Author: jrong912

Learning a K-pop dance

For the individual assignment, I wanted to do no other topic other than the area of Korean music as per my passion for the subject and how it has shaped my life. (Refer to my K-pop blog for context)

https://digitalasia.blog/2019/09/20/k-pop/

However, it went against one of Ellis’s Autoethnography ideals of autoethnographers , “not only use supposedly biased data” ( Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P., 2011) and to be neutral to cater to all readers. Since I have been in the K-pop community for almost a decade, it was best not for me to choose something I had such a bias in.

E.g. the Produce 101 series rigging of votes.

In light of my recent Korean theme projects, my final project will look at the difficulty of K-pop dances. While also participating in a K-pop dance myself as the blank slate for this project to get the most unbiased opinion.

This idea stems from the K-netizens judging Blackpink’s Jennie on her lazy dancing. Many Youtube videos and discussion websites like Quora contain harsh comments about Jennie’s laziness among her group activities and comparing her to her solo activities.

https://www.quora.com/Do-you-think-Jennie-BlackPink-is-becoming-lazy-and-or-has-a-bad-attitude-towards-her-performance

So I decided to do a K-pop dance specifically Blackpink’s Ddu-du Ddu-du for my Digital Artefact to fully immerse in a subset of a culture I already had vast knowledge on. While I have always been interested in learning a K-pop dance, I cannot dance at all. But to understand the culture through the eyes of the community (Agar, M. 2002), I was willing to face my fears of public embarrassment.

While being temporarily immersed in this culture, I had experienced various epiphanies regarding K-idols ( Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P., 2011). One of the main epiphanies I had was that most if not all K-pop dances are harder than they appear to seem. Compared to other groups dances like A.C.E’s Undercover and Chungah’s Gotta go, Blackpink’s Ddu-du Ddu-du is deemed by the Korean public to be an easier K-pop dance because of the use of basic moves. However, while that may appear to be the case, the ‘simple’ moves this song uses are very difficult for those who have no dance backgrounds. That being said, it was especially hard for me to learn the dance to the level of K-pop idols in 8 days.

The comparisons between easier and harder K-pop dances are being highlighted increasing on social media platforms which end in fan wars (e.g. Jennie). But why do non-dancers label some K-pop dances as easier or harder? Well, with the increased production of K-pop usually accompanied with new dances, we as a consumer view it and expect more the next time. So, when we get our expectations lowered, we get disappointed and rant about it on social media which leads to the fan wars. That is my understanding of the topic based on my experience.

Other difficult things to monitor was camera placement and facial expression. The camera angles had to be taken into consideration for this project as until about the 4th day I realized that you couldn’t see my legs. Facial expressions were also a hard thing to achieve as a wrong angle from the camera or the wrong expression could completely make the dance look increasingly different.

Overall, this project was a very enjoyable one. Even though I could not dance, there was a sense of enjoyment while dancing as well as the satisfaction when finishing the dance was irreplaceable. Doing this dance made me consider the hard work that K-idols put in to please their fans and also made me respect K-idols even more.

References:

Agar, M. (2002). Ethnography. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B0080430767008597.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

K-POP

I first was exposed to Korean music when I was 9 from my auntie always playing groups like 2NE1, Shinee and Girls Generation in the car. My initial reaction was very negative as I never understood why my auntie listens to something that she couldn’t understand. And I said at the time that I would never listen to ‘that music’ again. One year later, I was actively listening to K-pop as a mood booster.


Unlike other genres of music at the time, K-pop pushed musical envelopes with a single incorporating various different genres (e.g. rap, pop, ballad, electronic) whilst also being accompanied by insane dance moves.
The visuals of the MV’s are crazy and alluring. In my opinion, Korean idol groups production-wise put boy groups like NSYNC and One Direction to shame.

And the K-idols look perfect….maybe too perfect………

Ong Seong Wu

The next few years were great and at that time I was exposed to even more groups like MBLAQ, f(x) and Kara. Then 2012 came and around that time, I completely got disinterested by the K-pop world. The songs got predictable in terms of structure, the use of EDM gave me a headache and most importantly, I got sick of the annoying fandoms.
But in 2014, I got into K hip-hop and K- RNB artists like Dok2, Jay Park, The Quiett and Jessi and that was the leeway for me to get back into the world of K-pop. From then to now, I am a hybrid between K-pop and k hip-hop alternating through them.


So I guess you are wondering why I am telling you my life story?? Well, In BCM320 I had to apply autoethnography in analyzing Asian culture. While I have succeeded to some extent, I never fully understood the concept until it clicked during the tutorial of BCM. Ellis describes that autoethnographers, “must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders.” In light of that, here I am now telling you my life story about one of my favourite passions, K-pop.

K-pop for me has helped make leeway for me to make tons of friends through the K-pop online community nice or not. Also, it has made me respect my Asian culture since when I was younger, I was often bullied about my race. But Jen, your not Korean. So why do you listen to K-pop?? I get asked this question a lot. Even though I am not Korean, I still can connect emotionally with the song I am listening to. It brings up the point that music can overcome the language barriers thus providing an emotional connection with the listener.
That is not to say you should listen to K-pop but I am addressing the point that you don’t have to be Korean to listen to Korean music.

http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Guardian vs. Guardian

Ellis writes, “”they (autoethnographers) must use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders”. Well, growing up, I had always thought that all TV shows and music were completely original in production and was completely ignorant when people told me otherwise. This has to do with the fact that while I was growing up, I just listened and watched whatever my parents were watching. But through BCM and the use of Twitter, I have realized that there is a lot of overlap in Asian television dramas in terms of character tropes. Two Asian television dramas that had many similarities were this week Chinese screening of ‘Guardian’ (2018) and the Korean drama ‘Guardian: The great and lonely God’ (2016).

