In Retrospect: Autoethnography & State of Play

It was only a few weeks ago that I attempted to expand my horizons and experience Korean gaming culture with a set of fresh eyes. This autoethnographic experience was enlightening, and brought my attention to the fact that I was ultimately an outsider when it came to eSports, gaming and Lee Jae Dong. Despite this, here I am, trying to make sense of my initial assumptions and interpretations of my State of Play experience (which you can read about here).

As aforementioned, autoethnography as a methodology aims to “facilitate the understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders”, drawing on “subjectivity, emotionality and the researcher’s influence on research” (Ellis, Adams and Bochner). Reflecting on one’s experience of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and explorative. It not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but seeks to understand such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009).  In my first auto ethnographic account of State of Play, I made several cultural assumptions and addressed ‘dominant narratives’ I felt were essential in the documentary. Re-examining my initial interpretation, and by conducting a little more research, I have once again become a more culturally aware individual. Read on, and you can be too.

After watching State of Play, I was admittedly astonished that gamers in Korea had such celebrity status and were afforded with privileges similar to those of professional sports players. Little did I know that gamers around the world, — not just in Korea, — earn millions when they put their skills to the test. “DoTA has actually gone on to host the largest tournament prize pool, with nearly $11 million for their 2014 International. That’s a larger prize pool than the Masters Golf Tournament” (Aaron, 2015). The above graph highlights this. Furthermore, gaming tournaments attract global sponsors and intrigue audiences in the millions — eSports are now broadcast on networks like ESPN, making them accessible to all. Gamers make similar commitments and moreover share in the sacrifices that other professional sports players make to create a career. By reducing these individuals to “just gamers” in my first experience I failed to understand the deeper meaning behind gaming culture.

After scrolling through more ‘research’, I became acutely aware that whilst there were no females battling for the tournament prize pool in State of Play, female gamers do exist. “According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 44% of all gamers in the U.S. today are female” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Perhaps most notably, “one of the great things about eSports is it’s one arena where there is no difference between men and women; they’re both equal in the game” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Just because the representation of women in State of Play was skewed, that doesn’t mean that women are missing from the global gaming ‘narrative’. Another cultural assumption bites the dust.

Autoethnography requires one to be self-reflexive and open in order to understand a cultural experience. By drawing on additional information from scholarly sources, media articles and social commentary my experience and understanding of Korean gaming culture has reached a new high. Adding layers of information onto my autoethnographic account of State of Play has shifted my perspective on eSports and the Korean gaming phenomenon dramatically.


Aaron, J., 2015, ‘The Controversial Dichotomy Between Sports and eSports’, The Huffington Post, Article, 19 April, viewed 29 August 2016

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P., 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

Gaudiosi, J., 2015, ‘This Company Wants More Women in eSports’, Fortune, Article, 17 November, viewed 29 August 2016

Warren, J.T., 2009, ‘Autoethnography’ in Encyclopaedia of Communication Theory, SAGE Publications, p.68-69.

Let’s Talk Character Creation

Imagine you’ve just opened up your shiny new Western RPG. Maybe there’s a bit of story, however it isn’t long before you reach some sort of character creation or choice. Of course this isn’t always the case. Assassin’s Creed and many more exist after all. This is rarer with JRPG. There are also exceptions here (Fire Emblem: Awakening comes to mind), however you can expect to find that there is already a full slew of character’s waiting to be played with already there for you. JRPGs are the only real place where the celebrity isn’t you.

I, and many others, believe that it is a conscious choice. I know that I play JRPGs for the plot, which just doesn’t work if the players gets to create. The everyman isn’t core to the values of the JRPG genre. They produce iconic characters, for marketing, for better story, it just works for the genre. The examples I gave above, both of them, show exactly this process. Assassin’s Creed needs it’s iconic main character, it values the story like a JRPG. So does Fire Emblem, however the main character isn’t the one you make, so it doesn’t even matter.

