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Audiovisual Cultures Posts

The “Negro Terror” of Kpop: Alex Reid

I couldn’t attend class last week because of an interview, so I unfortunately had to watch Negro Terror on my own. Watching Negro Terror, I think that the part that stood out to me the most were these two scenes:

“A lot of people stick to their stereotypical, what they’re supposed to be doing because of their race. Oh, I’m black, so I’m supposed to listen to hip-hop, R&B, gospel, blues… jazz. And that’s what I’m supposed to listen to. I’m not supposed to go anywhere outside of those genres and I’m supposed to dress like this, and talk like this, and act like this, and walk like this.”

“It means a lot to see a band that looks like me. It means like, hey, it’s not weird to be into this type of music just because I happen to be black. It encourages people like me to get out there and pick up a guitar and sing, and play, and do whatever it is we feel right about doing. What feels like us, not what society, or our communities, or our cultures tell us that we have to do, that we have to follow.”

I think these two quotes really capture the essence of what Negro Terror represented for a lot of different people. For the members of the band, it was a way to tackle and confront racism through music by breaking out of the traditional stereotypes placed on black people. For the people who listened to Negro Terror, they pushed others to break those stereotypes and follow what they wanted to do. To me, that was the power of Negro Terror. More than their music, it was the message that they aimed to portray through their band and music that made them truly special.

On that note, I wanted to tie these ideas to something else in (you guessed it!) kpop. A different but similar situation shook the kpop world a few years ago. Alexandra Reid was a former member of the kpop girl group Rania (formed in 2015), and she was probably one of the first (if not the first) African-American and non-Asian idol in the kpop industry.

Pretty much a big deal.

Especially in Korea, in such a homogeneous country, where beauty standards are so fixed and rigid. It’s against the social norm for girls to go out not wearing makeup. Plastic surgery is pretty standard and sometimes even encouraged by parents. Korean skincare? Huge. Beauty standards favor the pale and the pretty.

Being a black woman from Kansas, Alex Reid shook the kpop world.

Following her company’s announcement that Alex Reid would be debuting as a part of Rania, chaos ensued. Alex Reid opened up in one report, saying that because of her African-American background, she was held to higher standards than other non-Korean idols. She was accused of skin-bleaching and appropriating Korean culture in order to maintain her place in the industry. After wearing a Korean Hanbok (traditional clothing) as part of a Rania photoshoot, Alex Reid faced a massive amount of criticism and backlash for cultural appropriation (yet no one seemed to comment on the group’s Chinese member wearing the same thing).

I had the fortune to see Alex Reid perform in person last year. She came to Raleigh’s Korean culture festival to perform, and it was incredible. She talked a bit about how difficult it was for her to take the step to go to Korea and join Rania, but similar to Negro Terror, she talked about how she hoped that her actions could serve as a role model for others to follow their dreams. By breaking out of cultural and racial stereotypes and challenging the underlying racism present in Korean society and the kpop community, Alex Reid demonstrates how powerful music can be in sparking conversations regarding these important issues.

Some YouTube comments on some of Rania’s performances:

Truly an amazing idol.

If anyone’s interested in Rania and Alex Reid:

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9/5/19: Naked vs. Nude

In class, we talked a lot about the difference between naked and nude, based on our discussion of Ways of Seeing and Listening. It was a pretty interesting distinction. “Naked” refers to not wearing clothes, whereas “nude” is to be seen by naked by others.

In other words, to be “nude” is to be put on display for others to see.

That’s a pretty big distinction, especially for two words that have approximately the same dictionary definition. According to the first definition of each word on dictionary.com:

“Naked”: being without clothing or covering; nude.

“Nude”: naked or unclothed, as a person or the body.

After all of the examples of naked vs. nude that we discussed in class (Kanye West’s “Famous” music video, Game of Thrones), it made me think of some other examples… in kpop!

One of my (favorite) solo male singers is Jay Park (박재범). One of his most popular songs is this song called 몸매, Korean for “body.” As the title suggests, it’s quite a sexual song, and the music video reflects that.

There’s a lot of shirtlessness going on, a lot of close-ups on (scantily clothed) female butts/boobs (as close to naked/nude as Korea will allow without straight up banning his music video), and a lot of lewd lyrics to match that. Not my favorite song of his, but it’s quite popular.

Some lyrics from the video:

“If staring at you is perverted, then I’m a pervert.”

“Sorry for staring, but you’re so sexy that I can’t take my eyes off of you.”

“I wanna see that body”

From here, it’s pretty clear that the way that these women are depicted in the music video fit in with Berger’s idea of nudity. The shots of the women are clearly included for consumption by the men in the music video. They are objectified and reduced to their bodies, put on display for the men. Perhaps the most interesting lyric in the song comes from the rap:

“This club is a zoo. You’re the zookeeper here to feed these horny alpha males.”

In this sense, the women are using their bodies to satisfy the desires and fantasies of the men. The men are compared to animals who need to consume the women.

More interestingly, there’s another level of consumption going on here. The shots of the women are included for consumption by the men in the music video, but also the audience. They’re for the 40,921,127 viewers who watched the YouTube video. Some of the YouTube comments capture this perfectly:

The comments were a little wild, but a lot of them were like this. A lot of comments about the girls’ bodies. But interestingly, a lot of comments about Jay Park’s body. During the entire music video, Jay Park is shirtless. And while he’s appreciating the women’s bodies, the viewers are appreciating his body as well. The concept of nudity not only applies to the women, but also applies to him. He tries to appeal to the women with his body, and puts it in this video on display for the viewers to see as well.

Overall, a pretty interesting example of naked vs. nude. The two layers of this being nudity for both the men in the video and the viewers made this a particularly nuanced case to look at.

 

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