I don’t know when you can consider yourself a fan of something, especially for things with prominent fan culture, like K-pop. For some, I imagine, being a fan is like taking on an identity. I certainly remember what it was like being a groupie, following the cast of a TV show around Hollywood for events and shows and things. It was pretty weird. I made some good friends, though. One of them so good, that when I was leaving Los Angeles last summer, he suggested we hang out and do a double feature of The Raid 2 and The Night Comes for Us, rather than go out to a bar — which I hate doing. Not a socialite, but I did sense that I was developing as a social creature with this new group, because barring my fellow Indonesian kung fu enthusiast, it was made up entirely of women. I’d had a single woman friend before – a token, but for a time she was also my only friend – but this was a new experience. Essentially, I had to learn how to talk to them, to make sure I was doing my part to maintain a good space. The show we were fans of was all about a diverse, inclusive world, so it would have been weird to not replicate it ourselves. For the most part, there was no drama, nothing weird happened, and unlike all my prior friend groups, there was no competition of any sort. No rivalries, no gatekeeping. … More 01/18/2022 – Naeun’s Turn
Yeah, so this is a movie, and it’ll be out in a month. How I’ll be able to wait that long is anyone’s guess. I opened the Instagram app while the Yellowjackets season finale was paused and what was there to greet me? Seohyun’s latest post, this poster. It’s been over two hours now and I’m still shaking. That part at the end of the episode with Shauna and Jackie might be playing a part, also the incredible cold here in New England, but this is gonna distract me for a good long while. … More 01/17/2022 – That’s Messed Up, Seohyun
As you can see, this is headlined by Kim Tae-ri, who I know from The Handmaiden but is also famous for Mr. Sunshine. In fact, the only thing I know about Mr. Sunshine is that image of her with a period rifle. Lookin’ good! But this is the first time it’s the behind-the-scenes personnel that’s claimed my attention, specifically the writer Kwon Do-eun, whose previous (and first) K-drama was Search: WWW, which I won’t shut up about and have more to talk about later. … More New K-Drama Alert! Twenty Five Twenty One
So, in the world of K-pop, SM Entertainment recently put together a supergroup made up of members of Girls’ Generation, Red Velvet, and Aespa, all led by the Queen of K-pop BoA (as if they weren’t busy enough?). With the rush of the holidays, I barely had time to even process this, because it’s an unreal lineup: you have the superstar vocals of Taeyeon and Wendy, the crazy dance talent of Hyoyeon and Seulgi. It’s also an opportunity to educate myself, as I’m not studied enough to be able to tell BoA from newcomer Winter. I know, it’s shameful, I’m sorry. Karina is easily identifiable because she’s the one who looks like Taeyeon. I mean, it’s uncanny. And the group is called Girls on Top, a BoA callback that’s only too appropriate given the star power. They debuted their first song at SM Town Live 2022 over New Years, and, uh, I don’t know. I don’t even want to say it for fear of turning into a pillar of salt, but it’s bad. … More 01/02/2022 – I Really Wanted to Love This
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 scroll through headlines. 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.” … More 12/23/2021 – That’s Messed Up, Yuri
Funny story with this one; I’d checked to see, “Hey, when’s that new Korean cool girl show out?” and it was that day, Oct. 16. Two thoughts seized me, then: “Yay!” and “I should write about this.” See, I’ve been on kind of an SEO tear lately, which is partly why the last several posts have skewed entirely Korean. That seems to be the country of the week, and I’m glad there’s a country of the week at all. I just happened to see the SNL Squid Game parody, and that’s how you know you’ve made it, aside from the massive revenue. The recent post I did about Squid Game, in fact, was a cynical product, and even a bit rushed as a result — a hastily-thought-out premise effecting a strange contrarian opinion. But once I read that review of Parasite, I couldn’t let it go. And then comes My Name, yet another Netflix K-drama, and this one — unlike Squid Game — actually appealed directly to my sensibilities (which probably makes for a less compelling post, because I tend to say the same, uncomfortable thing). But because I’d checked, I had the opportunity to post something that very premiere day. … More K-Drama Report: My Name (2021) Follow-Up
I’m three episodes into My Name and already desperate to continue. On paper, it’s tailor-made to my sensibilities, those which I’ve struggled to communicate on this blog. My only remotely successful With Eyes East YouTube video is a wild-eyed plea to Hollywood, or Indonesian Hollywood, or anyone with a camera and a gallon of fake blood, to cast Julie Estelle and contribute to her undoubtedly skyward journey. I hardly got this point across in the video, but Estelle represents, to me, a new kind of action star. Where the Hong Kong heroines from the ‘60s through the‘90s were simply working with a different sort of market — less bloodsoaked and crazy, with notable exceptions — and modern actresses dip from time to time into action with mixed results, say Kim Ok-vin or Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the image Julie Estelle has built for herself so far has the potential to stay gory at the intersection of Indonesia’s auteurs and the international market’s appetite. … More K-Drama Report: My Name (2021)
I know I still have a long way to go on my K-pop journey, and am in no way claiming the authority necessary to even ask this question. But sometimes there’s music so compelling that the only way to express my feelings is with superlative. It’s shortsighted, and I’ve been burned on listicles before (because I live dangerously, apparently), but this is my current thought process. Sometimes I think I know which is number one, but then it changes. I do know better than to ask for input, unless the spiders have opinions, but if you’re reading this sometime in the future, let me know your take, and your top three. And don’t forget to like, comm– oh, right, spiders. … More 10/08/2021 – The Three Greatest K-Pop Songs?
One of the stranger experiences I have on Twitter is witnessing non-Koreans speak in defense of Korean pop culture against the clutches of Hollywood, as it’s both heartening to witness and not something I completely agree with. The assertion is that America doesn’t understand what made these originals so great, that X factor unique to the culture. Admittedly, we have a proven track record, from The Uninvited to Oldboy, to still easternmore scars like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. And yet, we say that a film like Parasite is distinctly Korean but universally understood. Train to Busan is better without a remake despite that remakes are a cornerstone of the zombie subgenre. And then there’s our Squid Game, and if you must take what little remains, hey, The Running Man is good! Believe me, I get the concern that American adaptations won’t capture what the originals are saying — but what are they saying? … More Three More the Korean Way: Wow, Cool Capitalist Critique!
As is customary with the “Recommended K-Drama” feature, I’ll explain my choice, though as always, I’d really rather not. “OMG, actress X” is one thing, but just wait. See, I first heard about Madame Antoine via YouTube, mentioned in a video essay about sexual assault in K-dramas. I’ll be sure to link the video in the future, but not in the context of this post. Specifically, the video discussed female perpetrators, for example the “ajumma” trope, where middle-aged women flock together and harass the young male lead. The problem, the video emphasizes, is that these scenarios are comedic. These women have no compunctions about inappropriate touching, and the usually strong man can’t speak against it because of Korea’s social hierarchy. A cultural thing, but this should ring familiar to anyone well-acquainted with American pop culture, where sexual assault is funny when a lady’s doing it. Accordingly, the video cites a moment from this show Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist, where a girl — a noona, not an ajumma — forcefully kisses a guy under the guise of helping him practice kissing the girl he’s actually attracted to. It’s also a “no becomes yes” scene, for anyone playing trope bingo. Please understand that when I say what I’m about to say, I’m not winking. Sexual assault is always wrong, and that’s a baseline for membership into human civilization. But the truth is, I proceeded to watch Madame Antoine because this scene sparked in me a perverse desire. … More Madame Antoine: The Love Therapist | Recommended Korean Drama