Of course, there’s an inherent flaw with this entire argument. How many exceptions can break the rule before it falls apart? However that isn’t my real focus here. I think something can be learnt of the focus of the genres. I’m not sure it’s entirely possible to define JRPG without using some stereotypes. They form the basis of all conception. What is more important is being aware of how we are using it to define the genre. For and in depth interactive story, you need a celebrity, a focal point to build around. Story is a core element of JRPGs. Therefore you need to have a celebrity for your game, from Cloud Strife to Nepgear. However, over the course of writing this piece I’ve decided to leave behind the line of inquiry over whatever marketing arguments you might have over design. All we need is a celebrity at the middle. Everything else is social commentary for a different field of researchers. 

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN: Takumi Fujiwara, His Legendary AE86 and Celebrity in Anime



Takumi Fujiwara is a quiet, humble, 19-year old young man, born and raised in the shadow of Mount Akina in Japan’s Gunma province. From an early age, Takumi has worked in his father, Bunta Fujiwara’s tofu shop. Since the age of 12, Takumi has been responsible for delivering tofu to local hotels in Bunta’s 1983 Toyota AE86 Trueno, a role that forced him to drive the treacherous Mount Akina ‘touge’ daily, regardless of weather conditions. By assigning his son this task, Bunta was able to unwittingly train Takumi in the art of ‘touge’ driving, nurturing in Takumi skills that would eventually create an instinctively unbeatable driver, only second to Bunta himself on the roads of Mount Akina.



The most famous of Bunta’s training techniques involves a cup of water placed in the car’s cup holder that must not be spilt for fear of damaging the precious tofu cargo, forcing Takumi to drive smoothly. Manipulating weight transfer to fully utilise a vehicles available grip by driving smoothly is undoubtedly a valuable skill, but the plausibility of such a training technique has been hotly debated on numerous automotive forums, and the fact that the driver filmed above was compelled to try it out on a racetrack highlights the influence Takumi Fujiwara has had on the automotive scene as a celebrity.




At this point I would like to point out that Takumi Fujiwara is not a ‘real’ person, but the lead character of Initial D, and by far the greatest celebrity the anime series has produced. It is interesting to note the way in which the series has spawned two separate, yet inherently inseparable facets of the same celebrity phenomenon; Takumi Fujiwara himself, and his unmistakable AE86 Trueno.




The Toyota AE86 chassis has been a cult classic, both in motorsport and the modified car scene at large, since it’s release in the early 80s. Relying on its lightweight, finely tuned chassis and naturally aspirated 1.6L power plant for pace during more spirited driving, critics viewed it as a bit of an underdog in comparison to turbocharged Japanese sports cars of the 80s and 90s. This underdog spirit is overtly accentuated in the creation of Initial D’s legendary ‘white ghost of Akina’, and I believe the reason it has become so beloved by fans of the series. In what I liken to the art of cosplay, many have been inspired to pay homage to this venerable vehicle through emulation, exampled by the somewhat faithful Australian recreation pictured below.


Adrian's AE86


The influence of celebrity does not stop at mere emulation, however, with a link between the release of Initial D in its dubbed form and the international rise in value of Japanese sports cars and associated parts in the early 2000s widely accepted as fact. Those within the international Japanese car scene have dubbed this the ‘Takumi tax’, often used derogatorily to describe exorbitant prices aimed at newcomers for parts of a known, lower value. Similar in nature to mainstream celebrity opinion leaders and their influence in fashion and other consumer trends, Initial D iconicized a number of Japanese sports cars, but particularly the AE86, in a way that introduced a wider audience to their potential, inflating demand and partially fuelling the explosion of drifting as an international motorsport.




Takumi himself as a celebrity has also added fuel to this fire, providing a role model with admittedly impressive skills, but skills that have been learned through the proven process of practice. Adding to the well-established anime canon of hard-working yet humble heroes hesitant to boast of their own talents, or in this case initially unaware of them, Takumi is an accessible and morally aspirational character that encourages beginners and veterans alike to partake in perpetual self-improvement through constant practice.



