NOTE: The music videos discussed in this video are rated for ages 12+ and 15+. As such, this article is for readers 15+. Reader discretion is advised.
You know it’s an interesting day when you notice a White Chicks homage in a K-Pop video.
I am, of course, talking about the (G)I-DLE video for “퀸카 (Queencard)”. A quick YouTube search shows that I was not the only person who noticed that the dance scene in the first chorus was, indeed, a familiar sight. It has become somewhat of a meme that this scene is in “Queencard”.
However, as a filmmaker, I can’t help but wonder what this homage means. I mean, White Chicks is a very specific choice – a movie where two black men pretend to be rich white socialite women? You don’t pay homage to a movie that is both as iconic and as controversial as that without having some sort of purpose behind it.
Y2K: An Immortal Era of Chick Flicks
When my partner showed me “Queencard”, she pointed out that the thesis of the video appears to be that western beauty standards still penetrate Korean culture – specifically Korean pop culture. I am very much inclined to agree. Almost, if not all, of the extras are white, black, or otherwise not Korean. The dyed hair and contact lenses that the members of (G)I-DLE are, consequently, an indicator of the unnatural situation. The Y2K fashion is an indicator of the teen movies that a lot of American Millennials and Zoomers grew up with.
What’s important to remember is that there is a little more to a White Chicks homage. The movie revolves around the tense friendship dynamics and rivalries of women, from the outside perspective of men. The female characters actively tear each other down, but they actively build each other up in equal measure. The male leads learn as much from the female leads as the female leads do from them. While there are no major male characters in “Queencard”, the implication of the reference seems to be that women have the capacity for both when it comes to their relationships.
That said, there is another element at play here – camp.
K-Pop and Camp: A match made in heaven
Camp is, in essence, a commitment to the ridiculous, whether you know it or not. White Chicks is a camp classic, for example, because while it’s very much a comedy, everybody in the cast and crew are firmly committed to the ridiculous. Even though everyone is over the top, you accept that these people are real because everyone involved in the production is truly living in their role. If you want examples from K-Pop, Super Junior’s movie Attack on the Pin-Up Boys is a perfectly done camp film, and the K-Drama The Uncanny Counter flirts with camp often.
Camp is a common (but often overlooked) element of K-Pop. It is a device to communicate elements of the story or message when other methods are not sufficient. And “Queencard” uses camp masterfully, in that the shock factor at some of the over the top elements allows you to think about what they mean. Why are all the doctors dancing around Soyeon before her surgery? Because the standards she is subjected to are, unfortunately, ubiquitous. Why are all the cars crashing in the presence of Minnie or Soyeon? Because that is what these characters think they want. Why is it implied that Miyeon is replacing Minnie between shots? Because it’s unfortunately very easy to only think about yourself.
Why use these homages?
So, this got me thinking. How does (G)I-DLE use the language of film homages? There are other homages in this video, including nods to Mean Girls and Ariana Grande’s “Break Up With Your GF”. My brother even said that the pool scene may be a reference to the 2008 movie Wild Child. There are more homages in (G)I-DLE’s companion music video “Allergy” as well. This YouTube short does an excellent job showing them in context. At a glance, all of the movies and music videos referenced are all about the complicated relationships between girls – how they break each other down and build each other up in equal measure. As such, we can assume the thesis of “Queencard” is that women are complicated, and that the only thing you can do in the end is be yourself.
But this isn’t the only MV by (G)I-DLE that uses the language of homage.
Let’s get into it.
Let’s discuss (G)I-DLE’s video, “Nxde”. This video is filled with homages. The notable ones are the ones stated at the end, Marilyn Monroe and Banksy. However, they are not the only ones, not by a long shot. The cartoon woman is clearly emulating the style of Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Soyeon’s costumes very clearly reference iconic outfits by Madonna and Lady Gaga, and a lot of the black-and-white camera shots are reminiscent of Madonna’s music video for “Vogue”. The use of can-can dancers, as well as the shots of Miyeon in her dressing room looking at herself in a mirror, as well as the final shot of the shredded picture that passes by several other scenes, are all direct references to Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge.
Okay, so what does all this mean?
Homage #1 – Satine
Let’s start with Moulin Rouge. The character Miyeon is dressed as is Satine, a can-can dancer by night and courtesan also by night. She is a character that all of the other characters, male and female, reduce to a sex symbol. She wants to be an actress more than anything, but being a courtesan is the best she can do right now. Satine’s lover, the struggling writer Christian, completely believes her when she lies and says that she is not in love with him in order to save the Moulin Rouge club.
