I love this video, see below. Makes me want to dance. Funny too. The Daily Beast has an interesting analysis about what the video is really about. Before clicking over, what do you think it’s about?
If you haven’t been following South Korean rapper PSY’s meteoric ascent to transcultural ubiquity, allow me to get you up to speed: “Gangnam Style” is now the most-watched Korean pop music video on YouTube, and as of last Thursday, the most-liked of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The song, which currently tops the iTunes charts in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and a half-dozen European countries, just jumped to the 11th spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 after debuting at No. 64 hardly a week ago.
Some worry that there’s a darker, racist, meaning as to why we find this video fun:
You only have to look at a handful of other Asian and Asian American men that have made any impression in mainstream American music to guess what role PSY fits. Just this year, Korean American Heejun Han made it to the elusive top ten of American Idol and, while his buttery baritone did cut muster, it was his off-stage antics as a hilariously deadpan prankster that the public particularly reacted to. Before Han, the other Asian male that made any particular impact in American mainstream music was William Hung. Yeah.
That’s right: alongside clowns from other mediums like Ken Jeong (and yellow-face disgraces like Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunoishi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), PSY fits right into the mainstream-friendly role of Asian male jester, offering goofy laughs for all and, thanks to PSY’s decidedly non-pop star looks, in a very non-threatening package. Psy doesn’t even have to sing in English or be understood because it’s not the social critique offered by the lyrics that matters to the audience, but the marriage of the funny music video, goofy dance, and a rather catchy tune, of which two of the elements are comical and, again, non-threatening.
Maybe. But coming from the “gay child molester out to destroy your marriage and America as we know it” brigade, “funny” and “smart” would be a step up. That doesn’t make it make it right, but I’m also wondering how “wrong” it is as well, in the grand scheme. I mean, I think Italians, as a rule, are hot. And Swedes, as a rule, are far calmer than any Greek I know. Is that stereotyping, or is it true? And even if there is a kernel of truth, is it wrong to generalize about something even if it’s kind of true (e.g., I can generalize about Greeks (my people) all day, and I think I’d be right.)
Oh, and btw, the video might not be funny because he’s Asian. It might be funny because he comes off awfully gay. So the stereotyping might not be racist, it might just be homophobic. (But even if it is, I really like it.)