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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki We need to talk about your kitsch problem...
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We need to talk about your kitsch problem...
Swanky
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5276
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2017-05-25 10:31 am   Permalink

I fear that Sven's taking Tiki to a museum and his magnum opus "Tiki Pop" has furthered the serious investigation into Tiki that is upon us. And it is more and more popular. "Authentic" is something we have struggled with for a decade now. Sven and some of us "elitists" feel that "authentic" is one thing, and many others want to embrace it all and "don't worry have a Mai Tai."

Then we get Party City and Walmart pushing the most horrid abominations and you have to pick a side. Is that all cool and do what you like, or do we raise the flag of "inauthentic" and put it down?

If we allow that Party City Tiki is okay, then anything is okay and pretty soon there WILL be a clamoring call for Tiki to be viewed in the same way as the Washington Redskins or even Civil War memorial defenders. As the Tiki becomes more aesthetically offensive to both us "elitists" as well as every day people with taste, it also WILL be seen as offensive to Polynesian islanders and their culture.

The call for "authentic" as put forward by the "elitists" is what can save Tiki.

Every article that uses the work "kitsch" about Tiki is ringing the bell that will call forth the cultural wars.

Abolish All Tiki Bars
She has a point and her voice will get louder and the comments full of "lighten up and have a Mai Tai" sound as awful as the guy at the Redskins football gave saying "have a beer and relax dude!"

A READER IN THEMED AND IMMERSIVE SPACES

A long read, but skip to page 61 and the Tiki section. He spells it out pretty well and I bet he is 100% right. This aloofness of Tiki people and acceptance of everything will be it's demise.

I am saying it right here and right now in no uncertain terms. If we don't ALL get more "elite" about Tiki and start disdaining the awful crap, we will ALL soon be painted with the brush of Walmart Tiki and we'll be hiding our collections like old southerners who "take pride in the heroics of Robert E Lee." Or we'll revel in the low brow and how normal society doesn't get us so here's our middle finger. That will not play well to the Polynesian people on the other side who are calling us racists.


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"Mai-Kai: History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant" the book


[ This Message was edited by: Swanky 2017-05-25 10:32 ]


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Or Got Rum?
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 514
From: Wisconsin
Posted: 2017-05-25 11:21 am   Permalink

Well now my life and my past life is totally screwed. I love original-elite tiki...that's what got me to this site. I grew up between Maine and Northern VA and went to many Redskins games and my High School (JEB Stuart) is embroiled in a name change. Honest truth, I never considered the origins, etc. I was a fan and a proud Raider and I love Polynesian Pop Restaurants from the past. Thanks Swanky.

[ This Message was edited by: Or Got Rum? 2017-05-25 11:29 ]


 
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Luckydesigns
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 15, 2002
Posts: 2326
From: Costa Mesa
Posted: 2017-05-25 11:25 am   Permalink

Well said, Swanky.

 
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Big Kahuna
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 11, 2007
Posts: 2482
From: SoMass
Posted: 2017-05-25 11:47 am   Permalink

Eloquently put, Tim.

 
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Insanitiki
Member

Joined: Mar 01, 2010
Posts: 2
From: Detroit
Posted: 2017-05-25 11:50 am   Permalink

Love the thought here, but authentic Polynesian and Polynesia through the old GI filter would both be considered "Cultural Appropriation" and not a good thing. We are already on the proverbial slippery slope. Authentic is not tiki, it is Hawaianna or Polynesiana.. tiki was born not through cultural accuracy, but through amalgamation and fantasy. While I do not like the Party City Tiki, it seems that all what we call Tiki is currently suspect already. I fear we WILL have to hide our collections none too soon!


~Insantiki


 
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Kaiwaza
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 06, 2003
Posts: 519
From: Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Posted: 2017-05-25 11:54 am   Permalink

I seriously get headaches reading serious articles about the topic of "authenticity" in tiki cultures. I read both articles. I love "tiki", yet I fail to understand how anyone can make any sort of argument for "authenticity" in "tiki communities." I suppose the only call for purity would be for items, music, art in STYLE of the original "Polynesian Pop" phase of the 1940s-60s. I have seen a few passable things mass produced here & there that would fit into that style period, and I've seen plenty of stuff that wouldn't. But unless it's an actual artifact from Polynesia, it's all appropriation & kitsch. I'm ok with that. What is "authentic"?
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Hiphipahula
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 27, 2006
Posts: 2443
From: The Valley!
Posted: 2017-05-25 12:17 pm   Permalink

Tiki is a culture of its own, that's why. It's not Hawaiiana or anything else. It has a history an a culture. If you would read the book of tiki you would understand this.
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Astro Zombie
Member

Joined: Apr 14, 2014
Posts: 5
From: Los Angeles
Posted: 2017-05-25 12:18 pm   Permalink

Thanks for posting Swanky!

