Saturday, September 24, 2016

Healthy porn for men - deconstructing dog-whistle concepts in k-pop

Recently, a producer of the idol TV show "Produce 101" came out and openly admitted what I'd already known and had been telling people for years - that the show (and by implication, all idol groups with a similar theme) is basically jack-off material, or "healthy porn for men" as he describes it.  Several people were shocked - could this be true?  How come they hadn't noticed?  More importantly, how to identify this "healthy porn"?  Come on a journey with Kpopalypse into the world of dog-whistle concepts!

dogwhistlehead


Here's an activity that you can all do the next time you're feeling adventurous and like a bit of social shaming.  Or you can just imagine yourself doing this, if you're a pussy but enjoy living life vicariously through other people's snarky blogging.

Step 1: go to a place that meets the following criteria:
  • Somewhere in public
  • Has a computer with Internet access and a big screen in full view that people can easily watch over your shoulder
  • Plenty of people of all ages milling about doing stuff but no people very familiar with k-pop anywhere around
Step 2: pick a YouTube video to watch.  If you're male, pick this video, or something with a very similar visual presentation, something that you believe is completely innocent.



If you're female, instead you can pick something along the lines of this:



Step 3: as you watch, occasionally look around at all the people watching YOU.  What do you think people will say?  How do you think they will react?

I do the above process fairly often at the radio station where I work, not as some kind of social experiment but just because it's part of my weekly routine to check out new k-pop.  If I put on something like pretty much anything with a group of girls dancing in it, regardless of the levels of flesh shown or where the video sits on the "cute/sexy" scale, over-the-shoulder commenters (of both genders) will always say stuff like "okay, I know why you like this group" with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge-say-no-more kind of tone.  People who are new to k-pop and slightly older/wiser than the average k-pop fan (demographically) haven't been desensitised to the constant sugar-rush of young men and women releasing cheesy videos every week and therefore they can detect what you can't - the dog-whistle.

I've discussed the power of the dog-whistle concept before, but a brief recap: a dog-whistle can only be heard by dogs, not by humans.  Likewise, the dog-whistle concept is one that has a certain meaning on the surface, but a completely different meaning just for a specific audience.  Let's quickly look at a western example before we get into the k-pop.



If you're a fan of classic Hollywood movies you'll know that women in them are getting spanked all the time.  Why?  Was there a massive sexual preference for spanking that swept through Hollywood at this time, that then mysteriously vanished a few decades later?  Doubtful, rates of people enjoying BDSM have never changed much.  Was it some sort of anti-female conspiracy to promote domestic violence and keep women in their place?  Maybe misogynistic scriptwriters were the reason in some cases, but it wasn't a very effective Hollywood conspiracy if Mae West was also allowed a long, active career in the very same system.  A much more likely reason for the proliferation of spanking is that you couldn't show sex on screen in Hollywood due to the Hollywood Code that regulated film production, but spanking was permissible because you could dress it up with moral values in the script.  Make the woman naughty, and later in the script punish her for misbehaving, then you can have a scene where she gets bent over by a man which is the closest thing to fucking that you could show on screen back then, but because according to the script the woman deserved it you could say "but we're just promoting good moral values" if anyone called you out on it.  The people who put these scenes in the films knew that the audience members were actually imagining the people on screen having sex instead.  Not many people get spanked in movies anymore, and it's because the sexual activities that people really want to see in films are more permissible now, so the need for a substitute is no longer required.



In k-pop however, not much is usually permissible.  EXID's "L.I.E" is a nice basic example to look at, to get started.  The video is overtly sexy by k-pop standards but also full of innuendo that's reasonably obvious:
  • At the start of the video, a couple pull up to a hotel.  The receptionist gives them the key and smiles.  The date then changes from 6/8 to 6/9.  The insinuation is that the couple are checking into a love hotel.
  • The key to the room is also "690".
  • The lift control is phallic and gets "fingered".
  • The two bells on the desk clearly represent boobs.
  • The receptionist "beats her meat" in time to the song, presumably while thinking about the couple in the hotel room.
And that's not even a complete list, just the first one and a half minutes.  Before any of you accuse me of "reaching", we know that this is all deliberate because in a rare case of industry candour the director freely admitted to it.  The song has the girls looking hot and so he's given them a hot, sexually suggestive video to match, but he's also upped the ante with the extra messages which might slip under the radar of the very naive but make perfect sense to anyone with a bit of wisdom about sexual matters.  In k-pop idol territory showing too much flesh or sexual activity is a risk to their brand (will teenage girls want to buy beauty products that a female idol endorses if she acts slutty?) but moving these messages just under the radar of the very naive is enough to get the intended message over the line on the surface without dulling the intention for the dog-whistle's target audience.

