This also marks the return of Hoshi being the “cuteness break”, because this post has a lot of ugly in it.
Over a year ago I made this post (you get a cookie if you can make it through my shitty writing) addressing what is and what isn’t blackface within the realm of Korean entertainment because I saw so many people accusing a lot of shit in K-pop such as G-Dragon in “Coup D’tat” and Hyuna’s tan as “blackface” when it really isn’t, and that kind of stuff de-legitimizes actual cases of blackface. I still stand by most of what I wrote in that original article (some of the stuff I’ve changed my mind on, and other stuff I’m kind of on the fence about, I might make another post addressing that later-it actually shocks me how immature I sound in the intro of that article) and I thought it was possible Korean entertainment was over blackface and it could move on from shitty race-baiting gimmicks for laughs.
Oh I what a fool I was. Because this year has been utter hell for blackface.
Disclaimer: For those of you who don’t know, I’m a black female in university with a good knowledge of history. So for those of you who claim I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, yes the fuck I do.
WARNING: This post contains offensive imagery. I will try to balance out with cute pictures of Seventeen’s Hoshi but just know it get’s nasty.
So I’m going to start this by giving a dictionary definition on the term:
And here’s a picture of original blackface:
I’ve been having enough fucking nightmares already.
I use these two just as a reference for those of you who may not be familiar with what it is.
Onto case studies!
Case #1: Hong Hyun Hee
Not only does that have pretty much all the makeup applied in the way a blackface actor or a racist cartoon would, but it’s also goes a step up with the Native American headdress/Pacific Islander dress. What’s even worse is that Hong Hyun Hee called it a “simple costume” when he was called out by another comedian, but here’s the thing: it’s not just a simple costume when you mock three cultures in one which is clearly what was happening. The skit doesn’t even point in your favor.
Case #2: MAMAMOO
While it’s not traditional blackface like Hwang Hyun Hee it’s still really fucking odd and they had the Bruno Mars swagger already done without the need of darkening their skin. Add this to the fact that Bruno Mars himself is Puerto Rican, Ashkenazi Jewish, Filipino, and Spanish and this just gets even more cringe worthy. Again, while Mamamoo definitely didn’t have the same intent to mock like Hwang Hyun Hee, it’s still a low thing to do and does more to show their ignorance to their international fans. I would also like to point out that if they were parodying a white singer, they probably wouldn’t paint their skin white or put in blue or green contacts (if applicable.)
Case #3: Yesung
This is relatively old and everyone knows the fucked-upness of this what brought it back up was that he reposted it which means he didn’t really learn that much from the first try. From memory he claims painting his skin brown was because pirates are “dirty” which is fair enough? I guess? Hell if I know. I already don’t like 90% of Super Junior’s members as it is, but we can all guess that it was more than just a “costume” because of what Henry said while defending him.
The birth of the C O S P L A Y™ meme.
Henry is being…not intelligent here. YouTuber Jackie Aina did a better job of explaining why blonde hair isn’t inherently a white thing in this video @12:49 :
Basically: one race cannot claim a hair color. Sure, a hair color may be more prominent in one race (like blonde and red hair being more common in white people) however that doesn’t mean that white people OWN blonde and red hair. There are tons of black people (who may or may not be mixed with white) that have red hair and yes, even blonde hair. Hair color is not synonymous with race and it never will be. So no, Thor wearing blonde hair is not racist and Henry just proved that Yesung wearing that costume wasn’t C O S P L A Y™ with his bogus response.
Case #4: Bomi
Bomi’s case is the most complex and even confusing because the character she’s C O S P L A Y I N G as is, in fact, a dark skinned Korean (or is stated so in the show) but it’s still following blackface guidelines of “paint your skin darker, overdraw your lips, paint them lighter.” Also, Michol looks more like an old racist cartoon from America than he does a modern day cartoon depiction of darker skinned Korean. And the show he comes from “Dooly the Little Dinosaur” has come under fire for other racist commentary such as giving the African characters bones in between their noses as well as other stuff similar.
