Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World

By Jonathan Gray; Cornel Sandvoss et al. | Go to book overview

16
Han Suk-kyu and the Gendered Cultural
Economy of Stardom and Fandom

Anne Ciecko and Hunju Lee

Examining the chronological development of star performance within a body of films, together with concomitant extradiegetic incarnations, provides critical access to the meaning-making work of fandom and star construction within particular cultural moments. Composite constellations of star texts can guide fan behaviors and interpretive processes, and encourage dialogic engagement with societal attitudes and consumer practices. Therefore, grafting the career of a film star such as Han Suk-kyu—until recently, the biggest box-office draw and highest-paid actor in South Korean cinema—onto a grid of national vicissitudes and socioeconomic changes offers a very intriguing cultural case study of contemporary Korean cinema, celebrity, and audiences—and of popular discourses of masculinity. Focusing mainly on Han Suk-kyu's career on and off the movie screen from 1997 onwards, the narrative of Han's stardom that we reconstruct and analyze is a story about industry shifts and gendered cultural trends, and, most critically, fan/audience expectations and frustrations: Korea's top male star decided, at the pinnacle moment of his screen appeal in 1999–2000, to take a prolonged movie-acting hiatus. When he returned to the big screen, cultural tastes of the movie-going public (especially the desired demographic of younger audience members) had shifted enough to radically diminish Han's star currency. In this chapter, we investigate the understudied Korean star/audience dynamic through the following cultural phenomena: movie-screen absence coupled with media presence, the regulation of affect in Korean male star performances, popular Korean perceptions of ideal masculinity and their relationships to

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