Thank you to everyone who’s emailed me about Japanese child star Ashida Mana dancing to KARA’s Mister on a Japanese talk show. For anyone interested in some context, issues raised, and why I think it’s problematic, then please first read Part 2, all of which was written in response to my one of my own daughters doing something similar at her kindergarten. Frankly, it was eerie how much Ashia reminded me of her.
Meanwhile, here’s the “Butt Dance” (엉덩이 춤) being referred to, with handy English subtitles:
Next, assuming that you’re read that earlier post, then consider these additional observations from Meenakshi Durham’s The Lolita Effect, which seem particularly apt here:
…Increasingly, adult sexual motifs are overlapping with childhood — specifically girlhood, shaping an environment in which young girls are increasingly seen as valid participants in a public culture of sex.
In some ways, this is not a new idea: in the 1932 short film “Polly Tix in Washington”, a four year-old Shirley Temple played a pint-sized prostitute. Sashaying around in lacy lingerie and ropes of pearls, she announced “Boss Flint Eye sent me over to entertain you…but I’m expensive!”. Critics have commented on the overt lewdness of this and other films the toddler was case in as part of the “Baby Burlesks” series, which were designed for adult viewers and included frequent scenes of little girls in diapers aping the sexual behaviors and attitudes of much older women. In latter films too, Temple projected an “oddly precocious” sensuality, as the film historian Marianne Sinclair has observed — in fact, the acclaimed novelist Graham Greene was sued for commenting on it a film review. (pp. 115-116)
Indeed, Temple herself later described the series as a cynical exploitation of her childish innocence. Appearing from 3:16 below, you’ll soon see why:
But why is it deeply disturbing when 4 year-old Shirley Temple assumes sexual poses and all but blurts out that she’s interested in having sex with the “men”, whereas it’s supposedly as kawaii as hell for 6 year-old Ashida Mana to do, well, almost exactly the same thing? Granted, some actual kissing is involved in the former, but then I’d argue that the majority of viewers would still find the film at least a little concerning without it. In contrast, I’d wager most of us have much more mixed feelings about Ashida Mana, and I’m curious as to why.
With me, I think it’s through seeing my daughter Alice in Ashida, and knowing that she’s completely unaware of the implications of what she’s saying, instead simply having fun and/or fulfilling her natural urge to mimic the behavior of adults. But which is not quite the same as saying it would have been okay for her dance to the much more sexual Mister rather than Lupin at her kindergarten however, let alone for any child do it on national television simply for our titillation.
But other than that, I’ve pretty much said all I can myself in that earlier 3400(!) word post, so I’d really appreciate hearing your own thoughts!^^
The “Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea” series:
- Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 1: The role of K-pop and the Korean media in sexual socialization and the formation of body image
- Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 2: Six Year-Old Does KARA’s “Butt Dance” (엉덩이 춤) on “Shabekuri 007″
- Reading The Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 3: A Wave of Middle School Girls Wearing Make-up…Is it all Girl Groups’ Fault?
- Syndrome (신드롬) by ChoColat (쇼콜라): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation / Reading The Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 4