The Conflict of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the use of elements from one culture by members of a different culture.  According to law professors and psychologists, social scientists and politicians, cultural appropriation happens when one culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, and more are used without permission of the culture from which it is taken.  It’s especially hurtful when the culture being appropriated is one that’s been exploited or oppressed by the culture doing the appropriating.

In other words, cultural appropriation promotes the power imbalance of the ruling class over those who have been historically marginalized.

There are two kinds of culture:  Material culture and non-material culture.  Non-material culture is what’s meant when speaking about cultural appropriation since non-material culture deals specifically with intangibles.  Beliefs.  Traditions.  Values.

Of course, within material and non-material cultures are other constructs such as subculture (beliefs or behaviors that are contrary to the majority of the culture’s community) and counterculture (active rejection of aspects that are dominant in the culture’s community).  For the purposes of this essay, the focus is on mainstream non-material culture.

Now psychologists will tell you that culture and the people of a culture have a symbiotic relationship.  Each culture has its unique societal norms by which to live, and members of each culture live by shared expectations and rules that guide and determine their place in that culture.  To this end, people define and refine what their culture is, and culture defines and refines its people.

These days, there’s a lot being said about cultural appropriation.  Some of it is warranted such as the outcry against sports teams using names that are offensive to Indigenous peoples in the Americas.  But is it possible to create art without any cultural appropriation?

Was it cultural appropriation when the Bangles sang about walking like an Egyptian?

Was it cultural appropriation when Carl Douglas let us know that everyone was kung fu fighting?

Was it cultural appropriation when the Vapors thought they were turning Japanese?

Was it cultural appropriation when Steven Tyler and Aerosmith announced that dude looked like a lady?

How about when Toto decided to take on the entire continent of Africa?

This is where the waters are muddy.  If those songs and other art, literature, music, and more is cultural appropriation, where do we draw the line when it comes to enjoying past creative endeavors?  If we’re told to turn our backs on pop culture that draws on other cultures to exist, is it also time to boycott the classics whether it’s literature, art, or music?

Do we turn our backs on Béla Bartók’s Romanian Dances seeing he was from Hungary and not Romania?  Is it time to refuse to attend concerts where Brahm’s “Ballade Edward” is performed because it was based on a Scottish ballad and Johannes wasn’t Scottish?  How about Beethoven’s music based on Welsh, Irish, and Scottish folk songs?  After all Ludwig was German, was he not?

How about all those musicians who aren’t English but who have recorded “Scarborough Fair” or “Greensleeves?”   Should they be forced to make reparations for daring to sing something they obviously appropriated from another culture?

Should “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” be sung only by those of African-American heritage?  And next New Year’s Eve, should the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” only be sung only by those who can prove their Scottish ancestry?

Do we stop children and their grandparents from enjoying a rousing rendition of “Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?” if they haven’t an ounce of English blood anywhere in their background — or going back at least eight generations?

Where no offense is meant, is any harm done?  Some say yes while others say no.  But if we are to say harm is done, where does this leave the English language which is an amalgam of several languages?  Is it time to dismantle the language to create a language that English-language speakers can safely call their own that doesn’t steal from other languages and cultures?

There’s no easy solution, and this is why we need to speak openly about what is, and is not, harmful cultural appropriation.  Certainly there are ways to draw upon cultures that are not our own without causing insult and injury.  It begins with mutual respect, and this means both sides must be willing to hear each other out before jumping to conclusions.  What are your thoughts on the subject?

Elyse Bruce

PewDiePie’s Marketing Brilliance Is Showing

Rather than jump the gun on Tuesday with this entry for Business Tuesday, I decided to watch what was going on with Felix Kjellberg aka PewDiePie.  He announced on YouTube via a ten-minute rant recently that once his popular YouTube channel reaches 50 million subscribers, he will delete the channel.  Why?  Because YouTube is supposedly being “mean” to him. The Internet went wild over the announcement!  As of earlier this morning, PewDiePie was within scant subscribers of being at the 50 million subscriber goal.


