The term “problematic favorite” refers to people, that for various reasons are problematic or their work is problematic, usually socially, culturally or politically. For me, Ariana Grande is the ultimate problematic-fave, pop culture, diva. Grande who just released her fifth album thank u, next has come under fire for a variety of reasons — including cultural appropriation, musical plagiarism, blackfishing and queerbaiting.
That’s a pretty long list of transgressions.
Of this list of transgressions what I can speak to is that Grande’s most recent video for “break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored” is likely queerbaiting. Grande’s video depicts her attempting to steal the boyfriend of her look alike but in the plot twist ending she kisses the woman, not the man she appeared to be going after.
Queerbaiting refers to the practice of implying there is a non heterosexual relationship without actually showing it. The practice frequently appears in books, TV shows and movies because we live in a world where people are still afraid of admitting that non-heterosexual people exist. Grande appears to be using a homosexual relationship to collect views and not because she identifies as LGBTQ.
If Grande is in fact not straight there is nothing problematic about her kissing a woman at the end of the video. I’m all for an uncloseted Grande, but if she is using bisexual relationships and LGBTQ culture as a way to garner views and popularity then no thank u, next Grande, come up with something original (and not offensive) — I’m bored.
The rest of Grande’s transgressions are issues that I cannot empirically speak to but are important to list all the same.
The American born singer comes from Italian background, however, because of the way she presents herself fans frequently assume that Grande is black or latina. Some fans have pointed out that since Grande’s time as Disney channel star on the show “Victorious” her skin has become significantly darker; transforming her from a clearly white pre-teen to an ethnically ambiguous young adult.
Now, there is nothing wrong with being with ethnically ambiguous, plenty of people are naturally because they come from a mixture of backgrounds. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that people — pop stars or not — should be able to do a fake tan if they want, but Grande takes her beauty practices to a different level.
Grande has also been accused of putting on a blaccent in both her song “7 Rings” and in an interview with . The term “blaccent” refers to when a non African American person changes their voice to sound like an African American person. An article by the states that Grande’s song “7 Rings” is “a rap and R&B song, inspired by—or taking from—black artists.”
Soulja Boy and Princess Nokia have both accused Grande of stealing from them and using their work in “7 Rings.” Although Grande has since come forward apologizing for any controversy the song has caused and that she does not make light of the situation. She has not commented on the plagiarism accusations.
Similar to along the lines of Grande using a blaccent fans have also commented on her choice of clothes, hair and makeup making her appear to be a woman of color when she is not. Some have deemed this blackfishing, which is essentially a white person pretending to be black.
One twitter user pointed out how creepy this practice is in a viral tweet.
“Ok "thank u, next" video was cute… but Ariana Grande is starting look more & more... bronzed... like, sis is really trying to give us Afro-latina and it's messy & creepy. Very minstrel-esque,” said Twitter user, Selina Kyle.
Fans have duked it out over these accusations, but regardless of Grande’s intentions one thing is clear: Ariana Grande is problematic and her work has been taken as offensive. I can’t say empirically what is going on here, so all I can do is listen to those that can.
Megan Holmen is the assistant news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_holmen.