This is a pretty basic example, because the overt message of the video and the underlying message are more or less in sync, the dog-whistle is just a slightly more extreme version of the same thing, implying actual sexual activity rather than just "sexiness".  However, many k-pop MVs are a lot more subtle than this, and the really advanced dog-whistle deployment comes when the overt message and the underlying message of the video are more contradictory.  Let's now look at such an advanced example.  Be warned - this is completely disturbing and may make you hate me, yourself, k-pop and/or life in general.



There's nothing overtly sexual about April's "Dream Candy" whatsoever, right?  On the surface it's just an everyday little-girl fantasy about gardens and unicorns or some stupid bullshit, and if that's all you saw when you looked at this, congratulations, your mind has been unsullied by the wicked ways of the world, and you would be well advised to retain your precious naivety and stop reading this post right now.

Actually, "Dream Candy" is under the surface as creepy as fucking shit, absolutely the worst of the worst of pedophile-pandering in k-pop.  It's also a perfect example of the kind of "healthy porn for men" that Produce 101's director was talking about.

healthyporn

Let's break it down.  Get that bucket handy.
  • For a start, the girls might be wearing some baby-doll style dresses but boy did they get the 18+ makeup applied to their faces.  There's nothing innocent about that particular shade of ultra-glossy pink lipstick which whether you like it or not is straight out of porn where matching lip tone to labia tone is used to heighten sexual suggestion.
  • From the second verse, the girls are wearing dirndls during their dance routines.  Dirndls are colloquially known as "German milkmaid outfits".  These are also standard porn attire (what - don't believe me?  Google search "dirndl porn" with Safesearch off if you dare!), especially in the modified form they appear in here, because unlike April's dresses a traditional dirndl doesn't rise above the kneecap.
  • The rest of the time the girls are in either bed clothes or baby-doll dresses, creepily exaggerating their extreme youth (but still with adult makeup on!)  They also spend a fair bit of time in the video in bed, which I suppose should be expected for a song called "Dream Candy", but if that name alone doesn't ring alarm bells, your parents haven't taught you well enough about "stranger danger".  Don't accept "dream candy" from strangers, kids!
  • Lots of blowing kisses and lovey-dovey eyes straight to camera all throughout the video, which would be fine and could easily be written off as platonic, if not for...
  • ...how in one scene they're sneaking out of their bedroom via a fucking bedsheet-rope, which is what you do when you're a kid and you want to do something ill-advised late at night without your parents' permission, like meet some creepy uncle stalker fan.
  • To top it all off there's the song's lyrics.  "Why not?  I want to know!" sing the April girls.  "Isn't this fun?  Can you believe it?"  Don't forget to "bring your heart, pounding with excitement".  Even if those translations are only half-right - ewwwwwwwww.
To someone as young and naive as the girls themselves probably are, none of this would register as an issue, and that's how stuff like this gets over the line with k-pop fans.  The reason why the average k-pop fan wouldn't even think to bat an eyelid at this video is because just like a dog whistle the true message isn't actually for them, so they can't detect it.  It also gets over the line with censors, the MV director can very easily claim "innocence" in the face of any arguments that something's not quite right with their video.  However anyone reasonably knowledgeable about the fucked up ways of the world can see the truth - this is a dog-whistle concept specifically targeting the kind of people that Chris Hansen likes to provide furniture for.  It's not as far-fetched as it seems - remember that the vast majority of k-pop girl group songs are written by older men in boardrooms.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with ignoring all that and just enjoying "Dream Candy" on a "it's a nice song with an attractive video" level, just like there's nothing wrong with enjoying the EXID video, and just to be clear I'm not saying that it's wrong to watch these videos or accusing anyone of liking either song of being dishonest or dirty or whatever.  I'm just saying that an underlying message exists specifically targeted towards a certain audience, and that while you might be enjoying the video in one way, there's a whole bunch of other people out there who are enjoying it in a completely different way.

This type of dog-whistle message is very common in k-pop, I could put up here several more examples of exactly this type of thing in k-pop but you can also probably go and find your own.  Many groups and solo performers have been through a concept like this, or something similar to it.

