Today’s men on TV turning more boyish
“I Live Alone” is a show about men living the single life, whether as bachelors or as fathers whose families live abroad. “Dad, Where Are We Going?” presents a new role for men by documenting trips taken with fathers. The most notable example of the all-male show is “Grandpas Over Flowers,” where four septuagenarian men went on a backpacking trip through Europe. As the four old men travelled on an adventure normally associated with young people, they popularized the image of “grumpy, cute seniors,” a welcomed change from the usual negative stereotypes of being stubborn or outdated.
These new variety shows present drastically changed images of men. Today’s men cook, clean, feed the children and try to communicate. They are talkative, indulge in quarreling and pester like children. Lee Seong-jae on “I Live Alone” made headlines when he played with a toy lightsaber, appearing as a typical “kidult.”
These new male characters may represent a new type of masculinity in the post-authoritarian era. Cultural commentator Chung Deok-hyeon follows the culture of entertainment and play among men. “Unlike the past, these shows feature men who can entertain themselves,” said Chung.
Lately, the new girl group Crayon Pop is rising in popularity. The group made its debut with a song titled “Pa Pa Pa.” In the music video, the girls are dressed in tracksuits and wear helmets like the characters on the classic animated series “Five Eagles” (or “Gatchaman” in its original Japanese version). While they are actually in their 20s, the girls look more like kindergarten students, with their childlike voices and simple tunes.
Male fans are going crazy over Crayon Pop. They find the childish, cartoonish and totally unsexualized images very cute. You can easily find many video clips online of enthusiastic fans jumping wildly at concerts or military unit performances. Some shout the refrain, “Jump! Jump!” from “Pa Pa Pa.” Older fans of Crayon Pop refer to themselves as “Uncle Pop.”
Behind the enthusiasm of these male fans may be nostalgia for the cartoons and dances they once enjoyed in their youth. As they jump along to the simple rhythms, maybe they want to go back to their childhoods.
The common thread in how men are reflected in these new pop-culture trends is how boyish they seem to be, not adult-like. Maybe this is because they may find it very tiring to live as grown-ups.
* The author is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by YANG SUNG-HEE