Sexy Is As Sexy Does Part 2: U-KISS Bugaloo

A few days ago, I recapped U-KISS’s latest music video for “Quit Playing.” At the time the recap was written, the video had just been released and there wasn’t much time to gauge fan reaction (the iFan spaces I haunt generally responded positively, although, as I mentioned in the recap, some were bothered by the sexist implications of the narrative, a concern that is not unfounded). Apparently, there’s been a bit of blowback among Kissmes (since I heard this information secondhand via a post on omonatheydidnt, I am uncertain if it is from kFans or iFans). Apparently, some fans expressed discomfort with the adult nature of the video. Presumably as a result, Kevin posted a tweet apologizing to the fans who were offended and going to great lengths to distance himself from the concept and make it known that he disagrees with it and would not have chosen it personally. And this was my general response to the tweet:

bridesmaids

I haven’t yet spoken about this topic here, but have in other places, and am taking a lot of heat for my stance. So I’m writing out this post in an attempt to clarify my reasoning and elucidate my meaning.

I have often been critical of idols being messy on social media. And I got a lot of heat for that too, especially during Exocalypse ’14. The argument I always receive is that I’m somehow trying to police or invalidate idols’ feelings. For the life of me, I do not understand this stance. As a child, I learned that people are going to feel a way about things, but I also learned that it’s not always wise to express those feelings. I think this is one of those times. I’ll never ascribe to the idea that expressing one’s feelings honestly and publicly is always a good idea and always beyond reproach. It’s just not. Celebrities have hundreds and thousands of followers on twitter, and they have not only their own public image to think about but also the images of their associates. I have no idea if the other U-KISS members knew or cared what Kevin was tweeting, but the fact remains that the content of the tweet is basically making it all about him, and, essentially, throwing his bandmates under the bus. Allow me to quote, bolding mine:

This inner conflict that I deal with as a K-Pop artist and group member applies to this situation. I personally do not believe in the behavior portrayed in our music video ‘Quit Playing’, and the characters we had to portray in this music video were not the characters I chose.

I don’t even know where to start unpacking this mess, but I’ll have a go at it. First of all, only very young and naive fans would believe that K-pop idols have complete creative control. I’m fairly certain most fans are aware of a thing called acting. When we watch actors in movies, we don’t automatically assume that said actor agrees with or believes in what their character is doing (especially when they play villains). The same is true for music videos. In MBLAQ’s “Y,” for example, Joon plays a spurned lover who shoots his girlfriend. I do not recall Joon feeling the pressing need to issue a public apology and emphasize he does not support shooting women who’ve cheated on him. It is obvious to anyone, fan of MBLAQ or otherwise, that this is not who Joon really is, that he probably didn’t think up the concept, and that he certainly isn’t trying to tell people to go out and shoot their unfaithful girlfriends.

Since it should be obvious to anyone that an idol doesn’t necessarily support or agree with their roles in a music video, I can’t possibly see any reason for Kevin to go to such great lengths to reiterate this, unless he’s trying to establish some kind of moral high ground. That is something I find really tacky and self-indulgent. He’s really throwing the other members under the bus here, since none of them have publicly disavowed the video concept or given any indication of discomfort with it. By emphasizing his obligation to the group in spite of his personal objections, Kevin’s putting himself on a kind of pedestal, as if to say, “Hey, if you’re going to think badly of us for this, leave me out of it.” In which case, I got another gif for ya, Kev:

vm

Not to mention where this leaves fans who didn’t have a problem with the video or the concept. Because as a fan who’s been enjoying these promotions, it really makes me feel good to know that one of the members, at least (because the other ones just don’t care about offending the fans, I guess) was forced into doing a concept he emphatically does not believe in or support. Just to make sure we all know that and don’t think less of him.

girlbye

The other argument I keep getting hit with is that no idol should ever have to do anything they feel uncomfortable with. This is a sentiment I think most would agree with, but my point of contention is the one-size-fits-all way it’s being applied here. I believe that there is a limit to how much we should reasonably expect an idol’s personal objections to be accommodated, and it depends on a lot of factors that I frankly don’t think are present here. We’re not talking about a very young rookie idol, or about a female idol being forced to do something dehumanizing and degrading (e.g. Stellar’s “Marionette”) or some highly-sexualized aegyo concept (which I actually find creepier than an outright sexy concept, with the infantilization aspect). If it were, say, U-KISS’s resident jailbait, Jun, expressing discomfort with the “Quit Playing” concept, that would be understandable due to his youth and rookie status (despite being an addition to a veteran group). But Kevin is a grown man and a seasoned idol, participating in a music video depicting something many grown-ups do in real life (consensual, mildly kinky heterosexual sex). And he’s not even involved in the more explicit scenes in the video. Since Kevin is American, I think we can safely de-emphasize the role of cultural relativism in this issue. He’s not being humiliated, degraded, or exploited. If anything, the music video follows a familiar narrative of masculinity affirmed via sexual prowess. The only people being degraded here are the women, and I doubt he’s speaking up on their behalf.

Many fans have brought up Kevin’s religious beliefs. I am not going to discuss this at length, because it doesn’t really matter to me why he feels the way he does or that he even feels that way at all. My issue lies entirely in his need to advertise it over twitter in the way that he did. It feels like he’s using twitter as his own confessional, and we, as fans, are supposed to absolve him of his sins.

seungrisus

This is what I find so unprofessional about the whole thing. It’s not up to us to absolve Kevin’s crisis of conscience. Twitter is not the place to confess your sins. And insulting people who don’t share his viewpoints on the matter, whether intentional or otherwise, is not doing him or his group any favors. I’m sorry that he felt uncomfortable with the concept and video. But he’s not helping himself or anyone else at all here, and I’m not sorry for saying so.

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