Before the day is out, Felix Kjellberg will undoubtedly have his 50 million subscribers.  However, this doesn’t spell the end of PewDiePie’s presence on the Internet, and it certainly doesn’t spell the end of PewDiePie’s presence on YouTube.  In fact, for those who listened to his video rant where he announced he would be killing his channel, he gave himself a backdoor back in to the platform and laid the groundwork for even greater virtual reality success via his videos.

The Groundwork

Everyone who follows Felix on YouTube knows that his PewDiePie channel isn’t the only channel he has on YouTube.  In fact, he’s had the second YouTube channel with far fewer subscribers for a while now.  Threatening to delete his popular PewDiePie channel isn’t as dramatic as his ten-minute rant made it sound.  Deleting one channel in order to grow his other channel is marketing brilliance.


Building A Brand Based On Loyalty

When his PewDiePie channel is deleted (should he decide to go through with what he said he would do), Felix will either fire up another PewDiePie channel on YouTube to which his subscribers will swarm or he anticipates a large migration of loyal followers to subscribe to his lesser known YouTube account he’s had since December 4, 2010.  Regardless of how this plays out, Felix won’t be without his fan base as he will build the new YouTube platform to the multitudes he has previously enjoyed with a difference.  These subscribers will be diehard PewDiePie fans with the less-enthusiastic followers from his early years weeded out.

Cashing In Big Time

Something most people may not realize is that in begging for subscribers to take his channel to 50 million so he can delete his channel means money in his pocket.  YouTube revenues for people like PewDiePie are based on views and subscriptions which means he’s making a pile of money as people (both those familiar with his brand and those who don’t know who he is) tune into YouTube to see what’s going on with this Internet celebrity, and he’s making a pile of money from people (haters and new-found fans) who subscribe to the PewDiePie channel.

If he closes down the PewDiePie channel (because he may opt to hide the channel rather than actually delete it), he’ll make even more money as millions flock to his alternate channel or to his new channel on YouTube.

Sarcasm Or Inflammatory Comments

If you want mainstream media to cover a fringe celebrity’s news, do something that’s going to grab their attention.  In this case, PewDiePie stated the following in his video rant:

  1. YouTube wants to destroy his channel;
  2. PewDiePie’s channel has too much click bait;
  3. PewDiePie’s channel doesn’t have enough family friendly content;
  4. PewiDiePie complains too much to YouTube;
  5. YouTube wants Lilly Singh’s channel to be more popular than PewDiePie’s channel; and
  6. PewDiePie is white and Lilly Singh isn’t.

Now all of those claims are humorous as long as they aren’t taken seriously.  Whether it’s sarcasm or inflammatory comments made to stir the pot, it worked insofar as mainstream media is covering his story.  There’s something for nearly everyone (including conspiracy theorists) to grab hold of and run with on social media.  Nothing gets more attention from the media and on social media than outrageous claims and commentary.

Final Note

From a marketing standpoint, Felix Kjellberg has shown repeatedly that he understands what his audience expects from him, and he never fails to deliver.  This is how he’s climbed to the top of the YouTuber ladder.  His latest grandstanding stunt with his outlandish ire at YouTube is more of that marketing brilliance that he’s demonstrated over the years.    If you’re interested in growing an enormous presence on YouTube, study PewDiePie’s approach to courting and romancing potential viewers and keeping viewers he’s already won over.  His approach may not work for your business, but there’s something to learn from his approach even if you disagree with his way of doing business.

Elyse Bruce

UPDATE (SATURDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2016):  When Felix Kjellberg’s PewDiePie YouTube channel reached 50 million subscribers, he tweeted to his followers that he would delete his channel on December 9, 2016 at 5:00 GST.    The funny thing is that on Saturday, December 10, 2016 his channel was still live on YouTube.

This seems to support my suspicion that Felix’s announcement was meant to push his channel to the 50 million plus subscriber mark.  Brilliant marketing, Felix, and well played!






Idle No More: Reverse Racism Recoil

In the U.S. the one-drop rule has been around since 1662. Back then, every individual had to be classified as either black or white.  Anyone with a black ancestor, regardless of how many generations one had to go back to find that black ancestor, was automatically disqualified from being white.

