An article from the Washington Post last week does a good job explaining the possible reasons behind PSY singing anti-American lyrics at some concerts in Korea. Hint: there are a lot.
Max Fisher wrote the article, which basically says this shouldn’t be a shocking revelation. After all, there’s lots of anger towards the US. I liked the article. Fisher does a great job of explaining things.
[Disclosure: a large part of my goodwill towards him may very well be that he practically shares the same name as Jason Schwartzman’s character in “Rushmore.”].
Fisher makes some important points. First:
“And keep in mind that this is bigger than just Psy and his performances, particularly as controversy is likely to build over President Obama and his family’s plans to attend a charity concert featuring the Korean pop star.”
He’s right. Even though the concerts happened years ago, it’s still undoubtedly going to get a big reaction. Critics of Obama have always worked to play up his ties to potentially inflammatory figures (i.e. Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright). Personally, I think it’s more unfortunate that he’s going to the concert at all, regardless of controversy. What’s next, Carly Rae Jepsen tickets? My consolation in this is that the President’s probably not going to enjoy it. But he still has to go. Here’s why:
For whatever reason, “Gangnam Style” is the pop culture phenomenon of the year. Yes, it’s completely ridiculous, but it’s historic. It’s the most watched video of all time and is most likely going to be the first video to pass one billion views on Youtube (936,108,559 views at the time of this writing). Attending the concert will not be tacit support of anti-American sentiment. It will be a recognition of a landmark milestone in human history.
And that’s not hyperbole. Without a doubt, social scientists and marketing experts around the world are systematically breaking down the video to determine what it is about it that made the world go nuts. Expect to see echoes of “Gangnam Style” in commercials soon if they haven’t shown up already*.
I’m not going to get into the tumultuous history between the US and South Korea. Fisher does a pretty good job of that in his article. The thing that jumps out at me about this whole situation is that we as Americans seem indignant that PSY doesn’t really seem to like us as much as we like him. “How dare that fat Korean guy be like that? We put him on “Ellen” with Britney Spears!”
As a Korean-American guy who’s spent some small amount of time in Seoul, I probably have a slightly more nuanced appreciation of “Gangnam Style” than the typical American does.
But not much more.
I don’t really know what it is about the video that makes me grin like a moron and click the replay button. Sure, I can see that he’s being satirical, but my understanding of that satire is very based on my American experience and is likely way different from what he was going for. The video is like a painting (forgive me) in that we take from it what we want.
Is what we want, to laugh at or cheer for the silly Asian guy? At this point – and in light of the whole Jeremy Lin story – we need to ask, “Why do we like him so much?”
When “Gangnam Style” first came to my attention, I was worried that PSY would be one of those one-dimensional, one-hit wonders that fizzle out and that we laugh about in a few years. The American Music Awards practically announced it by yoking him to MC Hammer. That moment read as an attempted capstone to the 2012-Meme-Known-As-PSY.
But what if it isn’t? What if, despite our efforts, he won’t go away? What if the cute puppy we bought grows up to be an overweight, nasty-tempered Rottweiler? Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’m glad this guy’s got bite. I want to see what happens.
Yes, lyrics calling out to kill “Yankees” seem extreme, but we’ve already established that he’s a satirist. We seem hellbent on not taking him seriously in all other respects. Also — and this really shouldn’t even need to be said — he’s a rapper. By those standards (American standards, btw), those lyrics were pretty tame.
Most likely, PSY will disappear from our consciousness. If he does stick around, he’ll probably want to capitalize on all this sudden fame and won’t bite the hand that feeds him.
Whatever happens, I’m at least glad that the question PSY raised changed from, “Why am I so fascinated by this unattractive man?” to “Wait, you mean those nice, Asian guys have been thinking mean thoughts about us this whole time?”
No, of course not. Don’t be silly.
* Any casting directors looking for pudgy Asian guys in their 30’s can contact my agent**.
** Any agents looking for pudgy Asian guys in their 30’s to represent can find my contact information elsewhere on this blog.