January 6, 2024- (G)I-DLE and the Changing Perspectives on Beauty Standards in K-Pop

If you’ve heard anything about the K-Pop girl group (G)I-DLE in recent times, you’ve probably heard their song “Queencard” on Instagram or TikTok. It’s a fun, energetic party song about feeling hot and flexing your… assets. So it may surprise you to hear another single off their album, “Allergy”. Listening to “Allergy” and watching the MVs for both singles completely changes the context and meaning of “Queencard”, in my opinion. “Allergy” is a poppy, punk-rock, inspired bop about feeling inadequate with your appearance, and criticizes everything from beauty standards, social media culture, and plastic surgery. For context, in Korea, the beauty standard is very specific- and it is so important and stressed that most girls get plastic surgery after high school to fit the beauty standards. K-Pop idols, male and female, almost always get plastic surgery of some sort. The MV for “Allergy” shows member Soyeon unhappy with her appearance and attempting to “fix” herself with new clothes, beauty classes, and eventually plastic surgery, all while watching ‘prettier girls’ on social media. In the prechorus of the song, member Shuhua sings “Please give me the hate button/ Because I hate myself so much”, referencing toxic social media standards. Additionally, in the chorus, Yuqi sings my personal favorite lines: “She’s so pretty, yeah so lovely/ She’s got everything, why am I not her?”. The music video then ends with Soyeon being wheeled into a surgery room to get plastic surgery, when we transition into the MV for “Queencard”. In summary, Soyeon realizes that she’s a “queencard” without needing surgery, and that those Instagram girls’ lives are far from perfect- in fact, they’re just unhappy. 

Previously, (G)I-DLE had also released their song “NXDE”, which, contrary to it’s name implies, criticizes the sexualization of female idols and calls out “fans” and others who sexualize the girls, essentially calling them perverts. It was well-received and I personally think that it was really cool of them to call out all the creeps like that. In the outro of the song, Soyeon and Shuhua sing “Yeah, I’m born nude/ And you’re the pervert” saying that the people who criticize them for being racy are the ones that are seeing it as such. (G)I-DLE are not alone in releasing songs that are critical of sexualization: Huh Yunjin of LE SSERAFIM released a song titles “I≠DOLL”, which also criticizes sexualization, particularly in fan culture. In the songs she sings lines such as “I’m more than just your pretty face”, “They pick apart my body/ and throw the rest away,” and the intensely powerful line “Idol doesn’t mean your doll to f*** with.” I personally love this powerful song, which is accompanied by a music video that Yunjin made the art for. 

Idol culture in Korea, and everywhere, can take away from the artist’s humanity, portraying them as perfect, unable to struggle with things like normal people. It sexualizes them, puts them on display for perverted “fans”, and it runs them dry. We should all think a little more on how the ruthless industry affects the artists, some as young as 13 or 14. We should consider that they are humans too, and we shouldn’t put their worth in their beauty, since this only encourages toxic beauty standards. We need to speak out, even, against companies capitalizing on young talent, against “slave contracts” and against “fans” who criticize idols for their bodies. We should also support the idols and groups who are speaking up for themselves. It’s okay to enjoy music- I’m not saying K-Pop is bad- but we should keep these ideas in mind as we go into 2024, and a new year of K-Pop releases! 

Sources: Genius.com for English lyrics!

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