Absurdly mocking the absurd – Gangnam style

I’ve constantly been hearing the term “Gangnam style” being tossed around lately so I googled it, out of curiosity, and found out about this hilarious phenomenon.

“Gangnam Style” is a single released by Korean rapper PSY earlier this year.  In a short time it went viral and ended up garnering the most number of likes ever on YouTube.  Then it proceeded to get legitimized in the west by hitting the top 10 on several charts, even gaining the number 1 spot in some.

It’s signature dance moves have been imitated and copied by mobs of fans from California to Manhattan, spreading all the way over to Sydney.  Nelly Furtado has done it on stage and the inmates of a Phillippino prison did a choreographed “Gangnam style” dance.  News articles have appeared on BBC, CNN and CBC among others.  PSY even performed at the 2012 MTV video music awards.

This is unheard of for any K-pop (Korean pop) song.  Here’s the video:

Sure the beat is catchy, but it’s not really that different from other K-pop videos.  Just a chubby little Asian man jumping around doing a ridiculous horse-riding dance among other equally absurd movements.  It’s hard to imagine that this dance (using the term VERY loosely) has now become “cool”.  And to top it off, unless you speak Korean, you have no idea what he is talking about.  So why did this video grab so much attention in the west?

I’m sure YouTube and social networking had a lot to do with.  Additionally, the song didn’t have any copyright, so people could easily remix and make up their own versions, thus spreading it even further.  But for this kind of notoriety there had to be more.  Turns out, there was.

“Gangnam style” is a Korean term that refers to the trendiness/hipness of  people from the Gangnam district in Seoul.  They are seen as having a cool/class factor akin to the Hollywood types – everyone knows it and many aspire to reach that level.  “Gangnam style” types don’t need to talk about their awesomeness, they just exude it in their aura.

Some people try to imitate this, but fail miserably.  Since they don’t intrinsically possess the “it” factor, they overcompensate with high fashion, not-so-modest self stylings and bizarre mannerisms.  Despite (or more likely because of) this, to everyone else they just look like losers.

PSY has stated that his video is an attempt to make fun of the “Gangnam style” wannabes.

In the video, sporting cheesy duds, he choruses, “Oppa Gangnam style”.  “Oppa” is what Korean females call an older brother or male friend.  Here, he is referring to himself as being “Oppa Gangnam style”.  Coupled with the ludicrous dancing, he has poseur wannabe written all over him.

This actually reminded me of another video – Blink 182′s “All the small things”.  Here, the boys from Blink make fun of the over-the-top romantic sentiments, fakeness and douchebaggery of the popular boy bands at the time.  Check it out:

It’s no secret that people LOVE to see other people acting stupid, and like Blink’s video, “Gangnam style” has a lot of that.  We love to see people do things that we would never do.  What’s even more delicious is finding out that the antics we like so much also carry a universal message. Popular examples of artists apeing silly undesirable behaviours to make fun of said behaviours are:

  1. Sasha Baron Cohen in “Borat”.  He is a jewish comedian who apes a jew-hating tourist in the US.
  2. “Bad Habit” by The Offspring, where the singer describes himself as a road-rage filled driver.
  3. Probably my favourite, “Black white supremacist” by Dave Chapelle – Chapelle plays a blind black man who has never been informed that he is black.  He grows up to be the leader of the KKK.

“Gangnam style” follows in the footsteps of these examples and strikes a chord with so many people because the general idiocy of the whole thing points to one such message - wannabes and people trying to be something they are not, are just plain ridiculous.  PSY has brilliantly spoofed himself as an idiot in the video to point a finger at those who act idiotically in the real world.

So…does anyone have any other examples of  artists absurdly mocking the absurd?

1 Response to “Absurdly mocking the absurd – Gangnam style”



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