12/23/2021 – That’s Messed Up, Yuri

Kwon Yuri, The Matrix Resurrections preview

Unless you’re a stranger ’round this way, you know that we at With Eyes East are big fan of Yuri. I’d say “fans,” but that’s a half-hearted ruse I can’t sustain for even one sentence. Born Kwon Yu-ri and famous for her membership in Girls’ Generation, Yuri quickly became one of my favorite idols for her charm and friendly demeanor. Unfortunately, we’re all subject to the old maxim: never meet your heroes, or contemporarily, never be on the Internet. Had you not, you might’ve dodged this winner: “Girls’ Generation’s Yuri Under Fire For Eliminating A Contestant On “My Teenage Girl” For Her Visuals” from Koreaboo, with the brilliantly deadpan subheading: “She was criticized.”

“Girls’ Generation‘s Yuri is currently serving as a judge on MBC‘s My Teenage Girl. However, while fellow judge (G)I-DLE‘s Soyeon recently gained praised for her judging commentary on the show, Yuri is under fire for a recent comment made. As Yuri was making her decision on whether or not to pass a contestant, 15 year old Lee Seung Eun, she praised Seung Eun for her skills in dancing and singing, but later decided on eliminating her for a reason that drew criticism. According to Yuri, the young girl did not have a face that would attract stans.”

I know there’s more to this story, but let’s pause here a moment. This is actually pretty serious, and while my instinct to defend Yuri is unhelpful bias (and we’ll see, as ever unneeded), how in God’s name does this even happen? I’ve recently been made aware of an American competition show called Come Dance with Me, which is this, according to CBS.com: “LL COOL J and Chris O’Donnell, longtime NCIS: Los Angeles co-stars, serve as executive producers on an emotional competition series that spotlights gifted young dancers from around the country who invite an untrained family member or influential adult, who has supported them throughout their journey, to be their dance partner. The new pairs then face off in showdowns for a spectacular grand prize.”

Yuri

I’ve plenty made my distaste for NCIS: Los Angeles known on this Asian pop culture blog, so I won’t reiterate any simmerance toward LL Cool J and Other Guy. Their new one is just another weird competition show that puts weirdos on camera and has slightly more googleable weirdos judge them on style and poise. After having witnessed seasons of the execrable Dance Moms for my job, I’m still uncomfortable at the notion of making these on-camera weirdos children. And dancing children? It may not technically or even morally be exploitative or fodder for predators or whatever, but I don’t like it. Child brains are too in-development to handle whatever psychological damage national television does to a person, and judging them all the while would only exacerbate that.

Well, dancing is only one facet of idoldom, isn’t it? Perhaps I should be criticizing not America but my beloved Korea, which I should just marry since I talk about it so much. According to Wikipedia, My Teenage Girl is “a South Korean reality survival show created by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (abbreviated as MBC) for trainees above the age of 10 years old.” So you’re telling me at least one of the contestants is eleven. And I guess this sort of culture is where the frantic anxiety of Squid Game comes from. Of course, I’m not here to pass judgment, because I’d only be passing judgment on myself, and nobody wants that.

Yuri

There’s an unfunny irony to the narrative that Yuri is now one of the gatekeepers, the difference between stardom and obscurity for teenage girls, because she was that teenage girl once upon a time. And being a “dark-skinned,” healthy-looking idol (her own words, sort of) with a likely inconvenient resemblance to Yoona, Yuri’s probably heard and read it all. What I’m describing here is essentially the cycle of abuse, only given formal structure by television production and broadcast. Now the judged has become the judge, and so on — literally, as when whoever wins My Teenage Girl goes on to host Quest of Idol or Comeback Queens fifteen, or let’s be real, three years from now.

A later article clarifies that Yuri’s degrading comments were poorly contextualized by the program’s editing, so let’s redirect our anger at the poor schlubs diddling on Avid Media Composer and making below minimum wage. In the meantime, this episode was more eye-opening to me than I would’ve liked, otherwise content in my ignorance. If we took the Yuri comments at face value, I still wouldn’t have blamed Yuri for making them. She’d be doing exactly what she was hired to do, judging teenage girls on their aptitude for idol life, and a major part of that is visual appearance. It isn’t okay, but that’s why My Teenage Girl is the problem. That’s why the idol industry is the problem. In short, I don’t like to be reminded that this whole thing is completely messed up, and I’m hoping in 2022 to get at least a few answers toward the ethical consumption of K-pop. This, instead of losing weight.

Now, that’s goofy

For our final bit, I’ll be seeing The Matrix Resurrections soon, which is no more The Matrix 4 than The Matrix Reloaded is The Matrix 2, let’s please remember, so this is a most precious time between my learning about the film and being endowed with a lifelong opinion. Since The Matrix has always been Asia-adjacent, I might be posting a review soon (to buffer out my pathetic review numbers, and because I remembered I meant to write something in anticipation of this movie and John Wick 4, now a 2023 release). Regardless all this logistical drivel, I had the most extraordinary thought this morning: depending on how things go, The Matrix Resurrections may very well round out a trilogy.

I know what you’re thinking, “But the new Matrix is the fourth movie!” Well, calm yourself. Just as commentators and even editors have noted that the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy could be done down to two solid films, we might say that The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions work better as a single entity. This resolves the tension that The Matrix never warranted or intended a sequel, never mind a saga, for now we have the original, a plot-based sequel, and whatever Resurrections will be — a strange coda, perhaps? Judging by the prerelease material, it looks like a truer sequel to The Matrix, with hardly a shot in that first trailer something other than a remix of familiar imagery. The pod fields are bigger and pinker, the mirrors liquidy, the bullet-time action down hallways and up rooftops, and no mecha in sight. It’s possible we could have a very interesting film cycle by the end of this, a series just loopy enough to contain a soft reboot within its own thematic continuity. Until they make The Matrix 5.

My last pre-viewing note is that based on that first trailer, it doesn’t appear both Neo and Trinity don’t recognize each other. My interpretation was that Neo is taken aback that Trinity didn’t recognize him, but every last person I spoke to (one person) seemed to think it was the previously noted incorrect interpretation. I just had to get this off my chest because I’ve been looking for the proper channel to express it ever since that trailer. Was this the proper channel? Stay tuned.

Yuri


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