July 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
I just finished reading this interview with Xia(h) Junsu and honestly, everybody who has ever been interested in a) the idolverse, b) the concept of “image” or c) questioning gender should read it. Which hopefully means everybody who has ever visited this blog. This man may have an image quite far from the brooding type, but he obviously has a lot going on in his head, and I am so happy that he is able to express it better these days. Read it!
June 21, 2012 § 4 Comments
I know Lee Min Ho had his big break with the Korean version of Boys over Flowers, but I can’t say I loved that drama. I actually didn’t even finish watching it. On the other hand, I really, really liked City Hunter. And to be quite honest, one of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much was because of the intense hotness of Lee Min Ho.
Yes, I said it. Yeah, I know.
Today is the 25:th birthday (in international age) of that Lee Min Ho. There is a younger Lee Min Ho too in kdramaverse these days, but he still has a long way to go before he reached the level of fame that the 870722-Lee Min Ho has.
I’m actually not quite sure what it is about Lee Min Ho that I find so attractive. He’s handsome as any, but not breathtaking in a way that makes me want to scroll through pages and pages of pictures of him (NOT LIKE I WOULD EVER DO THAT WITH ANYONE WHAT DO YOU MEAN). And though he seldom comes off as a complete idiot in interviews (though euuugh remember when he said that he didn’t want his girlfriend to wear short skirts?), it’s not like I actually remember anything special from them either. Neither does he give any impression of genderbending, which is usually a pretty good way to catch my eye. He’s just some seemingly decent dude, a pretty good actor and for some reason really attractice when in a drama. Maybe it’s his body language or something.
Though Rooftop Prince should have fed me up when it comes to fusion sageuk, I definitely look forward to Faith because Lee Min Ho will be playing the lead, described like this: “Being in his mid-20s in the drama, Choi Yeong is a blunt warrior who never laughs but is also quite random. He sometimes grins brightly.” Did they come up with this character by putting a test audience in cubes and let them watch Lee Min Ho act and push a buttom when they saw something they liked? Honestly.
Also, I know I’m definitely not the first to post this photo, but this looks quite promising:
So. Happy Birthday, Lee Min Ho! I hope you celebrate it with all your might.
June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
When discussing The Gayness in South Korea, the trouble distinguishing gays from straights often come up. To put it simply: The rules on who is considered gay-looking isn’t exactly the same all over the world. I brought an American friend to a mixed bar here in Stockholm, and she kept asking me who were gay or straight, a question that was even more complicated to answer because of how a lot of the people at that bar, including me, don’t identify as either. In any case, even the men that I do know identify as heterosexual seemed pretty gay (or at least “metrosexual”) to her because of how they dress, wear their hair, drink wine and giggle. Oh, also hug each other. On the other hand, the American men I have met have many of them struck me (yes, I actually noticed) as very dressed down. So the gap is less between the infamously gaydar-eluding Korean men’s style and Swedes than Americans, in general.
As mentioned in many previous blog posts, “Shinee Key gay” is a pretty common search term around here. And I’ve encountered many, many discussions on whether or not certain kpop celebs are non-straight, mostly based on their appearence and/or interests. Commonly mentioned in these discussions is “cultural” differences in sexual coding as mentioned above. Another argument might be the argumentors’ own experiences with flamboyant friends who are indeed gay, or who isn’t, thus proving you can be a male Gaga-loving fashionista and still be sexually and/or romantically interested exclusively in girls. (I am not even going into the complications of fan service here, ughh.)