Her boss, Zidler, continuously puts Satine in positions where her only recourse is to sleep with men. The Duke, Zidler’s investor, fully expects Satine to sleep with him, and even tries to assault her at one point. However, in spite of all of this, Satine is a very intelligent, calculated woman who never acts impulsively and always measures her words and decisions very carefully – something everyone in the film takes for granted.
It’s also worth mentioning that when we meet Satine for the first time, she’s directly paying homage to both Marilyn Monroe and Madonna through a cover of both “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Material Girl”. More on both of them later.
Homage #2 – Jessica Rabbit
Now, what about Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Well, Jessica Rabbit is, much like the women on this list, reduced to a sex symbol. And this is by design – in Jessica Rabbit’s world, as a “toon” herself (a living cartoon) she is a minority. Moreover, she is a minority who is working in a club as a singer, particularly one who is meant to use her sexuality to make money. Jessica is photographed doing “patty cake” with another man, such that her husband, the titular Roger Rabbit, takes to mean she is being unfaithful.
However, the truth is Jessica was threatened into posing for those pictures – or, more accurately, her husband was threatened, and she was acting in his interests, irrespective of her own. She is aware of her sex appeal, but her relationship with her husband matters more to her. Furthermore, all the toons – the minorities of this film – are in active danger of death via acetone. Jessica’s not exactly in a privileged position, even when perceived as such. A reference to her, is, in essence, channeling a woman who lacks privilege even when she is perceived as having such.
Homage #3 and #4 – Madonna and Lady Gaga
Moving on to Lady Gaga and Madonna. Lady Gaga and Madonna are both musical artists and fashion icons. Madonna paid homage to Marilyn Monroe, and Lady Gaga paid homage to Madonna. (There was also apparently a feud between Gaga and Madonna, but that’s a different story that I don’t feel qualified to speak on.)
Both Lady Gaga and Madonna broke boundaries while being artists in their own right. Both of them are women who have unapologetically expressed their sexuality.
And, most importantly, they are women who were demonized for expressing their sexuality.
Homage #5 – Banksy
Then, we get Banksy. Banksy is a British street artist who has never shown their face. They have created some truly generation-defining art pieces. One of those iconic pieces is “Love is in the Bin,” and it is iconic for a very specific reason. As soon as it was sold at auction – for no less than £1,042,000 – the frame turned out to be a shredder, and half of the painting was ripped to shreds.
The auction house managed to stop the painting from completely shredding itself, much to Banksy’s dismay. The elusive Banksy stated their intent was to completely destroy the painting. Shredding an art piece – specifically one that was worth a million GBP – is either a genius business move (turning a piece into a once-in-a-lifetime moment) or a statement on the nature of capitalism, if not some combination of the two.
It’s also worth mentioning that Bansky is completely anonymous. The public doesn’t know their identity. Only a handful of people have ever met them. To use the language of homage in this way is to pay homage to an artist without a body.
Homage #6 – Marilyn Monroe
A Deep Dive Into The Representation of an icon
“Nxde” came out around the same time as the 2022 movie Blonde. In fact, it came out within weeks of Blonde’s international release. While many people saw it as a biography, Blonde was based on a very fictional account of Marilyn Monroe’s life.
According to YouTube channel Be Kind Rewind: “It’s close enough to reality to seem correct,” but “it’s detached enough to be reductive.” The director, Andrew Dominik stated he wanted to harness the “collective memory” of Marilyn Monroe. He even said that it doesn’t matter if people take the movie as gospel truth.
The Real Marilyn
In the words of Be Kind Rewind:
“Yes, Blonde is not a factual account. It’s about the myth of Marilyn Monroe, it’s about the image. But can we really divorce blonde from her real life iconography? I’m not so sure. In my view, simply labeling something a fictionalized account doesn’t mean that story is excused from broader questions about legacy and veracity.”Be Kind Rewind. “So I Watched Blonde…” YouTube, 24 Oct. 2022, youtu.be/VwFkhLBes4o.
Marilyn Monroe was an incredible woman. Not just an actress. An incredible woman. An incredible person. She was a hardworking actress who had a huge hand in the development of her persona. Not only that, she had an insane range to her acting. Monroe took a number of classes to improve her acting and comedy skills, and channeled the likes of actresses like Mae West. She parodied her own status as a sex symbol, according to one of her biographers. Marilyn Monroe also converted to Judaism, and found her Jewish faith to be an important part of her identity.
