9.26.2011

F.Cuz (Pronounced "Focus"): A Different View

Let me begin this post by stating clearly, that this discussion is about what I view as the de-sexualization of some male performers in K Pop and the repercussions for the artists, their fans and the music. I have been an observer of the Korean musical scene for about a year and I have done more listening than talking. I believe this process has been integral in allowing me to digest what I’ve observed and heard from the performers and their fans.

This post is not about enjoying the music because I am not its targeted demographic, though I make a few exceptions in the form of Se7en and JYJ. I am using F.Cuz and their promotional efforts for "Midnight Sun" as the exception, in an industry in which the suppression of internal thoughts, feelings and sexuality, create a toxic and unhealthy environment that leads to the stagnation of both the artist and music in terms of growth on both a personal & professional level.

It is the eternal "Peter Pan" complex enforced by the S. Korean gov’t via its Ministry of Gender Equality & Family in addition to the Media & Entertainment industry. Before I address these gentlemen and their video, I want to outline a few of the factors I believe have created and enabled the false propaganda of the “Good Boy” image.
  • To date, approximately 2,600 songs have been banned by the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family for reasons ranging from traffic violations to mentioning alcohol in a country whose pervasive alcohol culture is well documented.
  • Management companies encourage fan girl obsessive behavior for the purposes of the bottom line. In a market over saturated with groups, it becomes even more important to convince young impressionable girls of their "rights" to their idol of choice and the backlash when they get out of control, has meant physical violence in some cases.
  • If a male idol decides to date, then the possible wrath incurred can be as "passive" as a decline in record sales or fan club membership to a complete and utter meltdown. Notice the fan girl's discussion of the money she spends justifying her entitlement to "Oppa."
  • The complicit behavior of male idols in creating their own "prison" also needs to be mentioned. The whole system counts on the buy in of the idol, fan girls, TV networks and record labels to keep the money coming in. One hand washes the other and everyone is happy right?
The minute I saw their teaser, I smiled in wicked glee and muttered “now that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout”. There were some pearl clutchers who held tight to the false advertising of K Pop’s so called “purity”. Their "reality" is myopic, warped and unrealistic, which is exactly the way the powers that be in K Pop want them.

What I love about F.Cuz and their management, is that they knew the trailer would generate buzz when you consider the "wholesome"standards of most videos in the genre. The obvious sexualized imagery and enjoyment of the members just begged for the ban hammer to fall. In a culture obsessed with external appearances and what others think, this group and their video represented an “inappropriate” image of S. Korea.

Now there are many who feel that any critique of K Pop and its imagery by the “West” is invalid due to the distortion of our own point of view (cultural relativism). There is some validity in this thinking. However, the argument is also disingenuous and used to stop critical thought about what we are all seeing. These are the same fan girls that complain about the stereotypical (asexual, effeminate) images of Asian men beamed around the world by the “West”, yet they won’t examine the part S. Korean society plays in reinforcing these images.

By its insistence on a so called “clean” image in which a metaphorical “Ozzie & Harriet” public world is created, young women walk away with the impression that these young men are “tame” and do not present a sexual “threat.” Their “idols” are of course “saving” themselves for these girls by towing the party line about “loving their fans too much”, being “married” to their fans and just being “about the music”.

It is a system which feeds upon itself by perpetuating the “reality” of so called artistic survival entirely dependent upon fanatical devotion. Young male performers are forced to deny themselves as sexual beings and the subjects of human biology just like the rest of us. They are held up as figures of unrealistic fantasy by their labels and gov’t with no input of their own. Their sexuality is controlled and disseminated in ways that not only reinforce Korean “purity”, but their management company’s bottom line. The reaction of fan girls to a different “reality” than what they’ve been sold, was described in the points above.

Are half naked women in a video an expression of masculinity? No, but it is an expression and acknowledgment of a certain level of sexual freedom and awareness that is rarely seen in Korean media. Young people will push the envelope and rebel. That's what they do. This is the a middle finger to the Ministry from F.Cuz and their team. Ultimately, the video was just a teaser, while the full video played it safe in comparison. This is no way detracts from the rebelliousness and guts shown by these 4 young men and their management.

