The standards for physical beauty in K-pop are endless as almost every part of the body has been incorporated into terms that define some impossible ideal that can only be achieved through intense dieting, rigorous exercise, and — when those things aren’t enough — plastic surgery. From the Ant Waist to the S-Curve and the X-Line, these type of terms used to police the Golden Proportions and upheld as industry standards seem to be ever evolving. Thus, I’m coining a new term to describe this amazing new trend that’s been popping up more and more lately, the X-Curve.

What is the X-Curve? Is it yet another doctrine that seeks to define the ideal size and shape of the chest, legs, or butt? Not quite. The X-Curve focuses specifically on a body part that has been traditionally ignored: the ribcage. In this case, the handful of idols who are thin enough to flash a significant number of ribs while performing are being praised for their unparalleled slim figures.

The reason I’m naming it the X-Curve is because there’s no question that flashing some ribs to eager fans at a live performance is something that is certainly being lauded as an X-factor. It also has to do with the fact that the best X-Curves make it seem like we’re looking at the performer through an X-ray machine.

In order to properly judge the quality of an X-Curve, I’ve devised three areas of critique to objectively assess the field. First, there is that of Coverage which looks at the range of detail in which a performer’s ribcage has been laid bare. An ideal level of Coverage implies that the performer’s ribcage has been exposed in such magnitude that the observer has a complete understanding of its skeletal structure. The greater number of ribs exposed, the more convenient it is to visualize the ribcage on a holistic level.

Secondly, there is the idea of Protrusion which assesses how far a rib has protruded from the performer’s torso. This largely has to do with the tension that is created between the skin and the bone. Whereas Coverage attempts to critique a performer’s ribcage on a structural level, Protrusion attempts to study the subject’s ribcage at the detailed level, on a rib by rib basis. Generally speaking, the farther a particular rib bulges from the skin, creating the illusion that the performer’s torso is about to rupture, the closer we’ve come to the ideal.

Lastly, there is Exposure which, like Protrusion, encompasses a micro study of the torso. It’s a discipline that seeks to understand how clearly each rib is being exposed. Unlike Protrusion, however, Exposure isn’t so much interested in the ribs but rather the things around it which lend to blockage. In most cases, abdominal muscle or body fat are obstacles in achieving a good X-Curve. An X-Curve with ideal Exposure will demonstrate zero fat with minimal traces of muscle around the torso area.

Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking. “How is a super SJW site like Seoulbeats allowing something like this to happen? Isn’t this type of post endorsing objectification in the worst way? I mean, you’re literally coming up with a rubric for a term you just created that reduces individuals to a very specific part of their body.” I will certainly address this issue later on but, in the meantime, let’s not let the naysayers stop the rest of us from educating ourselves on this wonderful new standard for the ideal K-pop body.

Hyuna (ex-4Minute)

Focusing on the aspect that is the most noticeable, Protrusion is easy to spot because of the way a rib or a set of ribs seem to jump out of the torso. The Protrusion on Hyuna is rather jarring given how much ab muscle is present. However, all that muscle counts against her Exposure and we just don’t catch enough of a glimpse at the entire ribcage to make much of a case for Coverage. This X-Curve has pop but it leaves us hungry for more.

Seulgi (Red Velvet)

Unlike Hyuna, Seulgi has a little bit of everything going for her. She has decent Coverage, respectable Exposure, and ample Protrusion but none of those things particularly stand out. It’s a very balanced X-Curve that’s just missing some glitz to propel it to the next level.

Lisa (Black Pink)

Moving into the upper tier, Lisa demonstrates very good Exposure and Protrusion as her ribs are very clearly defined and protruding very clearly from her torso. However, the Coverage has room for improvement as we’re not seeing a very symmetrical outline of her ribcage. Perhaps it’s the angle but one side of her ribcage seems to be more dominant.

Hara (ex-Kara)

Hara demonstrates excellent Exposure by having a really flat stomach and little noticeable muscle texture. Her Coverage is fairly decent with six ribs clearly exposed. Her Protrusion leaves more to be desired, nonetheless, without a single rib sticking out at a sharp angle. Overall, this is a quality X-Curve with a ton of substance, just without the flash.

