Saving the Humanities, Gangnam Style

So, this was on Glee Thursday night:

Which made me think it’s high time we commissioned some time use studies to see just how much time has been spent across the dying globe watching or producing “Gangnam Style” covers and parodies in the past four months. Seriously, people, I’m pretty sure the Bureau of Labor Statistics is going to need to put a new slice in its pie chart to account for this astonishing phenomenon in its 2012 survey of lies people tell about how they spend their leisure time. (Eighteen minutes a day each for reading and exercise seems refreshingly honest, but 26 minutes for farting around at the computer? Gimme a break.)

The slice for “Watching or producing Gangnam Style covers and parodies” should of course be pink, in keeping with the insanely kitschy style of the original by South Korean rapper PSY. (Go on. Click on that link. We’ll wait. For the entire 4 minutes and 13 seconds if we have to. This is work time for you, darlings: cultural studies.)

Now that you’ve seen the original, go destroy a few brain cells do a careful study of a few parodies, including this excellent one produced in the QTU library (featuring a turtle, a marching band, and the dean of the libraries!) or this diabolically witty one called “Mitt Romney Style.” I’m reasonably certain it explains why Obama won the election.

You are probably wondering at this point how in the name of Judy Garland I managed not to convince GayProf, Historiann, and Tenured Radical to do a Gangnam Style parody on the beach in San Juan a couple of weeks ago. I apologize to each and every one of you for squandering this exceptional opportunity to bring Western civilization to a crashing, cheesy, glorious end. As you can tell from the photo at the bottom of this post, three out of four of us were scantily clad and sporting huge sunglasses in San Juan. GayProf no doubt had plenty of extra tiaras and knee-high red boots in his suitcase(s). The Woman Formerly Known as Goose was there with a camera, more than ready to point, shoot, and tell people where to go. (Oh, wait, she did that.) It would have been the parody to end all parodies. It would have made “Call Me Maybe” a minor footnote in the history of virality. It would have made “Academic Tim Gunn” look totally five minutes ago. It would have made “Texts From Hillary” — Wait, no, some things are sacred, aren’t they?

Just so we’re clear: I totally heart “Gangnam Style” and its thousands upon thousands of goofy imitations. I’m fascinated by the phenomenon — as is no less a thinker than Zizek, by the way, so don’t judge, biatches. (Again, click on that last link: You need to see a nose-pulling Zizek explain how Gangnam Style is destroying Justin Bieber.) I can’t wait to read the dozens of dissertations and special issues it is sure to spawn. I predict the academic job crisis will end when armies of PhDs are hired to staff the departments of Gangnam Studies that will spring up when entrepreneurial deans of colleges of arts and entertainment sciences throughout the land realize that this is a sure-fire way to prove they are cool culturally relevant. Yes, darlings, “Gangnam Style” is the cure for what ails us in the age of Excellence Without Money (™RW Enterprises, LLC). Who are we to argue with 861 million views? Who among us has not longed to ride an invisible horse? (Looking at you, cowgirl.) You want Massive, dudes? I’ll give you Massive.

Sometimes, kids, you have to destroy the discipline in order to save it. Let’s do it, Gangnam Style. Don’t forget your sunglasses.

Op op op op oppan Gangnam Style.


  1. Well, it is more fun than grading papers, which is what I ought to be doing right now 🙂


  2. Hey, follow those links and you could spend the rest of the weekend not grading a stack of papers a mile high. Trust me — My own time use studies prove it categorically!


  3. The thing I like about Gangnam Style is that the d00d is a complete total dork, he knows it, and he just completely 100% doesn’t give a flying fucke.


  4. Love love LOVE the “Romney Style” parody, especially the use of the ambiguous fellow in the yellow suit.

    I have no idea how to save the humanities, but it’s possible that it involves a lot of dancing. I’m open to the possibility, in any case.


    • I also enjoyed the Ann Romney character in that one. According to WaPo this morning, Ann is still crying over the election, though she’s consoling herself by trying to get back to her horses. Maybe you should send her some new chaps or something. Oh, also: The Romneys got their Thanksgiving dinner from Boston Market because there were just too many Mormon grandchildren running around the house to cook. Can you imagine what these people would have done for state dinners?

      I am confident that saving the humanities will involve lots of dancing. Let’s work up a number for ASA 2013.


  5. “Heeeeyyy, wealthy ladies!” Best parody by far.

    I lost almost an entire day last month watching Gangnam Style parodies. Then of course I had to watch interviews with PSY (who has a lovely public persona).

    Žižek lost me, though. Did I miss something, or is he just channeling a conservative old-timer tut-tutting about the young uns’ music today? “Kind of a repetitive stupid mechanic music .. the words are extremely vulgar…”. Sure his point is that it’s become a cultural mega-phenomenon, but that’s hardly cutting-edge sociological insight at this point. And I’ve no idea what to do with the “Your first reaction might be, well fuck those stupid Koreans”. Just what kind of a straw man is that?
    (I often think I’m just too stupid to get Žižek).


    • Hey, you were smart enough to figure out how to put the accent marks over the Zs in “Zizek,” which puts you ahead of me. The truth is I don’t know his work at all — This clip is about as close as I’ve ever gotten, and I was puzzled by it, too. Mesmerized, but puzzled. I couldn’t tell if he was being cranky or was genuinely thrilled about Justin Bieber being displaced.


  6. You still watch Glee?


  7. They’ll be doing it in Sydney, too.


  8. Wow. Nice skirts. I will be sorry to miss this.


  9. Asha Rondeau says:

    The horse dance is becoming famous in over the world and the singer named Psy is known as a worldwide idol. Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ video has more than 300 million YouTube views and counting.Millions of people imitated this dance. A teacher teaching math danced ‘Gangnam Style’ in his period to make it less boring and his students are very interesting in his new way of teaching. A teacher teaching physical education did the same thing in the physical class. In recent days, people told about this song and its dance had proved as an internet sensation when almost 1000 inmates of a Philippine prison burst into the famous horse-riding dance.`

    Most recent blog post provided by our new blog page


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