On Girl Power and Abs

Again, a late night/early morning blog post. I hate the way my mind works sometimes. It's always when I most need sleep that my mind just won't settle down. I look for something to distract me/put me to sleep and I inevitably find something interesting to mull over which only keeps me awake longer... ah, my life.

Anyway. Yeah. Girl power and Abs. I mainly thought about this because of the Girls' Generation (SNSD) song that came out last week, "Run Devil Run". I posted the song, but I did not post the music video. Here it is, courtesy of Soshified, complete with English subtitles.

For those of you who know K-pop, you know that this is not your typical SNSD. Usually they are cute and bubbly and professing their love for their oppas* - you'd never really describe them as girls with attitude. With the old SNSD, if a guy cheated on them, they'd curl up in a corner and cry and sing for him to come back or lament over lost love. Here, they've gone from cute to hot and dismiss that cheating bastard with "Half of the world are men, I won't notice that you're gone." This is a big shift. Especially when you consider East Asian culture, which generally requires women to be quiet and submissive and all that good stuff. But SNSD won't take it lying down anymore! You better move it to the left, to the left! Despite the fact that the "dark concept" SNSD was excessively hyped up (with an iPhone app to boot - I hate Steve Jobs), it IS a big change from their regular stuff in terms of look and lyrics. So I don't feel so bad liking the song even though it's unremarkable musically.

In related news, around the same time that this song came out, a documentary aired on the Discovery Channel called Hip Korea, which featured a segment on my favorite Korean girl group, 2NE1. The documentary presented them as a group who are changing the status quo in Korean society when it comes to women. They're presenting a different idea of womanhood - one that's sassy and in-your-face, and not about to cry over an unfaithful dude. I completely agree with this assessment, and this is probably why they are one of my favorite k-pop groups. Unlike a lot of the other female k-pop artists, they're not just "be pretty and sexy and you'll sell records". They push boundaries, in their fashion sense as well as in their music and lyrics. They sing songs with lyrics like, "You're just a pretty boy, you gotta be a real man if you wanna roll with me" and "I don't care if you don't call me, I got better things to do", while everyone else is like "Oppa, I love you! Don't ignore me!" So yeah, they're kinda awesome, totally raising the girl power fist and I love them. Check out the comparison below between 2NE1's typical style and SNSD's typical style:

SNSD = cute, 2NE1 = fierceness

Now, how does this relate to abs? Well, in the past month the internet has been flooded with pictures of Korean celebrities and their abs (as well as some other shots that are not entirely SFW - you're over 18 you can check them out here, and here). Our favorite controversial band 2PM just did an extensive photoshoot and were topless for most of it (parts 1, 2, 3, 4). Lee Joon of the new boy group MBLAQ flashes his abs a whole lot, because the king of ab-flashing, and Korean superstar extraordinaire, Rain, who happens to be his boss, tells him to because the fans like it, (yup, we sure do ;) and everyone wants to get pictures of them (exhibit A, B, C, among countless others). Then there's these guys, this guy and this guy, and like 50 others. And then countless polls as to whose abs are better.

So basically, I was like, "What is up with the excess of abs???" On this side of the pond you need an underwear ad before a male celebrity shows this much skin this often. The answer, interestingly enough, seems to be in the "noonas" - i.e. the older women who are fans of young boy bands. Indeed a lot of these groups have been nicknamed "noona killers" because of their high appeal to older women. I just hope they're not too much older - I'm fine with a little age difference, but cougarism is just plain wrong. Yes, I'm looking at you, Madonna - leave the young ones for us! The younger girls also appreciate the view, I'm sure, but considering the fact that Korean culture tries to keep their girls pure and innocent for as long as possible, I seriously think it's the older women with *ahem* more experience who are driving this trend.

James over at The Grand Narrative has this theory that Korean women were the main force behind the changing of Korean men's fashion sensibilities from kinda boring to what would be classified as "metrosexual" in the West. I think the excess of abs is in line with this theory - girls wanted muscles, and the men delivered. *sigh, why don't guys do that all the time? Deliver, I mean, not flash their abs. While I appreciate some skin every now and then, I've seen so many six-packs that I want to write an open letter to all these Korean celebs telling them to keep their bloody shirts on for a change! Geez. One can only wonder what's going through the minds of their young female fans, and hope that whatever their thoughts are, they're age-appropriate.

So yeah, women are taking over, and guys are taking off their shirts. The world is a better place already :) Alright, off to bed.

*"Oppa" literally means "older brother" in Korean, but its meaning is much more complex - to call someone "oppa" means that you respect and admire the person - kinda like you would a brother, but not really... it's complicated. Girls will call their guy friend/boyfriend/love interest "oppa".


  1. Love the first song and the transliterated lyrics, it's almost funny but kicks ass too, lol.

    About the ab flashing, let's enjoy it eh? Time was when women were the only meat in the market. Fair game now...

  2. @Myne you're right - things are better now. I guess it's just that I'd like to see a good looking man with his shirt ON every once in a while...

  3. Noonas and netizens hold so much power in their hands, it's not even funny!
    The second a female idol starts sexing it up, those netizens come out of nowhere with torches to end all the fun :P

  4. i think i saved all those pics of topless idols on my laptop. some guys were pretty disappointing though.

    and i had no idea 2NE1 had that much girl power...will be checking them out.

  5. @eccentric may i ask, which ones were disappointing? lolz

  6. mellowyel, there was a particular pic of a certain male idol that didn't look so flattering. i can't remember who though, will have to search though those images :D


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