Martha Thomases Goes Gangnam Style
My Twitter feed informed me today that my current obsession, the music video to “Gangnam Style” by Korean pop singer Psy, has passed 100 million hits on YouTube. The cool kids love it. The masses love it.
Even Batman loves it.
So I was taken aback when a friend of mine went on a Facebook rant complaining about it. He’s Korean-American, and he not only hated the video, but everyone who liked it. If I’m understanding him correctly, he thought it was over-produced, hook-heavy, and reflected badly on the Korean music scene.
I felt as if I was being inadvertently racist. The things he slammed were the things I loved. Too many cuts? Impossible. Ridiculous imagery? That’s my favorite part. I have no idea what they’re saying, but I love the way they’re saying it.
Also, I love the guy in the yellow suit.
Is my affection for this video a sign of racism? In my experience, the easiest way to spot a racist is to listen for the phrase “I am not a racist.” I’m not going to fall into that trap. And I’ve had an interest in Asian culture at least since college, when a class in Chinese Literature in translation introduced me to a new way of thinking and a new way to see the world.
I’ve loved Japanese comics since before they were cool (or at least, the beginning of when they were cool). They displayed a depth and breadth of subject matter and passion that was missing from American comics at the time, whether focusing on politics, adventure or cats.
Still, I’m not very knowledgeable about Korea. And it’s certainly racist to lump together all Asian societies as if they are the same.
I’ve struggled with this conundrum before. In the 1990s, the film Bamboozled made me question whether my love of tap dancing was racist. I remember talking to Dwayne McDuffie about it, and he said, “I think Spike Lee likes tap dancing, too.”
Does that let me off the hook?
If you think I’m being too politically correct, consider how it must feel to be on the receiving end. I had that experience when I saw the fantastic French animated film, The Triplets of Belleville. There is a part of the film when the main characters get to the United States, and everyone here is incredibly obese. I wanted to raise my hand and say “We’re not all like that.”
I imagine that my friend feels the same way when he watches Psy. I wouldn’t enjoy it if all of American pop music was judged by Taylor Swift. And I don’t even hate Taylor Swift.
It would help if there was, generally, more diversity in our popular culture. If straight white male was not the default assumption, the exceptions to straight white male wouldn’t be startling. And the people who make these assumptions know they have a problem.
Those of us in comics are among the worst offenders. It’s still front-page news when a flagship character is African-American.
Let’s work together to fix this. But first, I have to work on my pony moves.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman Returns!