Recently, Korean artist Domaguri has received disproportionate harassment over Pokémon art, specifically involving fan-favorite character Nessa. Despite being otherwise innocuous, what got parts of social media in an uproar was how she was supposedly too white, opening up a stream of accusations about racism. Not only does this show what happens when identity politics and outrage culture collide, but it is also sadly neither the first nor last time this has happened.
포켓몬스터 야청 그림 pic.twitter.com/lR8zboZV1c
— 도마구리 (@domaguri) March 29, 2023
While it’s to some extent unsurprising given different cultures and how some people have different tastes, the kind of vitriol thrown at Domaguri goes beyond just criticism. Much of the outrage stems from how the artist seemed to “whitewash” Nessa from being dark-skinned, despite her skin still evidently showing that. It didn’t stop activist types and knee-jerk brigadiers from jumping onto the bandwagon, leveling accusations of racism and denying black representation.
This is far from the first time this has happened. Just last year, as Hero Hei has noted, outraged Twitter mobs had harassed Japanese artist kurube613 into deleting his colorful piece inspired by the Disney film Encanto over similar accusations of “whitewashing,” despite Latin American fans having no problems at all with the fanart in question.
Contexto: El Artista kurobe613 hizo un dibujo de la Película Encanto, en el cual utilizo colores vividos y de pastel. Caso que un grupo de Americanos al ver esto dijo que el dibujo era "Whitewashing" La Comunidad Latina se junto para ponerlos en su lugar. pic.twitter.com/9VnUPs76X1
— trash. (@Trazh420) January 17, 2022
Meanwhile, back in 2021, Japanese artist Oharuchan received much of the same backlash over their fanart of Nessa. Not only were they forced to delete the “offensive” artwork over claims of racism, but they even went so far as to post an apology over a “sin” that was never her own:
I seriously worried because an unintended dispute arose in the comment section of the picture I
posted yesterday, but I deleted it.
I’m sorry for those who received a favorable
We also apologize for not being able to reply to individuals.
I don’t want to be racist
I am not very good at painting dark skin with watercolor, and the finish was much brighter than I expected.
I think dark skin is one of her best features and I like it too
I’m sorry that I made you feel uncomfortable.
and, I apologize if there are any mistakes in my English.
So why, then, does this keep happening? The activists and others crying foul wouldn’t certainly consider themselves racist. Yet going through the toxic outcry, you can’t help but notice a recurring pattern. Namely, how the “feelings yakuza” and others accusing Asian artists of cancelable offenses seem to be projecting their personal identity politics where it’s utterly inappropriate. If anything, it reflects an ironically Americentric worldview, in which their preferred ideologies or perspectives are considered universal. Almost as though people from other countries, who wouldn’t have the same cultural baggage, whether or not they agree, don’t matter unless they conform to their standards or be judged as scum. As seen with those creators and more recently with Domaguri, such antics aren’t just misguided. They’re utterly destructive.
This also works both ways. The harassment of Domaguri and others like them will only fuel resentment and hatred, making notions like cultural exchange or appreciation seem almost impossible. This doesn’t have to end miserably, however, not when many on both sides of the Pacific still refuse to follow the toxic script laid out by the “feelings yakuza,” whether in the name of misguided justice or naked opportunism. Maybe it is better to leave the outrage at the door and keep an open mind. Still, what are your thoughts on this? Feel free to comment below!