IU certainly knows all about it, having been at the coalface of dealing with creepy baby-doll concepts for years.  It's helpful to finish off this post by looking at "Twenty-three", because here IU does a fair bit of deconstruction of her own.  People think I exaggerate IU's disdain for her old career path, but I don't - in reality, we know that she's sick of it and she hates it, because she told us.  IU with the help of her video director recently did something completely unprecedented in all of k-pop, and exposed k-pop's dishonest pedophile-pandering dog-whistle approach, turning it completely on its head.  Unfortunately, she did it in a way that k-pop's legions of dummies were largely too stupid to understand.



Do I really actually need to explain the meaning of IU's "Twenty-three"?  I would have hoped not, but since the song and the entire "Chat-shire" album was misunderstood by so many, and so many continue to bang on incorrectly about IU's "lolita concepts" or whatever, it's probably worth briefly highlighting a few key scenes, so you can understand how IU's deployment of the dog-whistle works in reverse.
  • Before the song starts, IU reveals a birthday cake, with the name of the song "23" on it.  She blows out the candles, as it's her 23rd birthday.  The cake is cute, and decorated with girly pastel colours, but IU isn't happy, she doesn't smile or act cute, she can't bring herself to celebrate her career.  IU cautiously tastes the cake and then collapses into it, exhausted.
  • At 1:00 IU is dancing with backup dancers, giving a huge, fake grin, then quickly becomes annoyed with the facade and shoves the microphone away.  The microphone transforms into "spilled milk", i.e something that there's "no use in crying over" because it's the path she's chosen, she's trapped.  The next time we see her singing, she's smiling less.
  • Chasing the rabbit is a reference to the book Alice In Wonderland (written by Lewis Carroll, also a target of pedophile accusations) and as the video progresses IU goes deeper into a succession of "rabbit holes", implying again that her situation is one like Alice's in the book, something that she's trapped in until resolution.
  • At 1:47 IU emerges from one such hole into a birthday party room, but the decor and table arrangement suggests a child's birthday party, not an adult's.  Instead of celebrating politely, she rips the party treats off the table and trashes everything, destroying the childlike image.  It's the only time she genuinely smiles in the entire video.
  • The famous "baby" scene at 2:04 is exactly the opposite of what netizens idiotically pretended it was.  IU is on a high stool, and pet food bowls on the floor symbolise her servitude, that her position has been forced on her.  IU glares at the camera and does not smile.  She starts off sucking the bottle and holding the doll, playing the game of the infantilised pop star as she's told to, then gets quickly bored, trashing her doll and then eventually collapsing in her seat, exhausted once again, so "absolutely over it" that she can't keep up the facade for more than a few seconds.
On top of all that there's the lyrics.
I want to be a child forever,
No, I want to be a moist woman
Yes, I will live silently as death
No, I will turn everything inside out
Try to guess - which one?
IU's image historically through the early portion of her career has been that of a "child forever" (forced into baby-doll dresses and pandering to pedophiles) who "lives silently as death" (was not allowed to speak up about it).  However now she's the "moist woman turning everything inside out".  She then asks the listener sarcastically and rhetorically "am I still the child or am I an adult now?  Guess which one!" - the answer's obvious enough as it's the title of the song.
you cannot tell by my face
making a facial expression opposite to the heart is really simple
IU would know all about that.  Remember that the image IU was made to carry through her early career got so creepy that she was even disgustingly called the "Nation's Little Sister" at one point by Korean media and fans alike, a title she has since openly spoken out against.  In "Twenty-three" IU is rallying against the kind of attitude of the Produce 101 producer (and several other similar producers) who wants to create "healthy porn" with underage or dressed-underage girls, deconstructing the dog-whistle concepts so you can see them for what they really are.  I bet she can't watch April's "Dream Candy" without shuddering.  You don't have to go very deep to see the critique, and the fact that most netizens were completely incapable of doing even this tiny amount of thinking for themselves and accused IU of pedophilia (or whatever) instead shows just how incredibly stupid the average consumer of Korean pop culture can be.

Now you know everything you need to for "health improvement"!  Fortunately only smart people read Kpopalypse blog, so we definitely won't see any misrepresentation of my aims or intentions with this post on any forums or popular k-pop focused websites.  Isn't that a relief?

dogwhistlefoot

26 comments:

  1. I didn't expect to see April here, but speaking of them, their song "Jelly" from their second mini album is a bop. It's probably sexual too, so I guess it all fits.

