Following on from my previous editorial on fangirl ups and downs, here is a short editorial on dealing with the complicated world of fetishes and stereotypes.
What is the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Hallyu? Catchy, colourful music videos with in-sync choreography and super charged Aegyo-ness from pretty faces? Sexy female and male idols who tread the line of soft porn? A feisty heroine with a klutzy nature, but kind heart? Smug, handsome, rich guy with a cold exterior who eventually lightens up when he gets to know people? Feisty career woman who doesn’t hesitate to get what she wants so that the naive female protagonist suffers? The list goes on.
Hallyu in an odd way has something for everyone. You’ve got the fluff, the erotica, the comedy, extreme horror and sob stories. I think the biggest factor, aside from the catchy music of course, that caught my personal attention was Aegyo. Being someone who wasn’t sure she could blend in because of a babyface I thought it was refreshing to see Asian females who were my age or a few years older pull off a cuteness but at the same time keep a feminine image that did not make them seem too childish and over the top sexy. Think Kim Tae Hee and Song Hye Kyo to name some examples.
Unfortunately for other people they believe the Aegyo is fake and unnecessary. Just look at the comments on various communities discussing Tom Hiddleston and Tiffany‘s day out together. Guess who got the most stick? Tiffany. People saying “that Korean girl’s” cutesy act is annoying, despite how understandably nervous and starstruck she was. If I was chosen to interview Tom I’d be twice as nervous as her and I’m not the biggest socialite out there. Lots of Asian women have a natural way of being cute and if it helps with feeling young then I’m up for that.
I think many Japanese and Korean women are fantastic with showing genuine cuteness. It doesn’t bother me at all because I feel inspired to copy such a mannerism, though without overdoing it to the point of wanting to hit your head on the table in frustration. Of course when there is OTT Aegyo that looks awkward you’ll be able to spot it so I can completely understand why the cuteness might be seen as bad, especially if it attracts the wrong kind of person. Then again, doesn’t being outright sexy do the same thing?
In all honesty I don’t want to be associated with the scantily clad stereotype, but you might argue, “if you’re sexy or look good then show it off” which is fine if you’re willing to go for it. Although how far can you go without being described as a porn star? In Western media you might notice Asian women often tend be stereotyped as sexy femme fatales, as well as clumsy big nerds who always wears glasses. With the men they’re not handsome “Chaebol”, they’re often portrayed as an ugly gangster dealing with drugs, smuggling weapons or portrayed as an impotent geek who never gets the girl. Nothing like the handsome boy next door types, hot-headed spoilt rich kids or bad boys/anti-heroes with a secret kindness hidden from the world and to a lesser extent they’re nothing like the cool, funky guys in your favourite boy groups who look good wearing ridiculous clothes.
The number of times I’ve had a few guys assume I work for the red light district is quite scary. Being grateful you even get noticed for your looks is one thing, but when it isn’t for the right reasons, that’s something else. Back at school I was also rather appalled by the idea of being associated as someone who you could easily copy homework or steal stationery from because I’m apparently a geek with top marks in class and all the right tools to be a good student when I clearly gave them the sign I was far from that.
To escape daily encounters from people who are massively obsessed with the likes of Hallyu, generic “yellow fever” or anyone who has these high expectations or assumptions that you are just like “every Asian” is very tricky. You can’t just tell me to “deal with it” either. Even if you tell some of these folk you are not like everyone else, the chances are they may not believe you. Alternatively they may lose interest in you because you’re “different.” Well sorry to disappoint them if that is the case.
So far I haven’t been asked if I’m related to any Korean idols yet (touch wood), but it’s possibly due to the fact I don’t look like a native Korean. For starters I have a South East Asian look and most women from this continent tend to be darker skinned. I also don’t have small eyes due to my naturally large, double eyelids. A family member informed me he had the ‘Gangnam Style’ horse dance done in front of him by ignorant delinquents on the way to work which is painful to hear and I hope to God that does not cross my path as much as the on-going DVD jeers/could you spare us some money/do you work in a takeaway commentary.
I’m most definitely not HyunA, Lee Hyori (but I respect her a lot for her hardworking and humbling personality), an extra member of SNSD or Brown Eyed Girls and I’m far from an extremely confident in your face girl with “swag” like CL. I’m just a complicated outcast me. Asianphiles/Koreaboos/Otakus/Sinophiles need to bear in mind not all Asian girls are built to be sexy, cute and submissive or even a warrior princess. We’re all different. Some of us are genuinely more complex than the simple stereotypes so don’t expect too much.
I also apply this train of thought to the guys as well. There’s more to men than just spoilt billionaires. They’re not all smug Chaebol, barbaric gangsters, super nerdy or even a clown like PSY. They may not be anything like your favourite Oppa from your favourite group either (I know you want your own TOP, Donghae, G-Dragon etc but you can’t clone them sadly). We have to expect the unexpected or expect very little. However if you did manage to spot nice-looking Koreans who have a good heart but are nothing like your K-music idols or your favourite K-drama heroes then power to you. I think I can speak for a small population of fans who have had their “eyecandy” radar extended after getting into Hallyu. Have a read at this essay on how Korean idols has possibly lessened Asian emasculation.
Truthfully you can’t win when you’re Asian. You’re either seen as too cute/babyface, too sexy, too short, too ugly or perhaps too geeky. Whatever you do, however you act you cannot please anyone. It’s a vicious circle. Does “being yourself” help? Perhaps. However striking a good balance would be nice right? That’s what I want to aim for. If it was a choice of being a sexy Asian and a cute Asian I’d rather lean more towards the latter…then add a mix of “Tsundere” and maybe eccentricity to throw people off.
Here’s another interesting article on fetishism.
Are you ethnically Asian and born in the UK? Do you suffer from fetishism and stereotyping? Feel free to share your thoughts