The Facsimile of Marilyn
Dominik claims to be enamored with Monroe’s mental health makes a mockery of her suffering. In Dominik’s words:
“It’s about a person who is going to be killing themself. So it’s trying to examine the reasons why they did that. It’s not looking at her lasting legacy. I mean, she’s not even terribly concerned with any of that stuff. If you look at Marilyn Monroe, she’s got everything that society tells us is desirable. She’s famous. She’s beautiful. She’s rich. If you look at the Instagram version of her life, she’s got it all. And she killed herself. Now, to me, that’s the most important thing. It’s not the rest. It’s not the moments of strength. OK, she wrested control away from the men at the studio, because, you know, women are just as powerful as men. But that’s really looking at it through a lens that’s not so interesting to me. I’m more interested in how she feels, I’m interested in what her emotional life was like.”BFI. “Andrew Dominik on Blonde.” BFI, 27 Sept. 2022, http://www.bfi.org.uk
I will not mince words. This take on this real woman’s life is abhorrent.
It’s worth mentioning again that Dominik did not write the source material. Joyce Carol Oates, the author of the novel Blonde, is to blame as well for this interpretation of Monroe. Oates believes (or appears to) that Marilyn Monroe was only a tragic figure, solely defined by her pain. She presents Monroe, through her novel, as someone who is effectively incapable of joy. In Be Kind Rewind’s words, Monroe becomes an “avatar for suffering” through the depiction within Blonde.
The fact that both Oates and Dominik took advantage of a human being’s story for this monstrosity angers me to no end.
more than a symbol: Channeling Marilyn Monroe
Soyeon directly pays homage to Marilyn Monroe in her lyrics:
Twisted Lorelei that don’t need no manGenius English Translations – (G)I-Dle – Nxde (English Translation).” Genius, 2023, genius.com
A bookworm obsessed with philosophy, a self-made woman
Very flabbergasted by this sassy story
The audience booed and shouted
“You tricked me you’re a liar”
As stated above, Marilyn was both aware and involved in the presentation of her image. However, she was not responsible for men only wanting this from her. She was an intelligent self-made woman, but people thought that she couldn’t be more than a dumb blonde. The idea that she had agency over her body and femininity, but was also a victim of the oppression of her industry, is not as much of a contradiction as Oates and Dominik wanted to believe. Ergo, “Very flabbergasted by this sassy story” is a direct reference to Marilyn’s life.
It’s also worth mentioning that “sassy” can have multiple connotations in the lyrics of “Nxde”. The phrase in use is “싸가지없는”, which could also mean “rude” (to put it mildly.) However, “sassy” is the official translation, so it seems that Soyeon, (G)I-DLE, and CUBE Entertainment want this to have an ambiguous connotation. It could mean sassy in reference to a woman who’s unapologetic and trendsetting, or it could mean sassy in reference to a woman who is rude or vulgar. This ambiguity doesn’t just invoke Marilyn’s complex identity, but also invokes all of the other figures on this list.
The final screen of “Nxde” reads as follows:
THIS VIDEO IS INSPIRED BY MARILYN & BANKSY.
THANK YOU AND LOVE YOU.
Soyeon, Minnie, Miyeon, Yuqi, and Shuhua all knew exactly what they were doing when they channeled Marilyn and Banksy, as well as everyone else. They were communicating a very specific, very urgent message.
“Our bodies are not for you.”
I’m a very femme-presenting person. I enjoy the process of putting on a full face of makeup. My closet has more dresses than can reasonably fit in it. I like taking care of my hair. I even prefer walking in heels to sneakers – you can blame my high arches for that one though. I love who I am, whether I’m wearing mascara or not.
That said, there have been periods of my life where I have actively downplayed these aspects of myself in order to get through life and seem “tough.” Particularly in my grade school film classes, where I would sometimes be the only girl, I would want to seem like a different person than I was. I didn’t want to be “like other girls” – though, in retrospect, I don’t think I even knew what other girls were really like.
When (G)I-DLE releases songs like “Queencard” and “Nxde”, I get a profound feeling of hope. Soyeon, Minnie, Miyeon, Shuhua, and Yuqi are carrying on the legacy of the powerful women who came before them, who they pay homage to.
And I know, for a fact, that they will inspire girls to do the same.