But. While I am obviously aware of the differences above, and definitely personally wishing that the world was a complete gender anarchy where people frequently combined any interest with any gender expressions etc., heterosexuality usually does reward following the rules of gender conformity more than same-sex sexuality does. I know this because I myself have sometimes pulled my hair in frustration of how to avoid signaling monosexuality of any kind and exclude any of my target audiences, attraction-wise (usually resulting in confusion for everyone, to be honest). What I’m saying is this: to a certain extent we do choose what to signal, although this might be mighty tricky. And especially in the case of kpop-celebs who are also familiar with more “Western” kinds of thinking, I sometimes suspect that they consciously signal to their international audience what might pass the eyes of your average Korean. Someone who has a big interest in the “Western” world and is well-versed in English would have a bigger capability of telling that in some parts of the world, their way of acting or dressing would be interpreted as non-straight, while it is just seen as sexy, fashionable or humorous among most Koreans. Especially since a lot of at least the Western kpop fans do seem to have some sort of queerness going on in their lives. Whether or not this means that the rumoured-gay kpop celebs are actually expressing non-heterosexuality or if wearing a confusing “BORN THIS WAY”-tisha is just a very complicated kind of fanservice directed towards a tumblr-oriented international fandom… Who can tell? But I do know, that even if I’m personally not convinced that, say, tomboy-concept Amber of SME girlgroup f(x) is into girls, I am definitely convinced that she does know the question or whether or not she is, is discussed in the English speaking fandom. This applies to lots of Korean celebrities.
On the other hand, it could also work the other way around: A Korean-speaking, girly but girl-loving boy living in the US could maybe have a better chance with the ladies in a country where his love for wearing drag and dancing girl-group dances wouldn’t be immediately connected to homosexuality?
Yeah. Well. I wonder if we’ll ever know. And I’m actually not sure that I want to.
/Mis (who’s had such a long hiatus – I’m so sorry!)
February 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
So. I’ve found my new drama obsession, and got permission to start writing about dramas here. So here we go!
I’ve been watching The Moon that Embraces the Sun, and really liked it. It’s well-written enough, beautiful, and Kim Soo Hyun does some amazing acting in it. I wait for every episode and watch it as soon as I can; that’s pretty good for being me. I also started catching up on What’s Up?, which I also enjoyed – it’s not very typically drama-ish, which I found refreshing. If you have a lot of time to kill, I’d definitely recommend them both, although I think I’ll probably need to continue with What’s Up? Later since I don’t really have time for it now.
Because now… I’ve started watching Shut Up! Flower Boy Band ( 닥치고 꽃미남밴드). (I actually decided to avoid spoilers in this post btw, if anyone cares.)
Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for how good it would be. Despite what it might seem, I don’t really keep that close tracks of what’s going on in the drama scene, at least not at the moment. There aren’t anyone in this drama that I follow either (though I like Infinite, L doesn’t really interest me that much, and I don’t know much about the other actors), and the cocky, yet fluffy name kind of put me off. But just having watched the first two episodes, I’m totally hooked. I actually got so worked up that I had to calm down by taking a walk after watching episode 2. Now I’m just afraid that the following episodes won’t be as good.
I think one of the reasons I’m so amazed at this drama is how it just portrays a bunch of guys but still gets me going. Posing, annoying high school guys that play in a band and think they’re all that. Just the kind of people I don’t get along with, to be honest. Well, I don’t run into them as often nowadays, just the grown up version of them (or the should-be grown up version – sigh!), but I’ve never been easily impressed by narcissist men who take up a lot of space. At least not in reality. From afar, I seem to be totally into the very same. What’s up with that, anyways? I could probably make about 4372838947 blog posts just on this matter.
I can’t even put my finger on why I like Shut Up! so much yet. It’s just atmospheric and well put together, and at the same time dreamy and pretty believable. It’s also way dirtier and messier as I initially expected it to be. Though the first two episodes focused mainly on a couple of the characters and put up the others as clichés, I think it did so with a lot of humor and self-distance that I find very promising for further character developing now that the scene is set for the actual drama to start. Everybody have already made fun of the idea of a pretty muse, the idea of some charismatic “free spirit” whacko with guyliner, and the whole concept of good-looking guys who are in a band for various more or less stupid reasons, so in that way they have already disarmed me at those points.
Please, please, please turn out to be as good as these first episodes promise.
January 3, 2012 § 8 Comments
Most Swedes I introduce to kpop agree on one thing: kpop is, at many times, homoerotic. It’s also a common complaint in youtube comments on kpop boyband videos: “This is so gay!!!” they shout, just to be countered by “No my oppa isn’t gay! He said so in that interview! You’re just jealous that he’s sexier than you!” or something like that. But although I of course could go on about this forever (whether or not, fanservice, narrow definitions, cultural differences, blah blah), I’m going to put that aside for now to write a bit about something that isn’t as regularly discussed in the same context.
