no gentleman: psy’s new clip exudes misogynist “boy’s will be boys” mentality
Along with 1.5 billion other people, I unashamedly cowboy galloped upon the Gangnam Style band-wagon when South Korean pop sensation, Psy’s hit went viral last year. The iconic clip didn’t take itself too seriously and exuded a kind of self-parodying fun that can be rare in (serious) mainstream Western pop music. So when I heard that Psy’s much anticipated follow up single was being streamed live from Korea over YouTube last weekend, I tuned in, eager to relive the hilarity of my first Gangnam Style viewing. Like most follow-ups and sequels in popular culture, I found the new song, Gentleman, underwhelming by comparison. However, it wasn’t until I watched the official clip that I began to have a bad taste in my mouth.
The clip to Gentleman opens with Psy and his buddies looking pretty smooth in suits, cruising through an opulent high fashion boutique, and then chilling out with an attractive young woman dancing. It could be any R&B film clip, really. We see a self-referential link to Gangnam Style, with Psy dancing in a playground. Next we see Psy disrupt a woman’s exercise routine by turning up the speed on her treadmill to such a point that she falls off and flops on the floor. This is followed by Psy having coffee with another girl, being seemingly charming until he taps the bottom of her cup, causing hot beverage to splash in her face. He also most disgustingly farts on his hand and then puts his hand in front of a girl’s face. On all occasions, Psy follows these boyish pranks with uproarious laughter. The worst of his pranks throughout the clip features Psy acting gentlemanly in a restaurant with a lady-friend. As he goes to pull the chair out for her to sit down and she goes to sit, he pulls it away so she falls on the floor. Meanwhile, another man in the restaurant comes to her rescue, only to offer her his hand but then drop her as she is trying to get up. Hilarity ensues.
This is where I started to get a bit disgruntled and my inner Germaine Greer started morphing into an angry feminist hulk. Sure, I get that the point of the clip is ironically supposed to show Psy being un-gentlemanly and the boyish pranks are meant to be light hearted. They evoke the sorts of pranks boys play on girls who they like-like. But carried out as adults these slapstick encounters are implicitly misogynistic and could indicate a normalisation of gendered violence in mainstream media. The take home message of the clip seems to be that boys will be boys; that same old trope that not only forces women to put up with unacceptable behaviour from men, but also places men in an eternal position of youthful irresponsibility and emotional incapability.
I don’t mean to be a total feminist-kill-joy. I recognise that Oh Look! At the end of the clip, Psy meets his match, and gets a girl who can play similar pranks on him. The response to criticisms like my own is that the clip is supposed to be a parody of the undignified aspects of contemporary culture. This is a valid interpretation, however, it reeks of the just-take-a-joke sentiments that are often used to nullify feminist criticisms of misogynist humour in popular culture. Not all viewers would be able to decode the satire in the clip, which could therefore reinforce the ridiculous notion that women like to be treated poorly by men.
By Ruby Grant