Cultural sensitivity is fashionable, too. –by Andy Hurley and Jennifer Raff

When Andy Hurley performed with Fall Out Boy for the 2013 Victoria’s Secret fashion show on November 13th, he was given a costume to wear that included a shirt with the Rising Sun on it.

The Rising Sun symbol, used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, has come to represent horrors of wartime aggression (such as the Nanking Massacre) to many, particularly South Koreans and Chinese people.

The Rising Sun symbol is horribly offensive to descendants of people affected by these events, much like the Nazi Hakenkreuzflagge or the Confederate flag. Yet unlike those symbols, it continues to be used widely.

Many people simply don’t understand the connotations of this symbol. But after he was made aware of it, Andy and I felt that this incident would provide a good opportunity to heighten awareness of its cultural context. Here are his thoughts.


I had the opportunity to play the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which was such an amazing thing to be a part of. The outfits we wore were necessarily styled to fit in with our part of the show, which emphasized a British invasion look…so we were styled in a Sex Pistols-style British punk attire. I had no problem with this, as the purview of the fashion world is way outside of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, the shirt that was chosen for me was the image of the rising sun and was an extremely insensitive choice. I was totally ignorant of its meaning, and that is my fault.

I should have known better and upon reading my @replies on my twitter feed today, I saw that it upset some fans. I appreciate that they brought it to my attention, as I never want to offend any of our fans or anyone period. I must stress that none of the people who brought this to my attention did so in a mean or negative way. It was a very nice and constructive way that they informed me of what the shirt meant and how it was offensive. Being held accountable for the choices and mistakes I make is a very important thing to me. It’s an important thing for everyone to be willing to analyze the things they do and take part in, and to admit the times that mistakes are made. This was definitely one of those times for me.

A horrible feeling of letting my fans down as well as my own ethical standards led me to write an apology on my twitter, as well as this more in-depth explanation in conjunction with one of my best friends, an anthropologist, Dr. Jennifer Raff.

I immediately went to her upon finding out that some fans were offended to get a deeper understanding of the history and meaning of the image that was on the shirt I wore. This was something we came up with to hopefully inform more people on this situation.

We think that it’s important to be sensitive to the meanings of symbols, and not to simply dismiss reactions to their misuse as “PC”. Whether it be cultural appropriation or the uncritical use of symbols, we urge everyone to think more carefully in the future about the symbols they adopt.

Being fashionable together before a show.
Being fashionable together before a show.

Have you any thoughts on the incident you want to share with us? Please feel free to comment! –Andy and Jenny

19 thoughts on “Cultural sensitivity is fashionable, too. –by Andy Hurley and Jennifer Raff

  1. Anonymous November 16, 2013 / 3:19 am

    I have so much respect for you Andy, youre seriously the greatest person in the world thank you for being so mature and insightful about this and educating rather than just placing the blame on someone else, it takes alot!!

  2. steph November 16, 2013 / 3:43 am

    what an amazing man ❤ i wish everyone would respond like him when called out about issues like this! you're amazing andy!!!!

  3. Patricia November 16, 2013 / 4:07 am

    I´m so glad that you are so concerned about things like this and that you won´t have rest until you don´t explain and apologise for it.I´m pretty sure that most of the people would just let it go,so I´m pretty proud of you that you that you said you made a mistake and apologised for you<3

  4. kriska tinte (@kriskatinte) November 16, 2013 / 8:47 am

    The apology was,although unnecessary(because of the fact that Andy,if he was aware of its symbolism,would not wear it in the first place),very much appreciated!As I am from the Philippines,this symbol brings back the horrors I read from my history books.As everyone might know,we were under the Japanese rule during WWII..and that was a dark moment in our history.It was quite insensitive of the stylist to use this symbol,although maybe he/she also didn’t know what it symbolizes.
    I thank Andy and Dr. Jennifer for this post.You were both so kind to give your time and attention on this issue.Thank you very much!much love!
    (and this is why Whovians rule;D)

    • Jennifer Raff November 16, 2013 / 10:59 am

      Thank you! (And yes, Whovians do rule 🙂 )

    • gokokukasan November 18, 2013 / 10:34 pm

      Ms. Kriska Tinte,

      I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy to the people affected by the typhoon disaster. That reminds me of the Tsunami damages..

      Have you ever heard of the quote below?

      “History is written by the victors.” – Winston Churchill

      US textbook doesn’t say that President Franklin Roosvelt knew about the Pearl Harbour attack. Roosevelt started the war. It is not in the textbook. Real History is outside the textbook.