How this affected the way people were listed in the American census even into the 1940s — including those who were of Native American Indian descent — was that a great many Indigenous peoples found themselves listed as black with complete disregard for any other culture or heritage that were part of who they were.

Many mistakenly believe that the law has long since disappeared into the mist of days gone by, but not that long ago, the one-drop rule was used in a legal proceeding in Louisiana.  In 1985, a Louisiana court ruled that a woman could not identify herself as “white” on her passport because her great-great-great-great-grandmother was black.

But surely in the thirty years that have passed, no one subscribes to the one-drop rule anymore.  Or do they?

Research has proven that both whites and non-whites perceive biracial individuals as being members of the lower-status group of the two races.  In other words, if someone has an African-American parent and a white parent, the child is perceived as being African-American with no acknowledgement of the child’s white heritage.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about white privilege — what it is and what it isn’t.  In cases of biracial individuals, it would seem that white privilege is disregarded by those categorizing those of mixed heritage.

And in Canada, among some First Nations peoples, it would seem that not only is the one-drop rule applied to the Métis, but the white heritage is considered to be the lower-status, and there’s nothing the Métis can do about it.

Over on social media, there’s a nasty situation brewing — one that threatens the well-being of a young mother and her children.  Some Idle No More supporters are saying that her Hallowe’en costume was racist and that she appropriated Indigenous culture.

She’s Métis.  Her children are Treaty. For Hallowe’en, she dressed as a Native.
He’s white.  For Hallowe’en, he dressed as a cowboy.

This blog entry doesn’t address what they chose to wear. This blog entry addresses the nasty comments that have been made about her heritage and her right to claim her Indigenous culture.

In Daniels v  Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development), the Supreme Court of Canada determined that Métis, non-status Indians, and Inuit are equal to Treaty Indians in the eyes of the law.

This means we are considered full status as distinctive rights-bearing peoples, and our integral practices are entitled to constitutional protection under s. 35(1).

In 1705 (50 years after the one-drop rule was established), the U.S. established blood quantum law for Native American Indians.  The law wasn’t applied across the U.S. until the Indian Reorganizations Act of 1934 (also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act) when the U.S. government insisted that only persons with a specific blood quantum could be recognized as Native American Indian so they would be eligible for financial and other benefits under the treaty agreements.

The Dawes Commission Enrollment Records referred to registered Indigenous peoples as “Indians by Blood” and between these two Acts, Native American Indians found themselves forced to abandon their claims to Indigenous heritage.

Native American Indians were registered in the census as black (if they had an African-American ancestor) or white (if they had a white ancestor and no African-American ancestor and were sufficiently light-skinned as to pass), causing them to lose part of their identity due to the Racial Integrity Act.  So did all their descendants.

But in Canada, there were no blood quantum laws.  There was no Racial Integrity Act. There was no Dawes Commission Enrollment Records. There was no Indian Reorganizations Act.

What we do have in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada definition of what a Métis is, and whether the Métis are recognized as Indigenous peoples.

who-are-the-metisBut it would seem that the one-drop rule that exists in the U.S. is also alive and well and living in Canada among some of the First Nations peoples.  To them, someone who is Métis has no right to claim their Indigenous heritage as the are white by virtue of being  half-bloods, half-breeds, mixed bloods, bois brûlés, chicots … Métis.

Thanks to the English and French who ruled what eventually became Canada, the Métis as an identifiable culture sprang up that drew heavily on our First Nations lineage with touches of our European  heritage.  We were not white then even though we had white blood coursing through our veins.  We are still not white even though we have white blood still coursing through our veins.  We are Métis.

Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

                             Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Yes, there were attempts to eradicate our Indigenous heritage by such legislation as the Dominion Lands Act of 1879.  Our ancestors were offered scrip which was then written up on the government rolls as an Indigenous person’s agreement to opt out of Treaties.  But those who were lost their status persevered as Métis and raised their children according to their ancestors.

