south korean jews

by tobybee

so this short video of some residents at one of the jewish care homes in melbourne watching the video clip of ‘gangnam style’ has been doing the facebook and blogging rounds over the last couple of weeks.

and it annoyed me from the beginning. in part that annoyance is driven – if i am honest – by my feelings of alienation from the majority of people in the melbourne jewish communities, which has been hammered home for me by a number of incidents and interactions with friends and non-friends over the last couple of months (all of which are way too boring to mention here). and so, because i’m dafka, i’m going to resent something like this, which comes straight out of the belly of the Community.

but i also think that there’s something incredibly problematic in this clip, and that is its essentialising force. it’s interesting to me that people commenting seem to find this a highly amusing clip. and i wonder where the humour comes from. from what i can understand, it seems to be that people experience the clip as a disjuncture being played out: these elderly people inherently can’t relate to the clip. so along with the humour, people note the poignancy of those who make larger meaning of the clip, winding in their personal wisdom. but that seems also to reinforce the disjuncture: they are making meaning despite the situation; or, maybe, they’re rising above the situation in some way that does not seem to trouble the disjuncture. but the representation of the disjuncture is a source of humour.

but then what is this disjuncture? the commentary seems to be saying that these people won’t be able to relate to the music and visuals not just because of a perceived generational gap – although that is fundamentally important too (which makes me wonder, why do people enjoy suggesting that particular music is for particular generations?) – but also because of an ethnic gap. and in doing so, that ethnic gap is racialised: the boundaries between jew and south korean are overdetermined. the humour comes, it seems, from the idea of these old jews being out of place watching south korean music. which also overdetermines, or essentialises, the music as south korean. so the humour comes from the boundaries between jewishness and south koreanness being reinforced. which seems to me an inevitable problem: the assertion that jews are not south korean and that south koreans are not jews seems to cut off certain possibilities.