Don’t need no man to party?
January 3, 2012 § 8 Comments
Most Swedes I introduce to kpop agree on one thing: kpop is, at many times, homoerotic. It’s also a common complaint in youtube comments on kpop boyband videos: “This is so gay!!!” they shout, just to be countered by “No my oppa isn’t gay! He said so in that interview! You’re just jealous that he’s sexier than you!” or something like that. But although I of course could go on about this forever (whether or not, fanservice, narrow definitions, cultural differences, blah blah), I’m going to put that aside for now to write a bit about something that isn’t as regularly discussed in the same context.
So. How lesbian is kpop?
Some time ago, I watched an interview with a couple of the girls from f(x). I don’t remember exactly which interview it was, but in any case, they got the question about why they have so many female fans. Krystal answered the question: “We have a member with a neutral charm like Amber-unni (so we have a lot of fangirls). But even though there’s one (with a neutral charm), I actually think that all five of us seems to have that neutral charm so a lot of girls likes us.”
This kind of got my head spinning.
Some background, in short (making things a bit too easy, of course): Female same-sex sexuality has for long been made invisible in most of the world, completely invisible or turned into something sexy for men or something unsexy for weirdos. From what I’ve come to understand, South Korea is no exception. Westerners frequently rise eyebrows at the relaxed attitude toward friendly same-sex closeness such as sleeping in the same bed and holding hands in public, obviously not seen with any suspicion in South Korea. Just as many other genderaware westerners, I envy this ease as well as wonder how much of it that is just because homosexuality, especially between women, is so far away it’s unthinkable.
But although Krystal is Korean, she has one foot in the US, and Amber was brought up in USA. There is no way they don’t know what’s going down with at least the international fandom’s interpretations of Amber’s boyish image. When SME decided to let Amber debut with f(x), what kind of fans did they expect her to attract? There seem to be a lot of discussion on whether or not Amber’s boyishness is just for show or not. Even though I personally believe SME has told her to play it up and wouldn’t let her leave it behind even if she felt like it, pre-debut pictures of her playing basketball and looking generally tomboy also make me think that they didn’t come up with the idea entirely for her. But seriously, what is f(x) even up to? I don’t get it, but they really do seem to have a lot of female fans, especially Amber. I watched Gayo Daejun and was moved by how the girls in the audience screamed at Amber.
T-ara obviously enjoy messing with my mind as well. I haven’t listened as much to Cry Cry as I did to either Roly Poly or Yayaya, but the concept for Cry Cry was to be really powerful on the verge of manliness, with DBSK as the explicit inspiration. Why? Because T-ara wanted to find their way back to their female fans. They actually said this.
About a week ago, T-ara were interviewed in Oricon Style. On the question what they wanted for Christmas, Eunjung answered “I want to meet someone by fate at Tokyo Tower… I don’t care whether that person is a male or not, I just want to meet someone amazing.
Is this all part of a calculated image on T-ara’s side, complete with Jiyeon’s lesbian role in “Miss Ripley? Is it genuine? Or just something else that I don’t understand
Exactly in what way girlgroups speak to their female fans when they display a “manly” image, I can’t really tell. Is it as rolemodels, or as objects of desire? Or a combination – so called girlcrushes, important during the teenage years but considered a passing phase?
I’m also puzzled at how some Korean (and international) female fans of female idols jokingly call them “oppa”. I can only interpret this as there lying something at least subtly desire-like in their fandom, or at least an awareness that it can be interpreted as this. But while for example After School’s Kahi and T-ara’s Eunjung don’t seem to mind, and even sometimes play with this concept, Miss A’s Jia lost her temper this summer and tweeted “Stop calling me oppa! /…/ I’m sexy girl~~~~ girl~~~~”.
I don’t even know where I’m going with this. This text has been lying around on my computer for quite some time without me finishing it, simply because I can’t really come a conclusion more than this: It seems like girl groups attract more girls, no matter why, when they show a cooler and more powerful image, and more guys when they show a cute image. I especially remember my own confusion when I talked to two guys about our favorite 2NE1 members, I mentioned CL and they were like “What? She’s so ugly though”. This hadn’t even occurred to me, who was way more interested in her fierce attitude. On the other hand, I know that I and the owner of this blog have come to the opposite conclusion when it comes to Orange Caramel – I like their cuteness, while he doesn’t.
What gender expectations, feelings of attraction or simply platonic admiration can be found in these patterns, I can just speculate in, and ponder on, and continue trying to understand. Maybe I’m just imagining things because I want to. I just hope they keep up the good work at giving me food for thoughts.
And now, I’m going to go camp at Tokyo Tower, hoping that Eunjung will show up…
/Mis, who is just as confused as always