By Robert Allen
Regarding a recent episode of the American comedy show The Colbert Report and the reaction that Koreans have had to it, I feel an obligation to set the record straight. Korean Nation: by giving his American audience a brief glimpse of the singer Rain and Korean pop music in general, Stephen Colbert has done more good for your country and its culture than you could possibly imagine.
In essence, Stephen Colbert has handed your country a marvelous gift, and I would encourage you to understand exactly how he has done so.
First, some important background information about the American Media Culture. In America, one can find a number of television and radio programs hosted by power-hungry, ego-driven, ultra-conservative spokesmen.
These ``journalists’’ thrive on being divisively critical of any part of an open-minded, liberal way of thinking. Their tactics are to inflame their audience by portraying anyone who fails to follow the conservative doctrine as a dangerous enemy to all that is good and decent in the world. They intentionally use extreme language to criticize and condemn, keeping their audience at a fever pitch of paranoia and indignation.
Moreover, they are very successful, very powerful and very, very rich. And the most extreme media personality in America, the man with the most inflamed ego and the most self-righteous attitude, the man who feels that he alone can deliver the American people to righteousness, is Mr. Stephen Colbert, the host and self-exalted deity of his television program The Colbert Report. But wait, there’s more.
Stephen Colbert (actually the character he so deftly portrays) is a clown, a buffoon, a parody of those other neo-conservative celebrities. And, believe me, Colbert’s audience ``gets’’ the joke.
Although the tactics and actions of neo-cons like George W. Bush and his cronies have repeatedly disgusted many open-minded Americans, many have realized that perhaps it’s better to laugh than to get angry. And that is why The Colbert (pronounced, like the French ``Col-bear’’) Report (pronounced, for no good reason ``re-pour’’), is not only one of the funniest programs on American TV these days, it’s also one of the most necessary.
Korean Nation: The Colbert Report is a perfect satire of all that is laughable about those hate-filled programs. The character Colbert portrays on his program is so extreme in his comments; he is so consumed by the importance of his own ego and so clueless as to the absurdity of his thinking that, well, he’s exactly like the men he is parodying. His ``rant’’ against Rain is a perfect example of Colbert’s character taking himself much too seriously.
Look at the facts: Only a fool would be indignant at being outvoted by a Korean pop star in Time Magazine’s poll. Only a clueless individual would then go on national television and rave about his newest ``nemesis,’’ and only a deranged human would make his own music video in an attempt to show that he is the more talented individual while wearing a bizarre combination of fashions, including misfired hip-hop, Korean trendiness and button-down Ivy League.
Finally, only an individual with a serious lack of taste would produce this music video singing what he truly believes to be a quality Korean pop song with his rather limited Korean vocabulary (Hyundai, kimchi, etc), while creating a new dance style one could possibly call Korean-hiphop-techno-constipation. And somebody is offended by this?
In the end, Rain could not have asked for better publicity than being ``put on notice’’ by Stephen Colbert. Colbert’s audience is intelligent enough to understand his humor and hip enough to check out Korean Pop Music and culture. Thanks to Colbert, millions of Americans now know who Rain is, where he is from, and the kind of music he makes. Again, Colbert’s audience ``gets’’ the joke.
A joke is never funny if one must explain it. However, if Korean people miss the not-so-subtle satire in Colbert’s tribute to Rain and allow themselves to become offended or indignant without comprehending the context of Colbert’s comedy, the joke, unfortunately, will ultimately be on them.
My prediction: Rain will soon be a guest on Colbert’s program. Trust me. It’s a good thing.
The writer is a teacher in the English Education Department at Hannam University in Daejeon. He has lived in Korea nearly seven years.