Friday, January 13, 2012

I React to Western Adults Reacting to Western Kids Reacting to K-pop

I don't know about elsewhere on the Internet, but LiveJournal's "Oh No They Didn't" community, at least, is having a massive hatefest over "Kids React to K-pop."  My reactions are entirely based on how the K-pop fans at ONTD are taking it, but if  Roboseyo is to be believed (which I think he is), the entire K-pop army has similarly imploded at the sight of it.

Here's the video, it's gone down periodically but hopefully now it's up for good:

If it goes down again, the Cliff's Notes version is: comedians show kids videos of things, film their reactions, edit them together, and put it on the Internet.  This particular instance was kids reacting to K-pop: Girls' Generation, Super Junior, and 2NE1 in particular.  And at first blush, I thought it was funny.  Shit, I still DO think it's funny (sometimes the kids are a little too performative, but hey, they're kids).

On the one hand, I try to think about stuff like this.  And certainly, upon reflection, I realized that a bunch of white kids mugging up their incomprehension at Korean pop music for the camera is kind of...unfortunate.  But they're kids, and they're being cajoled into being funny because presumably they know this is going on a video for YouTube for millions of people to watch.  Everyone is an attention whore at some level, but especially little kids.

Instead, as only one commentor on ONTD (in ten pages of comments) pointed out, we should really be thinking about the adults who picked the videos: if they picked certain videos hoping for a specific effect, if they goaded the kids off-camera, and so forth.  They're the ones creating and perpetuating the white hegemony, and so on.  But no, everyone on ONTD immediately goes on their "herp this is why I'm child-free" rants because they enjoy having the license to be bitter about kids, instead of taking a moment to consider the man behind the curtain (or video camera, as it were).

And finally, I love all the butthurt from the K-pop fans about how "the music's really good they don't know what they're missing waaaaaaaah"  Seriously? Seriously?  There are great Korean musicians and talents, but trying to argue that they're coming out of the child abuse factory that is JYP (or whatever other company) is so ridiculous I don't know where to begin. If anything, talent emerges in spite of it, not because of it.

And child abuse isn't an exaggeration, either.  Limiting teenage (read as: still growing) girls who do intense bouts of cardio every day to just 1200 calories?  Abusive and potentially metabolically damaging.  Bear in mind, K-pop groups train for years before they ever even drop a single, and so many debut when they're just sixteen or seventeen years old, or younger. That means training at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.  Shit like that can fuck up your body for life. Not to mention the long and exploitative contracts, exhaustive touring schedules, and so forth.  But K-pop fans like to conveniently ignore that and just continue to squeal about how CL is just so ~fierce~.   DANCE MONKEY DANCE.  ENTERTAIN ME.

Embracing K-pop but rejecting American pop  just because the latter is ~Korean~ and therefore ~exotic~ is nothing more than a bunch of bullshit exoticizing/eroticizing the Other.  Liking something just because it's Korean isn't really a whole lot better than disliking something because it's Korean.   And guess what?  If you haven't seen it before, K-pop is going to look really fucking bizarre.  It still looks bizarre to me (even if I get the larger cultural framework in which it fits), because I didn't grow up with it for twenty-odd years, but I get where it fits in the scheme of things.

What I also notice about Koreaboos/weeaboos is that there's a certain segment (not all of them, by any stretch) that only catches the stuff that floats the top—in other words, the bands and songs the industries really push to make internationally.  It's like they're only interested in a shallow, surface-level interaction with another culture; it never occurs to them that Korea or Japan would be capable of producing any kind of indie music scene. I'm not trying to play the hipster card, here ("I like Neon Bunny, but you've probably never heard of her.") but rather pointing out that it takes a minimal amount of digging to find some really great treasures (thanks, IndiefulROK!).  Like me saying, "Oh, I really like Korean movies!" having only seen Oldboy and The Host.  "The Housemaid? No, never heard of it."

I bet if you had kids react to this video from Linus' Blanket, there'd be a lot less cultural befuddlement and all of the bullshit Koreaboos wouldn't know what the hell this was.  Here, have a palate cleanser.


  1. "the child abuse factory that is JYP"


    There's plenty of exploitation in American pop music as well, but at least those performers have a shot of making it big and directing their own career. I'm obviously a hater, but K-pop makes no pretense of trying to have artists who have an ounce of self-direction or initiative.

    Also, it's pretty much tailored to creepy older men. That's gross.

  2. I mean, it would be hypocritical of me to just give all of K-pop an K-pop fans the brush-off. I'm most definitely guilty of rocking out to 2NE1; I really, seriously do like them and hope they manage to legitimately make it outside of Korea.

    But for ten pages of comments and not one single person to bring up the unfortunate origins behind some of the more famous K-pop idols? I don't expect kids to have astounding levels of self-reflection, but adults is another story. In that respect, they're not much better than the kids in the video.