Toward a Gendered Aesthetics of K-Pop

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Global Glam and Popular Music Style and Spectacle from the 1970s to the 2000s, 2016, pp. 214 - 231
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This chapter argues that the gender politics of K-Pop videos are dependent upon their utopian narrative structures and performance conventions. Most Korean boy groups and girl groups present unrealistic social aspirations and ideal body types, but the narrative logics of K-Pop’s idyllic worlds also cannot be measured against the standards of social realism. Rather, genre specific expectations around homosocial performance create internal tensions in the presentation of K-Pop masculinity and femininity, tensions carefully negotiated by f(x) and dramatically unpicked in N.O.M’s ‘A Guys’, which I discuss in the final section of this chapter. At the same time, the estrangement between K-Pop’s performance spaces and tangible social lives also provides opportunities for audiences – and most conspicuously, for fanfiction writers – to reimagine Idols in everyday settings. Although narrow conceptions of gender, sexuality, race and age circumscribe the social imaginaries of K-Pop groups in deleterious ways, this chapter argues that critical responses must be attentive to the specificity of genre in the production of musical and viewing pleasures.
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