In November, I did a lot of content consumption. It was all incredibly interesting stuff! Any errors on my commentary under the pieces are because I did this via a dictation software across the month! 😀
Peter Jackson’s trilogy, while spectacular and ground-breaking in many ways, is glaringly white. Worse, the human villains are all coded as non-white; “bad men” from the East and the South, complete with either veils and kohl, or bearing tribal tattooing and scarification and riding mythical elephants. Worst of all, the inhuman Uruk Hai – muscled and merciless – have black skin and dreadlocks. While some of this British colonial racism and eugenicist thought are a reflection of the source material itself, Jackson made a – possibly thoughtless – choice to remain “faithful” to those parts of the text and even to exacerbate them. As a result, racist fans were not alienated by the films but accommodated, allowed to believe that their extremely racist interpretation of Tolkein’s work was the correct one. The film trilogy benefited from their racist support and everyone involved in it is therefore complicit in the abuse now raining down on series’ cast of colour (particularly the black cast, and more particularly the black women cast). The comments directed at Nomvete and Cruz Cordóva are not generic racism: they are rooted in the racist lore and imagery that Jackson’s films perpetuated. One of most frequent comments on Nomvete’s picture is “better be an Uruk Hai”.
I grew up on Lord of the rings and so growing up in the fandom, I realized very quickly that the negative aspect of Lord of the rings where people of color were absent from the narrative was a bonus for a large majority of the fandom. Unlike the Harry Potter fandom which would go on to racebend characters like Harry and Hermione, the Lord Of The Rings fandom never really took to racebending as a thing they could or even wanted to do. Instead, they seemed really happy to be faced with a version of Middle Earth where all the elves were white, and all of the men were too. The films, that I grew up with, were integral to building a fandom identity as an extremely online tween for many people in English language fandom who are my age at this point.
The problem is that when faced with updates to the franchise where characters might be of color who aren’t background characters or silent extras, the fandom doesn’t have a good reaction. Even before we see who all have been cast within the upcoming series that Amazon is doing, there is a history of Lord Of The Rings fans being upset at the concept of racebending even within their own communities. People who are fan artists or fanfic writers that choose to portray these characters using ethnic groups in our world, can expect to get really rude messages from diehard fans of the franchise. They’re subject to racism, even if they are not of color themselves, because they have chosen to “deviate” from Tolkien’s vision. And we’re told that these are all white men. We’re told that the Lord Of The Rings fans, like the Star Wars fans who raged at The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy having people of color in relatively prominent roles, are all white men.
But that is not true and honestly, that’s why transformative fandom has a white supremacy problem that I don’t see any way to fix. Because people assume it’s all white men, so white women have nothing to do with any of it. Which leaves them to wallow in the mire of white supremacy in fandom and get worse. Anyway, I don’t know what Amazon will do with their Lord of the rings show or the fandom that builds from it, but I am frustrated that 20 years after the original massive trilogy came out from Peter Jackson, fandom still maintains that they don’t have a race problem even while being publicly and actively racist.
It’s always so hard to pare down my links to a manageable amount rather than pouring out the entirety of my bookmarks for the month. But between last time and now, I have read some incredible things! Here’s a sampling with the usual added commentary.
She finishes her brief segment on her Twilight Apologia grievance by doing a classic “see I’m a liberal ally to the brown folks” move straight out of a JK Rowling’s tweet: adding the link to the Quileute tribe’s fundraiser to prove that she’s not racist, she cares about ACTUAL problems that the Quileute folks face. Not something as trivial as representation in Twilight but REAL problems. Clearly she cares more about indigenous issues than the indigenous people she’s arguing with.
In any case, you don’t need to be native to know there isn’t much sincerity to someone who dedicates two hours to taking shots of whiskey for every “apology” they have to make. Quite frankly it would’ve saved her time to just upload a five second Youtube video of her telling us to eat shit. The same message would’ve been delivered expeditiously.
A lot of people think that ignoring a problem like racism in media – here anti-Native racism in Twilight and Pocahontas… and Ellis’ coverage of both after the fact – will just make it go away. Add in a heaping helping of Ellis weaponizing her white womanhood and lumping in real Natives trying to educate her in with the very legitimate harassment she does get… And you’ve got a disastrous approach in one.
I thought this piece by Ali Nahdee was brilliant, insightful, and is a must-read for people who genuinely care about representation in media, fighting anti-Native racism, and holding ourselves and our favorite content creators accountable. In this country, Indigenous communities are mistreated and misrepresented as the norm. Media is one of the biggest ways that their cultures are repackaged – often being boiled down to a single experience set up to serve for the whole – and it’s important to recognize when we and our favorite/popular cultural critics drop the ball on recognizing that.