      There is a Kamikaze Museum in Angeles City, Phillippines. Mr. Daniel Dizon who was 11 years old back in 1941, established the Dizon Kamikaze museum. As a Japanese, I am deeply thankful to Mr. Dizon and all the people who involved with. You might want to visit there.

      Mr. Dizon’s interview from 2:52, if you have time, please watch.

      Have you ever seen your independence poster?
      It has a large Rising Sun Flag in the poster, titled as East Asia Co-Prosperity.

      Who writes our textbooks?
      We do really have to think about it.

      • kriska tinte (@kriskatinte) November 22, 2013 / 3:36 pm

        Thank you for your sympathy. The calamity hit us really hard as a nation. We couldn’t have made it without all the help from the different countries that came in our time of need. In behalf of all the Filipinos, I very much like to give my sincere thanks.

        I hope I did not offend you with my previous comment. I was merely sharing my opinion. I was merely sharing the ‘history’ I know and was taught of. History is never an exact subject. There will always be 2 sides to it. We,coming from two sides, may have a different interpretation of our own histories.

        WWII was a dark time, both for the Japanese and the Filipinos..harsh things were done. People suffered and were killed. War brings out the worst in everyone. But that was over now. The Japanese taught us a lot of things and re-kindled the Filipino spirit in a way that resulted in us being a free country..that’s why we hold so much respect for you.

        I hope you do not misinterpret my previous comment. I did not intend to sound ‘condemning’. Symbols have different meanings to different people. It might not give a negative meaning for you, but it may be for some people. For you, it might mean a symbol of ‘good luck’/ ‘happiness’ but for others, especially those who were affected by the war(their families or relatives), it might bring back bitter memories of the things that had happened in the past.

        I also want to thank you for sharing that information about Mr. Dizon. That was interesting and I see how he admired the Kamikaze so much, they were very loyal and their love for their country was unparalleled. This supports my point about symbols; other people view Kamikazes as something destructive, something to be feared..but Mr. Dizon viewed them as something to be admired. This is because we have different opinions and perspective on different things.

        Thank you for your comment, I hope I’ve explained my points well so as not to create further misunderstandings.

        • gokokukasan November 28, 2013 / 11:35 pm

          I really THANK YOU for the throughtful response. I wasn’t offended by your comment at all. I just would like to raise awareness here who is really dictating & agitating the whole issue.

          Have you read all my comments?
          What did you think about my counterargumnet?
          Do you think there is absolutely no evidence of a Korean propaganda?

          As I said in one fo my comments, if there is a lie or forgery, I will apologize on my knees with my kids.

          It is all “true” that Koreans had no problem with the Rising Sun Flag before 2011. Even they use the design for themselves here and there.
          I’ll paste the pictures of the evidences to your twitter later since I don’t know how to paste the picures here.

          I tweeted to the South Korean girl, Karen the other day who tweeted Mr. Hurley about the flag and repeatedly demanded his apology, I sent her the picture of “Girl’s Generation”(Korean girls’ pop group)with Rising Sun Flag design, she’s been ignoring me.

          What does it tell you?

          I’m sorry but Korea is a Land of Japan Haters.
          They celerbrated the Earthquake and Tsunami though.
          I couldn’t beleive they made a sign showing “We celebrate the earthquake!(in Japanese)” at a soccer game.

          The government teach their own people to hate Japanese, educating them to hate us, can you believe it? They are SO WRONG, and they are LYING. Younger generations do not know their history, I suppose late 80’s and 90’s do know their real history.

          A 95 year-old Korean man was beat to death by the 38 year-old Korean man in May 2013 at a park in Seoul.

          Why was the old man killed?

          The reason is that the old man said “The colonial rule of Japan, the eagle I think it was a good thing ”

          He said it, and got killed.

          I really think Korea is going nowhere.

          FYI It was not colonization like Westernes did to your country and other Asian countries, it was “annexation”.
          Of course, Japan had an acute political aim to defend herself, she put the large potion of national budget and manpower, tried to raise Korean living condition and literacy blocking Russia and China. Japan made text books of hangul (Korean writing), the very first time in Korean history. There were no public schools for kids except a few private schools for the high class in Korea.