I leave you with the teaser…

23 comments:

  1. I am in awe.

    I have been waiting for this post for months and I am simply dumbstruck. One, this post is amazing. Two...the K Pop never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think, "It can't get anymore fucked than this", I read your post and its links and I have a serious WTF moment.

    This is horrible. How come the K Pop industry hasn't learned from the American and Japanese models on how to financially thrive without making their idols complete slaves to the fans?

    I mean, K Pop has fans all over the world. Why aren't more world tours being organized, along with international collaborations? I've noticed that when I go to Amazon.com, I can only download ONE song from Se7en - um, where are the rest?

    I really feel for these idols. The structure of the industry is robbing them of their youth and overall well-being. Imagine some of the nightmares they have, when they scrape together a few hours of sleep?

    And as for whipping female fans into a frenzy, then whipping them literally - some class action suits need to start happening. This "easy violence" against women is unacceptable, and those creating the toxic situations in the first place need to be held accountable.

    /rant

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is an excellent post. When I was first introduced to K Pop music, it was a bit of an adjustment, mainly involving the image of some of the male artists. Many have this androgynous or borderline feminine look, that was at first pretty awkward compared to the whole Western male look.

    You're also correct about their music industry. It's very demanding as the artists dedicate their entire lives to their career nonstop, while many of the fans can be possessive.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your are on point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Ankh - Glad you like it and yeah, it's been FOREVER! I know that JYJ is headed to Barcelona and Berlin this year and their former company SM Entertainment has conducted concerts in Paris and will be in NYC next month. Shinee from SM has been in Russia and MBLAQ was recently in Brazil

    Most acts don't leave the country except to go to Japan or visit other countries in Asia. K Pop has a pretty sweet niche market globally. The sad thing is, no collabs.

    Part of this equation is intentional. Most tours are sponsored by the gov't. Their fingers are in e'thing and these tours are more about nationalism than anything else (another discussion I must post about).

    It's not like these kids are connecting with various performers in differing countries and establishing relationships. It's K Pop and nothing else. The nation wants to be seen as a global player via the Hallyu (K Pop) wave, but does not engage culturally with "foreigners" too well.

    These kids and their fans suffer. Another reason these young impressionable girls are targeted is that they don't have the mental/emotional maturity to question the exploitative nature of the music industry they love so much.

    It is a cold blooded and calculated business plan designed to invoke obedience and zero questioning of authority. This is why JYJ is still subject to blacklisting and zero music TV appearances in their own country.

    Appalling. Truly appalling.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beauty Butterfly - Thanks for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the write up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There is also another disturbing trend among fangirls too. Shipping male band members together because they KNOW that their idols are lonely and don't want them to be but don't want them to be with females either, because you know that would make them overly jealous.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lesbianism, cleavage, and implications of sex?!? Clutching my pearls and grinding my dentures!

    All of my favorite K Pop artists aren't here for that cutesy shit. I don't listen to this group but I'm liking the teaser.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well..well..well, who said that K-pop music is always innocent?

    ReplyDelete
  8. @ Truthseeker - don't get me started on some the slash fiction fantasies from these young girls. That's a whole nother post that I just might tackle.

    Girl in Question - It's like visual orgy.

    M - Yeah, the industry would like you to believe in its "innocence", but we all know what a joke it is.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Excellent post. What's interesting is that much of what was described, I've had flashbacks to just being a gay man having to deal with fanatical (white) women in fandom. The warped reality, harassment, stalking, feeling of entitlement to our culture, bodies and appropriation....I could go on and on.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @ Neo Prodigy - I can't even begin to imagine what it's like for you if your situation is comparable or worse than these kids. There is some real sickness going on, for real.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have seen the MV for Midnight Sun many times, but this is my first time seeing the teaser for it. I'm not too sure what to say about the teaser because I'm speechless...

    The Kpop industry is getting out of hand with banning songs because it seems inappropriate. Not long ago I read an article where a girl Kpop band (forgot the bands name) had to "redo" their choreography from the orginal because one part seemed to look inappropriate.

    "It's not like these kids are connecting with various performers in differing countries and establishing relationships. It's K Pop and nothing else. The nation wants to be seen as a global player via the Hallyu (K Pop) wave, but does not engage culturally with "foreigners" too well."

