I've come to expect an article about some aspect of Korean culture to pop up every few months in the NY Times. Oh Koreans, we love: golf; kimchi; learning English and studying a lot; drinking; drama; Rain; the internets; and changing social/patriarchal codes. These nutshells provide quite the concise kaleidoscope of a culture! I've been wondering how or why such coverage gets such regular airtime. Or maybe it's just one of those things you notice once you keep an eye for it and there are plenty of regular features on like Norway or Toronto or Indonesia.
Sometimes there are pieces that are like styrofoam that get into print for reasons that elude me. So many things irked me about this NYT Lives column -- a first person essay about an American living in Seoul. Perhaps his intention was to provide a lens, himself, through which we could understand something larger, something sharper, something clearer. But all Narcissus does is hold a mirror up to himself and admire it.
He's all: I am a foreigner in Seoul but that's okay because I feel like I belong! Because even though I do not speak the language, I can tell you the names of dishes and what they mean! I will even go so far as to use both the Korean and English term for dumpling, because either I or my editors forgot to include italics or parentheses. If it works for Little Caesars, it works for mandu dumplings! Seoul is, like, from the future! And the women here are, like, 75% plastic! And did I mention my students bow to me? Because I am the teacher, the Ivy-League Manliest American Writer and Gourmand. Dumpling dumpling! Bow to me, because my Korean girlfriend says I eat Korean food better than Korean men do. Bow to me because I have a Korean girlfriend! Bow to me, because I am so capable of understanding that Korean men think that I am stealing one of "their own" and I can use quote marks to indicate particular awareness of cultural sensitivity. Bow to me, because I am big enough to admit that I, too, have had to adjust to this Matrixy-Plasticky-Spicy world - I mean, what a surprise. Bow, kowtow to me because I take up the spotlight, I run the show.
p.s. I don't even know where to START with this vile vapidness.