In which I almost get carried away with my narratives about body-image and the Korean media—but discover an amazing role model instead.
Remember My Ear’s Candy by Baek Ji-young, featuring 2PM’s Ok Taec-yeon? It was one of the songs that made me fall in love with K-pop, way back in 2010:
And I’m still quite fond of K-pop, although we’ve long since agreed to see other people. But, thinking about old flames over a drink last night, one thing led to another, and soon the whole family would be dancing to My Ear’s Pig, a parody performed with comedian Gang Ho-dong on the February 21, 2010 episode of 1 Night 2 Days. With lines like “My ear’s pig, number 1 rated wild pig…put it on top of lettuce”, it’s the perfect antidote to a rainy Monday (especially the guy at 1:48), 100% guaranteed to leave you grinning from ear to ear:
Here’s a longer version, which includes scenes from Gang-ho Dong’s month-long preparation for the performance:
But then I saw a 2014 version with fellow comedian Lee Guk-joo, and quickly sobered up:
Why? Because while Gang-ho Dong is often the butt of jokes because of his weight and size, he is also a former ssireum champion, and retains an image as a genuinely strong ex-wrestler…
…whereas Lee Guk-joo is overweight, in a country where a lot of television humor revolves around female comedians’ supposed ugliness and obesity. So, not knowing anything about her, and watching her perform for the first time above, it suddenly felt like I was joining in that all too common chorus of laughing at the fat girl; My Ear’s Pig, suddenly rendered a guilty pleasure at best, until I see Baek Ji-young perform it with people of a range of body types.*
But first impressions can be mistaken. Because Lee Guk-joo, it turns out, is the very last person in need of my pity:
(Sources: Hikpop, Naesushi)
To learn why, read more about her cosmetic endorsements, her other cover songs, and her general, all-round spunkiness at Seoulbeats, in a post which I can’t possibly do justice to here. Sorry for the abrupt ending, but it’s true.
To further persuade you (my emphasis):
…She is not allowing her weight to pigeonhole her personality, which she has expressed in an interview. Unlike what some would have you believe, she is fully capable of expressing her true self without apology and refuses to be discriminated for superficial reasons. Her physical makeup will neither hinder nor propel her for the simple fact that she has made up her mind not to be marketed through purely visceral means.
Having someone like this come into the market as a new role model for women is a welcome change in Korean entertainment. Lee Gook-joo doesn’t shy away from the spotlight because others would deem her unworthy, but rather she exhibits a glowing confidence that isn’t to be underestimated. She is a role model for those of us who appreciate a fun, outspoken woman who isn’t afraid to work her way to the top…
I’ve never been so happy to be so mistaken.
And how was your Monday? ;)
- Are Gorgeous Comediennes Really That Rare? Your Thoughts (The Atlantic)
- What Donald Duck, Hani, and Big Tits Taught Me About Body-Image in Korean Comedy (The Grand Narrative)
- “I am a plus sized girl living in Korea and I feel so unattractive.” (Life)
*The lyrics do require meat-lovers, but not necessarily those with the girth to match. And that applies to Baek Ji-young’s lines just as much as her partner(s)’.