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Reload the Canons!

This series of articles is an attempt to play through The Canon of videogames: your Metroids, your Marios, your Zeldas, your Pokemons, that kind of thing.

Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Oppa Gangnam Style, Whether You Like It Or Not

Keeper isn’t here right now. Keeper went away. Keeper’s gone.

This is Yanmato. There’s a small but distinct possibility you remember my doodle-infested guest article
or my terribly written spooky memoir, and if so you understand that I am not an artistically adept
individual. I have no idea how art works; this blog is the closest thing to any formal education I have in
that arena. But I am capable of being thoughtful, when I want to be, and of putting myself in the frame
of mind an artist asks of me, when I want to go there. And that’s all I need to do close reading, and
discuss art, if not in a revolutionary way, then at least in a meaningful way that lets everyone involved
take something more out of it. Your regular host does it all the time, and it really is as easy as it looks.

Here, watch.

Yes, that’s what you think it is. Go on. Watch it. It’s a music video, and that means it’s art, and that
means we can think about it. Besides, I think this video is much more than just another absurd internet
meme, that it really deserves the praise it receives. So this is a great chance to tell everyone in earshot

Let’s follow Keeper’s example. Don’t go looking for deep, cerebral symbolism just yet, or get bogged
down in tiny-but-possibly-deliberate details. Just keep your mind relaxed and flexible and pay attention.

The video starts off by showing us a pretty lady fanning our Pop Star for this particular video, and it’s
easy to notice that he matches about 10% of the criteria for a traditionally attractive Pop Star, and that’s
including things like “has ears.” He’s basking in the sun on the bea- wait, no. No, he’s on a playground.
He’s sunbathing on a playground. The video doesn’t slow down long enough for us to really question
it, though. We’re off to sing and dance in a location not appropriate for singing and dancing, as is the
default for a pop music video. Wait, this is a stable. Full of horses. No one asked to see that. But the
video’s already moving on to another music video cliché: strutting in front of a fan! Except this fan is
spraying garbage all over everyone. After a few cuts they switch to the marginally more sane fake snow,
but it just wrecks everyone’s clothes and gets in the singer’s mouth. Next, a Pop Star leans into the
personal space a large, clearly perturbed man without provocation and ogles a third fellow who’s still
inappropriately dancing, as though everyone else forgot they were in a music video for a moment. At
least one person is still doing their job. The sauna, like the stable, isn’t a location that leaps to mind as
“okay” for a music video.

This first minute or so has pretty much set the tone for the entire video. The locales selected for
choreography never get any more glamorous or photogenic, from the side of a boat (safety first,
wear your hideous life jacket) to an active carousel, and a party van that a watchful viewer will note is
populated almost exclusively by the elderly.

There’s quite a lot more going on in the video, of course. There’s a dance-off with an Informed Rival
who is, if anything, even less traditionally attractive than the Pop Star. They both dance terribly. He
also spends some time lounging between the legs of a man who’s chosen an empty elevator to “dance”
(ecstatically thrust his pelvis) in. He also oversees two old men playing a board game in an empty lot.
He takes a moment to literally scream at some fitness-oriented woman’s shapely behind- man, he really
loses his cool. He nearly drowns in a hot tub. In slow motion. We get to watch.

So what did we see? From start to finish, the video ran the gamut of all the biggest tropes and trappings
of pop music videos. And every last one attempted was pulled off with as much distance from the
“correct” execution as feasibly possible. There was no real message or idea behind the strangeness,
either. This isn’t a deconstruction. It’s not a surreal parody. It’s just… wrong. They tried to make a video
and they did it all wrong.

And yet…

It was awesome, wasn’t it? That guy was so cool.

In case you were wondering, that constant refrain translates as “Oppa is gangnam style.” Gangnam
style is a Korean colloquialism for someone or something that’s praiseworthy simply by virtue of being
great. Someone or something remarkably cool in its own right. A good translation of the sentiment and
the tone it conveys would be “swag,” or to say someone “wins at life.” And the piece itself didn’t lose
sight of how swag it was for one second. The video already knew it was fabulous; it doesn’t remember
ASKING for your opinion. All the gross or just inappropriate sets were filmed DRAMATICALLY and
with GUSTO. The dance-off was serious business. Even though every last detail on its own should’ve
provoked distaste, but the stitched-together monstrosity somehow ended up shaped like an appealing,
gangnam style video.

Even if the impression was lost on you, you’re one of the only ones, as evidence in and outside the video
shows. The Informed Rival evidently had the means to purchase and maintain a very nice car, somehow,
and Oppa (the singer) has ladies on his arm every second his hands are free. And look at the number of
views the video has racked up: over four and a half hundred million as of this writing (And one and a half BILLION since its way-belated-because-I-am-the-worst-editor posting --Keeper) and steadily rising.
Somehow, despite failing to do a single thing that by all commonly accepted, popular measures would
qualify as “cool” (Not just that, but taking countless opportunities to be exceedingly uncool), Oppa and
his video are among the coolest things in the entire internet right now.

The video didn’t just abandon every single pop music cliché it had the time to note. It outright disdained
them all. But it still effortlessly achieved all the soaring, untouchable glamor that the rest of pop music
would have you believe those clichés are necessary to wield even to attempt reaching.

The conclusion: the video was a demonstration. An overwhelmingly successful one at that. The message
being that one does not need to answer to anyone else’s definition of coolness to be cool. Greatness in
any form is about a lot of things that are hard to realize, but it’s never about being beholden to anyone
other than oneself. You don’t win people’s approval by asking for it; you do it by being something they
can’t resist approving.

Oppa is a little heavy.
Oppa breathes through his mouth.
Oppa is a spaz.
Oppa is a weirdo.
Oppa is kind of a pervert.
But dammit, Oppa is gangnam style.
And no one can deny it. Even if they want to.

Wait. Wait, that’s not what the moral of this article was supposed to be about. The point was that
anyone can legitimately examine art, and by extension, that art is for everyone rather than the educated
elite, but I suppose that’s one of the vast, overarching themes of this entire blog.

…So just stick with the Oppa thing, I guess.

Yan and I agree that this video, which messes cleverly with the original video's sound, just further proves his point about the uncool coolness. Whatever you do to Gangnam Style, it just ends up even more entertaining. Circle me on Google+ at As always, you can e-mail me at If you liked this piece please share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, Equestria Daily, Xanga, MySpace, or whathaveyou, and leave some thoughts in the comments below.

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