There’s no denying that Psy, the South Korean Internet sensation whose song “Gangnam Style” has been viewed more than 700 million times on YouTube, consciously thrust himself into the public eye. Nor has he shied away from publicity since his fame exploded, dressing in revealing PVC outfits while singing Lady Gaga songs and performing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” on stage in a leotard.
But as Psy’s viral visibility has risen, he has also been forced to become a cultural ambassador, albeit a reluctant one. In a recent interview with the BBC, he said, “I am not that responsible person. I hate the word responsibility. I wasn’t responsible at all before Gangnam Style and now I gotta be good.”
Before shooting to stardom as a result of “Gangnam Style,” Psy’s rebellious streak was on display in Korea. After releasing his first album in Korea in 2001, he was caught and fined for smoking marijuana. In 2002, his album “Sa 2” was banned from sale to children due to “inappropriate content.”
And it appears that he’s having trouble letting go of his fondness for rebelliousness. In an interview with a UK paper, The Sun, Psy reiterated his distaste for his newfound responsibility, saying, “I’m not a responsible person, but right now everyone’s watching me like I’m a gold medalist…It means I’m representing my country right now – it’s huge. Everywhere I go, people tell me to be good for Korea.”
For now, it appears he has little choice in the matter, having been awarded the Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit by South Korea’s Culture Ministry for increasing awareness of South Korean pop music. Momentum also seems to be in his favor: The video for “Gangnam Style” won best video at the MTV Europe Music Awards, and Psy is currently working on his first international album.
The question of whether celebrities should be viewed as representatives of their faiths, ambassadors of their countries or even examples of personal responsibility is as old as celebrity itself. Does celebrity carry with it an obligation to accept the expectations that accompany fame? Weigh in here.