Psy sets the standard

South Korean rapper PSY’s “Gangnam Style” is now the most-watched Korean pop music video on YouTube and the most-liked video of all time.  The song is currently at the top of the iTunes charts in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.  Unlike other K-Pop stars like Girls’ Generation and 2NE1, Psy has entered the American mainstream.  “Gangnam Style” is a catchy song and the dance moves are easy to learn, but it’s also very unique.  My friends and I all enjoy listening to the song and watching the YouTube video of it.  It has a great sound to it with a number of very catchy phrases.  Even though the song is sung in Korean, I still enjoy it as everyone just waits for the English lyrics like “Hey, sexy lady.”  Anytime you hear the song being played in a club setting, no one will sing the lyrics until that part and then everyone yells it out at the same time.  The YouTube video features interesting things that I’ve never really seen before in a music video.  Psy performs some weird acts and I find most of it to be comical and kind of dumb; yet I still want to watch it.   

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Psy fits the American stereotype for Asian males.  In the video, he’s seen as being buffoonish, desexualized, and emasculated.  America does not seem ready to accept Asians in mainstream outside of their stereotype.   This was an issue that Bruce Lee also had.  He was not able to get the lead role in the Kung Fu television series because Americans were not ready to see an Asian be a featured star back then.  Today, it is a little different, but the star must still fit the stereotype to make it.  PSY is the “Asian man who makes it” because he fits neatly into our pop cultural where Asian men are either kung-fu fighters or one the biggest geeks in school.

But, if anything is positive about PSY’s success for the representation of Asian diasporic images in American mainstream, it’s that “Gangnam Style” is clear proof that the internet, social media, and streaming video have made the world a much smaller place.  And even if there are mountains to climb before we can reach a world where there are real representations of Asians in Western mainstream media, the fact is that all these genuine representations of people of Asian descent are now just a click away.

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2 thoughts on “Psy sets the standard

  1. You make some very interesting points about how Psy’s acceptance is partially related to his fitting into existing images and stereotypes of Asian men. What did you think of the representations of women in his video?

  2. The women in the video were all depicted as very attractive and sexual. While they did not quite dress like the dragon lady we discussed in class, almost all of them wore very little clothing and used provocative sex appeal to draw interest from the male demographic, which clearly worked based on the amount of views and likes on the YouTube page.

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