Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Aegyo or "Act Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size"


K-dramas rock my world, but if there’s one thing I find hard to accept, it’s Aegyo. The heroine bounces across the room like a two-year-old, bunches her fists under her cheeks, raises her voice three octaves and pouts like there’s no tomorrow. To a western woman, raised in a post-feminist world, this is more than a little shocking.

I remember watching two separate interviews where men were asked what they liked in their significant other. One was an Asian man from the crowd on 1 Night, 2 Days. His immediate reply was her Aegyo. Okay, it’s a culture thing. They’re raised to think that’s cute. BUT! The other occurrence was with Sam Hammington, an Australian expatriate who can be seen on shows like Gag Concert and Real Man. His background is way different from the traditional upbringing. He married a Korean woman, and when he was asked what he liked about her, he ALSO replied her Aegyo.

I get that it makes them feel like the Alpha Male protecting their woman, and it’s their privilege to choose what they find attractive. What really bothers me is that I think it was the first and ONLY thing both men mentioned. What about her Smarts, Kind Heart, Respect for Elders, Business Acumen, or even that most shallow but understandable reason, “She’s hot!” Did they really choose their life partners based on how well she could imitate a toddler?

Not all instances of Aegyo get to me. In fact, they’ve led to some pretty funny moments in dramas. And I have to admit, Korea is an equal-opportunity offender, with male actors and pop singers joining the bbuing-bbuing ranks. Here’s a few examples of the saccharine. WARNING: Some are easier to stomach than others.

1. Classic Aegyo

The Master's Sun
Just subtract 100 IQ points and you're there. Do you think the talent agencies have special Aegyo tests for their prospective pop stars? I see your name is Sunny-shi. You have perfect pitch. That's nice. You can hit a C above high C. That's nice. Wait, you can act like a baby for three minutes without stopping. You're hired!

2. Cheer Up Aegyo
I guess one thing I like about Aegyo is its good intentions. It tries to bring someone a laugh or a smile. If you love them, you should be willing to sacrifice a little self-respect, but just make sure that someone is worth it!

3. Self-Aware Aegyo
The King 2 Hearts

The King 2 Hearts is my absolute, hands-down favorite drama. I'm captivated by the irrepressible, cheeky playboy Prince Jae-ha, who transforms into a courageous, honorable monarch through the love of a good woman. That woman is Kim Hang-ah, a North Korean fighting machine, who can take out a terrorist squad single-handedly, and isn't afraid to pull out the Aegyo to cheer up her depressed boyfriend. (But how much do I love the little hurling motion she makes while she's practicing.) Even Jae-ha can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

4. When the Aegyo's on the other foot

Flower Boy Next Door

There seems to be two main types of Male Aegyo: the darling man-child type like Enrique Geum in Flower Boy Next Door. And the man who acts like a child, but might not be very skilled at it, like Gong Yoo's character in Big. (I don't actually like this drama, and never watched it all, but it's Gong Yoo!) Not gonna lie. When Aegyo comes wrapped in a deep, sexy voice, I can see the appeal.

5. If the Aegyo fits, wear it

We Got Married: Global Edition
Let's face it, for some people Aegyo comes naturally. It seems like an extension of their actual personality. Thai pop-star Gui Gui is one such case. Her bright, bubbly personality lit up the screen on We Got Married: Global Edition and I got a big kick out of watching her energetic fervor spin 2 PM's Taecyeon around like a top.

I hate manipulative Aegyo that is only out for what it can get from the other person. But would I be willing to pull out the bbuing-bbuing to make someone I loved smile? Maybe. I'll cross that bridge if I come to it.  In the meantime, I'll look for a guy who's taste runs more like that Prince song. You know, the one that says: Women not girls rule my world, I said they rule my world. Preach it, Prince.

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