I’ve been listening to a lot of KPOP recently. There’s a lot of catchy songs that I’ve been playing on repeat, but one song especially: that song is “No” by CLC.
KPOP already has some barriers to entry, most notably the language: although a lot of KPOP makes use of English, most of the lyrics will be in Korean. Most American listeners have to be wary of the language difference and be comfortable with NOT understanding most of the lyrics. Even so, languages will oftentimes blend, and sometimes Korean will be misunderstood as English, and vice versa.
“No” is a very short song, only clocking in at 3 minutes long, but it moves incredibly fast and is extremely catchy to boot. The main hook is spoken completely in English:
Red lip? No
High heels? No
The first time I heard this song and even a few times afterwards, in spite of knowing the name of the song, I always misheard “No” as “Now”.
There is a lot to be said about the KPOP industry, much more than I could say here and by people that are far more familiar with the politics in and surrounding it. I will say that I do believe the meaning in the song’s hook is apparent as a rejection of popular beauty standards. According to the Genius page, “CLC explained… that they wanted to deliver a lesson… [in that] people should stick to their own personality and find the real, authentic self”.
It is difficult to reconcile with that sentiment, but I believe that my own misinterpretation of the song’s main hook creates a duality between what I believe I’m hearing, and what the song is actually saying: KPOP has been described as a much more hyper-capitalist, indulgent, accelerated counterpart of American pop music and, in this context, my misunderstanding of the song lyrics reinforces this image – while the actual contents are actually the complete opposite (and, in either case, does not actually represent or reflect the reality of the content taken as a whole).
Then, take the chorus, which switches between English and then Korean. “I love me, I like it,” Elkie Chong sings, at once a strange affirmation of self-love (“I love me”) and then an affirmation of adoration for something else altogether (“I like it”). What exactly is “it” in this context? When she refers to “it” does she refer to her life? Does she love herself, and only “like” her life? Of course, there is a world of difference between “loving” and “liking” something, so then it begs the question why does she love herself and why does she only “like” her life?
The second spoken English line in the chorus is “I love me, walk like me,” sung by Oh Seung Hee, which again seems to contradict some earlier lyrical theming (if we are to assume that, “walk like me” is an invitation to imitate or emulate a person’s style).
However, for me personally, I had always heard the line as: “I want me, more like me,” and this interpretation has made more sense to me, and has much more potent thematic relevance.
Firstly, because a “want” conveys something that is desired but not necessarily required – secondly, because the idea reinforces the idea that you can always be more authentic, or more “yourself”.
It can also be interpreted the other way entirely – because there is so much emphasis placed on the individual, instead of actualization through radical individualism, Seunghee could also be saying that she wants to claim herself as a person (“I want me”) and that she wants other people to follow her lead (“more like me”) although, again, this is all presupposed because of the idea that these are the lyrics – which they objectively aren’t.
The final line from Seunghee, in Korean, is “Try it, if you want”. I believe this implies that imitating or emulating someone is not something to be ashamed of, but encouraged as a means of parsing out what IS or ISN’T oneself. We could liken one’s identity to an outfit, to be tried, and expressed, but not necessarily what one will always be wearing or base themselves on.
I believe that the metaphor is apt but, as any metaphor is, not perfect. Identity is an outfit that is something worn, expressed, and used to reinforce an image one has of oneself. An identity is separate from one’s life and indeed one’s own self, but it is a type of persona, or face (see Face theory), that communicates information to others as much as it is presented to examine how others perceive/receive this information.
When I say identity, I do not mean to limit it to any one type (gender, sexual, class, spiritual, age, national, etc.) but as any and all of the types suggested. It is one thing to wear an identity and express it openly (i.e. a person of religious faith wearing a cross necklace, or headscarves) and it is another thing to repress or hide an identity (i.e. a wealthy or affluent person dressing in thrift store clothes, or someone who identifies strongly with another gender but still conforms to their assigned gender at birth). It is because we are well-aware of the fact that there are some aspects of our identities that are disapproved of by some people, and insecurity can come from any numerous amount of sources – family life can oftentimes inform some insecurities later in life, and I’m sure that many people have acted out of some irrational fear based in childhood trauma or repressed anxiety that still resurfaces when confronting these contradictions towards their identity.
