How Gangnam Style and Fifty Shades gave culture a spanking

As soon as Fifty Shades took off, the DIY shops reported a troubling surge in the demand for rope, of a kind that could be used to strap your partner to the bed without doing unnecessary damage to her wrists. Some couples said that their relationships had been saved. In other cases, it was said, there were chaps who felt a bit unmanned by the sudden feminine demand for reef-knots and general masterfulness.

As for the Korean dance, its effects are still rippling across the country this Christmas. Can there be a household that will not attempt to brighten up a long family binge by going to YouTube and turning up the volume on the laptop? Soon the whole family is pretending to flick the reins, while the knees go up and down like pistons and overweight uncles snap their hamstrings. I have read of at least one sad death caused by the strain of performing the absurd pony-like prancing, and feel sure that others will succumb in the days ahead.

Above all, both Fifty Shades and Gangnam have exposed things we never dreamt of about the way the world really is. It is here, perhaps, that we are able to make a key distinction – and appoint the winner. For us men, the whole Fifty Shades phenomenon was really a bit shattering. Every single member of the female sex seemed to read it; every woman on the Tube; everyone at the office. And they didn’t read it furtively, guiltily. They would look up from their alternative world – where men were men, and women were lashed to bedsteads – and fix you with an accusing gaze.

What else were they supposed to do, their eyes seemed to say, when the world was so populated by weeds and wets? The book was so ubiquitous that it seemed to speak of some aching need, some lack, some gap in a modern woman’s life that we feminist males had never really bargained for. It seemed to be as revolutionary, in its way, as the Female Eunuch – and yet it was nothing like as seismic as Gangnam Style. Let’s be frank, I think most of us had only a very hazy notion of Korea before Psy appeared before us. We had heard of a land of kimchi and roast dog, where giant chaebols produced excellent cars and machine tools. We had no idea about a district called Gangnam, where the women drive a Mercedes-Benz and take group exercise by waving their bums on the banks of the river.

We had no idea that it was thought cool in Gangnam to drink your coffee straight off – down in one – while it is still scalding hot. Psy the rapper has alerted us to an extraordinary fact: that the Koreans are so darned clever that not only can they make cheap and efficient cars. They can also make number one smash hits. He has taken the image of his country and done it a power of good. The whole planet now knows about K-pop, or K-rap, as it is called – and we feel that watcher-in-the-skies feeling, when a new planet has swum into our ken.

So there you go, my friends. On the grounds that there is absolutely no embarrassment in being caught watching it on the web, and because it is innocent, hilarious, surprising and can be enjoyed by all the family, I hereby announce that this year’s winner for the greatest cultural masterpiece of 2012 is Gangnam Style, with Fifty Shades narrowly beaten (in every sense) into second. All we need now is Fifty Shades of Gangnam – but then I expect someone has already done it.

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