Kpopalypse is back with another episode of Kpopalypse’s mysteries of k-pop! In this episode, we examine “girl crush” concepts. Let’s take a look!
The more mentally-challenged members of the world’s k-pop fandom have always traditionally categorised female k-pop concepts into two broad and largely inaccurate categories – “cute/innocent” and “sexy”. This was certainly the case when I began writing this blog, and therefore I spent some time addressing the inherent stupidity of this fallacy with this post, and also covered the near-endlessly wide variety of female k-pop concepts here. Of course these two posts are now a bit on the old side, and a new challenger has since burst onto the scene to rival the traditional categories – “girl crush”. So what the fuck is “girl crush”? Are there any objective criteria for this category? Does “girl crush” actually describe a real thing, or are bored people just making shit up? It’s time to find out!
My first search on Google led me to this article on Billboard: How ‘Girl Crush’ Hooked Female Fans and Grappled With Feminism as K-pop Went Global in 2018. The article is also kind of long, and right from the start the author kind of admits that “girl crush” is a hard thing to define:
Okay, so it has a “dynamic meaning”, which is linguistic code for “could mean any old shit”, but apparently “you know it when you see it”. Then the author steadfastly refuses to define it for the rest of the article, other than making references to “fierce divas”, “female empowerment” and a lack of “hyperfemininity”, and claiming stuff like this as “girl crush”:
Now that fits well with what the author is talking about – with the obvious exception of the “male gaze” fucking nonsense, I assure you I can fap to a skin-tight leather-clad Bom as well as any Realdoll owner. To the author’s credit, she admits that any sort of “empowerment” is quite superficial and really just confined to the girls’ image and maybe a bit of sloganeering, which shows that she’s definitely a k-pop fan who has done her research. So I thought I understood – that is, until I read further down the article and saw some of their other examples:
None of this is particularly fierce or empowering or lacking in female-ness as far as I can tell. The clothes are about as feminine and k-pop pervert-friendly as anybody else’s in k-pop, and lyrically they’re just whining about their relationships a lot, this also seems to be normal k-pop territory. The only real common thread I see here is that all the girls are looking fairly morose and not smiling much. The author was adamant that by “crush” they weren’t talking about “girls crushing on boys”, so maybe the “crush” in “girl crush” is referring to “crushing clinical depression”? That makes sense when they also linked Oh My Girl’s “Coloring Book” as an example of something that definitely wasn’t “girl crush”, and in that video the girls pretty much do nothing but smile:
But then they also linked Red Velvet as a “girl crush” example, who can’t seem to help themselves and do crack a smile occasionally:
For something where supposedly “you know it when you see it”, I was more confused by what I was looking at than ever. In this context, the author’s conclusion that “in essence, girl crush is just a play at changing the typical gender dynamics of fan-idol connection”, and that this somehow relates to the longevity of groups, also seems a bit abstract, because it’s not very clear what exactly is changing and how, let alone if it’s having any actual effect on anything. Hmm.
My next search result was interesting:
The first person, their English usage is a bit weird so I’m not quite sure what they’re saying. The second answer thought it was “sexy but not in the way that appeals to boys”, so more for other girls to look up to or something… so, apparently like Sonamoo’s “Cushion”?
So apparently when Sonamoo are singing “he’s like cushion” while shaking their ass in the chorus, this doesn’t appeal to boys? Either today’s young men are even more emasculated than I thought, or (far more likely) this answerer just has no idea what guys actually like. Really it just seems like a “sexy concept” with a different name.
4Minute’s “Hate” is supposedly “girl crush” too. Okay, so I’ll readily admit that those white jumpsuits and red jumpers in the choruses probably don’t appeal to boys, but I’m pretty sure they don’t appeal to anyone else either. The rest of the clothes everywhere else in the video certainly appealed to me and didn’t seem really any more extreme what Stellar used to wear, in terms of sex appeal.
The next result was from The Great Satan of k-pop websites. Dare I break the Kpopalypse boycott early to investigate the trufax of their “girl crush” claims? I turned my Adblocker up to full, loaded up my VPN so it rerouted my web traffic through to South America (sorry Brazilian readers), and updated my virus and anti-spyware to the latest versions. Then I suddenly realised that even though I am a k-pop pervert who likes sexy k-pop concepts, I am also a man of morals who draws the line at supporting revenge porn sites. Content from The Great Satan will therefore remain blacklisted until Kpopalypse boycott expiry date, I’ll have to do my research elsewhere.
Next article, from SBS PopAsia – 11 girl group MVs with girl crush vibes and fierce aesthetics, featured some girl groups who were “beyond fierce”. Gosh! Who could they be?
Oh right, Girls’ Generation. Apparently “fierce” is all about wearing black boobs-harness things and – once again – smiling maybe about 40% less than usual.
Oh and T-ara. Having exposed midriffs seems to be very “empowering” here, although once again I’m not sure about this “not appealing to boys”. How someone looks at this and thinks male fans aren’t gonna like it, I have no idea.
Another article called The “Girl Crush”: KPop Fashion Meets Street Fashion kind of ignored the music completely and looked at it all purely from a fashion angle, which is probably fairly sensible given how superficial as fuck this is turning out to be. Maybe they have some answers?
Now this actually made a little bit of sense – but not much. The author here has bought into all the fictional bullshit about how “cute” and “sexy” are the only two other concepts out there, so that kind of fucks everything up, oh well. And then there’s that thing again about not catering to the male fans only.
OneHallyu had a thread called What is the “girl crush” concept, exactly? but they didn’t seem to know either. The forum members who didn’t troll mainly just copy-pasted answers from the other sources I’ve already looked at. Oh and apparently 4Minute’s “Crazy” is the “girl crush anthem”, because Hyuna has never been a sex symbol for guys or anything.
I was about to give up, but then I found a profile for the k-pop group called “Girl Crush”. Surely a group called “Girl Crush” would actually be “girl crush”, right? How could they not be? I thought I’d better check out their video and find out the trufax:
Well that looks more like the old “sexy concept” from Stellar days.
YouTube comments seemed to agree!
Female fans also seemed to find these positive role models very “empowering”, which ticks off the box for not only appealing to the male fans, but giving girls someone they can look up to and admire the confidence of:
Does that mean that girl crush concepts are actually just sexy concepts?
Looking back at my research material, I think that perhaps they are. It’s clear from my research that “girl crush concepts” have generally the following things in common:
- girls shaking their asses a lot
- showing lots of skin, especially midriff and legs, or at least some tight clothing
- not too much smiling, looking annoyed at the camera
- “empowering” lyrics about how they just broke up with some dude
There’s no difference between any of that in any of the videos above, and this:
Conclusion: the old “sexy concept” had now just been sneakily rebranded to “girl crush”, and what we’re being sold as “girl crush concepts” are really just the same old sexy concepts with a wafer-thin veneer of “empowerment” to help the media buy into the bullshit, and to help the more conservative fans who might normally be worried about “exploitation” swallow it all a little easier.
Well, I’m glad I cleared that up! That’s all for this post! I’ll leave you now with the fabulous Pocket Girls, demonstrating their ability to “empower” the Korean armed forces! Kpopalypse will return with more posts soon!