An interesting technique used to articulate this throughout the series is Takumi’s awakening to his own talents, a process you can see beginning as he observes Iketani, the head of the Akina Speed Stars, flailing in the AE86’s passenger seat in the clip above, taken from the sixth episode. Takumi begins as a purely instinctive driver but as the series progresses, and particularly under the tutelage of Ryosuke Takahashi in Project D, he is introduced to driving techniques in a progressive gradient; moving from basic explanations of car control to incredibly advanced techniques discussed both by Takumi as his understanding improves, and others in observing his driving style. In this way, Takumi personifies the learning process all drivers must undertake and is used to both highlight key areas for inexperienced drifters to work on, and engage those with experience through accurately articulated knowledge.




In researching Takumi Fujiwara for this investigation of his role as a celebrity, I found it interesting that digital artefacts dedicated to the character largely deal with Takumi as a real person, rather than a constructed identity who’s story is still being written. Imaginary social relationships with celebrities as part of a constructed reality have been well documented (Alperstein 1991), but I believe this can be much more simply explained by a relationship nurtured in audience members through physically and mechanically accurate portrayals of drift culture, with the mirrored reality easy to describe in similar ways to ‘real’ experiences.




Reading back, I notice that after perspicuously pointing out the fact that Takumi is not a ‘real’ person, I return to describing Takumi and his car as almost a part of reality, something I can only explain as a result of my resonation with the series and the way it has informed my exploration of drift culture. Travelling to Japan last year, my companions and I felt compelled to complete a pilgrimage to the famous water tower you see above, a location recreated as the starting point of each downhill battle on Mt Akina, known in reality as Mt Haruna. In our travels, we also stumbled across an unbelievably organised street drift meeting on a hidden touge, surprised to find galleries of spectators and organised teams just as I had seen in Initial D. The deeper I have delved in to drift culture, the more I appreciate the emphasis placed on accuracy in Initial D.


Trying to comprehend the notion of celebrity and the consumption of Initial D by an individual external to drift culture, I realise how heavily my own experiences have informed my encounters with the series, and my subsequent analysis. Fans of the series with no interest in drifting, if such individuals exist, may enjoy Initial D from a purely performative perspective, experiencing for entertainment purposes something as purely imaginary as any other anime topic. In considering this, I now realise that my analysis of celebrity is entirely reflective of what I have taken from the show, and that others may idolise other characters, vehicles or aspects of the series that I am yet to consider. That being said, I do believe that I represent an important segment of Initial D’s contemporary audience and as such, my investigation provides at least some insight to the idea of celebrity in relation to Initial D.


Alperstein, M 1991, ‘Imaginary Social Relationships with Celebrities Appearing in Television Commercials’, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, vol.35, no.1, pp.43-58

O’Mara, S 2013, ‘The Enduring Legacy of Initial D and the AE86’, Otaku USA Magazine, accessed 28/8/2014, <http://otakuusamagazine.com/Anime/News1/The_Enduring_Legacy_of_Initial_D_and_the_AE86_4941.aspx&gt;

Celebrity Directors to Philosophical Insects, what a week…

Sticking on a similar theme to last week’s Blog, this week I have been looking at the Director of Dark Water, Hideo Nakata. He is most well-known for his directing of Ring (1998) Ring 2 (1999) and directing the American remake of his own film, The Ring Two (2005). Nakata has gained a sort of cult following by ‘J-Horror’ “Enthusiasts” with him being labelled “the Ring Master” in an interview with Off Screen in 2000 and “The Godfather of J-Horror” by the Japan Times earlier this year. Despite his fame, Nakata’s ‘Ring’ was by no means the beginning of Japanese Ghost and Horror Stories.

In his interview with Off Screen, the interviewer brings up the “older tradition of Japanese supernatural stories … Such as Kwaidan or Ugetsu”. Nakata replies, saying that he has studied them both along with an old Kabuki theatre production Yotsyua Kaiden.

