Band Called Out for Racism in New Music Video: Green Apple Controversy, Explained

The band eventually took down the music video and issued an apology.

The Japanese pop band Mrs Green Apple found itself embroiled in a firestorm of controversy after the release of their music video for the song "Columbus." The visuals, which depicted ape-like figures meant to represent native inhabitants, ignited outrage and accusations of racism, ultimately leading to the band's decision to remove the video and issue multiple apologies.

The video, uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday, June 12, portrayed the three band members dressed as historical figures—Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, and Beethoven. As the narrative unfolded, they discovered an island inhabited by people donning ape-like costumes. This depiction drew swift backlash from viewers, who condemned it as insensitive and discriminatory.

Social media platforms erupted with criticism, with users voicing their dismay over the video's tone-deaf representation of native peoples. "The music video shows the men dressed as colonizers and the natives are portrayed as literal monkeys... that's actually insane," one person tweeted, encapsulating the sentiments of many.

Others delved deeper into the historical implications, accusing the band of affirming the atrocities committed by colonizers like Columbus. "Columbus is credited with creating slavery, and [there are] controversial scenes such as educating apes to look like natives. Didn't anyone notice that," a second commenter wrote.

The backlash escalated, with some questioning how such insensitive content could be greenlit in the first place. "How could the creation of a music video glorifying the infamous Columbus, who was an invader, rapist, and slave trader, be allowed in the Japanese music industry!?" a third person remarked, expressing disbelief at the oversight.

Faced with mounting criticism, Mrs Green Apple removed the video from YouTube on Thursday, just a day after its release. In a statement acknowledging the controversy, the band expressed regret, stating that the video "contains expressions that lack understanding of historical and cultural backgrounds."

However, their initial attempt at an explanation fell short, as they claimed they intended to depict "life forms of different ages having a home party." This explanation did little to calm the uproar, prompting the band to issue a second statement.

In the follow-up apology, Mrs Green Apple further clarified their position, stating, "We were concerned from the beginning that [the apes] might be seen as discriminatory expression, but we had no intention of likening apes to humans. We never intended to make the content discriminatory or to make it something that affirms tragic history."

Mrs Green Apple boasts an online following of 3.4 million subscribers on YouTube. The band's musical talents have been showcased in the Japanese animated series One Piece, where their songs have played on the soundtrack for various episodes.

According to the BBC, The "Columbus" music video was initially intended to be part of Coca-Cola's Coke Studio initiative, featuring collaborations with different artists and celebrities, . However, the soft drink giant had incorporated the video into its promotional campaign before the negative reaction erupted, leading to its subsequent removal.