    I also never understood the whole "This concept is cute, not sexy!" thing, as if the two are mutually exclusive.

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    Replies
    1. Because a lot of kpop listeners are really young or too naive to get all the sexual innuendos. Since they are not "clearly sexy", cute concepts could be also used to bypass censorship and sugarcoat videos that wouldn't seem acceptable otherwise (see April's video).

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  2. Nooo, you are ruining the illusion for me. I mean I am not dumb enough to misinterpret iu song, but I was pure enough to watch April without realizing they had on makeup. Pussy make up for that matter.

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  3. It's interesting that makeup was associated with prostitutes for most of history, dating as far back as ancient Egypt.

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    Replies
    1. Makeup was worn by everybody in Ancient Egypt.

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    2. If you include religious and medical use rather than just visual enhancement.

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  4. i thought an healty porn article would be more like this
    http://66.media.tumblr.com/83a3a75af3749624181f9193630bb2f7/tumblr_o3sfv8yW3i1qdafhgo7_r5_400.gif

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  5. April is mild, did not evoke that much poetry. A better example is GFriend.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se8bbsUFjC8

    But really now, who's complaining? Their target market ain't complaining, that's for sure. :D

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    Replies
    1. I must truly be deaf to the dog whistle, because I have no idea what's remotely suggestive about that Gfriend video

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    2. Maybe it's the subtle lesbian romance happening between Eunha and Yerin.

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  6. Holy shit!!!

    Just wait till you see the Blackpink "cute concept".

    Ba Ba Boombaya!

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  7. Just better to throw those little fish back in the water...until they grow bigger and become legal sized.

    Fish on!

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  8. Right, a completely innocent A pink video, and you actually select the most fappable one. What a shame they did not release a dance version of the PV to make gifs of ass rubbing in those tight pants.

    Another dog whistle: when Hayoung does a heart with both hands she's meaning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goatse.cx. Apply to any kpop group, then notice who makes most "hearts".

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  9. I actually learned about the "lipstick being the same color as the labia" thing from a movie called "Sleeping Beauty" (NOT THE DISNEY FLICK.) She decides to become a prostitute (I think) for upscale rich men and in one scene she jokingly puts on a deep plum lipstick and gets scorned by one of her bosses.

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    Replies
    1. It also has to do with health. Nice pink lips indicate not being dead for starters and also healthy /other/ lips.

      Actually, your lips are usually the exact same color as the head of your cock/your pussy.

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  10. Stopped reading after Hush, what a great song, on repeat atm.

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  11. Not sure if truly innocent concept or just kpopalypse hyung's dirty mind...haha just kidding man i got it.

    Meanwhile...in Japan...AKB48's "Heavy Rotation"...

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  12. I watched April's video before reading the description and I got the dirndl right (this kind of dress also highlights the chest most of the times), but there were a lot of unexpected... features I didn't notice. Also, I tried to watch some male group's videos, but I felt pretty clueless about almost everything which was not explicitly sexy (except for NCTDream's video, because there was a bunch of teenagers who were dressed up like eight year old weird boy scouts, but maybe in that case there was not even a mischievous intent... I don't know).
    An article about "healthy porn for women" would be really interesting to read. I bet there's a lot of material as well and I am curious to know if there is a similar patter for boy groups.

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  13. Well fuck, now I feel like a severe odd one out. I don't fap to cute concepts, I just find them cute and watch them for the same purpose that I watch newborn kittens playing. Because it's fucking cute. I can't fap to cute shit at all. Granted I have like zero sex drive and can't fap to sexy shit either but still.

    Cute things are cute and that's why I love moe slice of life boring animu usually by KyoAni so much.

    CUTE THINGS

    ARE

    CUTE

    Also my cat is dying next to me. His name is Vinny. Please comfort me I'm really fucking sad and am trying to use humor as a way to laugh through my tears.

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    Replies
    1. Cute things are cute... and innuendo in a cute video is still innuendo.

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    2. But sometimes is it really an innuendo or just thinking to hard about it?

      Also I had to put my cat Vinny down. I'm really sad, I only had him for a few months. This is the third fucking cat I've lost this year. Fuck.

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  14. You can do this level of 'analysis' with any music video. Pick any video ever made and see what you want to see, regardless if the director intended it or not.

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    Replies
    1. You seem to have missed the fact that some directors have admitted to doing this.

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  15. After watching it several times, I can confirm April's vid is pedobait. Tinkerbell is also quite goood.

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