I’ve come across the film Kwaidan (1964), literally translated to ‘Ghost Stories’ (Which, incidentally is the name of an anime series, which is totally worth its own study in cross cultural production of content and meaning), in previous weeks as I’ve been searching for influential and important Japanese horror films to watch. I’ve seen the trailer, and have downloaded a copy (tsk tsk) to watch this week. Doing more research on the film, I learnt that it was based on the writings of Koizumi Yakumo, who was also known as Lafcadio Hern. Hern was born in the Ionian islands of Greece in 1850 and emigrated to Ireland with his family in his early childhood. In 1869 Hern Travelled to America where he lived and worked as a writer until 1890 when he moved to Japan as a Newspaper Correspondent. His book ‘Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things’ is his English interpretation and recolouring of old Japanese stories from Japanese books “such as the Yaso-Kidan, Bukkyo-Hyakkwa-Zensho, Kokon-Chomonshu, Tama-Sudare, and Hyaku-Monogatari”, interestingly and strangely followed by a semi-scientific and definitely philosophical study of Insects.

After reading his story “THE DREAM OF AKINOSUKE“(of Chinese origin), his study of insects has become more clear. The story uses a butterfly and an ant as metaphors. The three drunken characters in the story discuss how what these insects might mean in relation to the dream that Akinosuke has in the story. Herns discussion of insects at the end of his book seems to be a study of their potential meaning in Asian literature.

Right… so that didn’t exactly focus on the role of celebrity, but more a flow of research for the week. I’m looking forward to reading more of Herns stories and deliberations on insects when I have time, and seeing if any of these themes or ideas, flow through to modern day Asian horror films.

The Yers – Thailand’s Indie music scene


The Yers are an alternative post-punk revival five-piece band from Thailand, formed in 2003. They are very traditional in terms of the way in which they choose to communicate with their fans and the general public using digital technologies, as well as promoting their music.

The band does not have its own website, rather operating through their record label, ‘Genie Records’ which is a primarily Thai label that features the Yers.

After exploring this website to get a feel for the way in which The Yers are represented online, I discovered that the website was almost identical to Western record labels online – it featured tabs for artists; blog; store; music; and news. Although the site was written in Thai, there were English translations provided for me underneath – without me having to manually change the language.

I believe it to be very smart of Genie Records in doing this – it allowed them to break the language barrier that often exists between Western and Asian communities, and also gives the bands featured on the label the opportunity to be discovered by those who may be located in different areas or markets.

In saying this however, the band does have an official Facebook page that is updated regularly with news, music and communications from the band, primarily written in Thai. It features essential information fans need to know, as well as shared photos and videos to get a feel for what the Yers are attempting to promote as a group.

It is interesting to note that although the band is quite active in terms of Facebook use, there is little to no activity on other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. Although the band does have an official Twitter account, they have not made a tweet in over a year – this shows that they obviously prefer Facebook as their preferred method of communication with their fans and communities around the world.

It would be interesting to delve into this matter further – WHY do some celebrities or groups favour some platforms over others? Is it because of the different functionalities across the varieties? This is something that I would like to explore during the progress of my personal research project into alternative Asian music artists.

Take a picture, it will last longer.

This week I chose to look at a few celebrities in particular and their use of online forums to post photographs. Mainly looking at Instagram and Twitter and how these are used to post, share and update followers and fans on the lives of the rich and famous.  

What better way to peer into the depths of the social media sites than using a #hashtag. Of course, finding the right tag is always difficult but lucky that the modern day celebrity is a hashtag expert. 

For this task I chose to look at Psy’s Instagram account (As chris mentioned in the lecture) and Lucy Liu’s twitter account. Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 12.43.57 pm Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 12.41.09 pm

Both are well known and have a reasonably active presence on the sites. 

My experience of looking through these photos was certainly interesting. It told a bigger story than 140 characters and gave an insight into their lives that you can’t achieve through text alone. I think that age old “a picture is worth 1000 words” certainly comes into play here. I found myself becoming more engaged in the photos as it was quick, easy and usually easy to understand the context.  

