Are you cute, crazy, or sexy? Are you begging for love, or are you the queen? These are questions posed by a research project about Korean pop music, K-Pop. Dr. Patrice Oppliger and graduate student Ying Zhou (COM ‘18) have been conducting research about how K-pop girl groups are portrayed in media and in their music videos.
K-Pop is a genre of music that blends pop, electronic and hip hop. Its origins are in Western pop music. K-pop groups take Western pop music and make it their own by placing an emphasis on costumes, makeup and stylized music videos.
Dr. Oppliger first came up with the idea while doing research for a different project. “I’m doing a book on television shows, specifically Nickelodeon and Disney tween comedy shows,” she said. “And there’s a new show called ‘Make It Pop,’ about three girls who live in a boarding school in the U.S. and form a K-pop group.
“K-pop just seems to be infiltrating American culture and so maybe now’s the time to be thinking about how these cultures influence each other.”
In their first stage of research, Dr. Oppliger and Zhou narrowed down a list of 400 girl groups to the top 50. Within these specific girl groups, they looked into the different companies and styles of music videos.
“For these music videos, we look at the content of the lyrics, the outfits, gestures, and if they are taking off their clothes or focused on the body,” Zhou said. “We also do content analysis of how many boys are in girl groups’ music videos compared to how many girls are in guy groups’ music videos.”
From these research methods, Dr. Oppliger and Zhou have found patterns of how girls should behave and act that correlate to how successful the girl group is.
“There are three types of girls that they act in their music videos. One is cute, another is crazy like Lady Gaga, and another is sexy,” Zhou said. “I heard some comments that the most successful groups combine them all together.”
Though this research is focused mainly on the portrayal of women, the research is not considered a feminist initiative so much as just having a feminist slant.
“I think we’d consider it more gender studies, since we don’t use a significant amount of feminist theory per se,” Dr. Oppliger added. “But it definitely has a feminist slant to it because it’s the idea of the portrayal of women.”
By analyzing the way that women are represented in K-pop, Dr. Oppliger and Zhou are hopeful that their research will shed light on what works and does not work for this up-and-coming, fast-growing music genre. In this way, they can see what makes K-Pop popular, so Western culture can adopt these positive aspects and discard any negative aspects in music.
Amelia Henning, Staff Writer
Amelia Henning is a sophomore in COM studying advertising. Her passions include travel and volunteering. Her goal in life is to have visited all seven continents before she retires as the CEO of an ad agency.