The Stellar Trilogy: Slut-Shaming & Double Standards

Stellar have gone through quite a few transformations since their debut in 2011, more so than most groups. In fact, this girl group seems to be trying everything they can in order to make it big. Stellar have seen multiple concepts, ranging from sci-fi, cutesy, studious, and sexy. The group’s foray into sexy concepts, which is not completely gone with their latest comeback, was their most successful as of yet. It has also been by far the most interesting of their concepts, with the trio of songs Marionette, Mask and, their latest, Fool, all of which have given a glimpse into the relationship between sexy K-pop idols and the adoring public. Through meta-textual lyrics, abrasive sexual imagery, and eventual confrontation, Stellar have chronicled the difficulties of being a female idol today.

Released in February 2014, Marionette was not only Stellar’s most successful song to date but also their first to have any sort of cultural relevance. Their singles prior to this were little more than generic europop tracks, common among struggling young K-pop girl groups. Marionette looked like it would be an uninteresting release, with questionable marketing methods and what could have been just another sexy concept. Once it dropped, the difference was immediately noticeable.

The first thing you notice is that while Marionette at first appears sexy, Stellar does not appear all that appealing in the video. The girls’ skinny bodies move around like the puppets and they sing about and wear strange, flimsy leotards. They seem to be inviting objectification and the outrage that comes with it. The lyrics only help to solidify this reading. They sing of a self loathing doll being controlled by a vindictive lover.

When you touch me, I accept it. Tell me, am I a joke to you?

This can be seen as a metaphor for female idols who are forced or resort to taking off more clothes for recognition. They are then shamed by this same public for doing so, despite this being what they all want.

Stellar have taken on the sexy concept and attacked it from within. Of course, the reaction was exactly like the women sang about. It was the group’s most successful song and reached the 35th spot on Korea’s Gaon chart, but Marionette met with criticism for its overtly sexy video and dance. The dance was censored on Korean music shows and eventually faded into the past. The Korean public had their cake, a scandalous song and dance, and ate it too.


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After the success of Marionette, taking the sexy route again was an obvious choice for Stellar. But with Mask they were sensual and graceful. It was also a great carry on from their previous release as an indictment of the Korean public. Whereas Marionette appeared as an interpretation of a girl group’s self-loathing of the situation that they’re in, Mask is accusatory; where Marionette was abrasive, Mask is elegant, and where Marionette was maximalist, Mask is minimalist. The live performances too were full of emotion.

In addition, Mask’s lowkey hushed synths alongside the vulnerable vocals of the girls were some of the best musical moments of 2014. Stellar acknowledge their lack of fame and desperate attempt to grab attention:

In the mask that was made how you wanted it, I am not there, it’s just a lie.

Mask, unlike most creations of pop culture, appears to be a reflection of what the public are really after. This type of concept is exactly what the public wants, despite the constant backlash against overtly sexual songs and concepts.

Loving you was my first sin, hoping you’ll look at me was my second sin.

Not only did Stellar’s sexy concept change, but there was also growth in the video. The music video for Mask is an impeccably shot showcase of Stellar’s elegant and interesting beauty. There’s an erotic melancholy to it while never going to the controversial lengths of Marionette, as if trying to skirt the edges of what the public wants and what the public won’t get upset about.

Mask, however, failed to even enter music charts and gained none of the controversy of the previous single. So in response to this, Stellar confronted the criticisms they were getting in their latest single, released last week, Fool.


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The groovy, jazzy track is a move to much more accessible music for Stellar. It’s a feel good and addictive song that proves Stellar to be a formidable group when it comes to quality. The song itself, though, is an ode to their fans instead of the general public. Stellar are confessing that they are nothing without their fans:

My heart only knows you, Who cares if I don’t have an umbrella when it rains?

Even through these tough, experimental times, Stellar retain their faith that the fans are the most important. The video is where it gets confrontational with their previous work and its reception. It opens with the girls looking sadly at comments on the Youtube page for Marionette. They make a suggestive fitness video in it which also gets bad comments. After all these criticisms, Stellar just want to put on a concert for their fans, putting the passion and music above all else; the things that make the hate and hardships of idol life worth it. The song, video, and the simple but beautiful styling come together to convey this perfectly– Stellar are finished with the complications of controversy.

For me, this thematic trilogy is one of the best run of singles for any modern girl group. Like Fiestar’s use of sex, Stellar have confronted the Korean public about their lust for girl groups’ bodies and the shame they consequently heap on them. They achieved this through thoroughly interesting means, like sub-textual meanings and suggestive sexual imagery. All this with consistently great songs too. Maybe some day the work of Stellar will be re-appraised by Korea and spark a sexual revolution (I won’t hold my breath).

What do you think of Stellar’s most recent songs? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

2 replies
  1. Miri
    Miri says:

    Slut shaming is an American concept. There are still decent parts of the world where being a slut is disgusting, but for Americans everything they do is without shame cause they’re depraved, they gotta push for every deviant sexual practice. And it’s not double standards: kpop guys only flash abs for a second or two, but kpop girls are sexually dancing and showing tummy, legs and tons of skin at all times.

    Reply

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