          • gokokukasan November 28, 2013 / 11:36 pm

            found a typo.. the “thoughtful” response

  5. Anonymous November 17, 2013 / 12:55 am

    Dear Mr. Andy Hurley, and Dr. Jeffifer Raff,

    I am Japanese and a mother of 2 kids.
    My 80 year-old mother in law, she hates Russia (invaded Japan after Atomic bombings breaking the peace treaty) and the US (Hiroshima Nagasaki a bombs and Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka.etc., bombings on “civilians”, at least, US should have dropped the bombs on military facilities, and soldiers.

    Yet, we do not offended by US flags and Russian flags.

    Japan and Japanese are offended by Korean claims.
    No, we “have been” offended by their claims and propagandas for years. Culturaly, instead of speaking out, remain silence is good behavier especially for the defeated. But we’ve had it.

    Frist of all, Rising Sun means good luck, holly, and happiness.
    Espcially at fisherman’s port, you’ll find many Rising Sun Flag designs here in Japan.

    Tairyō-bata, also called tairyo-ki, are traditional Japanese fisherman’s flags originally flown by boats to signify a large catch of fish.

    Rising Sun Flag has been used for Japanese Navy, and also “US Marine” uses the designes for their logos in many ways.

    Also, South Korea and Japan, we are allied.
    Japanese Navy goes to S.Korean port with big “Rising Sun Flag”.
    There was even a Japanese Navy-Korean Navy joint war excercise in 2011.

    Actual photos of designs and joint war excersice are at below URL,
    If you have time, please check them.

    South Korea never had a problem with Rising Sun Flag just until recently.
    They started the propaganda campaigne from last year.

    I think Ki Sung-Yueng’s (MF for Korean Soccer National Team) monkey performance in January 25th, 2011 was a start . He imitated Japanese as monkey, a very offensive racial remarks after he got a goal.
    After the game, he commennted that he saw a Rising Sun Flag, my heart cried so he did a monkey performance. His excuse turned into this huge Rising Sun Flag campainge.

    Japanese soccer supporters brought big Rising Sun Flags to the stadium(even in Seoul), had NO PROBLEM until 2011.

    If they are really offended by the flag, why were they say nothing about it bbefore then????

    Mr. Hurley, you really don’t need to apoligize for South Koreans. Their claims is explicitly based on negative political activities, Japan bashing lobbiyng campainge

    Their claims are 100% groundless and fabricated story. If you research further more, you’ll find the facts.

    Korean fabrications and propaganda

    Thank you for reading.

    You are not the one who were targeted to Korean fabricated campainge.
    Ask Mr. Scotty Cameron about it. He recently had to apoligize for his Kabuki & Rising Sun design golf bag.

    I am 1000% positive about it, if I’m wrong I’ll be on my knees and apologize for you and South Korean with my kids.

    • gokokukasan November 17, 2013 / 2:40 am

      Sorry about the misspelling, Dr. Jennifer Raff.

    • Ben November 17, 2013 / 2:24 pm

      I thought your video captured Japan’s revisionist mindset quite well:

      “Invasion? Well, I don’t think it[‘s the] right word. We Japanese set most of [the] Asian countries free from Westerners’ colonization.”

      The video quite rightly explains that the Rising Sun was a symbol long before WWII; it’s an aspect of Japanese culture that goes very, very far back. But you don’t use a symbol of good luck for an imperial banner, and to the Japanese empire it was always an expansionist dream. (The symbolism being that the rising sun should never set on the Japanese empire.)

      The protests from Japan’s neighbors about a renewed affection for that dream should not be dismissed as jealousy or local squabbles.

  6. Alan Doyle, D.O. November 18, 2013 / 12:00 am

    I think that it is a good thing for cultural groups who want to preserve their culture, when it is not at the expense of other cultural groups. America is a Land of Immigrants…give us your poor, tired huddled masses, yearning to breathe Free. JFK- I am a Berliner…when one man is enslaved, then all are not FREE. I have been discriminated against, at least twice in my life, because I am Irish America (e.g. Mrs. Murano doesn’t like Irish people, no milk and cookies…the nun called she thinks you might be distracted having Janis as your homework buddy.

    • gokokukasan November 18, 2013 / 10:45 pm

      Alan, you too, you assreted my commnet as poor tired huddled masses with no rational reasons and evidences. Give your reasons and evidences please.

      Are you afraid of facing facts?

  7. gokokukasan November 18, 2013 / 3:22 am

    Your comment is based on only your subjectivity. Be Objective.
    If there is a controversy, you must research both claims and verify them.
    I hate lies and fabrications.