But the Métis existed long before the late 1800s.  When the French explorers arrived in the early 1600s, they took First Nations women as their wives and together they had children. Distinct communities with mixed-blood children of Algonquin women and European men were being raised by the late 1600s.  These communities relied heavily on their Indigenous heritage, history, and culture while blending in European traditions for flavor.

They were neither solely European nor First Nations.  They were Métis, and they were Indigenous peoples.

Heháka Sápa also known as Black Elk (1 December 1863 – 19 August 1950) is oftentimes quoted with regards to what it is to be an Indian.  Black Elk was the second cousin to Crazy Horse.  He witnessed the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, and fought in the Battle at Wounded Knee at 1890.  He traveled to Europe with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in 1887, and created his own Indian show held in the Black Hills to teach tourists about the Lakota culture and traditional rituals in 1934.

When asked, Black Elk said, “If you have one drop of Indian blood in your veins, then you are Indian.”

There are some First Nations peoples in 2016 who berate Métis peoples for being who they are.  They accuse them of cultural appropriation of Indigenous culture for daring to honor what they have a right to lay claim to by way of their birthright.

They tell them that because they have at least one white ancestor (the one-drop rule), they cannot say they are anything other than white.

And that, is a racist comment.

Perhaps in stretching the rubber band of political correctness so much, we are overlooking the fact that at some point that rubber band will snap.  The recoil will smart.

Perhaps it’s time to put an end to comments and beliefs that negate who each of us are as individuals.  Perhaps it’s time to be respectful of each other’s beliefs and realities.

It is definitely time to put the one-drop rule to rest, and to be accepting of who we and others are.

Elyse Bruce









Idiomation Takes A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

Some people do what they do because it comes easy to them.  Some people do what they do because they love doing what they do.  I happen to do what I do because I’m one of those people who loves to do what I do:  Research.  Create.  Share.

When others acknowledge what you do, and acknowledge that what you do, you do well, words can’t begin to describe how amazing it is.  That’s why today I’m choosing to share this Press Release with you on Business Tuesday.  Please feel free to share this on your social media accounts and if you aren’t already subscribed to my blog, “Idiomation: Historically Speaking” please take the time to do just that.


More Than Just A Jukebox King

Louis Jordan.  The man hailed as a jukebox king was delightfully irreverent, socially relevant, and downright hilarious.  And I wasn’t very old when I first heard some of his most popular songs.  In fact, I wasn’t even a pre-schooler when I first heard some of his most famous songs although I didn’t hear them from any of his recordings until I was older.

When I was a child, my father would occasionally sing snippets of songs popular from his younger days, and these snippets usually sent his children into fits of laughter.  My father could be wildly politically incorrect in today’s terms, but back when I was growing up, being politically incorrect had its moments, and singing these songs were part of those moments.

Were it not for the silliness of that song, I might not have told myself it was important to remember the name of the singer, and as it happens, I found the singer’s name to be as memorable as the first line of that song.  It’s also where my love of dark chord progressions and happy lyrics began.

Another Louis Jordan favorite that I loved to pieces (and was happy to hear re-recorded by Doug and the Slugs in the 80s) was “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens.”  I loved that song so much that I took to using that line as my default answer when my mother would try to find her brood.  While the line always seemed to work for Louis Jordan and his orchestra, it never seemed to work for me as I was always the first child found in the house.

Now romance is something that I’ve always seen from an interesting comic perspective.  This song with its dark lyrics and uptempo music quickly became one of my favorites, and as a child, I thought it would be lots of fun to meet Jack from the song — just so I could find out why he had such bad luck in the love and romance department.  And every time my father got to the final refrain of this song, well, it was the cat’s meow!  Or the bees knees.  Or whatever other funny phrase came to mind at the time.

I suppose my love of writing lyrics that added another level to words was as a direct result of listening to songs like this one.  At the time, I was far too young to understand the many layered meanings to this song, but I loved how n-n-n-nuts made me think that this is how squirrels would probably say the word if they spoke English.

One thing I never understood (never have, and probably never will) is what it was about this song that would stick in my mother’s craw every single time my father launched into singing it.  Whenever she had terse words for my father (and we were the built-in audience for the drama during such times), there came a point where he would laugh heartily and start in with this Louis Jordan hit.

