A virtual unknown before she wore that dress at the opening ceremony of the 16th Busan International Film Festival, she is certainly not above using sex-appeal to advance her career. But of course, that is not something to celebrate in itself. Rather, it can only be considered at all empowering if the woman involved simultaneously exalts in her sex appeal (to both men and women), whether as sexual object, subject, role model, or all three. And above all, she must a) be explicit about what she’s doing (or at least not deny it), and b) not stray out of character by, say, infantilizing herself with cutesy aegyo in the first endorsement deal she lands.
By those criteria, actually very few female celebrities qualify, no matter how much they’re touted as confident, independent, and daring by the Korean media. Oh In-hye did remain a possibility though, as mentioned at the end of my November post first outlining the concept of pin-up grrrls, and as far as I know hasn’t been blessed with the opportunity to behave like a 13 year-old in a TV commercial yet.
All hinges on her own personal explanations/justifications then, which is why this recent interview of her caught my eye. However unlikely-sounding, could she also be considered a role-model?
Alas, once I started translating it, my respect for her plunged faster than her neckline. Not because she’s not loud and proud about what she did (although that’s still disappointing), but because she’s so disingenuous about it. She repeats her claim that her choice of dress was completely random, and that she was surprised by the reaction. She claims to be worried that her image will detract from the message of her two movies in one Red Vacance, Black Wedding, when both are essentially soft-porn poorly disguised as art-house cinema (see the NSFW trailer below; tellingly, downloads of the movie are extremely easy to find). Indeed, now I’m more convinced than ever that the dress was actually a deliberate and surely collaborative effort to draw attention to the movie, as first suggested to me by an audience member at a recent lecture I gave in Daegu (apologies for not remembering your name sorry!).
Why couldn’t she just say that?
And on that note, apologies also for the irritating faux informal and friendly tone of the reporter, which remains in the original Korean. Unfortunately, as I lamented back in November, beggars can’t be choosers for interview sources. Especially on this topic!
“I Don’t Regret Wearing That Revealing Dress”
Issue-maker Oh In-hye, main star of Red Vacance, Black Wedding, Dreams of becoming a “humanist actress”
Busan Focus, December 6th 2011, p. 23. Reporter: Jang Byeong-ho.
“There have been big changes since the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). At the time things were just crazy, but now I’m quite relaxed. Things have returned to what they were like before BIFF”.
On the 5th, I met Oh In-hye at a coffee-shop in Seoul, the actress who has been in the spotlight for wearing such a striking dress at BIFF earlier in the year. I couldn’t help but be curious at how she felt about being at the center of such controversy.
“Before I went to the film festival, I thought my visiting it would just be reported as “An actress called Oh In-hye attended”, she said, but to her it was her first time, and an amazing experience. Also, while she was very hurt by malicious news reports and what netizens wrote about her, she confidently said to herself to “have no regrets”, and that “If I am to go again to the opening ceremony of a film festival, I’ll wear a revealing dress again. But perhaps revealing just a little less though!” (laughs).
Also, Oh In-hye is thinking about using the interest in her as an opportunity, “It’s all water under the bridge. Instead, now I have a goal of changing my revealing image. And if I have a goal, I should work on it, right?” she openly and honestly revealed, a complete contrast to the sexy demeanor she possessed when she was wearing the revealing dress [James – having a goal isn’t sexy???]. But she also said that she was worried that her revealing image would distort the message of her coming movie Red Vacance, Black Wedding, coming out on the 8th of December.
Oh In-hye has yearned to be an entertainer since she was very young, but didn’t set on an acting path until the relatively late age of 22 [James – she is 27 now]. From 2 to 3 years ago, she has worked without an agency, and firmly said that she “has no plans to join one. I want to be a humanist actress, not just an entertainer who makes issues.”
Finally, she admitted that the director Lars von Trier and the actress Penelope Cruz, Oh In-hye revealed that “increasing my acting ability by studying a lot of acting is my biggest homework!”, leaving this reporter curious about her [James – new?] honest and forthcoming persona (end).
To play Devil’s Advocate, Korean news reporters are notorious for sometimes simply making news up, let alone being very sloppy with their fact-checking. But nevertheless, Oh In-hye’s claims that she would loudly and proudly wear an almost equally-revealing dress at the next film festival are undermined by her wearing a more demure one at BIFF’s closing ceremony. On the other hand, she did wear a very revealing one just a few days after this interview, but that again casts serious doubts on her claims to be worried about “her revealing image [distorting] the message of her movie,” which came out just the day before.
In short, nothing in the interview can be taken at face-value, and frankly now I’m a little embarrassed to present it here. Sigh. Rest assured though, that from now on I’ll be a little more discerning when I hear that a female celebrity has bared all to a reporter, and—as always—would appreciate readers passing on any they find by more reliable sources (including of male celebrities!).