Bananagirl Wins the Prize

Back in the days when I still played with Dabang Band, we used to joke about hiring telephone girls to dance for one of our shows. You know, the girls in vinyl skirts who get hired to dnace when new phone shops or hardware outlets open. (See here or here for examples. There’s girls with a dancing soju bottle here, too.) I never took the idea seriously, but seeing the video below, I now think Dabang should have permanently hired on a troupe of such young ladies, contracting them always to wear blonde wigs and zebra-print hot pants. (And a couple of guys to dress up as cartoon icon characters, too.) We could have sold every CD we ever made in one shot, and gotten onto TV in a week.

Seriously, though, I think this may be the oddest Korean music video (for non-indie-rock, anyway) that I’ve ever seen. Much more entertaining than the usual love-story-death theme. Or teenaged girls dressed alternately like streetwalkers and schoolgirls, dancing badly and lipsynching. LJ readers, follow the link to see the vid on my site. I promise, it’s worth it.

Video courtesy of this post on Your Daily Shot of Soju.

13 thoughts on “Bananagirl Wins the Prize

  1. Actually, I should have noted that the term “telephone girls” was idiosyncratic. My friend Myoung Jae just seemed to call them that because they so often seemed to get hired to dance in front of cellphone shops.

    The Korean term is “domi,” I think. Like Do-re-mi, without the re. Though sometimes they’re called something else I can’t remember.

    I had one student who did this job for a year when she took time off school. She was the only one of my students who made an effort to make sure her teacher could see down the front of her loose fitting blouses.

    (Most other students seemed to try hide themselves by pressing their shirts against their chests reflexively. She would not do so, and grin lasciviously.)

    (And no, I didn’t pass her on account of that.)

  2. The word you’re thinking of is “narrator models.” I’ve heard of the term “domi,” but personally never heard a Korean use it – I thought it was Japanese myself.

    Instinctively I might think less of a student for becoming one, but intellectually I wouldn’t. The money is relatively good for part-time work, and you have to pretty young to endure the 12+ hours a day of dancing in all kinds of weather.

    I would never pay for it, but I thought the video was pretty odd too. If creative is the wrong word for it, then at least it’s different to the usual fare like you say. That’s been a bit of a theme on my blog recently, so apologies in advance for putting it up there myself soon!

  3. James,

    Yeah, maybe domi is Japanese, I haven’t heard it much here.

    I don’t really think less of the young women who do these jobs. One can see why they would want to do this rather than work at grocery or department stores for wages that would barely cover transport costs to get to work. And yeah, it’s hard work, in a way. It’s not the work I’d want for my own daughter, though, if I had one, and I’d talk to her about why it’s such an offensive thing.

    I certainly didn’t flunk the girl I knew because of that… her problems were purely academic. (Of the never coming to class, not learning anything, thinking her good looks would get her through variety.)

    You would never pay for the music you mean? Well, I think if we judge by the habits of your average Korean college student, neither would anyone else. When I survey my students about the last time anyone bought a CD, they snicker and one or two put their hands up. Everyone else just downloads. Then again, for most people, music is pretty much interchangeable. Though I do have a few students who volunteer at festivals and love certain bands (or composers) deeply, they’re a tiny minority.

  4. Can you rent CD’s in Korea? We could do that in Japan, and I was able to build up a nice library of music legally. About a year ago, I deleted all the music files I had downloaded illegally. It felt great. I realized everything I’d bought or rented was stuff I genuinely wanted to listen to over and over, while the stuff I had downloaded illegally, well, I haven’t missed it all that much.

  5. Gord,

    that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t THINK less of them either, nor of the 20 year-old women in the bar that my friends and I hang out at, which we go to with the specific purpose of watching and talking to them just as much as meeting each other. Is that too honest?Regardless, it makes perfect sense from their perspective to be leered at in a bar for 5-6000 won an hour than do much dirtier, grimier and back-breaking work at a restaurant for half the pay.

    I guess my point, if only to myself, was that no matter how unfair or inaccurate, despite being aware of it I find it really difficult to shake off images that a girl who works in a bar is more promiscuous than average. It’s wrong, but it would be remis to pretend that that popular image doesn’t exist – after all, that is another aspect of the appeal of going to bars like that in the first place. Similarly, I’d be lying if I pretended that I wouldn’t hate for my own daughter to work in a similar place when she’s a university student herself, even though that would be one of the smartest and most assertive job choices she could make in her limited circumstances.

    As part of my MA, I did some work on these diametrically-opposed ways to look at women with similar jobs and outward appearances in China, and your post reminded me off it. But before I forget, sorry if I implied that you flunked her because of her job…I didn’t mean to do so at all!

    Also, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I’ve written all this in your comments section before. If so, sorry again…I wonder why it’s on my mind so much recently? The contradictory subjects on my own blog perhaps?

  6. As for the Banana Girls, I mean I like how it’s different to the normal fare, but I don’t like it enough to pay to listen or watch it. But given how there’s so much trash out there, quality Korean songs really do stand out, so I haven’t illegally downloaded any Korean songs either. By coincidence, just bought Wax’s 7th album yesterday.

  7. Mark,

    I think the Korean equivalent is pay-per-download. I should add that there are legal and grey-area versions of that kind of service. I don’t know which get more business, but probably there are fewer expenses, and thus lower charges, for the pirate version.

    By building up a collection legally through renting, what do you mean? Surely copying a rented CD is just as illegal as downloading a copy under Japanese law, as it is under American?

    As for feeling good about deleting pirated music, that’s interesting. I certainly buy CDs from artists I wish to support, but I don’t feel bad about having some music from dead people that’s unpaid for — especially people who were ruthlessly exploited in life. Record companies not only overcharge, but also treat their customers like crap, and I think they deserve to lose business. However, when the artists are hurt by piracy, I think it’s bad. But the vast majority of artists probably benefit far more than they lose, as it’s free publicity for their shows, which is where they can make some money. (If they judiciously work out performance contracts and get enough cred to make dough at the door.)


    Yeah, I think the business model (of the narrator models, of cocktail bars with all-girl servers, and so on) depend on the implied sense that these women’s virtues are more “elastic,” to steal a line from Charles Babbage. It’s likely untrue to some degree, but the image is good for business, even if it’s bad for women in general to keep the whole virgin/whore dichotomy going.

    This is robably just a familiar enough subject it feels like it’s been written before. :)

    I don’t do Wax, but I have all of Hwang Sin Hae Band’s stuff I could get on CD, and a few Uh Uh Boo CDs as well, oh, and some Pipi Band and 3rd Line Butterfly. (Who kick Wax’s little prim ass!)

    Worth checking out. I think you’d find a lot to discuss in some of the lyrics on 3rd Line Butterfly’s Oh Silence! CD. There’s even a rant about what I think is specifically American imperialism.

  8. There had been an arrangement made with record companies in Japan, and they were receiving their “cut” from CD rentals, so burning CD’s was entirely legit.

    The exploited dead people argument is an interesting one. Penn Jilette (P.J. O’Rourke laid the groundwork) inspired me to delete my pirated music, but even he acknowledged that exploited blues musicians was a big grey area.

    As for whether it benefits the artists, why are you deciding for them? If they want to do what Radiohead did, they’ll do it on their own – I’m not going to arbitrarily decide how they are going to promote their music by downloading it for free.

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