefani, Jessica Simpson… So many other celebrities have worn the bindi." Ohhhh, okay. When everybody does it, it's not cultural appropriation! Right.
The bindi has worked its way into Western society as a symbol of sensuality rather than religion, and for the 20-year-old Gomez, who's in the midst of the ritual "tween star declares her womanhood" campaign, the bindi was the perfect cherry on top. The perfectly culturally insensitive cherry on top.
Image via Associated Press