This week in terms of idol and music news, we talked about B.A.P‘s comeback album and MV, upcoming hip-hop girl debuts, Kim Hyung-joon‘s “Sorry I’m Sorry,” Beast‘s “Beautiful Night,” NS Yoon-G‘s “Skinship,” an exchange of opinions on Beast, GLAM‘s debut, and Queen BoA‘s return.
For fashion, tv, and film topics, we looked at SNSD‘s Tiffany for CeCi Magazine, Rainbow‘s Woori for InStyle Magazine, 2NE1 in France with W Korea, fried locks of idol hair, Doomsday Book, and a list of fun reasons to watch the Idol Olympics.
And last but not least, the socio-cultural topics that were covered included the reduced role of lyrics in K-pop, objectification, Korea’s driving culture, inappropriate fan behavior, a writer’s qualms with homoerotic fan service, and some fatal flaws of the Big 3.
Here are five comments from articles this week that gave me some food for thought:
LaurenLCD on Lost in Translation: The Reduced Role of Lyrics in K-pop:
If we’re perfectly honest with ourselves, it’s not simply a problem of Asians who don’t speak English as their first language butchering the English language and having shallow lyrics. It’s a problem of music as a whole that lyrics have become less and less important over the years as the shift of focus has changed. Music itself has become less about ‘How can I inform the masses about the issue of XYZ?’ and more about ‘How can I make the masses forget about how cruel and unforgiving the world can be? How can I indulge them in a fantasy land where they’re not poor, hungry, unable to find decent employment because they’re uneducated/undereducated or despite the fact that they have a Masters/PhD, etc?’ This mentality about lyrics can be found even as far back as the late 60’s and early 70’s when Marvin Gaye‘s album What’s Going On almost failed to be released because it had too much social commentary to Motown’s tastes and not enough fun.
Nowadays we disguise our lack of lyrical commentary and dexterity with ringtone rappers like Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, and the like and cloak non singers in autotune and nonsensical music videos to hide the fact that they have nothing to say or are saying what’s already been said a million and one times before. The masses have been dumbed down thanks to the educational system in America, so they don’t realize that they’re listening to lyrics that sound like they were penned by a 10 year old when they listen to what’s on the radio. Kpop – always a genre to follow the leader – sees this. Even if they don’t understand the lyrics, if they find translations into Korean (or have learned enough English in ESOL), I’m sure they’re left with a sense of ‘WTF?’ just like we Internationals are whenever we translate the songs we initially thought sounded cool/cute/bad ass only to find out that the lyrical content itself is absolute baby talk and drivel. In Asian pop’s case since they’re trying to go global, they figure ‘Hey, if the lyrical garbage that gets on the Billboard charts there doesn’t actually get raised eyebrows, why should our dumb lyrics or bad Englrish matter? It’s not like they’ll actually notice or take the time to look up the lyrics.’
anonymousFan on Why Homoerotic Fanservice is Just Not Okay:
Perhaps the author is being a bit hasty about passing judgement. On the surface, it does seem like idols and their management have no problem monetizing on homoerotic fanservice even when actual gays and lesbians have a hard time accepting their identities/showing it to their immediate families. But as previous commenters have said, this can also be a positive thing in improving visibility. Just as a fictional heterosexual couple kissing on screen elicits “oooohhs” and applauds from people, one day, most homosexual couples might get the same reaction. I think idol fan-service is actually rather progressive. (These fanservice shenanigans are rather unnecessary, and they are definitely not indicators of whether the person is actually gay or not, but I have not thought them as hurting or insulting gay people)
I also think, pop culture is becoming more accepting of gay people. I don’t know about SHINEE but I think a significant number of entertainers are supportive of the lgbt community. As mentioned somewhere in Seoulbeats before, dramas and movies such as “Life is Beautiful” and “King and Clown” do raise important questions and were watched by a huge public. I also vaguely remember a variety show in which Hong Seok-cheon was actively supported or at least sympathized with. BoA, if I remember correctly, was also at San Francisco’s Pride Festival as a performer. And most recently, Xia Junsu said something about people questioning “if he was gay” and saying he was not but regardless of that he liked that people asked. The interview can be found here. The interview is pretty long and talks about a lot of other things, so just ctrl+F for “nail art” to get to that question.I think we should expect incremental gains in acceptance from Korean society rather than something drastic. Increasing visibility is the first step. Occasional mentions/support like these will definitely help, and maybe the homoerotic fan service will help too.
