If you have access to the Internet — and you sort of have to in order to read this — then chances are good that you’ve seen the over-the-top music video for South Korean pop star Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” which has racked up more than 250 million views on YouTube. You may have watched some of the many parodies, like this video combining the song with clips from the film Downfall featuring an apoplectic Adolf Hitler. You may have even tried to teach yourself Psy’s “Gangnam Style” horse dance.
The song is catchy enough, and the video ridiculous enough, that you may not have realized that “Gangnam Style” mixes its silliness with social satire. Gangnam, you see, is Seoul’s richest and flashiest neighborhood, what one commenter describes as the Korean equivalent of “Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Beverly Hills, Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Miami Beach all rolled into one.” The video depicts Psy’s comically inept attempts to live large in Gangnam style, offering a satirical take on South Korea’s burgeoning culture of consumer excess.
The video starts off with Psy luxuriating on a sunny beach, being fanned by a beautiful woman — at least until the camera pulls out to reveal that he’s actually on a children’s playground and the woman is a figment of his imagination.