So. How lesbian is kpop?
Some time ago, I watched an interview with a couple of the girls from f(x). I don’t remember exactly which interview it was, but in any case, they got the question about why they have so many female fans. Krystal answered the question: “We have a member with a neutral charm like Amber-unni (so we have a lot of fangirls). But even though there’s one (with a neutral charm), I actually think that all five of us seems to have that neutral charm so a lot of girls likes us.”
This kind of got my head spinning.
Some background, in short (making things a bit too easy, of course): Female same-sex sexuality has for long been made invisible in most of the world, completely invisible or turned into something sexy for men or something unsexy for weirdos. From what I’ve come to understand, South Korea is no exception. Westerners frequently rise eyebrows at the relaxed attitude toward friendly same-sex closeness such as sleeping in the same bed and holding hands in public, obviously not seen with any suspicion in South Korea. Just as many other genderaware westerners, I envy this ease as well as wonder how much of it that is just because homosexuality, especially between women, is so far away it’s unthinkable.
But although Krystal is Korean, she has one foot in the US, and Amber was brought up in USA. There is no way they don’t know what’s going down with at least the international fandom’s interpretations of Amber’s boyish image. When SME decided to let Amber debut with f(x), what kind of fans did they expect her to attract? There seem to be a lot of discussion on whether or not Amber’s boyishness is just for show or not. Even though I personally believe SME has told her to play it up and wouldn’t let her leave it behind even if she felt like it, pre-debut pictures of her playing basketball and looking generally tomboy also make me think that they didn’t come up with the idea entirely for her. But seriously, what is f(x) even up to? I don’t get it, but they really do seem to have a lot of female fans, especially Amber. I watched Gayo Daejun and was moved by how the girls in the audience screamed at Amber.
T-ara obviously enjoy messing with my mind as well. I haven’t listened as much to Cry Cry as I did to either Roly Poly or Yayaya, but the concept for Cry Cry was to be really powerful on the verge of manliness, with DBSK as the explicit inspiration. Why? Because T-ara wanted to find their way back to their female fans. They actually said this.
About a week ago, T-ara were interviewed in Oricon Style. On the question what they wanted for Christmas, Eunjung answered “I want to meet someone by fate at Tokyo Tower… I don’t care whether that person is a male or not, I just want to meet someone amazing.
Is this all part of a calculated image on T-ara’s side, complete with Jiyeon’s lesbian role in “Miss Ripley? Is it genuine? Or just something else that I don’t understand
Exactly in what way girlgroups speak to their female fans when they display a “manly” image, I can’t really tell. Is it as rolemodels, or as objects of desire? Or a combination – so called girlcrushes, important during the teenage years but considered a passing phase?
I’m also puzzled at how some Korean (and international) female fans of female idols jokingly call them “oppa”. I can only interpret this as there lying something at least subtly desire-like in their fandom, or at least an awareness that it can be interpreted as this. But while for example After School’s Kahi and T-ara’s Eunjung don’t seem to mind, and even sometimes play with this concept, Miss A’s Jia lost her temper this summer and tweeted “Stop calling me oppa! /…/ I’m sexy girl~~~~ girl~~~~”.
I don’t even know where I’m going with this. This text has been lying around on my computer for quite some time without me finishing it, simply because I can’t really come a conclusion more than this: It seems like girl groups attract more girls, no matter why, when they show a cooler and more powerful image, and more guys when they show a cute image. I especially remember my own confusion when I talked to two guys about our favorite 2NE1 members, I mentioned CL and they were like “What? She’s so ugly though”. This hadn’t even occurred to me, who was way more interested in her fierce attitude. On the other hand, I know that I and the owner of this blog have come to the opposite conclusion when it comes to Orange Caramel – I like their cuteness, while he doesn’t.
What gender expectations, feelings of attraction or simply platonic admiration can be found in these patterns, I can just speculate in, and ponder on, and continue trying to understand. Maybe I’m just imagining things because I want to. I just hope they keep up the good work at giving me food for thoughts.