LimpyLimpious on Objectification: Nothing As Easy As it Looks:
Sexuality veiled into cute and childlike aegyo in a lot of kpop videos so that it wouldn’t be perceived as actually being expressed, so not to appear slutty towards older male viewers who can then comfortably watch it without being judged, is a form of sexual objectification. In this situation women use their sexuality packed in unnatural cute, childish image to sell themselves, which can be uncomfortable, because they woman has a feeling of not being able to act as free adult aware of their own sexuality and personal freedom to do what they want with it.
Also, another problem in kpop world or everywhere else, would be when they use sexuality to sell the product on minors. Most of the young people don’t have a developed sexual awareness and identity, and sometimes dressing provocatively is forced on them by their companies. Society should at least set the bar when young people can express their sexuality. In most countries it’s when you’re 18. Anything younger than that, a big no. And isn’t having sex with minors punishable by law in some countries or at least results in a harsh social judgement? For example, when Hyuna danced provocatively in Change, wasn’t she like 17? Somewhere there has to be a limit.
Now, when adult chooses to use their sexuality to sell something, is a totally different story. A lot of women think of sexuality as an important part of their identity, and to deny them freedom to do with it what they want is a violation of human rights, even to sell a product. A person may be against it and think of it as morally wrong, but freedom is freedom. You can hate it, but it has to exist. There shouldn’t be any obstacle if a woman freely decides to objectify herself as sexual being for male gaze, and it’d be nice for her not to face derogatory labels like ‘slut’ from other men and women who are uncomfortable with it. Sexuality in-your-face like in BEG‘s Sixth Sense is always better than repressed expression of it. However, when women are forced to sell sex because society denies them any other way of economic independence, then it’s simply wrong. Prostitution because of poverty is simply disgusting.
Sometimes an open display of sexuality in the weirdest forms possible, when it confuses and shocks common people because of breaching all traditional gender norms, is a step forward for society. Like queer movements had men dressed up in ugly, overtly-sexual women’s clothes. That kind of provocation and gender bending might have pushed the boundaries of what is socially acceptable for women and men. They objectified themselves to the core, and I don’t know how much they actually risked, but I’m sure that without them objectifying themselves, women’s rights wouldn’t advance as much in the Western world.
Something like Lady Gaga, she dresses sexually provocative and always adds something weird and socially unacceptable to her outfits, constantly shocking us and making us re-think what is good and bad. This might be a marketing ploy to attract attention, but considering her enormous influence on pop culture, she might have ‘liberated’ a few people to free their identity from harmful social constraints. Or at least made them to be tolerant to something different. In this cases, sexual objectification can sometimes be positive.
One day it’d be nice to live in a world where woman can display cleavage on her own free will without being labeled as ‘slut’, or that justification for rape like “she wore a mini skirt” would be considered as idiotic, both by women and men.
Mrs. KimSungGyu on Exo Fans’ Inappropriate Behavior:
It’s all about self-restraint really. We all wish and dream of getting to be closer to our favorite groups, and that’s okay as long as there is a designated place for it. When you see someone famous on the street, the polite thing to do would be to first see if they aren’t busy or if they look like they are okay with greeting the fans in that particular moment before approaching them. Of course it’s impossible to know which case is which for sure, but when in doubt the best thing to do is to respect the other person’s privacy and leave them be. We are all human beings after all. Stalking is still stalking no matter who you are and I’m pretty sure a lot of us wouldn’t like being stalked, whether it be in real life or even online. I have prior experience in both of these cases, I’ll have you know.
