Or is it?
Earlier this month were the debuts of two new girl groups that proved to be quite the topics among online netizens: the ‘pan-Asian’ Blush and the ‘biracial’ Chocolat. A significant question Linz above addresses is whether emphasizing hype on the concept of ‘multi-ethnicity’ is really the way to go in terms of ‘blurring lines’ between ethnicities in the pop culture scene. In a way, yes, but then again, not really.
Chocolat and Blush are different examples of basically the same case — promoting certain ethnicities (or ethnic mixtures) in an industry that underrepresents them.
In the American pop scene, there is definitely a lack of mainstream artists of Asian descent (the only chart-toppers I can think of are Far East Movement, Charice, and Bruno Mars*); and I guess Blush is the industry’s way of compensating for that. But to consciously market their ethnicity - to label them as “THE FIRST PAN-ASIAN GROUP”…? Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of quelling ethnic divides?
*BTW, this is my first time actually seeing the music video for Just The Way You Are… the cassette tape effect thing is so mesmerizing *o*
Because if you’re going to force attention on the fact that they’re Asian, you’re basically implying that ethnicity is indeed a factor to always be conscious of — a certain type of awareness that can only be taken so far until it starts to get problematic. And that’s exactly the approach taken by those who placed Blush together, so it seems. Like Linzer said, the fact that the members of this group were recruited first and foremost on the basis of their ethnicity and placed together for the sake of creating this ‘mosaic’ (maybe even over factors such as their talent, how well they harmonize together, group dynamics, etc.)… there’s something quite off about that.
Likewise, we have Chocolat, a new K-pop group consisting of 5 members, 3 of which are biracial (half Korean, half Caucasian). Sure, it may be a great way to establish something refreshing in an industry that quite homogeneous in terms of ethnicity, but again, are we supposed to give this group special attention because of 3 of their members are of different blood?
It could also have something to do with a focus on physical looks - being biracial means that these girls possess certain external characteristics that are believed to be ‘unique’, and simultaneously caters to many Koreans’ (if not all Asians) idea of beauty (the mistake in which is that the following characteristics are commonly attributed as exclusively Caucasian and nothing else): big eyes, light skin, height, an elevated nose bridge, and of course, double eyelids.
With that said, could forces of ‘exoticization’ be at work here as well? I’m not sure if that’s the right word for the case of Chocolat (dropping the word’s inherent Western POV, are Caucasians seen as “exotic” in the East?), but for Blush it definitely could be argued as so.
All in all, when it comes to marketing gimmicks such as ‘ethnic diversity’, though I understand it has good intentions, it just ends up seeming like their ethnic backgrounds are being exploited. To place it bluntly, it’s like, “hey, look at us, we’re Asian/biracial!” And it just leaves me thinking about the numerous people out there going, “….so? Does it really matter?”
(BTW, I can’t help but think about what the two other members of Chocolat must be feeling — to be the two pure Koreans in a group promoted as ‘biracial’…)
UPDATE: Tia, the second maknae of Chocolat, has already landed herself an endorsement deal, apparently for her “unique” and “exotic” looks. Yep, called it.