As one of the first K-Pop girl groups to achieve worldwide fame, Girls’ Generation is respected by fans, fellow artists, and music critics all around the world.
However, as one of the first girl groups to become a household name worldwide, Girls’ Generation was also subjected to having their message misunderstood, being hypersexualized, being exoticized, and having their artistry completely overlooked.
Here are 3 times Western media misconstrued Girls’ Generation.
1. “Factory Girls”
In 2012, The New Yorker published a piece called “Factory Girls.” In this article, reporter John Seabrook detailed the history of K-Pop and the history of SM Entertainment, and he weaved the history into his experience at the SMTOWN Live World Tour III show in Anaheim, California. While the article did explain the history of the genre and SM Entertainment’s approach to creating idol groups, the reporter diminished the members’ contributions to their music in favor of what he considered to be SM Entertainment’s contrived creation of their personalities and personas. At one point, he asked Tiffany Young if her eye smile was something she was taught or something that came naturally to her, and she told him that she had her father’s smile. He said Sooyoung transformed from a “cold idol” into a “super cheerleader” when she took the stage to illustrate his point that the members had to completely change their personalities to appeal to fans. He also claimed that K-Pop boy groups would never “make it big in the States” in this article after describing SHINee‘s performance in the same article.
2. “Meet Korea’s 9-Girl Pop Supergroup”
This 2009 Complex article by Brendan Frederick was written shortly after “Gee” was released in 2019. In this article, the reporter calls the members “faceless Korean fembots” and offers sexualized descriptions of each of the individual members. He insinuated that Jessica “sucks a mean lollipop” and called Seohyun, who was 17 at the time, his favorite member. He noted that Seohyun was 18 in Korea although her international age was 17 and wondered “how that would hold up in court” in the United States. He also said that Taeyeon was the first member to make her solo debut despite what he called her “dubious singing ability.”
3. “K-Pop Phenomenon Girls’ Generation Want to Make Insecure Men Feel Better”
This 2014 Vice article was written by Jakob Dorof and came out during the “Mr.Mr.” era. During the group’s interview with the reporter, Sunny described the “Mr.Mr.” video’s concept as being “about reviving the confidence of men that have lost courage and encouraging them to let go of their apprehensions.” This quote ended up inspiring the article’s title. However, by focusing in on the concept of this single music video, the reporter ignored Girls’ Generation’s overall message of female empowerment. Additionally, the members discussed much more interesting topics during the interview that could have become the article’s title. For example, they said that a lighting adapter caught on fire during the “Mr.Mr.” video shoot, they were gearing up for another Japanese tour, they practiced their step distances while preparing for their debut, and how they felt about K-Pop reaching global audiences.