Tzuyu (Twice)

Tzuyu has clearly modeled her body type off of Hara as her X-Curve is very similar. Moreover, her Protrusion is even better thanks to her bottom rib sticking out slightly farther than the others. Excellent form all around.

Taeyeon (SNSD)

Before I crown the idol with the best rib for rib X-Curve, I like to include an honorable mention. Taeyeon’s shoulder blades may one day warrant its own term but until that happens, it’s worth noting that if her shoulder blades were located on the front of her body, she would literally be head and shoulders above the competition. First of all, the Protrusion is insane; she can cut a cake with those things. The Exposure is unbelievable; she has absolutely no upper back fat or muscle. The Coverage is extraordinary; I can’t tell if they’re shoulder blades or the remains of her vestigial wings from when she fell from heaven.

Wendy (Red Velvet)

Among mortals, Wendy takes the cake for best X-Curve through sheer force of will. Look at the lethal combination that is her Protrusion and Exposure. I’m not even counting her respectable stomach muscles against her because it’s clearly not in any way taking away from the magnificence that is her ribcage. The Protrusion is also jaw-dropping. It looks like her lungs are spilling out of her chest! The Exposure is also mesmerizing as each rib seems to be laid bare, pressed against her latex-tight skin. Her Coverage is average but that’s mostly due to blockage from her outfit. I’m in no way counting that against her, but I have to be objective and judge based on the visible evidence. Nevertheless, this is one of the finest X-Curves in K-pop today.

Rose (Black Pink)

That is until everyone focuses on the next idol who will be turning heads with her newfound thinness. Rose has certainly been on everyone’s radar for quite some time but her recent turn has been spectacular. Her above average height combined with an ultra-slim Ant Waist layers a strong foundation for an exceptionally gorgeous X-Curve. Coverage, Exposure, and Protrusion are all off the charts. I had to literally add an extra qualifier to my scale just to describe how stunning this is.

Before I wrap this up, let’s talk about the pseudo-feminist keyboard warriors who are going to take one look at this and immediately cry foul, that this is politically incorrect, that I’m objectifying women, that this in some way perpetuates an unhealthy body image set forth by the entertainment industry that leads to eating disorders and unhealthy dieting, both of which are symptoms of mental health issues that plague many of the industry’s performers yet goes largely unspoken. They’ll point to pro-ana forums where impossible K-pop diets are encouraged and held in high regard, and mention the recent netizen comments which are actually praising Wendy for her extreme weight loss. They’ll even say something hypocritical like how none of this is even sexy or beautiful, that the X-Curve idealizes yet another unobtainable body standard in order to encourage the masses to buy the latest weight loss and dieting products.

Don’t think I haven’t heard these arguments before. These concerns are simply unavoidable because they comprise the very foundation of the industry in which we worship. To oppose objectification and the inhumane treatment of idols is to oppose the very things that the industry is built upon. As impersonal as it may seem to judge the worthiness of a person based on select body parts, this is what we’ve been given to work with. We do not get to know who these idols really are as people. Everything we consume, despite how real it may seem, is ultimately a product that is being sold to us. Thus, we can’t further objectify something that’s already been commercially objectified by the time it reaches our eyes. We’re simply recycling the product we’ve been given and regurgitating it in another form.

I know that most K-pop fans are aware of this on some level but I have to point it out because there’s always going to be people who will lash out against these types of posts while at the same time not hesitate to drain their entire bank account on multiple versions of the same album and VIP tickets to a concert in hopes of getting a 20-second photo-op with their favorite idol so they can post said photo on social media with a trending hashtag of the idol group. Now, tell me who’s really treating these idols as objects for their own amusement? At least what I’m doing does not directly infuse money into the K-pop machine. And that makes me better than these people!

So go ahead and call this objectification if you like but who’s going to call out the objectification that fans engage in on a regular basis, the kind of everyday objectification that’s been normalized and ingrained within fan culture? Where’s the outcry over that?

And yes, the view is pretty good from up here and, no, I won’t get off my high horse already. I avoid caffeine during the day, drink a warm glass of milk before bed, and that’s how I sleep at night. Why do you ask?

(Images via YG Entertainment, Newsen, Segeye, Ilgan Sports)