    I'm gonna have to disagree with this because just this past week Ludacris flew to Korea for the first time to meet with YG prouder Teddy and 2NE1 about laying down a track with them. will.i.am is also helping 2NE1 with their U.S. debut. Wonder Girls has been on the Wendy Williams show to talk about debuting in America.

    I know these are girl Kpop bands, but alot of the Kpop bands want to make it here in the United States. Here's an article about

    http://www.theprophetblog.net/bigbang-in-america-to-discuss-us-debut

    You should do a post about Japanese idol Koda Kumi because her songs/videos are very controversial.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xl8mlt_yyyy-ko-so-ko-so-m-v_music

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm gonna have to disagree with this because just this past week Ludacris flew to Korea for the first time to meet with YG prouder Teddy and 2NE1 about laying down a track with them. will.i.am is also helping 2NE1 with their U.S. debut. Wonder Girls has been on the Wendy Williams show to talk about debuting in America.

    And I'm going to have to disagree because Lenoxave and I are referring to something else. What I meant was, we're not seeing what the likes of Se7en and Rain tried to do years ago: go to another country for an extended period (in their case, the US), work with several different artists, tour that country with those artists, and thereby establish independent ventures outside Korea and beyond Korean gov't control.

    Flying non-Korean artists INTO Korea doesn't count. 2NE1, for example, should be able to - if they want - leave Korea, move to another country for a while and do their own thing, before moving somewhere else and doing something else. The groups need financial freedom and artistic flexibility, and they're not getting it. They're not trusted with that kind of independence.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @ Mello - Hey!Thanks for stopping by & commenting. Aren't you in law school right now? I'd heard about all the folks you mentioned. I think it's a good sign.

    When I get to hear actual music, then we'll see about the validity of these "collaborations". Until then, I'm not going to say too much about them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi! This is my first comment I usually just lurk but since this is a topic I have some knowledge about I decided to say something.

    I've been listening to kpop for 5+ years and jpop even longer than that.

    To put it simply Kpop needs a serious change. I don't think it needs to be more like the American or Japanese markets but it does need proper regulation in reguards to the slave contracts conpanies like SM have on artists. In many cases artists or "Idols" are not even allowed to date until the amount of time stated by the company has passed.(This is mostly used for girl groups)One diffrence that must be noted with the korean music industry is the role that the company plays in the artist's lives. Unlike the US or JPN markets companies in Korean often raise these artists and mold them into Idols. Companies pay for everything food, clothes, room and board, even as far as plastic surgery. So in return for practically rasing and giving fame to these idols companies see their exploitation as payback. These artists owe their fame to them so if the company wants their new boy group to dress in womens clothes put on unnatrual ammounts of makeup and give fanservice to the audience who are they to say no? Thats the way a lot of artists look it and that became very apparient when JYJ left SM. Im not saying its right but thats the way it is.

    In reguards to Fangirls/Fanclubs there are two groups. The Crazy ones and the ones who actually have some common sense. Sadly whole fandoms often get a bad rep for the actions of the crazy few (and these girls are batshit crazy). The ones with common sense see all of the problems every well and many comment and protest but as you can see it dosent often do very much. As long as the companies have thoes crazy ass fangirls who will buy anything as long as it has their favorite idols name on it their not going to do anything about fixing whats wrong with the system.

    Finally with kpop comming to different countries I think their right in being cautious beacuse every try has ended in failure. Rain, Se7en and BoA -The King, Prince, and Queen of Kpop- Have all tried to make it into the American market and failed badly. Up until reciently nobody really cared about kpop and even if they tried now the artists that would come over would most likey be labeled as lame or wannabes. Collaborations often go sour as well JYJ's song Ayyy Girl with Kanye West sounded awkward during many parts and video was deemed one of the 2010's worst. (I personally didnt think it was that bad) If the Hallyu wave really wants to take the world by storm it should go around the world and come to America last then hopefully it will have some staying power.

    Ok my rant is over. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  15. First time I have ever seen such an hmm ..explicit? teaser. I usually watch korean shows that star the groups(2pm,shinee,ect) and it always gives hints of homosexuality for the fans.

    I was pretty much done with K-pop because it constantly reminded me of american music when listening to it. It didnt stand out as ''korean music''.