On the flip side it also opens up a world of opportunity in regard to advertisement and product placement. From the beauty blogger posting the perfect “flat lay” with the carefully placed coffee cup in the background or the xbox controller of the popular boy and lead singer. It often include connections to other celebrities. As Chris pointed out in the lecture with Psy and his many photos with  celebrities, perhaps  to legitimise and gain cultural capital. I found myself overly critical when I thought any type of advertisement was taking place. Critical of the company AS WELL as the celebrity. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 12.46.48 pm Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 12.48.55 pm

Photos are an interesting look into celebrity culture and appear to be a great way for celebrities to engage with their fans. A quick and unofficial bit of independent research highlighted that photos seemed to be more popular on Twitter (In regards to favourites and retweets) than tweets that just involved text. I, of course won’t provide any of my data as it’s rough and was a scribbled tally on the corner of my workbook, but I think it’s the beginning of an interesting idea developing.  



Instagram.com, (2014). psy_oppaofficial on Instagram. [online] Available at: http://instagram.com/psy_oppaofficial [Accessed 19 Aug. 2014].


Twitter.com, (2014). Lucy Liu (LucyLiu) on Twitter. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/LucyLiu/media [Accessed 19 Aug. 2014].


When I needed to find an Asian celebrity, I went to my best friend – Google. You would be surprised how many search results come up when you type in the words ‘Asian’, ‘celebrity’ and ‘cop movies’. I stumbled across a male actor I had seen before. Meet Andy Lau. Famous for being a ‘jack of all trades and master of many’ – an actor, producer, director, Cantopop singer, songwriter…well you get the point. I first met Mr Lau just last week…not literally of course. I first saw him briefly in the ten minute clip of Infernal Affairs (which I discussed in last week’s post). Given that I only saw him for a few moments as the start of the film is an eight minute flashback, my impressions of him were…let’s just say they were pretty limited. So I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to not only watch some more Infernal Affairs to see how good of a baddie he really is, but to do some research into this very intriguing celebrity.

The next 10 minute segment of Infernal Affairs definitely broadened my understanding of Lau as an actor. As I was watching the drama unfold, I had come to an interesting paradox. As much as I hated Inspector Ming for how corrupt and evil he was, at the same time I loved his character – Ming is the perfect villain because everyone loves to hate him. At one point in my viewing time I became quite annoyed when Inspector Ming who’s so desperate to ensure that no one finds out he is a bent cop, he walks into the interrogation room and fools the criminal into believing that he is his attorney so he can shut him up. The scene is quite something.




Andy Lau being at the 29th Hong Kong International Film Festival (2005).


But celebrities in Asia have become much more than just your garden variety actor or singer. They are product endorsers, advertisers, marketers…they provide 24/7 commentary on the latest products to hit the shelves. Andy Lau is no exception to this branding movement.  The ‘Andy Lau brand’ very much mimics the cop and criminal characters he plays in his movies – charismatic, likeable and cool. It doesn’t matter if he plays a good guy or a bad guy, his appeal reaches far and wide both in Hong Kong and outside of it – women want him and men want to be like him.

This theme of branding is apparent on Twitter. After a search of Andy Lau, I discovered a Twitter handle devoted entirely to his film career which has been created by fans for fans. There are several tweets posted in the last few weeks encouraging people to watch Lau’s latest cop movie Blind Detective. This is clearly an example of ‘consumer-generated advertising’ – “when consumers create brand-focused messages with the intention of informing, persuading, or reminding others” (Jin Annie Seung-A; Phua, J 2014, p183). As I have come to understand through my experiences of Twitter, “the more followers one garners on Twitter, the greater perceived social influence one has” (Jin Annie Seung-A; Phua, J 2014, p182), which is certainly the case here given the account’s number of followers.


andy lau twitter

Fan Twitter handle of Andy Lau

fan twitter feed

Fan Twitter handle of Andy Lau


Chung, J 2011, ‘Infernal Affairs Part 2 of 10’, 17 April, viewed 24 August 2014,  www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP5CnQ5Z6x0&list=PL1E837A6680BF14D1&index=2

Jin Annie Seung-A; Phua, J 2014 ‘Following celebrities’ tweets about brands: the impact of twitter-based electronic word-of-mouth on consumers’ source credibility perception, buying intention, and social identification with celebrities’, Journal of Advertising, volume 43, issue 2, pp181-195.

