Elite, smooth and completely indifferent

Here is a typical image of a fashionable woman that can be found in Korean advertising. In this particularly case, fashion is the product. But the important feature is spiritual, not visual. I want to ask you, if you can imagine how this woman would think and behave.

Would she strive to reduce poverty and injustice in our society? Would she take a deep interest in the well being of working people in her community? Would she give generously to environmental movements and do everything in her power to reduce waste?

Ultimately, we do not know, but the surface appearance given is one of radical elitism, of a smooth detachment and a complete indifference to the fate of our society and our biosphere. I find more and more advertisements that employ this particular posture  popping up in Seoul and they disturb me deeply. To think that  young girls may be thinking about such a posture as an ideal is tragic, if not criminal, in terms of its greater implications for  humanity.


2014-05-30 15.23.22

4 responses to “Elite, smooth and completely indifferent

  1. Agnes Murr June 11, 2014 at 3:14 am

    My thoughts have been similar. Many models in ads have this look of self-assurance mixed with a degree of disdain for anything that does not reach their “standard” of good looks and fashion. They are cool, elegant, impeccable. What is personally hurting me most is that, as I believe each human being has a deep yearning for beauty (in the Aristotelian sense), this yearning is abused and turned into a wicked game of greed and money.

    • Colin June 3, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      I would have to disagree. I think this is an extremely totalizing discourse that dehumanizes people who appear on advertisements. It’s a job, and it pays the bills. Sometime it’s done as a hobby as supplemental income (take the policy hack who is trying to save the anthropocene, who once in a while just so happens to like taking some photos and being paid to do so. A person who is disjointed in their fashion sense has every chance and propensity to be either greedy/indifferent/self-assured just as they are likely to be emotionally weak/validation-seeking etc. It all comes down to choice and I think that people are more multi-dimensional than your first impressions of them or what one of their occupations are. I have many friends who model. Some do it as full time work, some do it part time, some do it completely for fun (it’s a a mutually beneficial transaction at the end of the day). Amongst these males and females are a policy analyst, a career adviser at a university, a well-published and well-cited human rights activist (with an MA, MD, and JD to boot), a military officer, a store clerk, a freelance consultant, and a cafe owner. All are humble as hell, very down to earth, considerate of others, respectful of talent and good work ethic, and would never make anyone feel any less of themselves than they deserve to be. People with poor fashion sense who do not appear in these posters have the potential to be all of these things too, or not.

  2. Craig June 11, 2014 at 3:55 am

    Social status and the quest to attain it, and keep it in the eyes of others at all costs, is the one truest characterization of modern Korean society.

    This is why shame and social fear are so effective here.

  3. cpcolinchau June 11, 2014 at 4:31 am

    He “possible worlds” debate about the what-ifs that could become of such people are endless. It would be plausible that someone could maintain such a posture while doing good for the world (and maybe doing it for esteem and prestige and social validation as well). At the end of the day, I think it is paternalistic to hold and expectations on others but just to believe in the power of one’s own abilities to persuade and provide a logical argument as to why certain actions should be embarked upon, and leaving it up to others to decide what they will do armed with such information. They may respond the way we like, or not. But nothing will take away the sanctity of their own ability to choose and therefore take responsibility for their own actions, rather than to undergo any force of physical, social, or mental compulsion. People who are not aware of their actions and their implications are either wilfully ignorant, or their ignorance can be corrected with knowledge. But the only thing that shield society from paternalism is choice.

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