IMAGE:TAEYEON singing and waving an apple (The Fruit that is Rarely Wielded by Those with Innocent Intentions) provocatively towards the audience
CAMERA: starts with facial close up that present her as cute, beautiful, friendly; transitions to quick shots of her fragmented face, marking her as sublime, non-understandable, inhuman and terrific (in the archaic definition: inspiring terror)
LINE: 뭘 걱정하는데 넌, 됐고 뭐가 또 두려운데? “what are you nervous about, what are you so scared of?”
IMAGE: YOONA leaning over her patient as a doctor (authority figure), as if contemplating and basking in her dominance over his fate
CAMERA: quick, unnerving, seemingly static besides the obvious post-recording editing
LINE: 앞서 가 주길 바래 그 누군가가 “I want someone who can take the lead”
IMAGE: YURI slowly drawing her patient’s glittering heart to her chest, staring down the audience with the air of a territorial animal
CAMERA: due to her unwavering stare, possibly the longest running shot of the video
LINE: MY MI, MI, MISTER “my mister”
after the exciting, dynamic and multi-multidimensional I GOT A BOY, no one seemed to expect Girl’s Generation to revert back to their earlier form: but like Genie, Mr.Mr has a glittersynth, magical sound, and a promise of wishes granted: “You have the key to open the future / So have a dream that is bigger than a little boy’s” (colorcodedlyrics). a trend which started with Into the New World, the girls offer themselves as a vessel of strength to audience, an honorable edict which is no doubt is partly what won them the “Nation’s Girl Group” title.
however, this time the girls do have a condition: “have a dream that is bigger than a little boy’s.” the dissatisfaction with him is blatant when considering the girls’ plot to replace their beloved Mr.’s rotten apple with a new heart. but when these horrific hospital scenes are juxtaposed with lyrics that encourage, “be stronger!” it is especially unsettling. it certainly left the critiques confounded:
Why is the guy getting surgery? What the hell did you guys do to him? What’s that blue liquid thing? Are you guys certified for this? What are you guys doing in SM’s car park? Is that the proverbial dungeon of SM Entertainment? Why is that guy dancing wildly by the car at the end of the chorus? Sunny, why are you holding that candle? Why is Yuri being seductive on the floor holding that pink bejeweled thing? Is that sanitary? She’s the reason the guy dies right – infecting whatever it is that’s wrong with him? Wait. Is that a pink, bedazzled HEART? But seriously, what did you guys do to him? Poor guy is passed out while he’s getting possibly the best hospital care and attention in Korea. Where can I sign up for SM Hospital and can SHINee be my nurses? (by PAT)
Mr.Mr is made up of disguises and duplicities: a mix of medicine (pills) and spiritual healing (candles), a message about strength using a fear-inducing voice, an apple and heart, expression through two genders, etc. the video invokes a sense of high art that is perhaps more characteristic of their experimental sister group, f(x). it leaves the audience with many questions, but the answers are probably flatter than expected: they simply want a better lover. not exactly Girls’ Generation’s biggest statement, especially when previous Korean releases were so impactful
theorist fredric jameson argues that consumerism causes a “transformation of reality into images” (a Western critique of culture, yet what is more consumerist than pop music?). there are a lot of objects in the video, arguable even overabundance: medical supplies, multiple fruits, a rubik’s cube. there is very little white space; jameson claims one of the characteristics of postmodernism is the hole it creates where the significance should be: “The signified - maybe even the illusion or the mirage of the signified and of meaning in general - is an effect produced by the inter-relationship of material signifiers.” this is perhaps exemplified best in the moment when the nine girls, in order to perform a surgery that is purely metaphoric, reach towards the center, to pull off a jacket; the jacket which is just an indicator need to mark the man as the Mr.
but what the girls really need to get to is the heart - a symbolic bejeweled heart, nonetheless, another fake-out; just another literary technique on top of the next. Mr.Mr is confusing, layered, terrifying, yet its difficult to say if there’s anything to be found at the heart of it. and the girls do not have very helpful advice: “If you keep measuring things out, it’ll be too late, ” “ignore it and close your eyes,” and the ever-helpful “turn into stars, Mr.Mr.” despite its horror scenes, Mr.Mr is not missing any playfulness. in fact, the teasing seems to be what is driving it, not love, money or our lovely Mr
DOLLS are not a new trope in kpop, ranging back to the Song that is constantly cited as starting it all, GEE. despite the disturbing implications of the metaphor (look but dont touch, admire their bodies but dont let them speak) dolls have persevered, constantly reappearing in new, but just as objectifying, forms. for the nu wave “sexy concepts” of 2013-14, dolls, mannequins and performers are a perfect way to discreetly place women in a position where their bodies are under fire. however, while their images are controversial, something always seems to be forgotten: their meanings. although it is easy to discount the words of a seeming lifeless object, fruitful discourse can be found when one actually listens to what these girl groups imply about their position on a larger scale
the cha cha music video screams ” SIN “; it’s filled to the brim with excess, gluttony, greed, lust: it immediately gives images of bright colors, delicious looking treats lounging every available surface, elaborate vintage furniture, jewels so abundant they’re being used as ice cubes and even the pretty maids, who are all made-up. but the suggestion here is that perhaps the most valuable asset in the room, however, is women’s bodies
the setting of the video is very fitting for an idol group; something akin to a burlesque club, where the girls of blaxx can be assumed to perform in order to earn all their aforementioned riches. i must “assume” because besides a few dance cuts, there actually is no performance in the club. the vast majority of the video takes place backstage. this video is meant to be a depiction of the secret, behind-the-scene action that fans always crave a glimpse of. but the purpose of the heavily stylized imagery cannot be ignored; there is still a show going on of course - for us, the fans, and for these fascinated characters who are always gazing at the members of blaxx, on and off stage:
there are multiple layers of performance in cha cha. (in the live performances, the girls even bring in another stage as a prop - a small black bloxx - because one isn’t enough) and as with almost any modern mainstream depiction of sex, the message is confusing and contradictory. the girls constantly cite a feeling, but are frustrated with the lack of talk: “I won’t miss the quiver hidden behind the calm voice / I can’t take you acting like a baby forever.” despite this, they are definitely enjoying keeping the audience on a thread: “You want to stare at me longer / […] I understand.” it seems this state of uncomfort is their goal. the song opens and closes with questions for the audience, but no answers: “You like it? You hate it? Please tell me. / […] Are you sure you won’t regret it?”
