Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Barbara A. Fox

Second Advisor

Andrew Cowell

Third Advisor

Sangbok Kim


South Korea enjoys much success with the exportation of popular media, including music, movies, and TV shows. One underlying component of this success seems to be Korea's powerful and precise media manufacturing system. For Korean boy bands, Jung (2011) claims that constructing a "transnational" identity that relies on the production of a "manufactured versatile masculinity" allows idol boy groups to appeal transculturally to fans across borders with their flexible masculine identities. This hybrid masculinity is "multi-layered, culturally mixed, simultaneously contradictory, and most of all strategically manufactured". Consistent with the performative nature of gender (Butler 1990), this multi-faceted masculinity is constructed through performances in different outlets such as music programs, reality TV, and game shows.

In the past, Kpop idol groups largely focused on the pretty-boy, soft-masculine image. In the last decade, though, more "tough, manly, and beast-like" groups have emerged, combining their hyper-masculine image with "soft masculinity" performances (Jung 2011). According to Jung's analysis, each of the members in these idol groups is capable of producing a variety of masculinities individually. However, I argue that some boy bands adopt a strategy by which their group's collective hybrid masculine image is constructed cooperatively through discourse, distributing the gender-work across its members. This effort, what I call distributed masculinity, depends on the discursive work done by all participants involved, including band members and TV hosts. By looking at the interaction that takes place in "Aegyo Contests," a common segment on Korean variety TV, I show how each group member's masculinity is negotiated and defined vis-à-vis requested performances of aegyo. Aegyo is a concept that is shaped largely by culturally shared ideas of cuteness in South Korea. One aspect of aegyo is a speech style that is strongly associated with women and femininity (cf. Moon under review, Abelmann 2003).

This collective expression of hybrid gender shows that gender's performative nature allows for creative expressions of femininity and masculinity beyond that of just an individual. The process suggests how groups can express collective gender identity and how that identity is molded interactionally.