Friday, October 05, 2007

Score with Samsung Card!

The photo below was linked to by the Marmot a few weeks ago and the only thing I could think of when I looked at it was how odd the woman's stance is. If she had been standing next to a Korean man I probably wouldn't have noticed it, but the juxtaposition with a foreigner really made her contrived pose stand out. Her pose is like something out of a Renaissance painting depicted Mary as purity defined, but her smile and the tilt of her head is more subservient, as if she was straight out of that Manet painting of the scene in a room salon (as the night drags on, of course, it's harder to maintain that smile). So is that what whoever was in charge of this photo shoot wanted to convey - purity and subservience?

A few days later I saw other images of Korean speaking women - except that this time they were foreigners.

I saw this advertisement in the theatre before watching the Simpsons Movie, so it really stood out, and things that look small in that video were very obvious on the big screen. My friend pointed out that the blond is a Canadian who's appeared on Minyeodeuli Suda (I immediately assumed they were from that show). A Korean comedian on Misuda was at the center of an uproar back in December (though the person most directly affected by this didn't show any anger over it when she was later interviewed). The show has apparently gone through a metomorphosis over the past few months, as discussed over at the Paint Roller blog. A few other ads featuring the women who have appeared on this show can be found here and here.

Anyways, regarding the ad above, there's not much more to say that it's really, really bizarre, especially looking at the Canadian woman. I can't say I've ever met a Canadian woman who acts anything like what we see above, though I have seen Korean women (especially in their teens and twenties) act in a similar manner, though nowhere near as exaggerated as in the ad. It reminds me of a conversation I had the other night discussing to what degree foreigners adopt (or copy, really) Korean mannerisms as they get to know the culture and language, and to what degree they retain their own cultures' mannerisms, such as when they add a slight bow to a handshake, or at the more elaborate end, learn Korean drinking ettiquette, which is quite a bit more complex than, say, Canadian ettiquette, but is necessary to have some knowledge of in order not to offend people. Now most likely, the behavior in this ad is more heavily influenced by its producers than by the fact that these women have acquired some of the mannerisms of Korean women their age, but at the same time, they would have had to draw on some sort of experience (perhaps just by watching TV) to be making the exaggerated facial expressions they did.

In the end, several questions are raised. I know the Canadian woman is not acting like a Canadian woman normally would, so I'm left assuming they're acting like Korean women; but what kind of Korean women? Or are they supposed to represent how Koreans think foreign women should act when they interact with Korean men (when speaking Korean)? Someone could really have fun writing about the construction of feminity in Korea in part by looking at this ad and looking at the whole Minyeoduli phenomenom. I'm not going to, mind you, but it's worth a few observations. Again, like the photo at the top of this post, where the Korean woman's pose stood out for me due to her standing next to a foreigner, in the ad above the behavior stands out and seems strange because it's being performed by foreign women. One thing that stands out is how childish they seem; at a guess, one might assume they're middle school girls standing outside SBS studios waiting for Superjunior to appear, not women in their twenties hearing about the benefits of using Samsung Card. It goes without saying that it's just an ad and that ads always construct fantasies of one type or another, but it's worth asking just what kind of fantasy they're trying to depict. Now, I rarely watch TV, but from what I've seen it seems Korean TV ads don't have the self-parody or sometimes a slightly subversive edge you find on North American TV (correct me if I'm wrong). A few people I know in marketing have told me ad companies often make one or two ads, and the good, funny ones are often turned down in favor of more 'straight and narrow' ads. The rejected ads do turn up from time to time after being leaked, such as this one (probably not safe for work).

Anyways, back to the kind of fantasy being depicted in the ad, or at least the depiction of these women, who speak and act Korean but are foreign, who seem to be acting like they're ten years younger than they are, and who are going way over the top in their depiction and looking quite silly, especially in the still shots:

Of course, making people look silly is pretty common; though foreigners are treated to this quite often, they shouldn't go thinking they're they only ones being targeted by any stretch of the imagination (oddly enough this clip caused a bit of a scandal). It's not so much the silliness or frivolousness of the ad that stood out, but once again the subservience, especially once the 'unattractive' middle-aged guy begins talking to the women and the women react by fawning over him Samsung Card. It happens so fast in the ad that I didn't notice what happens at the end until I saw this screenshot :

I'll leave it to you to imagine where they might be off to next. Perhaps someone in the marketing department came up with the slogan "Samsung Card: Helps average middle-aged men score with foreign women who act like they're thirteen," but decided to change it.

On a somewhat related note, there are lots of foreign actors doing ads on Japanese TV here. The Arnold Schwarzenegger ones have to be seen to be believed.


Anonymous said...

your reading into it too much buddy.

Anonymous said...

i have to agree with the above poster. seems to me they're just acting like bubbly women. it's an ad so we understand the embellished nature of their behavior.


ps thank you for your wonderful blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're reading too much into it at all, and agree with the entire post. Like I say in a post on my own blog that I'll link to below, when bizarre notions of occidentalism and "feminine virtue" mean that Korean lingerie ads, for instance, can't have KOREAN models in them, then even minor changes in the way non-Koreans are presented on TV here assume much more significance than a casual examination suggests.

Having said all that, I don't watch much Korean TV at all these days, but I did notice the Western woman you mention in an "S-Oil" recently too. I wonder how much of a regular feature she'll be on Korean TV from now on.

Cheers, James.

Anonymous said...

when bizarre notions of occidentalism and "feminine virtue" mean that Korean lingerie ads, for instance, can't have KOREAN models in them,

Korean underwear ads used to have only Koreans in them (and many still do). The reason for white women in the lingerie ads is a way of showing that Korea has reached the status of a rich country: "Look! We're just like Japan in that we can afford to have gaijin models come here to do our ads!"

Matt, the women on this show simply represent the producers' desire to have energy and excitement on their show so that people won't turn the channel. Bubbly is always easier to find than intellect, so producers usually seek that out.

In other words, the Misuda women are probably representative of foreigners in the same way that the contestants on Deal or No Deal are representative of Americans.

Anonymous said...

I see your point about white women in the lingerie ads signifying developed country status, and I acknowledge that lingerie stores have Korean women in the windows in their advertisements.

But I still disagree about Korean women being on ads on TV. Sure, I haven't done an objective study of them...although the task doesn't sound too onerous...but when I used to watch late-night TV here it was almost impossible to avoid lingerie infomercials. Those did indeed feature Korean women, but they'd always be walking along a catwalk wearing normal clothes and HOLDING the lingerie on a coat hanger. After they turned back the white women would come up, wearing nothing but the product. It was pretty ridiculous really.

I admit, I have also seen some Korean stars in lingeries ads by themselves, but they're always wearing clothes over the lingerie. For the sake of completeness, I've just spent 10 mins surfing Korean lingerie companies' websites searching for Korean models as well, but to no avail. If you know of any, please let me know!

I should really shut up by this point, but seriously after being bombarded with so many lingerie ads here on a daily basis even a priest would find them difficult to avoid, and even he would think it odd that the only ones with a Korean women displaying the products were in store windows.

Anonymous said...

I'm more surprised about the douchebag that's hosting the Minyoduluisuda show, since he was so anti-American during the period after the two girls were killed. He wrote editorials condemning the Korean police as race traitors for doing their job protecting Yongsan from demonstrators. He must be a whore for the money to put up with all the foreigners.