Gangnam busters

by Toby Manhire / 29 November, 2012
The “Gangnam Style” video has set a new record for YouTube views, but has the meme passed its use-by date?

The video for the astronomically popular South Korean comedy-pop song “Gangnam Style” recently became the most viewed video on YouTube yet. A moment ago I gave the video its 840,131,442nd viewing. (It surpassed –as if you needed telling – Justin Beiber’s heartfelt tune “Baby”.)

Lampooning the inhabitants of Seoul’s upmarket Gangnam district and notable for its “horse-riding dance”, the single from Park Jae Sung, better known as PSY, became an internet phenomenon almost immediately, spawning online homages, spin-offs and spoofs in their thousands.

The indispensable site Know Your Meme lists more than 300 videos inspired by the original song. Such as: Romney Style, Kim Jong Style, Minecraft Style, Brony Style (Bronies being young men obsessed by My Little Pony) and James Bond Style.

Among the most recent incarnations of the meme is “Gangnam for Freedom”, from “Anish Kapoor and friends”.

The superstar sculptor wears a T-shirt with the image of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist who released his own homage last month, which itself has attracted almost a million views.

Kapoor holds aloft written slogans demanding freedom of expression while dancers shuffle mawkishly around him.

The trouble is that Kapoor’s video radiates “elitism and ego”, observes the critic Hrag Vartanian at culture site Hyperallergic. “Unlike Ai Weiwei’s version, there isn’t an absurdity here ... it’s all about Kapoor.”

In a post pointedly headlined “When Memes Make You Hate Them”, he writes:

I think it’s great that Kapoor has discovered the world of memes, but this falls flat as it tries to couch overt political content with no irony, no wink to the hilarity of the meme itself or the fact that [the original song] pokes fun at the absurdity of taste and money.

Perhaps the Gangnam thing has just run its course. As with planking, we’ll only know for certain when John Key and his family are spotted doing the horse-riding dance.

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