20130924_seoulbeats_vixx_nThere are two sure things that happens when Chuseok comes. The first is the annual Idol Sports Athletics Championships where we see our favorite idols interact with one another as they are teamed with other idols as well as generally letting loose. For instance, this year we got Infinite and EXO interactions, the return of BTOVIXX, Sunggyu once again laying around on the grass as Inspirits cheer for him to get up, B1A4’s Baro and Sandeul playing around and Teen Top being their normal playfully abusive selves. Oh. And there were sports involved, the most popular being futsal and the high jump — both resulting in several injuries.

The second thing you are sure to have during Chuseok is Star Face Off. It is practically a ritual in its own for idols to come on at least once. Idols are separated into two teams and perform for the most votes. They can perform parodies of popular songs or have a dance performance. Or at least this used to be the format. For this year, they introduced a new format. This year, each group stood on its own and attempted to get a perfect score (100) from four judges who would hit away on a buzzer during the performance.

With this format, four winners emerged and I think it’s safe to say that Wonder Vixx, or Vixx Girls as they call themselves in twitter, have emerged as the most memorable performance. For those who, for some odd reason, have still not watched Vixx dance to Wonder Girls’ “So Hot,” here it is once again.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeR2DYTOOEQ]

There are many things happening in this performance. There’s Ravi somehow yelling his name before his rap, N (or N-mi) working it like no other, Hong-bin being an awkwardly pretty girl, Hyuk getting some rap lines and Ken showing us his armpits. If you listen carefully during the second verse, you actually hear Leo’s voice come in, telling us that he had practiced with this song and there is a 90% chance that there is a video of him dancing to “So Hot” somewhere in Jellyfish Entertainment.

It’s been quite some time since the last cross-dressing performance on national television. And while their colleagues stuck to their own sex in terms of what artist to emulate, this performance was a surprise and arguably the most awaited since the preview. And Vixx didn’t fail to live up to expectations. It was cute and funny — the usual elements of a cross-dressing performance — but also serious in the way they did it. There was little to no giggling due to embarrassment. Even during the interview, they mostly stayed in character with N-mi even doing the “24 Hours” dance. Maybe it was the promise of their company that they would have time off if they got first place that was on their minds.

130924_seoulbeats_infinite_sungjong and sungyeolOf course this isn’t the first case of cross-dressing in K-pop. In fact, once upon a time, Chuseok Star Face Off — then known as Chuseok Star Dance Battle — was all about the cross-dressing performances.

One of the most memorable performances from the female side is After School performing “Again and Again” back in 2009. This was during the time when Jay Park had left 2PM and as then After School leader Kahi had taken his place in the dance, she had written “This is for you guys” which back then was a heartfelt tribute.

For the male side, everyone remembers the epic “Boys on Top” performance by SHINee but I really wouldn’t call that as a full-on cross-dressing performance. It was merely the boys taking the original song and giving a spin on the male perspective. An often overlooked performance was 2AM’s rendition of Miss A’s “Bad Girl Good Girl,” “Bad Boy Good Boy.” It seemed like a natural thing for One Day, for I believe everyone remembers Dirty Eyed Girls. Another noteworthy example? Milk Caramel which was composed of Dong-ho, Dong-jun and Sung-jong.

Cross-dressing performances were once also a staple during the year-end shows and Christmas specials. During the year-end shows, female idols often teamed up to perform a hit song by a male idol that year and vice-versa, an example being the performance of “Heartbeat” by members of Kara, 4Minute and After School.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvMNKWLu3Nk]

Cross-dressing is not only limited to performances of songs. There are also plenty of times where it was utilized during a skit. For SHINee, they once had a skit where they were all dressed as girls. In fact, this was chosen most embarrassing clip for Jong-hyun during their last visit to Weekly Idol and Taemin is still haunted by his look in the clip.

There is also the infamous Secret Garden parody by Big Bang. In this instance, and all instances applicable, cross-dressing was used to “institutionalize” an OTP, or One True Pairing. It is all about the skinship between the two members as one “kisses” the other member who is forced to wear female clothing.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdjvgvT-v2g]

Also, we can’t deny that G-Dragon looks hot even as a female.

But what is it that is so special about these cross-dressing performances?

Where I’m from, there are only two reasons you would cross-dress: you were either gay or a comedian doing it for the laughs while exaggerating every movement and word. In fact, cross-dressing isn’t that rampant in other parts of the world — at least not like in Korea where you can easily anticipate it during a concert, a year end show or a holiday special.

Another thing to be pointed out is that when the topic of cross-dressing comes up, more often than not, a male cross-dressing will be the main topic. It’s not that females don’t cross-dress as much as males, it’s just that when the words “cross dressing” is said or read, the mind automatically makes the connection to a male wearing a dress and heels, or any other sort of female clothing.

20130924_seoulbeats_2am_jokwonThis is caused by various elements. One is that in the scheme of things, when a female group does it, it means they will be doing a mature concept and coming back with suits. Another reason is that we are socialized into thinking that it’s fine for females to dress like a man — in fact, it’s even sexualized when the suit actually is form fitting. But for a man to dress as a female? It’s is thought of as weird and inappropriate. We are socialized into thinking its fine for females to act like one of the guys. But when it is the other way around, just a guy being close friends with a group of females, he is thought of as gay.

It has something to do with the way the society has constructed lines of sex — not gender — on us as we grow up. Of course, this depends on your upbringing and where you are from. Pants is to male as male is to concepts of strength, financial stability and smart. On the other hand, the skirt is equated to a female who is then equated to the concepts of weakness, princess in distress, emotional and passive. In fact, these constructs are present in much of thinking in Western Civilization and this thinking was one of the reasons females did not have the same rights as men right away — females had to fight for their universal rights during the first wave of feminism and continue to do so.

This leads us to focusing on males dressing up as females. It’s funny and cute and — when done properly such as the Vixx Girls’ performance — in a way it is a fine tribute to the original act. But when a female does the same thing, it is rare for them to be praised and sensationalized such as the case with Vixx due to the thinking that it is nothing new for females to dress up as males.

This, of course, is a shame for there have been moments where the females cross-dressing was just as spot on as their counterparts. In K-pop, there have been many instances of cross-dressing, too much for one such post to really focus on. What are your favorite moments and just what is it about cross-dressing that appeals to you?

(SBS, MBC, Mnet, YG Entertainment, YouTube [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]; Images via Twitter [1], infinite-sj.com, Tumblr [1])