Gangnam Style and politics

by Charlie Crooijmans

The K-pop song “Gangnam Style” rocketed straight to the top of the charts in more than 30 countries.  The video on YouTube has been viewed almost 600 million times. Korean rapper, dancer, and producer Psy (Park Jae-sang) shows us a caricature of the life of Gangnam district, the Beverly Hills of Seoul.  The catchy phrases “oppa Gangnam style” and “hey sexy lady”, the electronic dance beat, and the silly galloping moves are the main ingredients for this huge success.  There is a vast amount of parodies of the video, and of Gangnam Style in particular. Not only the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei uses this song to make political comments, but also persons like Ban Ki-moon, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Noam Chomsky are involved in one way or another.

Ai Weiwei made a hilarious cheap imitation of the video with some of the original footage.  You can see him dancing in a pink shirt, and in one scene waving with handcuffs. It is a fun way to ridicule. The song is called “Caonima Style”, or “Grass Mud Horse Style”, a reference to the symbol of resistance as a cute little lama, as the Chinese use this picture to protest against the censorship on the internet. The word ‘caonima’ sounds similar to  “f*ck your mother”. Throughout Ai Weiwei’s work this Grass Mud Horse has been an ongoing theme (Washington Post). The video has been blocked by the Chinese authorities by now (Radio Australia).

The Korean students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) posted their version of Gangnam Style on the internet. Somewhere in the middle a close harmony group takes over. It is almost a shame that they didn’t do the entire show. More salient is the appearance of Noam Chomsky, Professor (Emeritus) of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. Instead of joining the horse dance, he sips on a cup of tea and says “Open Chomsky Style”. Why the father of modern linguistics is joining in, is a bit unclear. The article about the video in Raw Story says that it is meant just as a nice variation on bad news. Probably the Koreans are very proud on their compatriot.

Another proud person, maybe a bit envious as well, is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As you can see in the video below, the meeting with megastar Psy and Ban Ki-moon led to lots of laughter and awkward horse riding movements by the Secretary-General (Daily Mail).

In the video below you can see how the Chinese perceives the presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama doing a song battle. The source of the video is NMA TV, Next Media Animation from Taiwan.  The songs of Obama are cool and highly relaxed, depicting a friendly altruistic attitude. Romneys songs are in the Gangnam style and other catchy energetic styles, showing a more energetic and capitalistic (and Chinese?) attitude.

These final videos I would like to show are “Obama Style” and “Mitt Romney Style”. Productions that feed on a popular tune and video, out to reach a larger audience by combining fun and criticism.

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