And now, I’m going to go camp at Tokyo Tower, hoping that Eunjung will show up…
/Mis, who is just as confused as always
December 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s been a while since I wrote something here. And though I can’t pinpoint down one exact reason, it’s nonetheless time for me to try to sort out yet another thing about kpop and me. Even this text has been lying around for ages, waiting to be published. I really haven’t said everything that I want to say about this yet, so I just might make this the first part of a longer text.
Warning for sensitive readers: This will be embarrassing, especially if you know me.
Some weeks ago, I became a buddy student for a Korean exchange student at my college. Once when we were out on a walk, she asked me what made me want to go to Seoul, and what I liked about Korea (I’m not using the name “Korea” because I don’t know the difference between South and North Korea, but because that is the word she used and, oddly enough, most people seem to use to talk about South Korea). I get really uncomfortable when people ask me direct questions about myself (this is probably part culture clash with Swedish small talk customs, part personality) so I went on a long tirade about how Korean culture has slowly sneaked into my life via movies (namedropping Kim Ki Duk), horror movies, urbanization and political theories, people around me, and food – and then, at last, I mentioned kpop, at which my buddy student shone up and started asking me about which bands I knew and so on. But for some reason, I felt the need to press how kpop didn’t “mean” the same thing here as it probably does in Asia, and then went on an extremely embarrassing, confused ramble on South East Asian mainstream culture being an important part of western indie culture, et cetera. At this point, I was ready to sink into the ground with shame.
This is something that I do a lot.
When I asked myself why, I first thought that it had something to do with mainstream culture and indie culture. But I don’t feel the same need to point out that I know that a Britney Spears song that I love is mainstream, and I have a Kylie Minogue poster on my wall. I’ve seen numbers of queer dykes go crazy to Lady Gaga songs, as well as one of my main kpop biases dress up and do parodies on the very same Lady Gaga without her very non-asianness being a problem. So what’s the big deal?
Is one of the reasons the power relations between western culture and the east? Where the Anglo-Saxon culture imperialism has ruled for such a long time that it has become a kind of popcultural norm. At the same time, it’s something vulgar. Taken to its point, if the opposite of normal vulgarity is specialized vulgarity, wouldn’t that be fetishism? Although an interest in specialized fine arts is just refined taste. So: If interest in western (read: American, or at least Anglo-Saxon) pop culture is normal, interest in eastern pop culture is, for a westerner, fetishism. At least unless it is taken into a context of indie culture, which makes it refined taste again.
And who wants to be a pervert?
November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
So I just watched the fancams of Ryeowooks performance at Super Show 4. I had read about it in fan accounts and worried that I would cringe at Ryeowooks sudden sexiness. That man has always had a cute image, and he didn’t enter SME for his looks or his dancing, but for his voice. He always mentions non-showy ballad singers as his rolemodels and idols, and studied composing and piano in school. All and all, although his image seems to have changed a little during these last promotions, it could have been a bit of a gamble for him to put on a sexy image like this.
But it turned out to be really awesome. Just watch it:
Over the time that I’ve followed Super Junior, I’ve gradually become fonder of Ryeowook. He’s not really one of the artists that make me go HNNNG!!!!!!!1 but I like him to the point that I would say that he is one of my favourite SuJu members. One of the reasons is just his sweetness (combined with sudden displays of evil) and his undeniable nerdiness. And I usually don’t like these kinds of displays of charismatic, manly sexiness – I often suspect that their performers were teenage bullies that just keep getting attention from girls. But this time, I was happy for him. Has he hoped to do something like this for a long time and not gotten to do it because of his image? Has he simply not dared? But although I did ask myself if this was really something he wanted to do, I would be surprised if it weren’t. I was happy for the high school nerd who only had female friends, who dated a girl for a year without kissing her, who was overweight as a kid and never really got to have a sexy or cool image until now. Ryeowook wouldn’t take sex appeal for granted, he’s earned it – and I feel like he deserved it.
August 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
After yesterdays agony and updates concerning the Bad Girl MV I was glad to find out that SNSD will be releasing their third album before the end of September. Thank you and hopefully they will raise the standards the normal levels again. It better be damn good this time. Most importantly, I’m really turning out the worried fan that I perhaps never thought I would. First out this month was Super Junior and now SNSD. Will the worries ever end?
/The Future is Idol