Initially, I was just going to write like a TINY amount on the actual video for the DNA Remix that H1GHR just dropped for my Music Video Anatomy series on my site. But then Jay Park dropped that whopper of an essay in the comments for the video and I just… I had to do it to him. I had to make a video. Like my video pushing back at the content in the DKDKTV “bros drink soju and talk about BLM” video, this is just me airing my frustrations with a constant form of antiblackness I see. In this case, the way that Jay Park specifically talks down to Black Americans who express frustration with his persistent hood cosplay.
For the still in-progress transcript (now in final edits): I could not have gotten this out with the help of Hayden who handled the majority of the transcription and clarifications (for cultural references and Korean language since my audience is largely US-based). You can find them on:
I don’t know that I get any particular vibes from the settings used in “Bermuda Triangle”? The video opens with a wasteland shot in black and white, swings to a neon-lit alley where the trio play at being gangsters for Zico’s first verse and part of Crush’s, the second verse is set in… maybe an outdoor restaurant… Then there’s the hotel room – very luxe even before the introduction of the money all over the bed and the hot tub surrounded by expensive alsochol bottles- and the church – because Zico’s Catholic faith is so important to him that it was actually maybe one of the first things I knew about him?
There are things about “Bermuda Triangle”’s different settings that I can… squint and see as nods to hip hop culture and other artists’ videos? Shots – like Zico in the hot tub – that give me “Godfather” energy and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was on purpose because of how hip hop artists worldwide reach for that film to signal at how hood and hardcore they are.
Missed what I’ve been doing with Music Video Anatomy? For the most recent installments, I covered Jay Park’s 몸매 (MOMMAE) and Taeyang’s MA GIRL! This time though, we’re looking at a girl group that probably should’ve quit before they got started… the since disbanded WA$$UP.
Title: WA$$UP (와썹)
The main setting of WA$$UP’s debut video is a basketball court in the middle of a city – I’m honestly still not sure if this was filmed in Korea or in the United States, actually. It’s an unsubtle callback to the origins of hip hop and teenagers coming up with rhymes while playing around in their neighborhoods. (Think of the kind of setting early in Netflix’s Roxanne Roxanne!)
There’s also a dark alley where one of the members does her own spin on ghost riding next to a very expensive car that I would be worried about crashing. I don’t think it adds anything to the music video, but it’s just… funny to me.
Setting: “MOMMAE” is set in a few different “places” (I’m using the term super loosely here). A dance floor in what almost looks like an abandoned club, a bed(room?) in bi flag colors, a tanning bed, a balcony, a pool, and what’s either a house party or a nightclub. It’s a video full of lots of lingering shots of women’s bodies in these places, as they’re dancing or lounging on every surface and you’re spending so much tieme looking at these women from the neck down that the body itself – the surface area revealed by the short shorts, sports bras and the like – could almost serve as a setting where the song’s themes play out?
Sound: It’s so helpful that Gray always drops a producer tag at the start of his songs. Like If I’m on shuffle or listening to a playlist and I hear that tag, I know I’m about to get some good music. Can that man produce things that aren’t absolutely enjoyable? I have yet to come up against an example!
Anyway, as long as I don’t actually look too long at the English translations for the lyrics, this is a great song. Looking at the lyrics – especially where Jay Park raps that “니 앞에 서면 비욘세 엉덩이도 납작해/When I’m in front of you, even Beyoncé’s butt seems flat – makes me want to lift and throw him.
Last installment, we dove into BTS’ debut single “No More Dream“!
Title: 눈누난나 (NUNU NANA)
The main recognizable settings for “Nunu Nana” are a restaurant kitchen doing double duty as a gambling den, what looks like a loading dock behind a set of shops with plenty of room for a red convertible to serve as the main focus, a building under construction and used for money laundering, and a music show stage.
The car itself is a really notable set piece for me because you have three moments where It’s a huge hip hop focus: in the beginning where Jessi’s on the car and a dancer is throwing her back out in front of it, where Jessi is twerking on it after washing the hood, and then the end when she and Hyori are hanging around and in it.
It feels like calling back to video vixen visuals only Jessi is, across the video, both the star the vixen dances for and the vixen herself and while that could be good… with Jessi, it’s… just kind of funny to me.
