The Fine Line Between Cultural Appropriation and Appreciation

'Raya'Credit: Disney
How do you show appreciation to a culture without appropriating it? 

In today's world, mainly in America, cultural appropriation is a huge issue that affects many different groups.

At a SDCC panel yesterday, Mitch Hyman (Bubba the Redneck Werewolf, Vinnie and Mook: Hitmen for Horror), and Adalisa Zarate (Building Blocks, Traveling Seers) talked about the difference between loving other cultures and letting that love show on your work, or just taking whatever you think you understand in order to make money off other cultures. 

Let's dive into some of the key reasons this happens and how we can prevent it.

What Is Cultural Appropriation? 

in basic terms, means to take without permission. Cultural appropriation happens when another culture steals cultural elements like hair, dress, practices, imagery, and more, usually without asking permission or crediting the original source culture. These elements are used for a person's or group's personal interest or monetary gain.

For example, when Hollywood casts white actors for say, characters who were originally written as Asian, that would be considered "white-washing" and appropriation. 

Disney is pretty well known for this. They take other cultures and act as if they representing it, but really they're just looking to profit. In 2013, the company went as far as trying to copyright the phrase "Día de los Muertos" ahead of Coco, which understandably caused an uproar for the Latin American communities who celebrate the holiday.

'Coco'Credit: Disney

How Do You Appreciate Instead?

For the most part, according to the panelists, it boils down to simply asking for permission. 

You should also have someone from that culture participating and profiting in the project as well. This creates a healthy dialogue between you and the culture that you are drawing from. 

In The End

The biggest fault in cultural appropriation happens when someone outright steals and profits from another culture. Not only does this usually benefit a large corporation taking from smaller, marginalized groups, but it devalues the culture they're taking from. 

So remember, ask for permission first, and don't steal! 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.     

Check out more coverage from Comic-Con Special Edition, presented by Blackmagic.

You Might Also Like

Your Comment


The issue with the whole "ask for permission" thing is who do you ask? Who has the right to give you that? Generally the answer is no one specific person and even a handful of ppl can

November 27, 2021 at 9:05PM


Surely the notion that one person or group can control 'approval' for an entire culture is as offensive as someone trying their best to engage in respectful cultural appreciation without 'approval'...

November 28, 2021 at 12:19AM


Is it cultural appropriation when a Japanese cellist plays Bach? When an Indian engineer uses calculus? When an African company makes antibiotics? When a Black actor plays a medieval Prince of Denmark?

Recently an actress got in trouble for wearing a kimono. Has anybody noticed that 99% of the Japanese people wear Western wear?

November 28, 2021 at 5:19AM


No. Your examples are not cultural appropriation. They're not even close to what cultural appropriation is and are not what the article is talking about. Read it again. Carefully.

December 14, 2021 at 1:52AM, Edited December 14, 1:57AM


What’s missing from the article (and what one of the responses below pretends not to understand) is the power relationships involved. Cultural appropriation isn’t just ‘borrowing something from another country’.

It’s great that NFS are brave enough to tackle some of these things rather than just endless camera reviews. But they’re doing it in such an awkwardly rudimentary way and with no follow-up in the discussion, I’m afraid it doesn’t amount to much.

November 28, 2021 at 11:55AM


And who decides who is the "powerful" and who is the "powerless"? You?

November 29, 2021 at 6:25AM


The numbers decide, although obviously people can dispute the criteria. Health outcomes, income, job and housing security, education, access to decision-making roles, experience of violence, etc. I'd be surprised if we couldn't agree on clear 'winners and losers' in these examples and then see a correlation with race or global west/south countries.

I'd agree that squabbling over what clothes people are 'not allowed' to wear is silly. But these things stir up feelings about underlying inequalities, which is why people want to talk about them.

November 30, 2021 at 10:38AM, Edited November 30, 10:38AM


I have to disagree. What you propose is a sliding scale between the "Ultimate Exploiter" (say, the British Empire) and the "Ultimate Exploited" (say, Belgian Congo) and based on its position on this scale, countries and cultures would have more or less rights to other cultural and technical products. Good luck on everybody agreeing to that scale. What you would see (what we are seeing, actually) is a race to victimhood.

December 2, 2021 at 6:31AM


“Cultural appropriation” is a byproduct of the woke. It seems to only deem certain races as capable of appropriating but when the roles are reversed it’s ok.

November 29, 2021 at 1:43AM


Nah... cultural appropriation is a byproduct of white supremacy and you'd have to be a total moron to not see that in this day and age. Not sure how you're figuring that "it seems to only deem certain races blah, blah, blah, roles reversed its ok" bullshit, but thats is not true at all. It doesn't matter who's doing the appropriation, it's still wrong. Period. The only people who think cultural appropriation is "a ByPrOdUcT oF tHe wOkE" are people that don't like being called out on their shit, BUT are the first to complain and cry like babies about anything that affects THEM.

December 14, 2021 at 2:14AM, Edited December 14, 2:29AM


I'm curious where everyone stands on the concept of cultural appropriation vs 'all artists steal' (which they do). IMHO there is no such thing as cultural appropriation, only cultural exploitation.

Also strange to see Disney dragged here. If they didn't make Coco (or one of several other nods to diff't cultures they've made in recent years) they'd be dragged for that too. I'm sure they have representative from those cultures on those staffs.

December 1, 2021 at 10:18AM

Glenn M

Cultural appropriation is absolutely a thing just like cultural exploitation is as well and they usually go hand in hand. All artist do steal and a lot of times, they do it by appropriating and/or exploiting a culture(s).

One of the problems with Disney, and other major corps., is that its taken way too long to finally get some kind of representation. The other problem is that Disney and other major corps. are gatekeeping cultural representation.

December 14, 2021 at 2:25AM, Edited December 14, 2:28AM


This article is written by an abyssal moron. And I'm not even white.

December 4, 2021 at 7:47PM

Martin Brewer
Director, DOP

Care to elaborate instead of just making an abysmally moronic statement?

December 14, 2021 at 2:02AM, Edited December 14, 2:02AM