Yeung, P 2007, ‘Andy Lau being at the 29th Hong Kong International Film Festival’, Wikipedia, 8 November, viewed 19 August, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Lau#mediaviewer/File:AndyLau2005_2.jpg

Wah Tak Lau, A, Twitter account, https://twitter.com/AndyLauTakWah

Reddit – A Bucking Bull Subdued by PSY’s Dance Moves

Reddit is the anti-thesis to social media. The site is not about developing a public profile, at least one not linked to the offline world (Couts 2012). It is this commitment to anonymity that allows the site to foster discussions and content that are uninhibited by social norms. Remember, this is the site that hosts boards such as r/picsofdeadkids and the community that asked rapists to tell their side of the story (Reddit 2014a; UnholyDemigod 2014; The Cajun Boy 2012). In short, it is not exactly the place for celebrity PR.

The self-indulgent and self-promoting celebrity feeds of Facebook and Twitter are a far cry from Reddit’s own celebrity PR outlet. r/IAmA is used, although  it must be stressed not strictly, for celebrities to conduct a kind of open-forum with the Reddit community and their favourite celebs (Reddit 2014b).

The 25th highest ranked (as of 20/8/2014) AMA was conducted by South Korean musician PSY (Reddit 2012). PSY is one of the few Asian celebrities to conduct an AMA, and the only one to be aggregated as within the top 100 of all time (Reddit 2014c). He answered questions ranging from how he keeps a straight face dancing (because he’s serious about it) to what his favourite breakfast food is (korean food). Overall, the AMA presents PSY as fairly laid back, especially as his AMA was not tied to the promotion of any particular project. Although his responses seem short, perhaps as English is his second language, he allowed users to ask anything and he answered most of their inquiries.

AMAs are the only outlet that celebrities are allowed to (somewhat) control their image on Reddit. The rest of the content is user-generated and aggregated. For example, PSY’s song Gangnam Style has its own subreddit (r/GangnamStyle) and a search of the keyword ‘PSY’ on the site locates fan drawn images, jokes, and other varying content (Reddit 2014d). This content is not controlled by PSY or his PR reps but rather his fans and/or cynics.

If we are to learn anything from Reddit, it is that when they commit, they fully commit. We must look only to their Boston Bombing witch-hunt to see how passionate they can be (ABC News 2013). Reddit, with its values strongly planted in being the opposite of social media, provides an uncontrollable landscape for celebrity public image. PSY has bravely traversed the landscape, emerging relatively unscathed and perhaps with an expanded fan-base, due to a catchy song and a well-received forum with his fans.

Reference List:

ABC News 2013, ‘Reddit says sorry for Boston bombing ‘witch hunt’’, 23 April, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-23/reddit-apolgises-for-boston-witch-hunt/4645386&gt;

Couts, A 2012, ‘State of the Web: Reddit, The World’s Best Anonymous Social Network’, Digital Trends, 11 September, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.digitaltrends.com/opinion/reddit-worlds-best-anonymous-social-network/&gt;

PSY (PSY_Oppa) 2012, ‘I am South Korean Singer, Rapper, Composer, Dancer and Creator of Gangnam Style PSY. AMA’, Reddit, thread, 24 October, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/120oqd/i_am_south_korean_singer_rapper_composer_dancer/&gt;

Reddit 2014a, ‘Pics of Dead Kids’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/PicsOfDeadKids/&gt;

Reddit 2014b, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/wiki/index&gt;

Reddit 2014c, ‘Top scoring links : IAmA’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/top/?sort=top&t=all&gt;

Reddit 2014d, ‘GangnamStyle’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/gangnamstyle&gt;

The Cajun Boy 2012, ‘If You’ve Ever Wondered What It’s Like To Be A Rapist, Have We Got A Thread For You!’, Uproxx, weblog post, 27 December, viewed 20/8/14, <http://uproxx.com/webculture/2012/07/rapists-explain-why-they-rape-on-reddit/&gt;

UnholyDemigod 2014, ‘The ‘ask a rapist’ thread’, Reddit, thread, 16 December, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/MuseumOfReddit/comments/1t1r2z/the_ask_a_rapist_thread/&gt;

CL: The Baddest Female, The Most Global Kpop?

This week I’ve been working on presenting my research in the form of a prezi, which can be viewed here.

