RM’s Reading Recommends and a Lesson on Racial Fetishization
Posted On May 10, 2020
What? A post two days in a row? Unfounded. Impossible. Not justifiable. No one asked and yet, here I am with another blog post. I know. I’m shocked as well, but if I could post daily that would be great, but the perfectionist in me and life barges in the way and loves to kick the shit outta me, so don’t get comfy with this.
Anyways, as per usual, I was browsing my Twitter feed trying not to get triggered or have a mental breakdown from what I was seeing when I came across this tweet (warning: 18+, kids):
Apparently, this is from a Japanese book titled, “Almost Transparent Blue.” But what’s more is that this was recommended by RM from BTS to read. That’s…um, interesting to hear.
I also found pictures from the episode where he recommends the controversial book because people were talking about receipts as per Twitter etiquette.
You take what you will from that exchange…
Let’s just conclude that all 7 of them, ah, how to put it lightly…? All 7 of them are men. Yup. They’re men.
But hey look, nothing wrong with that. Actually, I almost feel like something’s wrong with me since I know by my age, society expects me to be already acquainted with…”intimate relations” like those 7 above but I’m a soft loser who would rather read children’s book and escape into Neverland after having a grand old time in Wonderland before watching both versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
If you’ve seen my twitter feed in the last few days, you would know. But damn, even these teeny bopper K-poppies are out here writing up smut prose that I could never.
Not gonna lie, but that uwu got me. But I seriously gotta wonder how thirsty are these girls (or boys!) to be writing stuff like this. I’m actually genuinely worried.
But with my already overloaded violated mind, I decided that wasn’t enough. I was curious to see just what other books RM recommended, so I decided to scour a few sites that listed what other books he read and I have compiled my own short little list here of the more interesting ones (i.e. the ones I actually have something to say about). Enjoy.
Almost Transparent Blue (Ryu Murakami)
Of course, I had to start with the book that inspired the creation of this post. The above snippet of the book is not really taken out of context as apparently the whole book is plotless. As Goodreads puts it:
Almost Transparent Blue is a brutal tale of lost youth in a Japanese port town close to an American military base. Murakami’s image-intensive narrative paints a portrait of a group of friends locked in a destructive cycle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. The novel is all but plotless, but the raw and often violent prose takes us on a rollercoaster ride through reality and hallucination, highs and lows, in which the characters and their experiences come vividly to life. Trapped in passivity, they gain neither passion nor pleasure from their adventures. Yet out of the alienation, boredom and underlying rage and grief emerges a strangely quiet and almost equally shocking beauty.
What a beautiful summary. Yet, with a 3.26 rating, some people were split on it. While some could decipher the prose and appreciate the “destructive cycle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll,” others felt off-put from the book and the lack of structure in the story. Seriously, someone even recommended the book for “junkies, losers, and burnouts.” Lovely. Though that same person gave it 4 stars so I don’t think she was being malicious when recommending it to those type of people? But I digress.
I believe the reason this particular book proved to cause a stir on a certain part of K-pop? ARMY Twitter is the implications of some viewed how the author depicted the black woman in a rather negative and upsetting way while others called it outright fetishization. Still, others saw no problem with it. This is compounded by the fact that considering this is an RM recommend, and given his track record, fans are heavily questioning RM and his…tastes.
But what is a fetish? Is it bad to fetish people? Is that even a question?
Actually, being the naive idiot that I am, I wanted to clarify with myself what exactly is a fetish defined as and what exactly fetishizing someone entailed. And boy, that lead me down a rabbit hole. I would buckle up and get a snack if I were you because this might get a bit long (as if it wasn’t long enough already).
Merriam-Webster defines a fetish as several things actually, but we’ll focus on this definition:
An object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression
Interestingly, the dictionary doesn’t include the word “person” in that definition. Food for thought, my friends.
Because this is racialized, I looked up fetishizing people on Google and while this came up under images:
I also was lead to Wikipedia because where else will I get that good, sweet concise information easily accessed at my fingertips?
Under their “Racial Fetishism” page, I learned quite a bit about how different races from Asian to White to Black to Latino were sexualized in offensive ways but considering the nature of this post, I will focus on Black fetishization.
Under the section about black people, Wikipedia informs you that the fetishization of black women in particular begin in the colonial era when slave owners justified their treatment and sexual deviant acts on the fact that black women were apparently too irresistible and made them out to be hypersexual objects. Nothing more.
Then I read about Sarah (Sara) “Saartjie” Baartman.
