This is not actually going to be a post where I complain about anything that I like, because there is nothing to complain about when it comes to Selena Gomez. I fell in love with her character on Wizards of Waverly Place in the very first episode (I will write more about this in a later post), and now she could write Shantaram and start an NGO dedicated to poverty tourism and I still would not be able to say anything negative about her. Her new song takes a new direction, and I love that this direction happens to be towards India (even though when describing the song, she equated “Bollywood” and “tribal” – slightly uncool, but I still love you, Selena). When I lived in India the first time, I met so many girls who had Selena as their Facebook profile picture. She clearly has a large fan base in the country, and I think it was a very smart move for her to recognize this fan base and release a song inspired by India.
The controversy surrounding the song is mostly due to her lackluster performance of it at the MTV Movie Awards. The performance admittedly was not great (but she made up for it with a stellar performance on Dancing With the Stars). However, one of the complaints was regarding the bindi she was wearing: apparently, some people think it is offensive, because bindis have religious significance and she is simply using it as a fashion statement in a performance.
This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard in my life. In India, white people* wear bindis and everyone loves it! We’re appreciating and assimilating to their culture! Most Hindus would even agree that bindis are more of a fashion accessory than anything else these days. That’s why they have thousands of different styles and designs. They’re used all the time in Bollywood in seductive item numbers with sexually explicit lyrics and dance moves, with no problems. Every Indian dance performance in America features white people wearing bindis – I should know; I’ve been one of them – and no one complains. I literally can think of people I know personally from every major religion who have worn bindis at the suggestion of Hindu friends. Why is Selena’s performance somehow different?
She is not trying to put on a costume and dress up like an “Indian”. The song and her performances of it are nothing more than “Indian-inspired”, and Selena isn’t trying to make them any more than that. To me, “Come and Get It” is just a shout-out to her fans in India, and her fans in India really deserve it. Her dance moves are not authentic Indian dance moves, but they are clearly Indian-inspired. Her outfits aren’t sarees, but they are Indian-inspired – and this is all Selena Gomez is claiming them to be. If people are okay with Ghajini poorly ripping off Memento and saying it was just “inspired by” the Hollywood movie, then they should also be okay with Selena Gomez poorly ripping off India and saying it was “inspired by” Bollywood.
This song is great, and I think does a great job paying tribute to India without ever going into the territory of being offensive. If you want to complain about something in America being a disgrace to Indian culture, complain about the “Bollywood” performance in Shake It Up! or the other “Bollywood” performance in Smash.
My first thought upon hearing “Come and Get It” was that Bollywood is overdue to invite Selena to do a real Bollywood collaboration, like they did with Kylie Minogue and Akon. Selena, if I ever make and star in a Bollywood movie, please sing every song for me. You can even guest star as my best friend and have your own item number!
*not that Selena is actually white – something all the arguments I’ve read quoting “white privilege” against her have failed to point out