Across Hanguk Hip Hop, Myoung-Sun Song seeks to answer several pressing questions about Korean hip hop – made by and for Koreans in Korea for the most part – and one of the ones that has stuck with me is simple, but pointed:
What is real or original about Hanguk hip hop? (6)
It’s a question that I’ve never been able to let go of as I listen to Korean artists, read translated interviews they’ve done, and watched a really large amount of music videos and live performances from a wide range of Korean artists.
It’s a question that has no real easy answer to me.
Because, if you watch Korean hip hop music videos or even the idol rappers work with their groups or forays into solo work, a lot of it sounds and looks like the stuff I’d be able to listen to on MTV or BET if they still played music videos. A ton of it looks like stuff I listened to in my teens.
Artist: pH-1, HAON, Woodie Gochild, Jay Park, Sik-K, TRADE L, Big Naughty
Setting: This music video – which does double duty as a lyric video – is set in a Mexican restaurant in what appears to be a strip mall. It’s different from the go-to setting that several past H1GHR Music artists have gone with in their hip hop pasts – high school gym, dark alleys, night clubs. The novelty of the setting works for the song… mostly.
Music Video Anatomy is something I’ve been considering for a few weeks now especially in the context of my ongoing project on anti/blackness in Korean pop and hip hop. I tweet a lot of music video links during the day and I wanted to collect some of my thoughts and music recs somewhere more organized than that site. Hence this new recurring feature. It won’t all be modern Korean pop/hip hop – I have been revisiting older pop and hip hop here in the US – but it’ll skew heavily towards that!
Title: Born Hater
Artist: Epik High featuring Beenzino, Verbal Jint, MINO (Winner), Bobby (iKON), and B.I
Especially when it comes to minor to major antiblackness in media like the kind we constantly do see from Korean pop and hip-hop artists. If you don’t mean it when you apologize, why are you apologizing in the first place?
So, I started watching Korean’s Honest Drunk Opinions on Black Lives Matter, Dreads and the N-word with a Black American on YouTube.
This is Daniel – Danny from DKDKTV. And so it has this introduction where he’s like talking to Mike, who is the black American.
And it’s like, the introduction already rubs me the wrong way, because it’s like, “should Koreans be expected to educate themselves” and it’s like Koreans aren’t infants.
Y’all need to stop infantilizing yourselves and your peers because y’all aren’t babies. Like, we should all be expected to educate ourselves about cultural sensitivities about complicated subjects.
Like if you’re going to have a platform, especially like DKDKTV does you should definitely be expected educate yourself and those guys really haven’t across the years. It’s been very like this – they have yet to do a video on blackness specifically and like anti blackness that hasn’t been kind of like shit.
And like when they brought it up in the past like when with Amber they called Amber’s like moments of anti blackness about the cops harassing that black man in the California train station. They call it a mistake her saying that he deserved what happened to him. And so these aren’t – these aren’t people that I really want talking about race, anti blackness, whatever, in general, but especially if at least one of the two is coming into it from this position of like we shouldn’t really be expected to care and like and like their their past has just been not great.
And so like, we are not even a minute in and I’m like *heavy sigh*
I remember the birth of the movement, but more than that, I remember watching the news when Zimmerman was acquitted. I remember clearly feeling anger that that man killed a child only a few years older than my oldest nieceling and was going to get away with it. Because we watched as we were told once again that Black lives didn’t matter.
I say once again because the United States is one of many countries to make it clear that Black people – our lives, our opinions, and our hopes – do not truly matter to them. The United States has a history that started with the Triangle Trade, kept on going through Reconstruction Era white supremacy up to the Civil Rights movement and –
If you haven’t checked out my essay series on Antiblackness in the K-pop Industry and its Fandom Spaces, you should! Because it’s a good way to get a grasp on my complicated and always in-flux feelings about Korean pop and hip hop music (and its stars) as well as my feelings about Korean hip hop as an art form.
I went into Yoongi’s sophomore outing as Agust D knowing that I would probably find a ton to love about the album. After all, I literally love Yoongi’s voice. I’m talking about from the literal raspy sound of it and how he delivers his fierce verses to the way that he uses his Voice to unload sharp, intricate, and interesting commentary that often seems to revolve plainly around his past, present, and future as a rapper.
Mind you though, I was primed to like Yoongi’s return to the stage as Agust D.
For one thing, I am and will probably always be, fully fucking feral for every member of BTS’ brilliant rapline. (You may remember this from my review of BTS’ February release Map of the Soul: 7 because I couldn’t shut up about it then.)