Korea, Calm Down. Stephen Colbert Doesn’t Hate Rain.
Oh, good lord. Rain fans (and Korean media) need to calm waaayyy down.
SONG OF THE DAY
Rain / Bi – “태양을 피 하는 방법” (How to Escape the Sun) — I prefer this version to the moodier version used in the music video. [ zShare download ]
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can watch the video clip of Colbert featuring a segment on Rain from The Colbert Nation site — the video that shows that Colbert was not in fact “attacking” Rain and “mocking” him — as the Korean media have been quick to accuse.
You know what? I like Rain/Bi. He has a nice voice, he’s a great dancer, and he’s a hard worker. I don’t particularly think he’ll succeed in the US market but I wish him luck anyway.
But you know what’s NOT going to help him? When fans and the entirety of Korean entertainment media take a silly segment featuring him on The Colbert Report and blow it out of proportion as a racist attack. Especially when the segment is funny as hell AND actually shows Rain in a positive light if you approach it with the right perspective.
First it was Yahoo Korea, The JoongAng Daily, Sports Chosun, YTN News, YTN Star, SBS News (a little more balanced), and now Chosun Ilbo. And there’s a key element that these reports are missing — the point of satire. They have jumped so quickly to the conclusion that Colbert was attacking Rain that their knee-jerk defensive reporting HAS GOTTEN IT ALL WRONG. They misunderstand what kind of show The Colbert Report is.
You need to understand this: There are two Stephen Colberts. One is the man, and one is the character he plays on his show. Stephen Colbert the Man is intelligent, witty, and is NEVER PRESENT on his show. The host of The Colbert Report is a character. The host of the show is a caricature of American ultra-right-wing conservatism — and by pushing the act so far, Colbert the Man is actually criticizing what Colbert the Host is promoting.
For instance, Colbert the Host is the man who staunchly defends President Bush blindly, calling him “the greatest president ever,” and insists with tunnel-visioned, myopic stubbornness that the United States was completely justified in invading Iraq. When confronted (by a guest of the show, for instance) with the fact that there were in fact no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, Colbert responds with cheekiness, “Of course there are. Why else would we invade?” The silent response is a powerful criticism of the war in Iraq — not a defense of it.
Colbert’s character is based on the bombastic, often grating television personality Bill O’Reilly, who hosts Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. O’Reilly is known for being pompous and self-serving, but enjoys a huge following, many of whom are right-wing and conservative viewers. Colbert the Host professes to be a huge fan of O’Reilly, and models after O’Reilly’s supposed “No-Spin Zone” with his “No-Fact Zone.” Do you get the joke? Colbert is not REALLY a fan of O’Reilly. It’s part of his genius, both comic and political.
This is what we call satire. It’s cutting, it’s brilliant, and so is Stephen Colbert. To be fair, it’s not like Koreans are the only ones to misunderstand Stephen Colbert. Irony, sarcasm, wit — that stuff is hard to translate into another language. Even American politicians and pundits have routinely mistaken Colbert the Host for being real, and gone on his show to their own embarrassment, realizing they completely got it wrong.
American politicians have found it’s much more productive to understand what Stephen Colbert is, and work with it — Colbert fans call them “It-Getters.” What’s an It-Getter? Someone who “gets it” = who understands the joke that Stephen Colbert is NOT the same as his “character.”
Conversely, lacking a sense of humor — about yourself or about Colbert — earns you the label “Non-It-Getter.” As in, people who don’t get the joke, people who think Colbert is actually advocating the beliefs put forth by his Colbert Character rather than using his character to mock them as stupid.
Colbert’s remaking of the “How To Escape the Sun” video was not done in malice. Joking that he and Rain used to battle for supremacy on the Korean pop charts is not slander. THIS WAS ALL IN FUN. Producing such a clearly inferior — but hilariously funny — parody of Rain’s video is like a tacit admission that Rain is good at what he does.
In fact, the only part I found mildly discomfiting was the reference as “Kid Jong Il” — but ultimately, that statement highlights Colbert (the Host)’s own ignorance, not Rain’s.
This is a GOOD thing for Rain. Stephen Colbert is someone you want on your side. Aside from being smart and funny, Colbert has a hip, intelligent audience. You’d be smart not to alienate him, or his audience. This will HELP Rain’s attempt to break in to the US market.
But do you know what will help him even more?
If Rain can prove he is an “It-Getter.”
EDITED TO ADD:
It does seem that Rain himself isn’t offended, although I’m still looking a quote or a statement he’s made himself to corroborate this (I really dislike the structure of his hompy and fan sites; they’re difficult to navigate). But it makes sense that JYP is taking it in stride given his facility with the English language and American pop culture (even if Rain and JYP have parted ways officially), and Rain seems to be a good sport about it. Having a sense of humor about this will only help.