A Malaysian artist, Choo Hao Ren (朱浩仁) or Haoren, has received significant backlash after his music video was released.
His MV, titled “White Doll” tells a story of a tanned girl who is bullied by her classmates. The girl is played by actress Qiu Wen (秋雯) and her complexion was darkened using make-up. Haoren, acting as a male classmate, gives her gifts to help whiten her skin. After her complexion lightens, the two get together.
The music video was made to showcase a whitening product named “White Doll”. However, many netizens are now calling Haoren out for using brownface in his music video. Brownface is a variant of blackface, which uses make-up in theatrical productions to make fun of people of African origins. Netizens protest that using brownface implies that having dark skin is not a good thing.
Haoren defended his MV on his Instagram post which promoted the video. He stated that it was inspired by his girlfriend Gladish who used to become very tanned in school. “My artwork is imitating people who got tanned by the sun in Malaysia…” he commented.
This did not satisfy netizens. Maggy Wang, a local TV and radio host spoke against his justification, stating there were many other ways to showcase the whitening product without having to resort to darkening someone’s skin. “Beauty should never be defined by the colour of our skin,” she commented. Vanessa Tevi, who won Miss Universe Malaysia in 2015, also scorned the video, stating that the storyline was “outdated and shallow“.
Haoren later took down the video and the Instagram post promoting the video. In its place, he posted an explanation for removing the MV. He apologised for making people uncomfortable with the storyline, stating that it was a misunderstanding and that he meant no offence. He also announced that he will discuss the topic on his channel tonight.
“In Malaysia, a country with strong sunlight, is it really inappropriate to do a tanned makeup on the actor to present a plot of sunburnt? Even-though the story end up show unconditional love from the boy towards the tanned skin girl?“ he asked.
Haoren has just released an apology video. However, netizens are still puzzled by his confusion on his mistake and why people took offence to it. “Protecting yourself from getting sunburnt and having dark skin are two separate issues here,” wrote @jayceepeekay.
Another Instagrammer, @itsandrew.ong, added, “Here I thought you’re going to discuss more on the subject of what went wrong along with the help and comments from yesterday’s post you opened for public discussion. So many came in and helped you shed better light on the mistake at hand. Yet now you’re still unsure what went wrong and justify though the lyrics? Bro you’re like legit talented as hell no denying but this whole project was done in poor taste. I really do hope you learn from this entire fiasco though. Not only to carefully review your content but also understand what you’re trying to convey through your videos from a cultural standpoint if needed to. Society’s media today is progressing forward, yet you regressed instead with this content.”