    And them being over worked isnt new. A group I use to like called dong bang shin ki, or DBSK broke up because their management worked them to exhaustion and they could deal with it.

    They also had unfair contracts. They get them when they are young and only know that they want to dance and sing and that they should look over everything so they know they arent being screwed over.
    The management is not fit to manage anyone the way they treat their talent. I feel sorry for them.
    Especially when they have to conform to whatever is in and change their looks whether they like it or not. Looking more and more feminine and confusing the hell out of me to the point where I'm questioning their sexuality even though I know better.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Looking more and more feminine and confusing the hell out of me to the point where I'm questioning their sexuality even though I know better.

    Indeed. Se7en and Rain were putting the muscles and developing the washboard abs while flaunting their sexuality - what the hell happened?

    Here we are thanking the likes of Rain for opening new worlds for us, but what world is it? A world where Asians are reinforcing the effeminate, girly Asian man stereotype?

    They may be boy bands, but they're not boys. I keep noticing how many of them are in their 20s by the time they get famous. They're men. And regardless of their sexual orientations, they need to be able to act their age.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have seen this teaser trailer before, but I have never actually listened to F.Cuz music.

    You know, for a very long time I thought Hero Jaejoong was gay because of all the videos on Youtube shipping him with Yuhno. And don't even talk about the fanfics. I never understood why the fangirls want their idols to be gay until you open my eyes to the truth. Check out Rainonmebi video called Fangirls Are Fricking Crazy! (Kpop Fans, this means YOU!!!) The name says it all. Here is the link http://tinyurl.com/6hph67p.

    Back to Hero Jaejoong, this is the way I like to see him do more of. These are clips from his new series called Protect The Boss. Here are the links: http://tinyurl.com/6z2qzbm and http://tinyurl.com/6kx75t4. Now that's hot.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I felt bad because I thought I was the only one who thought many male K pop groups looked like chicks. (Wipes sweat from brow).

    Seriously, I like men. So when I see a male music group, I wanna see at least one man singing--muscles, six pack, etc. The metrosexual thing is old.

    Sexuality is a very complex thing.

    I don't agree with exploitation of any type (don't get me started on US rap videos...), but to live in a dream world and think that men aren't human is not possible. (And that's saying a lot from me, Ms. "I like my romances clean".)

    ReplyDelete
  19. @ Fendi

    I really love vlogger rainonmebi. I adore her, and she nailed with her JYJ/DBSK comment. They are having sex. They are sexual. And they are not going to quit just because some fans talk some shit.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @ Lenoxave
    Oh no, I never took law school. I'm actualy going to college to major in fine arts.

    What do you think about this video:
    G-Dragon(Big Bang) ft. Flo Rida - Heartbeaker Remix
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V7AeACaXpk&feature=related

    ReplyDelete
  21. @ Mello - why did I think you were going to law school? LOL! I saw the video and I don't think Flo-rida added anything to what I perceived as an already good song. Love "Heart Breaker".

    @ Fendi - Great vlog from her. Yeah, they are having sex --- all of them!

    Not to make too fine a point on what Ankh said. No matter what the sexual orientation of these idols, they should be free to express it. Period.

    @ Fendi - I never got the whole Jaejoong is gay thing. I never got it. My attitude w/visuals in K Pop is always skepticism, as in "what's really going on here?"

    I believed (and continue to believe)that SM was engaging in fan service with all the male/male couples based on fan girl fantasies aka "fanfiction". I could be wrong though.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Lenoxave,

    Yep! some of those fangirls just don't get it. How sad.

    Ankh,

    Ah man..Rainonmebi told it is telling it like it is. OMFG!!...those fangirls gotta be kidding me?! C'mon, those guys are getting somewhere whether it's abroad or Korea.. they are having sex somewhere. Slap me if I had a daughter to be that naive!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Late but the lack of control over their careers plus the fact that some of the female kpop stars have contracts saying they are not allowed to date is creepy. There is a lot of potential for abuse within the industry and very little recourse for victims. If you leave and break your contract you'll be banned and publicly shamed. It is common to hear of idols complaining that they do not like the image/look for are forced to have or the music they have to sing.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are no longer accepted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.