As a teenager, I uncovered a lot more Louis Jordan songs that made my day any day I listened to them.  In some ways, they were an extension of those fun days I’d known as a child, but they were also a chance to express myself without being chided for being insolent.  And trust me, on days when my older brother stuck his nose into my life, it was songs like this that helped me sidestep his nosey parker ways.

Then there was this riotously inappropriate murder-promoting song that really let a person vent thanks to a number of very popular musicians of the day including Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald.

These days, everyone as an opinion on everything including how to fix the national debt (even though they may be up to their own ears in debt) and how everyone else should run their business.  Of course, in some cases if you don’t give them time on their virtual soapbox, you’ll never hear the end of how close-minded you are.  In cases such as those, you might want to learn this song so you can sing it silently to yourself while the lecture is proceeding.

Finally, while this Louis Jordan song isn’t one I heard as a child or a teen or even a young adult, it seems oddly appropriate as the American election looms large on the horizon.

Until next time, take care, be well, and let music guide you through the rough times as well as the tough times, and to spice up the fun times along the way.

Elyse Bruce

Business Videos: Part 2

Part 1 of this 2-part article on Business Videos outlined all the work that needs to be done before work begins on the actual video.  Those who haven’t been involved in this before are usually surprised to learn there’s more work involved on the front end than on the back end when creating an effective and successful video.

Live Action Shots

With the storyboard in place, live action shots can be managed before any filming begins.  The storyboard allows the filmmaker to identify potential locations for live action shots.

Securing signatures (on a one-page contract) that grants permission to the film crew to shoot on location is one step that can’t be put to on the back burner.  Missing signed contracts can result in business video distribution (regardless of whether it’s television or social media or any other distribution network) being stopped in its tracks.

Even with signed permission, always shoot far more footage than you think you’ll need, and go with more than just one take.  The reason for this is that it’s better to have a selection from which to choose the best angle.  If there’s no best angle, you may have to splice two or more takes into one to make the shot work.

Motion Graphics

Motion graphics is a digital technique that combines images and/or audio.  Those credits at the beginning and end of a movie are motion graphics.  The pop-up text on screens during video presentations are motion graphics.  If you nail the right mix of visual and audio components, it will stay with your audience (which is what you want).

From the font used to the way text moves around on the screen or the music swells during emotionally charged moments, having the right motion graphics in place will spell the difference between a good video and a great video.  The right motion graphics create the moods that accompany the message, and sustain the moods in a fluid, transitional linear fashion.


When you hear the word animation, you probably default to thinking about cartoons.  While that’s one form of animation, there’s more to animation than just cartooning.

Cartooning encompasses many things from staging (to establish mood, create focus, and clarify the message in a shot) to secondary actions (how the action created by the focus causes action to happen in items in the same shot) and on to timing (the most effective sequence of shots) and appeal (the best arrangement of visual and audio).

Voice-Over Recording

Nothing will derail a fantastic video faster than having the wrong voice over talent reading the script.  This is where auditioning talent will save everyone a lot of grief in the long-term.

Think of the car commercials from the 70s where Ricardo Montalbán’s smooth exotically accented voice seduced us into thinking about Corinthian leather.

Think of the Tylenol commercial with the calming voice reassuring viewers that Tylenol would make them feel better soon.

Think of the Dos Equis beer commercial where a cultured voice dishes on the Most Interesting Man in the World.

Now imagine swapping out Ricardo Montalban’s voice with that of Pee Wee Herman, or soothing Susan Sarandon’s voice with that of peppy Fran Drescher’s voice, or having Roy Romano tell us about the Most Interesting Man in the World.  The result is that changing who does the voice over also changes the feel of the commercial.  And this is why you have to audition voice-over talent.

Sound Track

Music can add or detract from a visual presentation.  The purpose of having a sound track is to elicit an emotional response, and as with voice talent, the genre matters as does style, arrangement, and (if there are vocals) the vocalist.