Now this is essentially another “killing x birds with one stone” thing because, well, not only is it making fun of black people, it’s also making fun of darker skinned Koreans, which face enough bullshit (just look at the comments girls like Seolhyun and Yuri got.) Like it or not, black people do not fit the characteristics of racist cartoons or blackface and neither do dark skinned Asians. Here’s some good examples of well done black cartoons:
Penny Proud from The Proud Family
Basically a skinnier version of the 12 year old me. Her facial features aren’t comically disproportionate, her features are black without being comical.
Vince from Recess
Spitting image of how my eldest brother looked in the 90s. All of facial features are proportionate. Although he has bigger lips they aren’t drawn in an obviously offensive way. Notice how he’s stylish and trendy but not in the stereotypical “thug” way.
I could go on, but I will stop at those two because this post is already long.
My point being, that if they want Michol to be a black character, there are ways to draw and illustrate him without being a stereotype (think of the ways the west portrays/doesn’t portray Asians and how offensive that is.) And if they wanted Michol to be a dark skinned Korean, there are ways to do that without getting the result they did. And I understand that for Koreans it’s a bit hard to understand, but I think Korean media has been called out enough times due to it’s use of blackface that they should kind of get it by now. Hell even the people on Netizenbuzz are sick of it.
So knowing all of this, only one question remains:
Is Frenchface an Actual Thing?
Disclaimer: I enjoy Kpopalypse’s blog. He’s pretty fucking awesome and I’d recommend a lot of his content to the wack-jobs within the K-pop fandom who need a wake up call. I actually personally consider a lot of his posts my “medicine” for when I went through my delusional phase about three or four years ago. I would even argue a lot of my blogging style comes from him. He’s everyone’s K-pop grandfather and he’s made us all crack a smile and laugh at some point. So before any of his fans get upset and all in a tizzy: I just want to say I have no personal vendetta against him. Okay? THIS IS NOT A PERSONAL ATTACK ON HIM. I don’t have to say this to him because Kpopalypse can handle disagreements very well; however it’s a general rule that the fans of your work will typically be more defensive about it than you will. Rest assured I’m a Cao Ni Ma as well so again, NOT A PERSONAL ATTACK. I doubt he even cares about this. I agree with him on about 75% of his points (in general) but one place I bump heads with him is on the subject of Frenchface.
So uh is it a thing?
At least the mockery and dehumanization of French people hasn’t been called that, and most likely wont.
Here’s the thing, there are ways to mock French culture and offend French people. But that’s not really the same thing as blackface.
French is a nationality belonging to the people who are citizens to the country of France. That includes people who are white, black, Asian, ect… There are white French and black French (who count as people attacked by blackface.) While there may be more white people in France than any other race, not all French people are white. People can wear berets and know those are apart of French fashion, the French made them for fashionable purposes.
Blackface has a whole historical connotation, and on top of that, blackface attacks one single race of people. People don’t typically paint their faces black and overdraw red or white lips and talk with a twisted accent because they want to be fashionable, they do it purely out of mockery and disregard of a whole different culture. This goes beyond “Hey this hat is cute,” in relation to mocking French culture it would be more along the lines of “Look at this hat, those horny French people are so fucking stupid for putting a nipple on a hat. Huh huh oui oui I don’t shave my arm pits and I eat slimy snail. Look at me I’m a dumb French person.”
Reflection and Conclusion: What the Heck Korea?
South Korea is a country where foreigners living among them in significant numbers is a relatively new thing. They don’t have the same experience with foreigners as say China or Japan. In a nutshell South Korea is a good example of a country trying to confront new ideas with age old tactics. Are the people who run around in these costumes racist against black people? Probably not. Do the people above hold some sort of brash resentment to people? Again probably not. Like when Wendy imitated black people on that radio show about three years ago; Wendy’s probably not a racist, but what she did was racially bound. Them not being racist doesn’t excuse them from learning from their mistakes. Hell, I like K-pop and I find Korean culture entertaining to learn about, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to paint my face yellow, turn up my eyes, and talk in a stereotypical Asian accent. I might attend a Korean food festival and celebrate lunar New Year with some Korean friends while dressed in a hanbok (I haven’t done this, I’m just giving examples). Korea in the past has not been very open-minded to other cultures as with many other countries, so while I understand it’s going to take a while for them to grasp why certain things just aren’t really “acceptable”, they still need to take responsible for their actions (as all countries and cultures should.) And in a way that goes way beyond a two sentence non-apology *looking at you SBS.*