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Ariana Grande's Japanese Tattoo Is Too Funny To Be Cultural Appropriation

Twitter's got this: "Met with all the Asians, and our official ruling is that the Ariana Grande tattoo is good."

Updated 1/31:

As a gift that keeps on giving, "七輪" is now the best tattoo in the world. Ariana Grande took all of yesterday's confused criticism over her misspelled Japanese tattoo to heart. In the middle of the night, she posted a series of Instagram stories to showcase hard proof that not only is she a studious admirer of Japanese culture and language, but she's on close texting terms with her kanji "tutor."

And because Instagram stories shared in the middle of the night are always posted in moments of crisis, the "7 Rings" singer had an emergency corrective tattoo performed. Grande shared a picture of the tattoo's newly added kanji symbols and wrote, "RIP tiny charcoal grill. Miss you man. I actually really liked you."

But the awesome power of the original "七輪" tattoo proved itself to be twofold. Its undeniable star power made it a worldwide trending topic on Twitter yesterday, garnering press coverage from auspicious outlets like CNN, The Guardian, HelloGiggles and Cosmo. Consequently, all that power may have gone to its head (yes, it's a sentient tattoo now), because it refused to be fixed. Instead of signifying a type of BBQ grill (or its intended meaning of "7 Rings"), Grande's "fixed" tattoo now reads, "Japanese BBQ finger."

So rather than resolving the original misspelling, Grande's made it considerably worse—adding insult to injury, she reportedly had to take a shot of lidocaine from her doctor in order to endure the second tattoo's pain. Sadly, the way the kanji characters are divided on her palm still invalidate their meaning. As one Japanese culture site points out, "In English, this would be like writing 'rings' as 'ri' and then 'ngs' in another paragraph."

Original article, 1/30:

Does "七輪" translate to "7 Rings," Japanese BBQ, or cultural appropriation (asking for Ariana Grande)?

In the perfect response to accusations that the singer appropriates styles from non-white cultures for the sake of her brand, the 25-year-old flaunted a new tattoo commemorating the record-breaking success of "7 Rings." Grande posted to Instagram a photo of her new palm tattoo, which she intended to be the Japanese Kanji characters of the song's title. Commenters fluent in Japanese immediately began pointing out that the singer left out a few characters, changing the meaning slightly.

By the way, if you haven't tried shichirin, it's a delicious style of BBQ named after a miniature grill used in Japan. It's also what's actually tattooed on Grande's hand. Initially, Grande responded to fans pointing out the misspelling, alleging that it was intentional. She posted on Twitter, "Indeed, I left out 'つの指' which should have gone in between. It hurt like fuck n still looks tight. I wouldn't have lasted one more symbol lmao. But this spot also peels a ton and won't last so if I miss it enough I'll suffer thru the whole thing next time." Not long afterwards, Grande deleted both posts.

Here's why her bad tattoo is funny, then problematic, then funny again. Grande has been boasting about learning Japanese since 2015. Her social media accounts from that year proudly display elementary workbooks for Hiragana characters; and since then, when she stops by Japan on one of her worldwide tours, she proclaims on Japanese talk shows that she loves edamame, tofu, and J-pop. In short, her love of Japanese culture is at the highest peak a non-Japanese person can achieve.

Firstly, if we're talking about someone who understands a modicum of Japanese, then it's highly unlikely she'd purposefully omit the middle characters, considering they carry the entire meaning of the tattoo. Second, people should stop getting Japanese tattoos. Or at least, if a person's list of reasons to get a Japanese tattoo don't include being fluent in Japanese, then they don't deserve one.

The misspelled tattoo is just the latest in Grande's playing with non-white cultural staples. Following the release of the music video for "7 Rings," a resurgence of criticism prompted The Atlantic to publish an article articulating how "the singer wears a culture as a costume." Specifically, many have taken issue with Grande altering her persona with ever darker self-tanner and imitating AAVE and elements of trap house in her music (which has garnered allegations of plagiarism from SouljaBoy and Princess Nokia). Additionally, comments on social media and lyrics promoting weaves, particularly a line in "7 Rings" ("You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it") have disconcerted some of her followers.

But inevitably, a stupidly bad tattoo by a twenty-something pop diva who has a whole team of Japanese social media managers who should have advised her better is too absurd to not enjoy. Kevin Nguyen, the features editor at The Verge, took a moment to smooth over heated accusations of cultural appropriation with the announcement, "Met with all the Asians, and our official ruling is that the Ariana Grande tattoo is good."

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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