 
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Prikli Pear
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 04, 2017
Posts: 282
From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted: 2017-05-25 12:33 pm   Permalink

As I posted elsewhere, "This is why we can't have nice things."

That's not me trying to be glib. It's a persistent issue. Pretty much any themed aesthetic I can come up with would be offensive to someone. And I'm not dismissing that--many people come by their distaste honestly, and have legitimate reasons for feeling the way they do. The fact that some/many/most people with Polynesian/Hawaiian ancestry have no problem with tiki doesn't diminish the feelings of the author of the first article linked above. The fact that she finds tiki bars problematic siphons some of the joy out of it for me, but you know what's worse? The spiteful comments directed at her in the comments section (*never* read the comments).

I've worked over the years with a Mexican national who's a great guy. Funny, smart as a whip, and one of the most talented graphic artists I've ever known. Nothing ruffles his feathers, but he absolutely bristles at the terms Hispanic and Latino. In his view, he's not from Hispania or Rome--both of those terms classify a broad swath of North American people in Eurocentric terms. He's Mexican, and U.S. citizens of Hispanic heritage are American, period. He also has problems with what Cinco de Mayo has become in the U.S. (can't say I disagree with him there) and the questionable, stereotypical decor that adorns some Mexican food restaurants. He's got a point, but he knows he's not going to change the course of an entire cultural representation. He states his case then moves on.

My point is (if I have one--I have to wonder sometimes) that all the "education" in the world isn't going to change his mind, or the author above. To think otherwise assumes ignorance on their part. My friend understands the necessity of such terms, and knows there are certain expectations of restaurants, etc. That doesn't mean he likes them. Likewise, it's going to be damned hard to convince the author who wants to abolish tiki bars that she's got it wrong. She's already familiar with the claim that modern tiki is a celebration of the original tiki era, itself never a serious attempt to represent cultures of the South Pacific. And she rejects it.

"Agree to disagree" is trite, but some form of detente may be the best anyone can hope for. If I stripped what few tikis I had from my bar and recast it as a "Caribbean bar" I know good and well everyone who visited would still view it as a tiki bar, no matter how much Jimmy Buffett I played on the stereo. That's not going to change even if overpriced resin moais disappear from every garden center in the country. Most people just want to be listened to, to be heard, to be acknowledged. That's why civil discussion is so important, but seems progressively more difficult to attain. When both parties start out from a defensive posture, it's damn hard to accomplish any real communication. Personally, I don't wish to give offense to anyone and will go out of my way to not make someone feel uncomfortable. But I've also put a lot of effort into my still-developing tiki bar. It give me pleasure, both working on it and relaxing in it. I don't intend to give that up. How does one reconcile those two positions? I'm not smart enough to answer that question, but without civility, there's no chance at achieving a mutually-acceptable level of tolerance. Or something like that.


 
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AceExplorer
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2219
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2017-05-25 12:57 pm   Permalink

So I just came back from a visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. They have a section on Pacific Islander peoples and their art, and it was curated by Margaret Meade, so it's pretty good. No surprise that I found nothing which was even close to Polynesian pop-style tiki stuff except for a *tiny* and relatively new display case with two small kid-size aloha shirts on display. One of those shirts had President Obama's image on it. They were making some sort of point about modernized clothing and cultural sensitivity or insensitivity, or something like that. But clearly what is "tiki" is not anywhere close to the authentic stuff you find in places like the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, or what I just recently saw in New York.

"Tiki" is a recent development which is very loosely and very casually tied to reality.

But can we control "tiki" now that it's so pervasive in Walmart, Party City, and in today's pop culture? I think that's unlikely we may just need to suck it up and enjoy what we have, and stick to our standards. I think the de-evolution will continue regardless of what we do. Not sure how much more crappy it can get, but Party City is pretty much the bottom of the barrel. I think of their stuff as "clown tiki" because it's so colorful and ridiculously stylized.


 
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tiki_keith
Member

Joined: Dec 27, 2014
Posts: 4
Posted: 2017-05-25 1:26 pm   Permalink

Modern tiki culture: imagery, food, drinks, and to a lesser extent music, is pretty much entirely derivative. We all (on this forum, at least) know this.

What we need to be doing is having discussions like this. What is appropriate for us to continue to use for decor, and style? Should we only use authentic south seas carvings - and if so, do the artists need to be limited to folks of island heritage? Or, should we never use authentic decor and only go with lowbrow pop art? Is there a middle ground?