Take gender identity, for example. We are still struggling to accept nonbinary people into our society, and those that are opposed to their very existence oppress them and their voices, oftentimes without even realizing it. Identifying as nonbinary is an act of defiance against the zeitgeist we are born into – call it smug or holier-than-thou, but there is nothing as heart-wrenching as watching some people, people that I’ve grown close and attached to, having to constantly reaffirm their very existence and self-conception to other people over and over again.
Every time you misgender someone, you are invalidating their existence. Every time you dead name someone, you are invalidating their existence. Every time you ask for someone’s sex instead of respecting their gender identity, you are invalidating their existence.
Every time you invalidate someone’s existence, you marginalize them, cordon them into a space that you are unconcerned with, and effectively erase them from both your perception and from your world. They don’t exist to you. And if you are to protest, dear reader, then I’d ask you not to. I understand. If you’re not to concern yourself with someone based on some incompatibility that you feel is irreconcilable, then I understand, and maybe it is for the best that you do not associate with them, after all.
I would only like you to understand that if you do not take the time to learn and understand someone, you have erased them already.
When you erase somebody, you are communicating to them that their presence in your life does not matter or, what’s more, that their presence in your life does not matter as they are now. It is the erasure of respect and recognition that implies that someone cannot exist within your world without first adhering to your standards. It is also the adherence to these standards which is the privilege of those that can remain comfortably at-present with themselves. It is also this privilege that implies that one must change to fit other people’s standards, to be accepted and approved, instead of having that being accepted and approved as one is.
This isn’t to say that one should always remain stubbornly persistent or resilient in the face of opposition, as obviously there comes a point where criticism can reveal some underlying character flaw – although, this is hypothetical, and surely on a case-by-case basis – what I mean to say is that it is the privilege of those who have presence to dictate the terms and conditions of what it requires for one to exist in their space.
Returning to the metaphor of presence and of life being a “house,” we can imagine that there are probably some rules that visitors would have to abide by to remain in someone’s life. This is not inherently a bad thing. Being able to remove unhealthy or damaging relationships from one’s life is a personal agency that should be afforded to most people, “should” being the keyword.
Again, not everyone is always afforded the privilege of having presence. A house is not a home. There are always terms and conditions when living in a house that isn’t yours.
It is difficult to argue with an angry tenant that sinks to passive-aggressive over months, it is difficult to coordinate with roommates that have taken to isolate themselves or avoid paying rent or decide to move out with little justification or warning, and more than anything, it is difficult to live with people who encroach on one’s boundaries and instead turn to bitter and sour behavior when social cues are not properly understood.
But, you know what else is difficult? Not having a house.
Understand that there are worse alternatives, but the experience of being erased inside of a space that should promote support and stability can be distressing, especially because one might even start to believe that conceding one’s own boundaries is crucial to survival. This is, again, why I say that a house is not a home.
A house can be a home, but a house is that means to an end. A home is that end.
It is the privilege of tenants and homeowners (people that own houses, property, etc.) to decide who should live with them, or in their house(s), at all. Some people do not have this privilege, and I count myself as one of them.
It is difficult to envision myself without the support network that I have right now. My parents; my friends; my relatives; all of them have helped more than I could ever put into words. It is also difficult, then, to step outside of those boundaries without fear of losing some valuable benefit: there are some days where I want to be confrontational, but I choose not to. I choose not to because I am afraid that I will lose my support if I say the wrong things, and I am in no good position to lose what support I haven’t already lost.
JD-Jurado © all rights reserved. 2020
Part 7 of 9
From Grim to Dire, A Testimonieal for Being-to-be
#reallife #ThankfulThursday #Thursdaythoughts