after the set up of any capitalistic venture, there is always one important question to be asked: as marx would say, who benefits? blaxx answers this blatantly - not them. the matriarch who owns the place is no feminist; blaxx cringes whenever she appears or touches them. she measures blaxx’s bodies as if they are just more jewels in her collection that need to be polished. there is unmistakable sadness and hatred in hyunyoung’s face as the lady measures her body. these moments are definitely disturbing, but they are also quickly brushed aside. the girls should be happy, living a perfect and grandiose life, right? but as blaxx has already brought up earlier, there is no answer to this question that will be satisfying for both parties. :(
there is no denying the resemblance of marionette to cha cha; the black and white outfits, images of satisfying food, the mystique of women’s dressing rooms, etc. all of these these themes have seem to become the sexy standard. however, marionette is also decidedly darker, as the colors are muted and snippets of angry guitars play, while the girls scratch at their bodies in frustration at being “that[x8] doll”
by choosing to release the video with its 19+ rating, there was no pretending, teasing or questioning that marionette was not a straight up “sexy concept” in its very essence. it borrows so blatantly from the book of sexy that it becomes a bit ridiculous. but with past releases such as the incredible rocket girl (a personal absolute FAV!!!), stellar is no stranger to ridiculous. marionette is not a blatant parody, but by taking the concept to an extreme, it definitely has an built-in critique of the structure of typical sexy concepts. in one scene, hyoeun takes her lip stick and crosses out her face in the mirror, acknowledging that she is nothing but a body to her audience, the one she loves and maybe even herself.
in the same vein, by outright calling themselves “dolls,” stellar shows a complete self-awareness of what is happening to their bodies under the camera. marionette is incredibly direct with its message, which is what seems to make people disbelieve it. stellar has no 4th wall as they sing about being “a sad doll tied under a string” for the audience (trans cr); they hate it, but order us to “bwah (look)” repeatedly throughout the chorus. this contradiction is necessary for a complete sexy concept, as stellar’s unwillingness is part of the male submissive fantasy
so wonderful is not a “sexy concept,” but it does borrow heavily from the current narrative surrounding sexy kpop: dark clothing, retro sound, policing of the female body by those who do not own the body and commentary on the male gaze. but ironically, so wonderful is the video that takes the objectification most literally, with a storyline about a group of mannequins in love with their hardworking creator. and unlike the previous videos, the girls are not meant to be seen as performing their feelings for someone else, as that someone cannot even see them. with this most recent video, the audience finally gets a look at the subjective feelings of these pose-able bodies. and unexpectedly, the dolls do not feel a strong frustration or anger in any sense. so wonderful is a song with an amazing sense of vulnerability; emotions range from the nostalgic happiness of a lost love to “dizzy and sad” to an underlying soft anger found in “shut off~shut off~” that eventually gives way to the simple, sublime feeling of “wonderful.”
so wonderful is full of images that should theoretically be very disturbing: girls missing arms, encased in plastic and blatantly ignored by the object of their affection. yet in context, they seem reasonable, even expected considering the storyline. but that is not to say these girls are compliant about it; although they are lifeless, these dolls are definitely not mindless: “I have a lot of things on my mind” rise sings from her inanimate position. zuny laments her situation, by comparing herself to her beloved: “You’re still so handsome / you’re handsome even without me there.” the implication, of course, is that the dolls would not be pretty without their creator and, taking it farther, the girls are would not judged on beauty without the male gaze
by the end of the video, it has definitely reached its disturbing potential: rise leaves the light of the showcase room to met the man in a black, void-like place, where he has become a doll himself. at this moment, the “wonderful” feeling begins to connotate delusion. once again, we are left with more questions than answers: why did the man break down? is rise looking at him satisfied or in mourning? for some reason, rise’s life seemed to depend on the man’s death.
in the end, it seems that a mannquin’s word should not be trusted, and if only men like the one above would stop treating women as objects then we wouldnt need to have this disccussion huh!!!!