‘Guardian: The great and lonely God’ (2016).


Just a side note before I get on with my blog post, this will not be going towards my main autoethnography project but the similarities in this week’s screening and the K-drama was just too good of an opportunity to pass off. Also Spoiler Alert for those who haven’t watched either drama……

Before comparing the similar characteristics of both dramas’ main characters, I would like to mention the resemblance in character arcs a set of minor characters. Guo Chang Chang and Yoo Deok Hwa both are humans who know about the supernatural world and work alongside the main characters. These minor characters both have character developments along the way and become a vital member of the team they are in.

The main male characters in both of these dramas have similar characteristics to one another. Shen Wei and Kim Shin are both powerful figures in the Dixing and spiritual world who conceals their identity in the human world. These powerful figures can conjure swords out of thin air and can play with life or death. Most importantly, they both also remember their pasts on meeting the 2nd male lead. On the other hand, Zhao Yun Lan and The Grim Reaper both don’t remember their past lives but connect with the male lead. This ‘Bromance’ formed in both dramas have been present in Korean dramas like;

Do Bong Soon (Anh Min Hyuk & In Guk Doo)

The Heirs (Choi Young Do & Jo Myung Soo)

But recently, I have noticed an increasing number of Chinese dramas being made from gay novels e.g. ‘the untamed’ (2019).

‘the untamed’ (2019).

While this has been widely accepted in Western countries, people who live in Korea and China are split on their views on the LGBT community. This partly has to do with the government’s restrictions on television (The guardian’s banning on Chinese broadcast). Anyway, I could go on all day about this topic so here are some videos to look up if you are interested in Asia’s opinions on the LGBT community.

Akira (1988)

Japanese anime, unlike most people, has never quite intrigued me. It wasn’t because of the language differences as I am currently studying Japanese but it was just confusing to watch. While all of my friends were talking about the newest One Piece or Fairy Tail episode, I was often feeling left out about not having a strong interested in Japanese culture like my friends.
But today I have watched a Japanese anime movie ‘Akira’ (1988) and even though I was expecting the worst, it honestly has changed my past view on Japanese anime.
My post today will be based my reflection on Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview. Autoethnography is the analyzing of texts through self-reflection and “combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography”.
When watching the movie, I had found similarities between Akira and other movies/series. Besides the comparison to Tetsuo and Stranger things’ Eleven, I saw many similarities between Tetsuo and Andrew from ‘Chronicle’ (2012). While how they got their abilities were different, they both got power-obsessed and went rogue. Also, both movies, in general, have the theme of toxic friendships. Despite the main villain’s friends wanting to save him they have to have to kill him.


The movie also portrays a Japanese term called ‘Honne’ (本音), which is a person’s true feelings. Tetsuo clearly conveys this many times during the movie as he says things like, “I don’t need to be saved”, “Why do you always save me”. The outbursts to Kaneda, in my opinion, is Tetsuo true feeling about their friendship as the victim and the fighter. While this may have worked when they were kids, doesn’t sit well with Tetsuo now that he is getting older.
My experience of ‘Honne’ (本音) happened on the day I watched Akira as well with the choice of getting dubbed or subbed. To be honest I really don’t like dubbed. It may be easier to understand but it makes the movie less suspenseful and people dubbing the movies usually sound very cringy. Also watching it subbed would have tested me on my knowledge on the Japanese language. However, I just sat there and just agreed to have it dubbed because I didn’t want to offend anyone at the time and I ended up regretting my decision not to speak up.
Overall the movie was pretty good and saw a lot of connections with Akira to other movies released decades later. I will definitely be open to more Japanese anime in the future!!!

My experience of the day: ‘The Host’

The experience of watching the South Korean movie, ‘The Host’ wasn’t a new experience for me since I have seen many Korean movies and Horror movies whilst growing up. While I am not Korean myself, instead being Vietnamese, my parents constantly watched Korean, Japanese and Chinese shows leading me to have a vast knowledge of South- East Asian Culture.

During the movie, I was not phased by the subtitles at all as I counted on them growing up. I have also picked up various Korean phrases over the years so I didn’t need to depend on the subtitles in parts of the movie allowing me to tweet freely.

The tweeting itself, I was very anxious about before stepping into class as I had no idea how to express myself comically. It wasn’t until about midway through the movie where I felt comfortable with expressing my thoughts.

The movie itself contained many Western horror movie tropes including; the sacrifice of a minor character (the grandpa), the final girl/guy who defeats the villain (Gang -doo) , and the male bravado during a disaster (American military personnel who tries to defeat the monster at the start of the movie). It all led up to the predictable ending with the main character death (Hyun- seo).

‘The Host’ also contained many Korean movie/drama cliché that isn’t present in Western movies yet. The use of children & the death of children in horror movies is a prevalent scary movie trope which is many Korean and Japanese horror movies including ‘Death Bell’ (2008) and ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ (2003). This cliché has yet to be explored in America due to the morals and ethics of Christianity.

During the film, I thought that this movie was shading major corporations and the military for polluting the earth. This is prevalent in chemical dumping into rivers which created the abomination in the first place and also the solution to the abomination with Agent Yellow which was apparently toxic to biological creatures. In my opinion, Bong Joon Ho’s use of Agent Yellow to defeat the monster is a harsh criticism of America’s use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. 

Overall watching ‘The Host’ while tweeting was not as hard as I brought myself believe mainly because of constantly being exposed to Asian media.