Friday, May 02, 2014

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Catchy, Cute & Creepy: This RPG-Inspired K-Pop Song is Great, but its Oversexed Video May Hit a Nerve

Pritz - Go Girls! MV
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I love games and I love Korean pop music, so you'd think that the debut single from gaming-inspired K-Pop girl group Pritz would be right up my alley. The song itself catchy as hell, but there's one big problem: 

The video. 

Here's what I mean...


Though the translation I have may be a bit off, the virtual girl group was apparently designed to represent popular MMORPG character tropes. They don't stray too far from traditionally female classes either -- you know, like the healer, the mage, the... Succubus... 

I really wanted to like this video, and I'd still say that it starts out pretty strong, referencing Donkey Kong with a character who herself seems like a reference to popular MMO TERA. Things quickly go off the rails when the video starts evoking that classic gaming moment when Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs in Basic Instinct. 

...Wait, what?

Even if you're as willing to overlook all the bouncing boobs and close-up crotch-shots as I was initially, it's very hard not to cringe when the camera lingers on the chubby and childlike little mage as she sings "Not a girl anymore!"

Part of me still really wants to enjoy this video. It's upbeat, comedic, and often charming in spite of itself. And yet, I can't help but be reminded of a lot of the worst parts of gaming while female when I watch it. In my eyes it's a cute concept spoiled by some downright creepy execution.

... The song's still catchy as hell, though.

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times, and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.


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CronoCloud Creeggan

I think Korean gaming/k-pop/anime culture needs to work on being more than "Just like Japan, but in Korean!" It's the same "sexualized cutesy moe stereotype little girls with cat ears" stuff in a different language. And I'm fairly tolerant of this sort of thing compared to most gaijin.

Pussycat Catnap

Always need to be careful judging one culture by another culture's standards.

In the Ango world, sexuality is inherently seen as downpressing and objectifying women in a dehumanizing way. Regardless of context.

That can play out in any culture - but not inherently so. Sometimes things that are blatantly sexualizing may not be negative. And sometimes they flat out are negative.

Hentai in Japan is usually very dehumanizing - and you can see this in how it often focuses on dis-empowering female characters, forcing them, and brutalizing them.

But then you have Sailor Moon with a whole host of nude scenes and crotch shots (in the original) - and a girl power story that also likely had a lot of young gents drooling and watching one-handed...

Both ends of a spectrum - sex and showing off female bodies as dehumanizing, and as empowering. Context depending.

Korea has a curious dual angle of being very non-sexual on one side and very sensualized on the other. Even before they became so westward open, you could walk down the street in a iced over winter day and everybody was in a micro-miniskirt. It could be intimidating being a westerner in Korea in the 90s because the thin body shapes are something non-Asian diet folks can not compete with...

I don't know how to gauge this one. Need more context. But I'll comment on what little I can see.

On the surface Korean pop is similar to Japanese, but once you start understanding the languages there are notable differences. Hentai would not fly in Korea, and unless there have been major changes in the law would even be illegal. But no matter how much sexualization they embrace - the level of dis-empowerment in hentai would have people balking in Korea.

I'd say be careful judging it through the filter of an Anglo-culture like the US.

Try to step back and look for signs of empowerment dynamics.

As the girl portrayed as weak because of the sexy-time angle? Or does it seem to lend them strength? In this video it seems to be we're getting showy sexual references that also show the characters as strong and capable team mambers.

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