By Arturo R. García
The day started with the firing of Christian Dior creative director John Galliano after video surfaced (NSFW) of his drunkenly telling a fellow restaurant patron, “I love Hitler” and “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f****** gassed.” This came less than a week after being suspended for verbally harassing a couple in the same anti-Semitic fashion at the same restaurant, La Perle.
It didn’t take long for the fallout to hit. Not only is Galliano facing criminal charges for his actions, but his dismissal was probably a fait accompli when actress Natalie Portman, who had begun endorsing a perfume line for the company, distanced herself from the designer, telling People Magazine:
“I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video” Portman, 29, said in a statement from Los Angeles. “In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”
She adds, “I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”
From a business standpoint, Galliano’s actions couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the company is set to run its’ annual presentation at Paris Fashion Week. But give credit to the company for enforcing what it calls a zero tolerance policy toward this kind of behavior, with CEO Sidney Toledano saying, I very firmly condemn what was said by John Galliano, which totally contradicts the values which have always been defended by Christian Dior.”
While Dior took action on its’ own accord, Sony Music Artists, a Japanese subsidiary of Sony’s entertainment division, found itself on the defensive because of boy band Kishidan’s choice of apparel. The band, pictured at right, appeared on MTV Japan late last month in dark uniforms that heavily resembled those of the SS units employed by the Nazis, leading to a complaint from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
The center’s associate director, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said there was “no excuse” for the new look chosen for Kishidan, which had previously gone for more of a traditional schoolboy look:
“As someone who has visited Japan over 30 times, I am fully aware that many young Japanese are woefully uneducated about the crimes against humanity committed during World War II by Imperial Japan in occupied Asia, let alone about Nazi Germany’s genocidal ‘Final Solution’ against the Jews in Europe. But global entities like MTV and Sony Music should know better.”
A 2009 story in Japan Probe would seem to back up Cooper’s statement: even then, a manga version of Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, was “selling well,” and the Nazi cosplay trend was starting to pick up:
Nazis and their imagery (Nazi chic) seem to show up with surprising frequency in Japan. I’ve seen swastikas (of a definitely non-Buddhist variety) on middle-schoolers’ pencil cases. I’ve seen Nazi flags hanging casually in special sections of book stores. And I’ve seen cosplay nazi girls, as well as odd guys in German uniforms* in the park. While I think it’s safe to say that interest in Nazis is by no means the norm, it does not seem to be met with the shock that it would be in the Western world. In short, I hope that the majority of people buying this manga are reading it for the right reasons: to learn and to not repeat the past, which should not be treated lightly in this case.
In a statement, Sony Music Artists said both it and the band apologized for the incident, and that Kishidan would never wear the outfits again.
The Wiesenthal Center had also lodged a complaint this past December against the Don Quijote retail chain for selling Nazi costumes with pictures of Hitler on the packaging, as well as the phrase “Heil Hitler” in Japanese characters.
Kishidan image courtesy of Japan Probe