How can we have our tropical fantasy that riffs off many cultures and honor the cultures they're riffed from?

How can we encourage representation from the cultures we're riffing from? None of the island folks I've talked to have problems with the tiki thing, but it's a (very) small sample.

In the big scholarly paper Swanky linked, there's a quote from Sven saying (I'm paraphrasing) "Keep the imagery from the Polynesian triangle - nothing Mexican, nothing Asian" - but the food in traditional tiki palaces is Chinese(ish) - so much so that Chinese restaurants co-opted tiki to the extent that in the 80s, the only place to find anything remotely like a real tiki drink was either the few old palaces that remained, or your local late-night Chinese restaurant. Do we keep things as a pure homage to mid-century colonialist attitudes, with men in suits and women in coconut bras, or do we stretch out allowing our tiki lady friends to own their sexuality with burlesque, and hold classic burlesque shows at midnight at our tiki conventions with almost no references to tiki culture ('cause those burlesque performers have their own style and schwerve, which is, indeed, mid-century inspired, but not tiki)?

I have no answer to these questions. But we should be asking them. The one thing that really, fully, absolutely has to stop in our community is the kneejerk "Shut up! Shut up! The cultural appropriation phrase was mentioned and now I'm going to attack you!" reaction that's overwhelming in response to any article criticizing our community's co-opting of imagery from an era where this kind of sensitivity was unimaginable. We live in a time where we, as a wider culture, are concerned with such things, and need to address them.


 
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Swanky
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5276
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2017-05-25 1:30 pm   Permalink

And please don't take this as me saying your Tiki stuff is crap or whatever. I'm simply talking about a concern. I'm not here to bash as much as sound an alarm for this community to get our story straight before some other forces start to tell it for us and we end up in trouble.

For the record, there is a lot of old "authentic" Tiki stuff I think is tacky and ugly. And Tiki was born out of bastardization and "inauthentic" roots, so we have a tough time getting on solid ground.

I just think we are going to see more of these stories. We gotta talk about how we approach the subject and how to separate what we define as the core of Tiki from what Party City does.
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Prikli Pear
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 04, 2017
Posts: 282
From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted: 2017-05-25 1:32 pm   Permalink

Maybe it's me, but I've always found insistence on keeping tiki true to its South Pacific origins amusing when rum, which underpins and lubricates the tiki culture dating back to Don the Beachcomber, is pretty much the essence of the Caribbean. Not throwing stones, it just give me a chuckle.

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11588
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2017-05-25 1:36 pm   Permalink

It has been my experience that one cannot prevent the crap to rise to the surface with the cool stuff. One can point out what oneself, personally thinks about it, but the differentiation between GOOD bad taste and BAD bad taste is lost on many.

I will continue to do so in my books and other publications, but it's just like with the foodie internet writers who cannot see beyond the rim of their Zombie glass and hail every bland bar with a mere Tiki cocktail menu as a "Tiki bar" nowadays. You can rail against it, you can explain why they are wrong...but that won't make them read my books, or understand where they are missing the point.

They, just like those politically correct "colonial guilt" carriers, live in THEIR reality, and we will hardly make a dent in it. It's just like in politics. Parallel universes.

Any cultural wave will eventually create a counter reaction. Let the smug bastards come, so we can skewer each other's self-righteousness

This said, I must say that the Lukas article is an amazing attempt by an outsider to understand our complex esthetic! And he "gets" that it is mostly playful. Kudos for thinking much more about it than 99% of journalists out there!



[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2017-05-25 13:51 ]


 
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Prikli Pear
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 04, 2017
Posts: 282
From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted: 2017-05-25 1:40 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2017-05-25 13:30, Swanky wrote:
And please don't take this as me saying your Tiki stuff is crap or whatever. I'm simply talking about a concern.



I'm glad you started this conversation, Swanky. It's a good one to have, and continue to have.

I don't think anyone's going to win against Party City. One can only weather the storm. The Wife good-naturedly bought me some tiki string lights from some place a couple of months ago. I thanked her, but she could tell I wasn't thrilled. It was mainly because they were cheap, and looked cheap. So we returned them and used the money to buy some solar illuminated glass pineapples for the landscape. Sounds kitschy, I know, but they look amazing at night. There were no recriminations, no hurt feelings, but The Wife doesn't buy the cheap plastic tiki stuff anymore. We've defined the parameters and she's bought into it, 100 percent.

Patience and communication. We all have to start somewhere.


 
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