Am I the only Hawaiian Offended?
By now, the chances are that you have seen the “Defend Hawaii” clothing brand either on the backs of young people around Honolulu or on the shelves of a shop at your local mall.
Pretty interesting logo, right? My first impression, as I seen this logo as a sticker on a pickup truck on the highway, was a sudden a feeling of uneasiness. But at the time, I wasn’t aware of what the underlying purpose of this campaign was. However, I knew that the message “Defend Hawaii” circumventing a AK-47, the weapon of choice for many gangsters and terrorists, wasn’t going to sit well with me if I was to continue seeing it around.
Well I did…and a selection of new designs were causing the brand’s popularity to grow exponentially.
Yes, this is actually one of their designs: kind of takes it a step further doesn’t it.
Is putting a Crip rag over an ali‘i’s face, who resembles the widely used depiction of Kamehameha The Great, and an AK in his hand meant to belittle his recognition as a Hawaiian icon and leader? Is this design a political satire in which “Aloha Family” is labeling him as a gangster or outlaw because of the fact that he used European firearms during the unification of the Hawaiian Islands?
…are they even savvy enough to intend for such a message, or are these vacuous designs merely a product of plain ignorance and unintentional exploitation and denigration of our culture? …after reading the “about us” section on the brands website, I’m beginning to lean towards the latter.
“DEFEND HAWAII is a clothing company representing the lifestyle of our young Hawaiian generation. We combine the old traditions of Hawaii with a new urban twist.”
(i bet that second sentence could make any Kupuna cringe…)
iKill represents the lifestyle of our young Hawaiian generation? wow. Really, what does an Mac ad parody with a wangster twist have anything to do with “old traditions of Hawaii”?
The “About Us” section continues:
“Being born and raised in Hawaii, our way of life is something that we are proud of. We hold on to the values of our ancestors and hope to keep the ALOHA alive…”
Yea?…aloha? At first, one (especially one from a less politically apathetic time) may assume that the company may be attempting to start a violent, political movement of young people. As much as I am opposed such measures, at least the campaign may be credited with having at least some purpose for it’s usage of visual irony and pop-culture design trends to appeal to the young masses.
However, the paradox that arises when the statement “We hold on to the values of…ALOHA…” is considered along with these designs, strengthens the conclusion that the brand is clearly, purposely exploiting Hawaiian culture and “values” for no reason other than the bottom line.
The sad part is this isn’t the only case, and whether it arises from ignorance, greed, or just a desire to be cool, this type of exploitation and manipulation of our culture will continue. Perhaps, Defend Hawaii may not intend to be offensive, but they sure are not being responsible enough to prevent offense from being taken.
Caveat Emptor: it is our duty to make informed decisions, and although the color schemes may be eye-catching and clever, please keep your cash (or credit) to yourself, and don’t support such negligence.