Friday, March 15, 2013

Gangnam Style

I am not out of touch with popular culture because I am old and sad.  I am out of touch with popular culture by choice.  More on that in a moment.  But in the meantime . . .

I chaperoned Ada's Kindergarten field trip to Purina Farms today.  Past the exhibits, petting zoo, tunnel maze, and cow milking demonstration, they put on a demonstration where energetic dogs do trick jumps for frisbees and race through agility courses.  A few minutes before the show started, they blasted some music to pump up the crowd.  And, boy, did it work!  All but about 3 of the kids from Ada's class jumped up and went to the top of the stands to do a line dance.  I was sort of familiar with the song - like I've heard it at malls or whatever - but I didn't know what it was until, suddenly, "Oppan Gangnam Style!"

"Oh, wow," Ada's teacher said.  "That's like my entire class."

"What are you teaching them?!" answered one of the other kindergarten teachers on the trip.

"Not that!"

Oh, so *that's* what that song is!  I've heard of "Gangnam Style," of course, but I didn't know the song, or the dance, or what Gangnam Style means.  Tonight, I suggested to Paul that we might not be fully human, or at least not exist in this century, if we don't know who PSY is and what the craze is all about.  So we set out to educate ourselves with the music video, then some related internet research.  While we were at it, I checked out "So Call Me Maybe" and "If you liked it you shoulda put a ring on it." (Apparently, the latter is from a Beyonce song from when Ada was a year old. Oops.)  So now I'm at least tangentially aware of some of the things in the zeitgeist. 

But I'm still not showing my kids that PSY video.  And I'm a little horrified that so many other little kids are intimately familiar with it.  If Ada gets curious about "Gangnam Style," I'll find a video of some kids doing the dance and let her watch it until we learn the moves.  It's a catchy tune and a funny dance.  But the actual PSY music video?  No thanks.

One of the parodies Paul found was a My Little Pony version of the song.  Ada loves My Little Pony and all things horse.  This video ends with one of the female Ponies presenting her backside to the singing Pony for mounting.  Pretty much exactly as the hot chicks in the real video do.

You know, I just haven't yet found the right moment to sit my girls down and have The Talk with them.  Not the sex talk or the bodies-change-as-we-grow-up talk, they get the basic gist of all that. I mean The Talk wherein I break the news to them that, as girls, their bodies are commodities and their value is weighed by how they look and how fuckable they are.  That talk.  Because that value system is clearly implicit in the "Gangnam Style" music video, and it's no shock to me that - while everyone watches the video - it's particularly popular with 13-17 year-old-boys.

Oh, the "Gangnam Style" video is not that bad.  It's probably tame, really, compared to other music videos.  But that's exactly why I've opted out of so much of popular culture, and why I'm very careful about how much and what sorts my girls are exposed to.  As much as I can be, anyway.

Some time in the late 1990's or early 2000's, I got depressed at how so much of the music I really, really enjoyed was blatantly, sometimes violently, misogynistic.  And, finally, I'd had enough.  I moved NPR to my first preset, and, eventually, my only local preset radio station.  (My other presets are mostly NPR stations in various places I visit regularly.)  I'm not up on every trend, but I don't think I'm missing anything important.  And I know I'm much happier.  I think my children are better off, too, listening to music and consuming media I find to be kid-appropriate.  They'll push back soon, I know.  But for now, we're all content. 

P.S. While Ada's classmates were dancing, she happily sat on my lap and watched (the cement stands were cold today!).  When the next song started, she wanted to go dance with them.  She had a wonderful time.  Then all the kids sat back down to watch the dogs, and that was the end of it.  Ada wasn't curious about the song or dance that got all the kids moving.  To her, the kids were just dancing and having fun.  She joined in when she felt like it.  A couple of years ago, I overheard Ellie discussing Justin Bieber with 1st grade classmates.  They were debating whether or not he was likable.  She had an opinion and fit right into the conversation, though I'm relatively certain she has no idea who Bieber is.  That seemed irrelevant to the conversation.

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