Pedant’s Corner: The Style Maketh The Man

The first Korean rapper to have a UK No. 1 is clearly a matter of sufficient gravity to merit at least a passing post. Gangnam Style’s success quite possibly owes more to the video, twenty zillion YouTubes hits and all, than the accompanying soundtrack. As online sensations are wont to do, it has spawned all manner of homages, pastiches and spinoff versions. One of the more remarked-on of these is Eton Style, which, if you haven’t seen it, is exactly what you would expect some Eton students doing a version of Gangnam Style to look and sound like – and just as amusing.

There’s probably a lot this little episode tells us about internet humour, but what struck me was that Eton Style was billed on YouTube as a parody of the original. In the spirit of online discourse the information superhighway over
I feel bound to protest. A parody isn’t any old humorous imitation: it must have some intent to send up the original by showing it as ridiculous, even if it’s ultimately meant as affectionate. Whatever else Eton Style does, it doesn’t present Psy’s video in this light. Indeed, it is arguable that Gangnam Style is literally beyond parody.[i] It’s difficult to think of any way in which it takes itself seriously, and without this it’s hard to see how it could be held up to ridicule. Its various online take-offs are more like the endless versions of Bruno Ganz’s famous scene from Downfall a few years back – having little to do with the original, merely adopting it as a vehicle for satire or sheer randomness (or, naturally, a crossbreeding of the two).

If anything, the bright young things from Eton are ridiculing themselves. Either considered as public schoolboys or as rebels against their own privileged background, they look pretty silly riding imaginary horses, robes billowing behind them. Most people do - except, it seems, the man who started it all.

[i] Unless, perhaps, it was done using infants or trained animals, or the elderly.

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