Tattoo Taboo? Ariana Grande’s Botched Tattoo Triggers Debate Over Cultural Appropriation


In what many view as a hilarious example of affected celebrity styling, Ariana Grande showed fans a new tattoo in Japanese Kanji writing that she said meant “7 Rings.” In reality, a missing character left a tattoo reading “BBQ Grill.” Some however did not miss the opportunity to be outraged and have claimed that any Kanji writing is cultural appropriation.

For those of us who last recalled this star making headlines for her disgusting conduct at a shop licking all the donuts, any cultural appropriation would be an improvement. However, that still raises again the premise of much of these cultural appropriation claims.

As we discussed just yesterday, I have admittedly been a critic of some of these claims on college campuses. We discussed a basketball game where a player was attacked due to wearing braids that 20-year-old Hispanic student, Carmen Figueroa, claimed to be cultural misappropriation.  Then there was the controversy at Pitzer College where white female students were warned to take off big hoop earrings as cultural appropriation.  Then there were the students at Oberlin who declared the serving of sushi as cultural appropriation while a white student was assaulted at San Francisco State University for wearing dreadlocks by an African American student. At the heart of some of these controversies is the claim of exclusivity in the use or enjoyment of styles, foods, art, or material originally associated with one culture.

There are troubling cases of insensitivity toward cultures that are rightfully condemned. There was however a shift from insensitivity to appropriation as the basis for many complaints on campuses.

In this case, the two characters separately mean seven (七) and ring (輪), but when put together “七輪” turns into Shichirin, the name for a small charcoal grill. That should make Grande a hit at the next Japanese grill she attends, but it raised gasps among in some quarters (examples: here and here and here and here).

I have never understood why people get tattoos in languages that they do not understand simply to tell people what it means. However, in fairness to Grande, she has a long-standing interest in the Japanese culture and has studied the language. It hardly constitutes appropriation of any kind to use another language or adopt phrases or words in another language.

Ironically, Grande may have projected this controversy with her hit single “7 Rings” when she sang “Girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble.”

21 thoughts on “Tattoo Taboo? Ariana Grande’s Botched Tattoo Triggers Debate Over Cultural Appropriation”

  1. Who care if it is cultural appropriation? That’s just a nonsense complaint. Is there a law against it? The very idea is absurd and should not be treated seriously unless there is some deliberate, intentional motive to insult or offend. As Chuck Berry said on one of his albums that was recorded at a live concert “It’s a free country baby. Live how you want to live!”

  2. Cultural appropriation is insanity. Apparently there are some people who spend their lives looking for something to be offended about.

  3. These claims about “cultural appropriation” are becoming a bore. Just for fun, I could make the claim that her name translates to English as “The Giant Airhead.” I don’t know if that’s a correct translation, but it comes across as well as her Japanese tattoo translates to English.

  4. It’ won’t die out, it’s a fad that is rooted in multiculturalism and relativism, which are firmly ensconced as dominant ideologies in academia, where kids go to “learn.” So it will keep on coming indefinitely, kind of like herpes

  5. Here finally geo soros says a few things I can agree with

    Chinese government used to call westerners Yi meaning barbarians. Well a treaty with the English put an end to that. But did they ever stop thinking of us as that? You know the answer in your hearts folks. Ethnic appropriation and ethnic competition is the way of nature. Get used to it. Will never go away. Win or lose: there is no “equality” in life

  6. Throughout human history the main form of culture change has been through cultural diffusion. The idea that one group of people find elements of another groups culture to be useful or appealing and incorporate it into their own. When this happens (and it happens constantly) the group will incorporate the technology, housing type, musical instruments, clothing types, etc of the other group but seldom the meanings that accompanied the objects in the other culture. The two groups may not even be in direct contact with each other. One group may receive an object which has been traded through one or more intermediaries before reaching them. So all items of culture can be said to be appropriated, very little is ever invented from scratch, it is either borrowed from another group or an old item receives an innovation to “improve” it, or both. The whole idea of Cultural Appropriation being a “sin” is ridiculous. Why is it that those who appropriate American or European culture (technology, clothing styles, etc) are never deemed to be cultural appropriators?

  7. Being half German and half Irish, I am evidently condemned to a monotonous diet of sausages, sauerkraut, corned beef, and potatoes.

    1. and perhaps you must limit yourself to the enormous legacy of German and Irish art and culture? Which is immense. Let the barbarians keep their trifles.

  8. What I find most alarming is that Grande, and those who criticize her, are (mostly) of voting age and thus share in the responsibility for electing our government. If they get all worked up over tattoos and possibly-fake accents, will they ever rationally evaluate candidates and issues?

  9. We are supposed to accept all cultures, religions, and lifestyles but now if we do, it’s cultural appropriation?
    The only thing this points out is her stupidity at being emblazoned with writing she can’t read. Pity it only said barbecue grill. It should had read “dummy”.

  10. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind cultural appropriation, especially since the very same group of people will readily call someone racist. This doesn’t leave much room for negotiation. So if you openly like something about another culture; bad. If you openly dislike something about another culture; bad. Cultural melting pot, mosaic, salad bowl; all bad. What’s the end game here?

  11. Being a middle-aged government bureaucrat, I am constantly on my guard against those who appropriate my culture…
    Black, badly needing a shine, wingtip brogues.
    Black, badly needing adjustment, thick prescription glasses.
    Black, badly needing new tires and a tune-up, 1978 Ford LTD.
    Hernia operation scar, left side.
    Blockbuster photo ID card.
    Overdue JC Penney credit card bill.
    Merle Haggard 8 track tapes.

  12. “Studied the language”? Sooner or later even the most cautious buffoon with revel themselves. Licking girl Grande makes a habit of it. Who cares what this attention-crazed waif says or does? Likely, other attention-crazed waifs.

  13. Sad fact is, a large number of folks running around with Kanji script they think says really cool stuff are actually sporting ink that says something totally different. A number of years ago in Japan I recall a young American man was inked with what he thought was “hope” or some such – someone more skilled in Japanese than us pointedly asked the young man, “why do you have dweeb tattooed on your arm?”.

  14. Maybe her tat was supposed to say “The politicians I support want 70% of my income.”

  15. “Girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble.”
    Lebel Without a Cause

      1. Lebel rifle, not worth remembering.

        Lebell, “Judo” Gene, a famous stuntman and judo medalist and pro wrestler. worth remembering.

        fought in a pioneering MMA match in america

        Choked Steven Seagal out on a movie set once and made him soil his britches, too, i hear

  16. While I applaud the efforts made by those such as our host to counter the ridiculousness of this cultural appropriation matter, in the end I believe the best course of action is for everyone simply to ignore the matter and neither address nor give in to it. If we do so this fad will die out sooner rather than later.

Comments are closed.