I’ll use an example of an acquaintance I know who lives in Korea to illustrate proper fan behavior. She is a foreigner and a major fan of a certain popular idol group. She once wrote a fan account in which she talked about a particular outdoor event that just so happened to feature that particular group as one of the main performers. A very large portion of the audience happened to be there for just them. Mind you that there were a couple of other groups slated to perform on that same day, but as soon as that group was done performing, the fan girls barreled into the parking lot (which was totally rude towards the other singers who still needed to perform) where the members were climbing back into their vans to leave for their next schedules.
Some of the fans pushed, grabbed onto the idols, and from the very up-and-close fan cams, it was apparent that they did not like to be handled in that way at all. Upon noticing this, this acquaintance of mine put her arms out and stopped the small group of girls she had come with from going any further. They quietly retreated to a distance and continued to watch from afar. That was the polite and sensible thing to do. Unfortunately many others did not follow her example, but fandoms are fandoms no matter which way you look at it and a whole lot of them are bound to be spoiled by immature fans. There is no avoiding that.
So let this article not be directed towards EXO‘s fans alone, but rather every single kpop fan alike.
CJux on Of Korea’s Driving Culture And Pop:
This is a very interesting article and it can help one understand why, at least in 2007, South Korea had the highest pedestrian death rate among countries in the OECD. While it’s easy to condemn these celebrities for their irresponsible actions especially if you’re from a country that enforces social awareness on drunk driving prevention, knowledge on the social background of South Korea’s drinking and driving culture can help explain why, probably, these celebrities didn’t think they were doing anything out of ordinary when they decided to drive under the influence.
I suspect the writing of this article was motivated by Nichkhun‘s car accident, and I’d like to share a personal story about it.
I once crashed my mother’s car because of irresponsible driving. Not just crashed, I practically sent the vehicle straight to the waste dump. I still have no idea how the hell I survived unscratched (well, I had some minor injuries, but nothing serious). It was right after the faculty exams period finished, so I was still sleep-deprived and I had drunk two beers. I’m a heavy drinker and I still limited my alcohol consumption to stay within the legal limits in my country – back then it didn’t cross my mind that the combination of alcohol with lack of sleep could be even more dangerous. Even though I still managed to drive my friends home safely, and it was when I was returning home alone that the accident occurred. Fatigued, I closed my eyes for just one second and that was enough. The car slid off the road, and because I was speeding, the front tyre punctured. I pressed the breaks (terrible mistake) and I lost control of the car; it just started spinning around until it hit a utility pole, which almost cut the car into two halves with the sheer impact.
Luckily, nobody else was on that street when it happened. I still have driving trauma because of that accident, but if I had the misfortune of hitting someone I don’t think could live with that guilt. The accident was already traumatic as it was for me, but if an innocent person was caught too in that irresponsible act of mine (and worst, if I had caused a person’s death, or some serious injuries for life because of what I did) the weight on my conscious would be too much to bear.
I don’t know how Nichkhun is feeling right now (I read he sent the motorcyclist to the hospital with head injuries), but if he’s a decent human being, he must be feeling like total shit right now. The comprehensible blacklash from netizens he’s probably receiving will still never be enough to equate the guilt and the terrible weight on his conscience he’s feeling right now. I don’t condone his irresponsible actions at all, but because I did once the same mistake (and if mine was victimless, it was purely because of luck), I can’t help to feel a little sorry for him.
Anyway, I hope nobody interprets this as an attempt to defend him or something like that. I had once attended a funeral of a family member of a friend of mine who was hit by a drunk driver. The pain one’s irresponsible mistake can cause to an entire family and group of people who loved the victim is irreparable. But on the other hand, I can’t completely judge Nichkhun without feeling like I’m being a hypocrite. I sincerely hope the victim Nichkhun sent to the hospital recovers well, and that Nichkhun uses this unfortunate experience not only to learn with his error but also to promote awareness about driving under the influence to other people around him.
(Images via Vogue Korea, Vogue Girl, Cosmopolitan Magazine, High Cut Magazine, CeCi Magazine, Syukan Josei Magazine, Customellow)