Eurovision: Israel winner Netta accused of cultural appropriation over Japanese theme

Singer has said she is a huge fan of Japanese culture including Pokemon, but some Eurovision viewers were unimpressed by her costume and stage themes

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Sunday 13 May 2018 16:30 BST
Netta Barzilai performs for Israel at Eurovision 2018

What is Eurovision without controversy? Basically the X-Factor, albeit one where the contestants can actually sing.

Israel’s winner Netta Barzilai captured hearts with her brash, bold performance of the song “Toy” in this year's contest and scored a whopping total of 529 points, but not everyone is a fan.

Many have accused the singer of cultural appropriation after pointing out the nods to Japanese culture in her performance, including her costume of a traditional kimono dress, hair in two buns, and a wall background of maneki-neko waving cat figurines.

Critics accused her of using Japanese culture as a “prop” in her song and said it was ironic that her speech called for a celebration of diversity.

Netta is a documented fan of Japanese culture, in particular Pokemon; the Nintendo franchise about fictional creatures captured by human trainers that battle each other for sport.

"Bulbasaur because he’s sassy and he’s a good friend and his vines would help me reach whatever I want," she told The Independent when asked about her favourite Pokemon character.

"Also, Jigglypuff as he can sing and that could help me to sleep, as I’m having trouble sleeping because I’m over excited about everything that’s happening.

"Also he paints on peoples faces when they’re asleep which I’ve done too. Finally… Snorlax. He’s fat and amazing."

Israel Eurovision winner Netta: 'Next time in Jerusalem'

Others pointed out that appropriation occurs most commonly when a dominant culture lifts elements of a minority culture for its own benefit, and they did not consider Israeli culture "dominant" over Japanese.

Netta has not yet responded to the criticism. Catch up on the latest Eurovision coverage here.

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