The True Measure of a "Gentleman"

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In which Psy is a thorough and unapologetic asshat. A hilarious asshat.

To list all the assholey things Psy does in this video:

  • Making elderly men tote his shopping (though, on reflection, elderly men commonly serve as chauffeurs and gardeners for the richest Koreans, so why not Psy?)
  • Kicking over a traffic cone (which earned him a broadcasting ban from the Korean government, by the way)
  • Turning up the setting on a girl's treadmill so she falls right off
  • Making his date spill coffee all over herself
  • Entering an elevator with a man who clearly needs to go, and pressing the buttons to all the floors on purpose
  • Making a girl in the library smell his "shit-finger"
  • Kicking a soccer ball away from a group of children
  • Pulling the chair out from under his date
  • Pulling out someone's paper from the copy machine so he can stick his face in

  • The mean-spiritedness shown here is so, so over the top as to be cartoonish. I admit it was a second viewing before I eased out of being offended and started to get the joke—I'm known to be a little slow on the uptake—but after that, I totally got into it.

    But not my classmates, most of who found it "too aggressive", "too vicious". It wasn't that they didn't get the joke, they understood right off the bat—unlike me—why the video was supposed to be funny. But to them, Psy's antisocial antics eclipsed any humor there might have been in the situation.

    Which brings me to the point of this post: a tendency I've noticed time and time again while in Korea is, that while they eat up crude humor (not just toilet humor, but sexist, racist, and homophobic jokes) with ease, they have a hard time with the kind of satire that is a mainstay of the kind of humor I grew up on: Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, Dr. Strangelove, The Simpsons, Daria (though not a comedy show per se)... practically any kind of humor that can be called humor in the Anglophone world involves some form of satire.

    I'm not sure why this is the case, honestly. Personally, I would say there's something in the Korean social environment that puts a strain on the immediate "laugh out-loud" reaction to satire: not surprising, when sites such as Daily Best (일간베스트) spew hateful drivel that rivals the worst of Karl Rove. If you have a problem with the status quo, people will dismiss you as a loser, that you are whining to make yourself feel better about the fact that you don't have the power to make a real difference. No matter how ludicrously bad an idea or situation may be, somewhere, someone believes it, or believes it to be a feasible and ideal state of being, and more often than not, that someone is your boss, your mother-in-law, the fucking Head Justice of the Supreme Court.

    It may also be relevant that Koreans are so inured to being told how to react to various situations (on pain of ostracism if they don't comply with the given cues) that they experience more consternation than amusement when the social cues surrounding a situation, the realities of the situation itself, and the intended message do not match. I in no way mean to say that Koreans are stupid, suggestible sheep—they are certainly not—but I have noticed a certain difficulty in playing with context when it comes to interpreting media that give mixed messages, which is most marked with satire.

    These are just theories though, and given at the risk of sounding like a pompous Twinkie. I'd love to hear reader input on the Korean reception of satire.

    A Deceit of Lapwings

    All happy people are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy people are more or less alike.