Wikipedia as her stylized in that particular article as the blueprint for how black women, especially their features are exoticized and sexualized today. Sara Baartman was women from the Khoikhoi tribe in South Africa during a tumultuous time as her people were at war with the Dutch colonists in the area. She had a rough life, she lost both of her parents at a young age and a husband and a baby before she had even hit her 20s. When she entered domestic service for a Dutch colonist in Capetown, she eventually signed a contract to be taken to England to perform in shows on the promise that she’d come back to South Africa in 5 years. Mind you, she was illiterate and these were tricky no-good white men so none of that came to fruition.
In the end, she ended up being forced to take part in shows in England and France where spectators gawked, marveled, or derided her physical features–her large buttocks that according to a BBC article was possibly due to “‘steatopygia’, resulting in extremely protuberant buttocks due to a build-up of fat”.
Fascinatingly enough, according to the same BBC article, one of their correspondents, Rachel Holmes, an author who wrote a book on Sara, said, “You have to remember that, at the time, it was highly fashionable and desirable for women to have large bottoms, so lots of people envied what she had naturally, without having to accentuate her figure.” Even back then, black women were made to feel ashamed of what they naturally had to deal with by envious people who dealt with those feelings by making out the object of envy as inferior. Because people have forever and always will be insecure.
However, with Sara, it doesn’t stop there. Not only was she put on display like an animal, she was also possibly prostituted out by her “handlers” as they were called who let people touch her and handle her even in private settings.
After her death at the age of just 26, a naturalist but the name of George Cuvier, preserved her skeleton and pickled and jarred her brains and…genitals, for some reason. If Wikipedia is anything to believe, a possible explanation is provided here:
Sarah’s body was utilized as a means to develop an anatomically accurate representation of a black woman’s body juxtaposed to that of a white European woman’s body during the age of biological racism. The scientist studying her anatomy went as far as making a mold of Sarah Baartman’s genitalia postmortem because she refused him access to examine her vaginal region while she was alive. The data collected on Baartman is the origin of the black female body stereotype, i.e. large buttocks and labia.
If that doesn’t disturb you, than I don’t know what will.
Her story as a somewhat happier ending as despite having her said remains held in a French museum up until the mid-1970s, at the bequest of then president Nelson Mandela they were finally taken back to rest in peace in South Africa approximately at the former location of her tribe.
So, what does Sara Baartman have anything to do with “Almost Transparent Blue” and the whole discourse on black women’s bodies? Terribly a lot actually. As all this reading got me diving into hole after hole digging myself a bit deeper into this whole narrative.
For instance, in the BBC article it is also mentioned that Baartman, while invisible in contemporary eyes, has her unfortunate legacy living on even to this day. One example is of a photoshoot with Kim Kardashian some years back.
Which was based on a photo by Jean-Paul Goude, a French photographer, in his book titled, Jungle Fever, from 1976. What an unfortunate name for a book like this.
Another instance that I came across in my reading that was mentioned was Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” If I understand correctly as I have never seen the music video in full, but the video basically just emphasizes her butt, right? And it created a mixed reaction with people either loving her for easily embracing her curves and black femininity or feeling uncomfortable with the hypersexualization of the black female body.
Personally, I don’t know much of the discourse surrounding “Anaconda,” but if she feels comfortable showing all that then good for her.
But the reason that I went this in-depth about studying this whole conversation on fetishization and the black body in relations to a book recommendation of some K-pop dude that happens to be in one of the biggest boy bands in the world right now, is simple–I just want to learn and be educated. If you felt that I was trying to educate you, I was. I do not mean to talk down or stir up even more trouble in this discourse but I just want those who read this post to be aware why some may find it uncomfortable or downright terrible that someone like RM recommends a book like “Almost Transparent Blue.”
Obviously, I understand I could be making this deeper than it really is, but with scenes like the one as described above, I can’t blame anyone, especially black fans for feeling the way they may do. Some may not care while other care a great deal. It’s dependent on the person, their experiences, their background. When I deliver post like this, I try to remain impartial and deliver things as how I read it or interpret it because I’m not entirely sure if anyone wants to hear the opinion of a dumb nobody on the internet.
Honestly, I’m pretty much a disgrace to the black race, so I don’t trust myself in voicing opinions on this matter that I feel could upset this person or that person. Especially when there are so many more intelligent black voices adding to this discourse.
Though I guess ultimately with the whole fetishization thing, I will say that no, no, no. No it’s not right to fetishize someone. In other readings, I read how fetishizing someone is based on their physical features namely skin color, preconceived notions of body features (prime examples above with Sara, Nicki, Kim, etc). Due to this, it is nothing short of racism as we saw with Sara Baartman, a lot of said features are based on biological racism that still haunts us to this day. It is not a compliment for many a black woman to be called exotic or different neither is it a compliment for an Asian guy to be told that he is a rarity or he looks just like your husbando from Naruto.