Image sourced from CL's instagram account @chaelin_cl

Image sourced from CL’s instagram account @chaelin_cl

“Music has no language barrier. It’s just music, you could just listen to it and feel it. When you’re on stage, you connect to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Korean, or in English. It’s just a matter of what we show and inspire.” – CL (YG Ladies 2012)
Lee Chaerin 이채린 goes by the stage name CL and is known primarily as the leader of the globally popular South Korean pop girl group 2NE1. Within the group she is a singer, rapper, lyric writer and dancer (YG Entertainment cited in CLtheBaddestFemale 2012). She is also fluent in Korean, French, Japanese and English, which often sees her speaking on behalf of the group in interviews conducted in English (as demonstrated in the Wall Street Journal interview embedded below).
What sets 2NE1, and by extension CL, apart from other K-pop acts is their strong global appeal. CL once credited Japan as having the largest Blackjack (2NE1’s fanbase) population, but with collaborations with popular U.S. artists such as will.i.am and Skrillex in recent years the audience for 2NE1 has become both cross-cultural and massive (Hawkins 2012; Poole 2012; Herman 2014).
As far as communicating with fans goes, CL’s only outlet appears to be her Instagram (@chaelin_cl) that has over 1.72 million followers and I think is self-managed. There is also an official Twitter account for disseminating running tour and group news to fans of the group at @GlobalBlackjack that has around 252 000 followers at present (Oh! Kpop 2012). Apparently CL at one stage had a personal Twitter account but deactivated it after a long period of being largely inactive on it, which again suggests that CL is managing her own online presence (letsgo2ne1 2011).
Based on her public appearances, her Instagram activity and how she presents herself in her music videos, it seems to me that CL is presenting herself as a firey, stylish diva and as something of a “bad girl” amoungst the sexy heartbreakers and cute “girlfriendy” types that make up much of the rest of the Kpop landscape for women in the industry. Again, as I experience the celebrity persona and performance of CL I get a sense of uniqueness and honesty that sets her apart from the heavily manufactured and marketing-driven feel that many of the other popular K-pop groups have. Of course this is working off the assumptions that CL’s unique image isn’t itself also manufactured and carefully managed by marketing teams. In fact a lot of what makes CL stand out to me as a performer could be a constructed persona designed to appeal to a more international audience. My own biases and assumptions regarding Korean pop music might actually be being used against me for the purpose of selling me the 2NE1 brand. Another assumption I’m making is that a global audience is inherently more likely to engage with American music styles and tropes rather than those unique to Kpop; which may hold true for the US and even Australia but perhaps wouldn’t necessarily in other countries and cultures where 2NE1 have also managed to grow a large fan base.


CLtheBaddestFemale 2012, ‘CL: History in the making’, CL the Baddest Female, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://clthebaddestfemale.com/cl-history-in-the-making/&gt;
YG Ladies 2012,’Lee Chaerin’, YG Ladies, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://ygladies.com/2ne1/cl&gt;
Hawkins, L 2012, ‘K-Pop Group 2NE1 Discuss Breaking Into the U.S.’, YouTube video, 9 October, Wall Street Journal, viewed 19 August 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNQuDL7fdes&gt;
Poole, R M 2012, ‘Korean Hip-Hop: K-Hop Goes Global’, News Week, 13 January, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.newsweek.com/korean-hip-hop-k-hop-goes-global-64305&gt;
Herman, T 2014, ‘Big Bang’s G-Dragon and 2NE1’s CL Get Featured On Skrillex’s ‘Dirty Vibe’ And Prove That Their Rapping Skills Go Beyond Idoldom’, Kpop Starz, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/84215/20140322/big-bang-g-dragon-2ne1-cl-featured-skrillex-dirtyvibe.htm&gt;
Oh! Kpop 2012, ‘Follow Big Bang and 2NE1’s First Official Twitter Accounts Now!’, Oh! Kpop, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.ohkpop.com/48758/follow-big-bang-and-2ne1s-first-official-twitter-accounts-now&gt;
LetsGo2NE1 2011, ‘[NEWS] Dara and CL Join Twitter!!!’, LestGo2NE1, 1 April, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://letsgo2ne1.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/news-dara-and-cl-join-twitter/&gt;

