Examining IU’s “Love Wins All” MV following ableism criticisms

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IU’s latest single “Love Wins All” is currently doing its expected thing and dominating the charts, carrying overwhelmingly positive reactions. However, not everybody has come away thrilled with the narrative of the return, specifically finding problems with the music video’s portrayal of disabilities.

From best I can tell, a lot of it started with bisexual stylist Nara Kim, who is notable for having worked with HYBE a bunch (specifically LE SSERAFIM). She initially spoke out on Instagram, leaving the caption on a photo.

I don’t want to be distorted as a straight and non-disabled person with normalcy through the camera. I’m satisfied with myself #Lovewins #lovewinsall

Later, she expanded on that in two Instagram stories.

The reason why I mentioned this is that The song was initially titled “Love Wins.”
Korean queers, who thought queer’s slogan had been stolen, were furious. There is still controversy after the title of the song was changed and the music video was released.
The two main characters (IU and V) in the music video appear as blind and deaf people who are chased by
“discrimination and oppression”.
Different situation from reality shows through camcorder (it means love filter, the director says) and the two appear to be happier (without disability)in this.

I mean, a music video featuring two rich, non-disabled world stars (known as cisgender hetero) uses disabilities, minorities as props to say about overcoming, ending up with a very normal ending of wearing a wedding dress and a tuxedo.
What needs to be overcome is the world, not disability or minorities. Stop the shallow compassion and using minorities as inspirational material

Netizens, whether in good faith or not, have latched onto this narrative in decent enough numbers to get coverage, and it’s been reported in news stories as a controversy.

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Predictably, the stylist and other netizens have been receiving a lot of backlash from fans, not only because it’s IU, but also because it involves V and she’s worked with HYBE. That said, it’s a view that didn’t cross my mind and sharing their perspective was something that at least made me re-examine how things were presented. I don’t think it’s helpful to invalidate her feelings or those of anybody else who felt similarly about “Love Wins All” in good faith.

That said, I still came away with a different view of the themes at play*. As I said at the time in my review, my interpretation was that their injuries were a result of the dystopian, post-apocalyptic hellscape they’re apart of, and the cube (or malice, as I call it) gave them those injuries/put them in that situation. The camera, therefore, simply serves as a device to take them back to a pre-apocalypse world to show them a world without the cube. Flashing back to that world does remove the injuries , but I don’t believe it’s ableist for narratives to utilize flashbacks to times where characters are not distressed, injured, or in danger (war/thrillers/drama movies use this frequently). It primarily seems like the duo in that scene are almost nostalgically wishing for a better world compared to the hellscape they’re stuck in now. Basically, I feel like you’d have to take the least-charitable interpretation of everything to conclude the message is ultimately something disparaging about the disabled or looking down on them in a back-handed way.

*Additionally, I would understand the complaints about the song title more if it wasn’t changed, even though it’s debatable whether it was necessary given what the song ended up being about anyway. But since she did change it, in deference to the concerns of the LGBTQ community, I don’t quite understand still being upset about it.

On the contrary, my take on the themes presented was that the cube/malice represents us (society, at large), the power we have, and the hardships we inflict on the characters. Metaphorically then, the message is marginalized individuals of any kind just want to and should be able to live their lives, but the rest of us make things difficult for them every step of the way and we’re in constant pursuit. For example, even in the flashback, everything is not fine for the characters. There are still people yelling at them and trying to prevent their happiness, but they are able to get on with doing what they want until the cube and its power shows up. It’s what inflicted them with their injuries and ruined the world, because the cube is what drives the narrative and its actions are what the music video really targets.

In other words, it’s not “look at these poor disabled people”, but rather “look at what monsters we are”. Which is why in the end, even though their love and humanity endures (and they were creating their own happiness), it’s society who are reduced to a faceless, nameless, glowing cube and actively causing the tragic end. So in a way it also asks the viewer, which are you?

Anyway, at risk of being overly simplistic, it’s mostly just: discrimination is bad, have faith in love. Thus, I’m not sure I see a wider problem in the music video.

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Anyway, this isn’t intended more as a defense rather than a re-examination of the themes and core message with regards to the concerns on the disabilities viewpoints that were brought up. My opinion might prove to be totally “wrong” or either looking too much into it or not too far enough, but that’s what I came away with.