Television, in its short period of development, has essentially changed and influenced the public through its powerful means: visual mass media. In a society based on lookism, standards on beauty are no exception to this influence. As the society began to turn its attention from women’s beauty - a rather clichéd topic - to men and their appearance, TV has created a new term and syndrome to match it. The word “metrosexual” has been presented to the society for quite some time, but unlike the Western world, the Asian mass media, especially Korean, failed to convert this new interest to a syndrome. However, times have changed since “metrosexual men” first appeared on TV. Now, men who are conscious of their appearance have become the ideal visual image that television desires.
The term “metrosexual” describes heterosexual men with a strong concern for their appearance, and/or whose lifestyles display attributes stereotypically attributed to gay men. For this to become the next trend, television has chosen visual ideals that can directly influence the public: celebrities and sports stars. They appear in TV as trendsetters, and present themselves as men who are interested in grooming themselves to match the “public needs.” The fashion of leading men in television dramas turns into a public interest, and men outside television are often seen copying their looks. These fashionable, beautiful men also complement their appearance with their lifestyle. Television dramas portray perfectly groomed men enjoying lavish brunch, telling the public that the new, sophisticated metrosexual ought to lead a life of style in every way.
In this sense, television plays an enormous role in changing the image of men. The rise of the metrosexuals, especially apparent in the hit series “Boys over Flowers,” suggests that the ideal image of an attractive man has changed from “manly” to “dandy.” Television has shown the public that it is natural for men to care about their appearance and lifestyle. This new image seems to have changed the sexist, stereotypical ideal of the past. TV’s idea of a metrosexual is not afraid of showing his feminine side, and to others this is appreciated as his ability to be conscious about his appearance and lifestyle.
However, when the Metrosexual Man comes to life in reality, he is not always welcomed. Despite the success of men’s cosmetics and beauty products, most people still look upon men wearing makeup as bizarre. Tidy hair and smooth, stubble-free skin are tolerated and “required” as basic beauty standards, but the idea of following the fashion trend for young men is often contradicted by women. Skinny jeans and high-top sneakers, worn by famous idol groups and young celebrities, are considered abnormal and awkward when normal men in everyday are concerned. Women are especially harsh on their standards of men’s beauty; the television-oriented image that are frequently seen are not a realistic part of what women think stylish men should wear. This infers that women still have a fixed image of their gender counterparts, which emphasizes men’s masculine side rather than their feminine one. People, men and women alike, still believe that men’s natural image, should it be set newly by television, has to be manly than feminine, despite the changing society.
Also, when it gets to more than just appearance, the metrosexual lifestyle is still hard to be found in everyday life. Coffee shop advertisements portray women rather than men as their potential customers. Thus, a man walking into a café and ordering coffee and waffles comes as a surprise to most people. The image of men chatting in these bistros is a rare sight, unlike what television illustrates as normal and ordinary. Feminine and delicate metrosexual men, leading their lives of style and fashion, are compared to an endangered species. People look upon them as special people with special jobs, which is a fantasy that has been created by TV. Thus, the metrosexual lifestyle is not easily accepted by the society as it is portrayed in most TV soap operas. These examples all add up to pose a question: can TV’s image of metrosexuality be transposed to the real life?
From these aspects, the term “metrosexual” can be identified as a term existing only in TV shows and commercials yet. Men who groom themselves as much as television suggests can only be approved when he is a celebrity that appears on television. The public only regards metrosexuals as men receiving help from makeup artists and fashion coordinators. In this sense, men’s grooming can only be justified as a prerequisite for presenting themselves as beautiful for the public to view. The lack of understanding real-life metrosexuals is existent in both men and women, which illustrates that the society has not been fundamentally changed to accept this new image of men. Television may be a powerful source in spreading a new public trend and ideal, but in the present, its effect remains as a virtual one.
written by: Kim Jisoo