Does PSY and Gangnam Style Help or Hurt Asian American Representation?

by JT Tran · 16 comments

Psy Gangnam StyleWe’ve all seen the video… A smartly dressed Asian performer doing what many would call the hokiest dance known to man, with Asian women frolicking around him as the futuristic synths pulsate in the background.  It’s Gangnam Style, and it’s taken pop culture, YouTube, and the entire world by storm.

Yes, we’ve all seen it, but can we all agree on the impact that Gangnam Style has on Asian male representation in the media?

According to recent controversy, the answer is almost certainly not.

Some people argue that Gangnam Style, which now has over 200 million hits on YouTube, is self-racist; that it makes fun of Asians and Asian stereotypes by caricaturing the protagonist being a poor Asian American Representative.  Others believe that the content is actually beneficial to the Asian community, claiming that it pushes boundaries and challenges assumptions made about Asian culture, and Asian men in particular.  Is Gangnam Style good or bad for Asian American Representation?

Start your engines and get ready for some contentious comment-fighting, because this article is all about the double-sided coin that is… GANGNAM STYLE!

Why Psy?

Why is Psy such a stereotype-shattering badass? Well, for plenty of reasons! Not only is he fresh and new, but he is extremely charismatic, which is the main reason that he has taken the nation by storm. The highest selling Korean artist of all time, Psy is now being managed by Scooter Braun, the same chap who brought our beloved Justin Bieber into the limelight.

But what, specifically, has garnered him so much attention? And what can you, my dear Asian reader, do to emulate his successes? Lets break it all down in the new segment that I like to call…

“Why Psy?”

  1. Confident – Psy is pretty much the inverse of every other K-Pop artist out there. He seems to be the ONLY one that is avoiding face makeup, feminine body language, and overall self-castration. Additionally, he is the only one TAKING RISKS. Which is why he is so massively successful.
  2. Un-reactive – Just look at him, he’s one chill motherfucker. Watch some videos of the guy. Check him out on Ellen Degeneres with Brittany Spears. Watch as Brittany becomes more and more nervous as she is put on the spot, whereas Psy becomes more and more chill and awesome.  Psy lets neither the audience pressure of performing nor the social pressure of Brittany acting all weird get to his head. He is supremely ingrained in is own sense of reality, in which he is awesome 100% of the time.
  3. Self-amused– Psy isn’t afraid to have fun, and even make a fool out of himself. Just watch the wacky dance moves in Gangnam Style, and observe how extremely he caricatures himself and his culture.  In addition, Psy is a practical joker. He likes having fun at other peoples expense, cracking light-hearted jokes and keeping the mood light and fun. This allows him to be both social and dominant at the same time.  Rather than worrying about what everyone else thinks, Psy sets his own rules and does what he wants.

    PSY Gangnam Style Asian American Representation

    Confident, relaxed, and self-amused, PSY is an alpha male ready to show his creative side in a fun and light-hearted manner

  4. Voice– Listen to Psy speak. Just listen to him. He has a more radio-friendly voice than half of the broadcasters out there. I remember listening to him on Ryan Seacrest, one of the top radio hosts out there, and thinking “Hey, I bet Psy could to Ryan’s job… But better”.  But, what about Psy’s voice makes it so alluring? If you listen to his music, it honestly doesn’t sound that great. His rapping is choppy and fobby, and his vocals are wavering and off-pitch.However, the gold isn’t in his singing… It’s just in the way he talks.His voice is deep, even, and resonant, all characteristics that exude confidence.
  5. Pre-selected– In his music video (and in real life), Psy is surrounded by chicks. He is completely comfortable with them, making them do goofy things and treating them just like he would a dorky little sister.This level of comfort with women is an attractive quality in a male.

Psy is just a solid male all around. He brings the heat, dresses sharp, and generally acts the part of someone who is getting laid. But, for some reason, not everyone is a fan of him or what he stands for… That’s right, Psy’s got his fair share of “haters”.

Addressing The Hate

There are two schools of hate that seem to circulate around Psy and his music and videos. These schools share pretty much converse views, and dislike Psy for opposite reasons.

One school is the jealous K-Pop artists and Koreans who say that Psy shouldn’t be famous because he’s a sell-out, that he doesn’t embody the characteristics of true K-Pop (*cough cough*, makeup and straightened hair), etc. They think that he is “too American” or “too mainstream” to be liked. To these individuals, I say: Awesome. I’m sure that Psy would take that as a compliment.

Gangnam Style

The cartoon cover for PSY's Gangnam Style. Silly, but our Korean Popstar doesn't mind poking fun at himself.

The other school are those Asian-Americans who desperately want to be seen as entirely American, and leave their Asian heritage behind; those who want to be completely assimilated and accepted, regardless of any personal or cultural compromise they might have to make.

These people dislike Psy because they feel that he is re-enforcing negative stereotypes of Asian men (which he isn’t) and that this negative association will affect them personally. My argument against this is that you ARE Asian… DON’T surrender your cultural heritage and national pride, because you simply DON’T NEED TO. You don’t need to forget your family’s history in order to get laid.

The Bottom Line

Psy is a blessing to the Asian community. Observe him and mimic his behavior and body language. While “Gangnam Style” is easy to make fun of, it is this way because it was SUPPOSED to be… Psy is fine with making fun of himself!

Psy proves that it is possible (and even fucking fantastic) to embrace both your Asian-ness and your inner alpha male. Harness the two together to be an unlikely, but extremely charming, source of interest for the ladies.

Now go kill it, you exotic lover, you!  Empower yourself!

JT Tran