    Did you find any “fabrications” or “lies” in my comment?
    You ignored the detailed facts I wrote, jumped to the video clip and left what you “thought.” What does “revision” mean then? There is no revision neither in my comment nor in the video clip.

    Everytime Japan refutes with primary sources, people call us “Revisionist” or “Nationalits” without any rational reasons or evidences. Would you please comment based on “facts”?

    It is about “History”, we need “facts” not your “thought”.

    Let me ask you, Ben, how many Asian countries were independent 72
    years ago? And how many Asian countries were freed from White Imperialism after Japanese “invasion”?

    Japanese military educated the Asian leaders such as Sukarno (Indonesia),Subhas Chandra Bose (India) and more. Japan also gave military trainings and weapons helping them for establishing their own military to bring back their independence from their suzerain states.

    What kind of “invasion” was that then?

    And more, after Japan was defeated, 2000 to 3000 Japanese soldiers remained in Indonesia, fought with Indonasians agaist Dutch(they tried to recolonized Indonasia, 300 years wasn’t enough for them)for their independence.

    What kind of “invaders” were we?
    Who was the real “invader”?

    You need to study more about real history, Ben.
    Japan did not want to break the war against the US.
    President Franklin Roosevel waged war. It is the historical facts now in 2013.

    The book called “Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath by George H. Nash” was published in 2011, finally came to light, it took 70 years…

    “Pearl Harbor was a Madman’s (President Franklin Roosvelt) plot for the US to attack Germany. Had we not provoked the Japanese, they would never have attacked us. ”

    31st President of the United States, Hervert Hoover.

    Historian konws that Japanese code was decoded before the attack.
    President Roosevelt knew Japan was coming towards them.

    You see,
    “Remember Pearl Harbour” was a propaganda.

    These are not what I “think”, they are historical facts.
    Face the facts.

    Here is another “revisionist’s?” video clip, if you find any fabrications or lies in this clip, please let me know.

    I almost forgot about the main subject, I’d like to repeat Korea did not have any problem with Rising Sun Flag just until recently.

    Japanese Soccer fans brought the flags to the stadium, Koreans had NO PROBLEM with it before. I clearly see their political motivaitons here.

  8. Kinoko Tombo November 18, 2013 / 3:29 pm

    Since when have KOREAN people began to claim against a “Rising Sun Flag”?
    Does anybody know how it has started?

    Well, it has a quite short history behind it.
    I am sure everybody aware of the International Olympic Committee has a rule prohibiting political statements from Olympic athletes.

    However, during the London Olympic, one of the South Korean soccer players who’s name is Jong -woo Pak held up a sign with a political message after victory over Japan in August 13th, 2012.

    Pak said he saw a “Rising Sun Flag” at the stadium, and he lost his mind.

    Were there any “Rising Sun Flags” at that time?
    The answer is NO.
    There was no “Rising Sun Flag” whatsoever at the game.
    He lied.
    In order to cover up his lie and protect him, KOREAN GOVERNMENT began to fuss over “Rising Sun Flag”.

    KOREAN PEOPLE never ever said anything about “Rising Sun Flag” before August 13th, 2012.
    And ONLY KOREAN PEOPLE claim against it.

    All the things I said above is true, and it is easy to find out.

  9. Anonymous November 23, 2013 / 11:31 am

    I’m proud of you Andy. It was so unfortunate you had to be dragged into one particular country’s political movement. Now you’ve done what you felt was right. So that’s the end of it. So I hope you can relax and move on with your popular music.

    As a little lesson, I put my own view of the issue here. So that you don’t have to feel twitchy about this at all in the future.
    One thing very certain is – US government/military do not sympathise with nor support S-Korea regarding Rinsing-Sun issue.
    This is relatively new thing South Korea came up with for their so called “Discount Japan Campaign”.
    Look at US Marines’ official logos – one example below.

    They even claimed this year’s Tony Award presentation of the opening, which they ignored and the video is still up. Good for them!
    The scene in question can be seen at 06:50 onward.

    So if you encounter with VANK (Voluntary Agency Network of Korea = Korean Government Propaganda Youth Team, apparently) for further claims, just ignore until US Marines make an official announcement to change their logos and the reason.

    Good Luck for your future career!

  10. Randy Parks December 4, 2013 / 7:07 pm

    I’m new visitor with your blog and manage to read this article. I was going down reading every details of the story, I was amazed of your insights and words towards topic. You don’t blame people rather educate them. Such an amazing character you have.

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