Sunday, July 12, 2009

One more for Charles Montgomery

Come to think of it, Charles, your comment on my post "Windows" is onto something. I believe some sociology has been done with the conscious infantilization of Japanese culture under the American occupation, starting with the famous photograph of General MacArthur towering over a doll-like Hirohito. But no, that doesn't explain Korea. On the day I saw the Cube on display at my Nissan dealer, the TV in the customer waiting room was tuned to The Price Is Right, and there I got to see a grossly out-of-shape MC dealing with a batch of contestants jumping and shrieking on command and looking pitiable because they too were grossly out of shape. Even the children were obese. That's the image of American working-class culture these days: a far cry from the lean faces you see in Dorothea Lange's or Arthur Rothstein's photographs from the last depression. The contestants on South Korean game shows jump and shriek too, but their body language is different. In the United States, everybody looks middle-aged, even the children. In Korea, grown men and women do their desperate best to look no more than 14 years old, with bangs on the boys and all, and the soundtrack is busy with a continuous amusement-park din of bells and buzzers and girls screaming "Oo!" in unison. And no, I can't explain it. Maybe something about life in a society making an abrupt and jarring transition away from patriarchal Confucian values?