The word entertain actually means to engage the attention.  So while music is supposed to be entertaining, the purpose of using music in your video should be to engage the attention of viewers and hold the attention of viewers.

Whether you use a song that’s easily recognized by the public (e.g. Andrew Gold’s “Thank You For Being A Friend”) or one that’s far less recognizable, remember to secure written permission from the copyright owner(s) to use the music in your video.  Contrary to popular misconception, it’s not prohibitively expensive to do things the right way.


Simply put, editing is the preparation of materials through correction, revision, and modification, for final presentation.  The purpose of editing is to detect and correct errors and continuity flaws, to clarify the message, to eliminate those parts of the presentation that are unsuitable for the target audience, and to create a smooth flow from start to finish.

Final Product

Once you’ve completed all the steps mention in this entry as well as last week’s, you will have a quality presentation in your hands, with all the legalities and obligations addressed in a timely fashion.

Elyse Bruce

Business Videos: Part 1

Most businesses have toyed with the idea of creating a video to showcase what they do.  Some have gone as far as to actually put together a video while others have been reluctant to do so.  Today’s entry walks readers through the steps to better understand the process.

First Steps First:  You Need A Strategy

Not unlike military maneuvers, you need a strategy before the cameras start rolling.  You need a strategy before the script is written.  You need a strategy even before you come up with a concept.

The dictionary defines strategy as “a high-level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.”  In the case of a video for business purposes, the strategy is the perfect blend of who, what, why, and how.  A wonderful example of this concept is found in the children’s movie, “The Master Of Disguise” starring Dana Carvey.

Before you do anything else, define the who, what, why, and how of the video.  Who are you targeting?  Why are you targeting this audience?  What do you want this audience to do?  And how do you plan on getting that message to your audience?  Once those questions are answered, you’re ready to work with your creative team to come up with a concept.

It Starts With An Idea

Once you’ve got your strategy, it’s time to apply that strategy to the ideas that are presented.  The idea that fits the strategy is the concept — a concept that will help sell or publicize your service(s) or product(s).

Coming up with a concept won’t be as simple as you think.  Many ideas will meet most but not all of the criteria set out by the strategy.  If no idea meets all of the criteria set out by your strategy, keep looking.  There’s no sense in going with a concept that’s almost 100% when a bit more work will yield the concept that’s exactly what you need for the project.  At that point, you can move on to the scriptwriting phase.

What A Script Is

Nearly everyone knows what a script is but what most people don’t know is that not every author or writer can write a script.  Scriptwriting is the art of writing well for mass media.

The Definition of Mass Media

Mass Media is the how technology communicates with a vast majority of the general public.  It’s movies and video games.  It’s hard copy and online newspapers and magazines.  It’s even video games.  But it doesn’t end there.  Whatever the medium, if it communicates with a vast majority of the general public, it’s mass media.

Mass Media Scripting For Your Demographic

Knowing what you want to do and knowing what components are necessary to bring the concept to life.  If you have gotten your strategy right, the concept and scripting will align with your strategy.  In other words, a well-defined strategy will lead to the right concept and when you hire the right person to script your concept, the script will also work as intended.

When you get to this stage, choosing the right person makes a big difference to the final product.  If you choose someone who is great at creating awesome scripts for showy theatrical productions but your concept is for a barebones YouTube commercial, it won’t matter how incredibly talented the scriptwriter is.  That scriptwriter isn’t a good fit with your concept.  Go back to the drawing board and find the right scriptwriter to fit your concept.

Assembling The Assets

Once you have your script in hand, it’s time to assemble the essential assets for your video, and that starts with a detailed storyboard.  A storyboard?  Yes, a storyboard.

Storyboards are visual organizers that create the continuity your video will need to succeed.  Each panel will have technical information included along with a visual representation of what is happening at this point in the video.  In other words, it’s a shot-by-shot call-by-call representation of everything that might be included in the final product.

Final Note

Next Tuesday, I’ll be writing about each of the assets leading to the final product:  The video.  In the meantime, take some time to figure out what your strategy is.  It sounds easy enough, but it may not be as easy as you think.

Elyse Bruce

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