The official spokesman for grumpy, willfully ignorant old white people across America has finally learned about PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” As EW points out, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly hipped The O’Reilly Factor viewers to the galloping K-Pop sensation’s inescapable clip, in honor of its having become the most-watched video in YouTube history, with more than 846 million views as of this posting. Because when news breaks, O’Reilly will tell you about it after the rest of the world is already questioning its recent Halloween costume choices.
Papa Bear’s take on the PSY phenomenon might not surprise you. Basically, O’Reilly finds “Gangnam Style” meaningless and representative of how debased we all are as a contemporary culture. And the best way he could think of to make this sagacious argument was with some decidedly racist- (and fatist-) sounding comments.
First O’Reilly dismissed PSY’s horse dance as the same as “The Twist” progenitor Chubby Checker’s early-’60s dance called “the pony.” A quick search on YouTube reveals that people doing the pony look very much unlike people doing PSY’s “Gangnam” dance. Then O’Reilly turned to psychiatrist Keith Ablow — who we know is smart because he says “if you will” a lot — to “explain the madness.”
Ablow’s explanation makes some sense, actually. He says “Gangnam Style” is “sort of like a drug” and compares watching the video to “getting high in miniature.” Which isn’t in itself a horrifyingly off-base assessment of a video that’s absurdly disorienting. More questionable is his assertion that “Gangnam Style” shows people don’t want “reality,” “meaning,” or “feeling,” and that the whole phenomenon is “the son of Facebook, if you will.” Before the end of the interview, Ablow complains that publishers rejected his totally great children’s book idea because “the great masses … want not to be tapped on the heartstrings, if you will.”
Fear not, “Gangnam” nation. “I don’t see anything wrong with this,” O’Reilly magnanimously observes. “If you want to waste your time looking at this, or you like the beat … you might lose a few pounds.” But he agrees with Ablow that the song’s success shows “people want to numb themselves.”
Still, where the O’Reilly-like scolds of the halcyon past fretted about Elvis Presley’s hips, Billo contrasts the King favorably with PSY. Elvis, he says, “had a good voice, his songs had words …. and he put on a show.” PSY, on the other hand? Well, here’s what O’Reilly appears to be saying in the clip: “This is a little fat guy from Pyongyang, or someplace. Seoul … and he’s jumping up and down.” (Ablow relevantly chimes in: “Wearing sunglasses!”)
Set aside that words in Korean are still words. It’s hard to tell whether O’Reilly actually says the “p,” thus insinuating PSY is from renegade totalitarian nation North Korea rather than his actual home country of South Korea, or simply says “Yong Yang,” as if making up Asian-sounding place names, which would of course be even uglier. Either way, O’Reilly’s clear implication is that the mere fact of being a small, stout Korean man should be self-evidently enough to disqualify someone from being compared to a rock’n’roll legend.
It’s mildly shocking that someone can still get away with spouting such vitriol on TV in 2012. Then again, the fact that O’Reilly has such a big platform probably suggests there are lot of people who want to numb themselves, if you will, to relevant, reality-based information. PSY might be doing the pony, but at least he’s not burying his head in the sand. And he’s making the right enemies.