The Party Pooper posts, somewhat angrily, about a recent pop music video by the Korean band Jaurim.
He interprets the video as outright racist, another example of a pop culture chock full of anti-American (read: anti-white) stereotypes.
Of course, you can see the video here, and ought to before commenting on it. The rest of my thoughts will be in the extended section of this post. Click the link if you’re interested…
What do we see in the video? Well, for my part, I see the band standing in the middle of a large circular table at which
a pack of white men are engaged in a ravenous, caricaturized feast. The men are not acting like natural human beings at all, but quite obviously behaving like pigs and monsters.
Now, I didn’t see that as representative of white people in general, so much as of ravenous power. I hate to say it, but it looks a lot like a foodcentric culture’s version of the old Russian film stereotype of capitalists sitting around in top hats and spectacles, smoking cigars and laughing about how completely they are exploiting the poor, stupid worker class.
The fact that (in my experience) Koreans often tend to think first of the ravenous victimizing powers outside their country, of whom they think they are victims, is ironic, considering that the clips are indeed taken from the aforementioned movie, about the assassination of a KOREAN-blooded dictator, who is depicted as having been in league with Japan. I’m not sure whether the irony is lost on Jaurim, as they sing their songperhaps the lyrics would tell us more, but I’m not all that interested in figuring it out.
However, I’ll mention a couple of suspicions, hoping someone will call me on it if I am too far off the mark. I suspect that the white feasters are supposed to represent the exploiters of Korea. Which, translated into regular speech, means the white powers whom many still blame the division of North and South. Never mind that China was as much of a player in that as were the UN (ie. America and Russia) and the leaders of the North and South at the time. This is pop music video land, and sophisticated analysis is not within their reach. (And might not be within the reach of the bandmembers or director of the video at all, possibly.) The notion that massive problems in Korea might be in part the fault of, say, Koreans in power, Koreans running huge companies, seems never to be admissible in such a medium. I’d love to see a video where a chaebol CEO goes ahead and poisons the local water supply to cut costs and families die, and then some pissed-off young man kills the CEO. But maybe that’s all just too close for comfort. Remember, The Merchant of Venice was on the stage at a time when most English people couldn’t meet a Jew in real lifethey’d all been expelled from the land. The safest hate is of the unfamiliar.
Further, I suspect that the use of the clip from the movie 그때 그사람들 seems to suggest that older enemies muist be forgotten, and new enemies must be fought off. Ironic, again, that Korea’s trying to become more internationalist; this xenopathic tendency is going to make such a transition difficult because, I think, the blame of the Other is going to crop up again and again. Japan, America, Russia, China… anyone’s fair game, as long as they’ve done something bad to Korea in the past (bad enough to be remembered, anyway). That translates to rocky relations with anyone near enough for convenient trade.
I don’t know. I think it’s insensitive t suggest that people “just get over it,” but at the same time, one sometimes notes, in people coming from cultures that have had raw deals, that something a little pathological crops up, and one hopes those cultures (or people from them) can get over it.
An example: I once worked with a Jewish woman who was a nut. She was an antiSemite-phobic, no joke. We worked together in a bookshop, and things were additionally tense because I was in a department at University from which her father had been awarded “early retirement” after some, er, very questionable involvements with students. (Which had been an open secret, as in, I’d been warned never to go to his office alone, as had most freshman students.)
Anyway, things were already tense because of that, but this woman… I mean, every word I said that rhymed with “Jew”, she would turn and say, with this suspicious look on her face, “What did you say?” It was from across the store sometimes. It really, really bothered me, but what could I say?
What could I say when she brought up her experiences of anti-Semitism, which sounded to me like experiences of people not liking her because she was kind of, I don’t know, weird and pushy and rude and accusatory all the time.
Here’s the thing: it looked, really, really looked, like neurosis, and I mean a really serious one. When the open secret broke and her dad was booted from the Uni, she claimed it was because he was Jewish. Never mind that the other Jewish professors on staff were not treated this way, and that one of them (a brilliant old historian) had taught there for ages and remained on good terms with the very same department. Nope, this woman was convinced it was anti-Semitism.
Well, she didn’t get that way because she had continuous anti-Semitic experiences, I’m sure. Perhaps she did have a few, but it wasn’t as if we were living in pre-war Europe, or Victorian England, or even Elizabethan London. No, she got that way because she was taught to think that way.
Likewise, this image of foreign as enemy, with the unspoken contrapositive of enemy as foreignall of which is converse to the notion “we” is good, positive, nice, clean, and virtuous. I can’t say the music videos create that sense of things, because I think such attitudes begin in the home and in the classroom.
Such views are also are broken in the classroom, something I took great joy in doing when I taught little kids. They’re broken in face-to-face dealings, too, but only much more slowly. I pretty feel like people over a certain agemaybe, 20change in terms of their core values and perceptions only when they really want to, and only with great effort, unless something major happens to them. Moving abroad, for example, can do this. But most people will not change much after they’re adults.
So what concerns me is not so much the images in the video, but what they’re reinforcing. The teachings in schools, particularly, since kids will learn all kinds of crazy things at home, but have at least a chance of hearing other ideas at school. Well, this kind of change is going to take a lot of time, and perhaps another generation or two before schoolteaching approaches it more judiciously.
Until then, there’s not much sense in getting angry or hurt buy the pablum that plays on TV. The intelligent see through it, to some degree or other, and realize that this is not real white people tey’re looking at; meanwhile, stupid people would hate you (whitey) anyway.
However, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to write a letter to the band asking what they mean by the use of white people, especially in context. Better practice your Hangeul, though: I wouldn’t be writing the complaint letter in English!
As for me, I can’t say the video matters much to me. It’s so exaggerated it’s not even funny. And, besides, I’m trying to be less sensitive to the potentially racist stuff I see everyday. But more about that in another post.