Social critique… Gangnam style?

10 Sep

Have you seen the viral video “Gangnam Style” by Korean pop star Psy? If not, check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0.

Absurd and contagious, no? Yeah, it’s on my workout music playlist.

For a lot of folks, the takeaway from “Gangnam Style” is the horse dance: a new, fun way to  bond with the nearly 50 million others who have also watched Psy do his thing.

Not to spoil the fun, if you’re interested in more, I invite you to read Max Fisher’s insightful analysis for The Atlantic of the serious and “nuanced” social critique that Psy offers in his imagery and references to Gangnam, the tony district of Seoul, and the lavish excess of its denizens. Like drinking coffee.

Huh? Not quite the US vision of excessive wealth. But according to Korean-American consultant and Korean issues commentator Adrian Hong, “Coffee shops [in Seoul] have become the place where people go to be seen and spend ridiculous amounts of money.”

Ah… so when Psy “boasts that he’s a real man who drinks a whole cup of coffee in one gulp… [and insists] he wants a women who drinks coffee,” it’s about being a man who spends big, even when he doesn’t have the money (note the Korean credit lifestyle and crisis). Because that’s what–in Gangnam–a “real” man does.

The former teacher in me thinks this video and explication is a neat bouncing off point for a conversation with students about aspiration and status in their own cultures. What would the lyrics and video for their satirical song represent?

For more, read on at: http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/gangnam-style-dissected-the-subversive-message-within-south-koreas-music-video-sensation/261462/.

**Thanks to JC for the article.

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