With that, I think I may just end this post here. I was planning on making it longer and putting more of Mr. RM’s book recommendations but the reading I did took a bit of a toll on me and the video of Sara Baartman also didn’t help. If you can take it, I would recommend reading more about her and watching the video linked in the last sentenced (only about 9 minutes of your time!).
Actually, just to flesh things out and at least input a bit of my original plan in here, I guess I will add a few of his other books but no more than 5 and don’t worry, no long discourses for these ones. Plus, it’ll lighten the post a bit, I think.
Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami)
Summary, courtesy of Goodreads: a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky.
Yo, I actually read this book back in high school. I was interested in getting into some Japanese authors at the time and heard Haruki Murakami is one of the best out there. I’ve read another Murakami book that coincidentally is also on this list, but I have to say that I remember this one a bit better. I liked this one and would read it again. I don’t know if I’d like it now though. I remember I did like Nakata’s figure though if I recall correctly I either though he was unhinged or a tragic pathetic figure out the end. As for Kafka, the titular character, he was alright I guess.
Now, I actually have a copy because though I borrowed it from the library, I somehow “damaged” it and basically had to buy it from the library. Good times…
Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)
Yeah, I know, but I had to include this since it was my first Murakami book and what got me into reading at least a few of his other books. I didn’t mind this one but I think I would find it a bit lackluster now especially when my Japanese host mother mentioned she found Murakami boring. That was a bit unfortunate, but she did acknowledge that it could be a difference in translation nuances, so there’s that.
Oh, what’s the book about? Well, let me look at Goodreads and–
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
Long summaries, I know. Would I recommend? Eh. Not sure. Watch the movie first if you don’t want to waste time or really effort reading the book. Yes, there is a movie and I watched it. Can’t remember it at all, so if that’s any sign for you to consider, then perhaps it would be wise to take it.
Also, I do remember Murakami’s books kinda of scarring me since there were quite a few sex scenes here and there that I wasn’t ready for. I don’t think there were at the same degree as Mr. Ryu Murakami’s books, but…they’re there. Just a word of warning to all the babies like me out there.
But you know what? I think I’ll finish there. Wow, didn’t even get to 5 like I thought. Well, actually…
Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
Another coming of age story that English classes across the world forced their students to read and fall out of love for any sort of words presented on the page because sometimes the authors weren’t being deep or philosophical.
I actually got this book before the libraries closed in my area thanks to the virus. Though due to school I haven’t read it, so unfortunately I can’t give my consensus on this one yet, but I have head good things about it.
Breaking out of the “Man Box” (Tony Porter)
I saw this on a Soompi list had laughed internally for whatever reason. The cover of the book is pretty self explanatory but apparently it covers experiences of men and boys along with their socialization. Interesting for a growing boy, I guess.
Me Before You (Jojo Meyes)
Ah, a classic romance. A man of many tastes, I see. I have no idea if it’s any good, though I personally never read romance books like that honestly. Despite my age, I mostly still stick to children (think Roald Dahl) and young adult books (think Rick Riordan, Eoin Colfer). I also really like reading the classics like Jane Austen’s stories and staple classics like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan,” Sherlock Holmes stories, etc.
Basically not this. But I heard there was a movie starring Emilia Clarke, the actress who played Daenerys in the show that started-promising-but-ended-in-a-fireball-of-we-do-not-talk-about-the-last-season-because-D-and-D-are dead-to-me, Game of Thrones.
Oh, what’s the actual plot of the book? I heard people don’t really read romance books for the plot but for the romantic aspect. Am I wrong?
Anyways, that’s it. That’s the post. Though if you are curious to see what else RM has been reading, I find a google doc of a master reading list a fan of his, @namjoonbooks helped compile though I think the actual list was written up by a different fan? Anyways, if you’re a reader and a fan of RM that doesn’t hate me and hasn’t already left me a hate comment, then I think it would be a good list to explore.
But personally, I find my own reading recommendations to be an enlightening read too, if you want a more K-pop-centric to read list. Word of caution: There’s some sensitive topics discussed by some controversial people on the K-pop-side of the internet. You’ve been warned.
At the end of the day, hopefully, this post wasn’t that heavy but I hope I managed to offer some food for thought since I tend to be a bit more serious with post like this (unlike my crack posts). I try not to sway you either way though. It’s up to you what you make of it of what I write.
Since it’s Mother’s day here where I live, I’ll leave something here for all the mothers of the world.
I mean, I assume that if I as a possible future mother, I would love seeing a post like this. Isn’t that the same for everyone else?
Seriously though, Happy Mother’s day to all the mothers out there! 💕