Ant and Dec have come under fire after an unfortunate costume choice during the most recent episode of their popular show, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
As English singer-songwriter Anne-Marie performed one of her hit singles on the programme, viewers were quick to point out the full, unsettling historical context of one of the symbols which appeared on the hosts’ costumes.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Rising Sun flag and why many find it to be offensive.
What was wrong with Anne-Marie’s performance?
Anne-Marie appeared as the musical guest on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, performing her single, Ciao Adios.
The hosts staged a mock martial arts bout during her performance, imitating the ‘wire-fu’ antics and exaggerated fighting poses of hit movies like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
For their comedy routine, Ant and Dec dressed up in traditional karate gear, complete with headbands. Controversy emerged when it was pointed out that the symbols on the headbands bore a strong resemblance to Japan’s Rising Sun flag.
Why is the Rising Sun flag offensive?
The Rising Sun flag is the same as Japan’s current national flag – a red disc on a white background – but with the addition of 16 red rays emanating out from the central circle.
While both flags have been around and in use for centuries, the Rising Sun flag became the symbol of Japan’s military during the 19th century. This meant that it was the flag which was flown during the country’s imperialist expansion, which saw it occupying Korea and China.
For this reason, the flag is now closely associated with Japan’s imperial past in much of Asia.
The strongest affiliations come from the Second World War when the flag was used as the symbol of Japan’s navy. It was flown while Japan occupied various parts of Asia and committed numerous atrocities against the local people.
Japan continues to use the flag as its navy’s emblem to this day, but many find it to be hugely offensive – South Korea has called for it to be banned during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Some see the symbol as comparable to the Nazi’s swastika – an emblem which immediately calls to mind the suffering inflicted by those who wore it, making it a huge source of pain to the victims’ descendants.
How did ITV and Anne-Marie respond?
Following criticism of her performance, Anne-Marie took to Twitter to apologise for the hurt that the imagery caused, explaining that she had no control over the costume choices made by the hosts.
— ANNE-MARIE (@AnneMarie) March 1, 2020
"I want to appologies to all those who were affected and hurt by my appearance last night on UK TV. I want you to know that I had nothing to do with the costumes on this sketch."
Unfortunately, education on this part of this part of the history wasn't done and I am also hurt by the pain this signifies for so many people.
"I'm truly sorry and I promise you that this will not happen again."
ITV has, in turn, released a statement which assured viewers that any offence caused “was clearly unintended and we have taken steps to re-edit that part of the episode for the Hub and for repeat broadcasts.”