Shin Tanaka’s Paper Art

Tougui, of France, and Cubeecraft, of USA, are well-regarded international Papercraft artists. They’ve collaborated with corporations, celebrities and artists from around the world, and these collaborations reflect the nature of the Papercraft industry. Beyond its historic connections with Japan and Origami, Papercraft is an international communal collaboration. I’ve participated in this culture with other fans by building, redesigning, and circulating paper models across digital networks. But Shin Tanaka does not participate in this network. Shin Tanaka, of Japan, is a notorious Papercraft artist because he elevates his work above his fans and peers, and disassociates himself with my understanding of the community.

I’m not suggesting Shin’s designs are terrible, on the contrary I love them. His models closely resemble modern art: simple and angular like the basic shapes that form a drawing. They’re also quite intricate and detailed and printed with designs that reflect Shin’s affinity with America, urban design and street art. Shin also has a close relationship with fashion with models often featuring an article of clothing, like a jumper (seen in his numerous T-BOY series); a hat; or one of the 96 smiling shoes from his Ws series. He’s also worked with over 200 brands and designers, including Nike and Scion, in collaborations and promotional projects. Most recently he collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld, a European man with white hair who is a prominent celebrity in the fashion industry. The KARLxSHIN project was created in 2013 for the Parcours Saint Germain, an annual event where art installations are exhibited in luxury boutique cafes and hotels in Paris. Karl and Shin’s partnership may be surprising but not unlikely. Shin’s work transcends Asian culture because its simplicity is inclusive, and his work with Karl only strengthens that observation. International fans, like myself, can find relevance in Shin’s work because street and urban art has influenced art disciplines across many cultures.

One of Shin Tanaka's T-BOYs with a hood

One of Shin Tanaka’s T-BOYs with a hood

The consistency of Shin’s works reminds me of people building paper cranes over and over, design after design. However, while a paper crane is thrown away after its constructed, Shin’s is showcased. His site is run by publicist and photographer Mily Kadz who runs other high-end artist pages. This association of Papercraft with other high forms of art and photography is unique elevating his work to a high degree. Perhaps this is why his designs are displayed like an art gallery. To be seen not touched. It’s not distributed freely by the artist. You can only download his work for the first two months, anything older is deleted (and some are only released for 24 hours!). But the worst aspect is you can view his entire collection – all 200+ designs. I feel awe and discomfort towards Shin. He’s constructed a high profile image by elevating his work beyond its usual form. I want to make his works but there’s no access. Let me make them, I say. You can’t have it, someone translates. But I want it!

You can’t even buy his designs. I’ve attempted to find links to his work through caching sites like Way Way Back Machine (a cataloging site that I use to find ‘download links’ that have been removed)  but it doesn’t work if they’re removed from the server. Here, this is why I love Shin. I’ve developed a compulsion towards Shin’s works. I resemble a younger me who wanted to collect all the Squirtle cards from Pokemon Trading Cards, or all the Crash Bandicoot toys from Tazos. I don’t know quite why I want these things, maybe because it was unlikely I could collect em’ all. But I wanted to collect and build these models. But I can’t because I’m too late. This is remarkable for a Papercraft artist to do. This is Shin Tanaka’s notoriety. I now regularly return to his site to get his new models because I refuse to miss out.

Besides his collaborations, Shin is not connected internationally with his fans. He has no social media presence, at least not on American and European platforms (maybe he’s active on Asian social platforms), but as an Australian audience member It’s hard to search beyond my English limitations. It doesn’t help when nothing is linked to Shin’s website. He has no personal connection with his audiences except for our connection with his work. You can find a small amount of his work everywhere. But most of it is hard to find. Yet, even though his designs are temporary, there are sites and Shin ‘devotees’ that have archived potentially all of his work. I have them all now. It is perplexing that an artist, influenced by urbanism, only communicates through his collaborations. In an industry that is driven by connections, Shin Tanaka is the least connected participatory.