[SEOISM] What she means to Soshi
This is something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile now. I’m still working some things out, but one thing is really clear to me. Taeyeon and Seohyun really set the tone and the basis for Soshi’s harmony. On the face of it, you could say, leader and maknae, every idol group has one, duh, but as in so many other ways, Soshi is exceptional, in large part because their leader and their maknae are exceptional.
When I first started paying attention to Soshi, it was confusing trying to understand what made them special. Obviously, they had something, some quality that went beyond the average girl group. The first thing that stood out was the number 9. Yikes, how would I keep them straight in my head? That’s a lot of people to recognize. But in no time at all, each member became distinct. Truth to tell, SNSD was a lot quicker for me to distinguish than the Wondergirls, or Kara.
I think because their personalities were so different, their quirks, likes and dislikes, their physical characteristics, each member was about as different as could be from the next. So that first impression of anonymous uniformity quickly broke down into an appreciation of 9 very different individuals, all beautiful, all talented, all trained in synchronicity, yet so unique. But here’s the conundrum. From a sociological viewpoint, the 9 members of SNSD are…odd. Imagine 9 talented, ambitious, pretty girls in a hyper competitive world. The last thing you’d think is that they’d become a family, where each member is loved and treasured, without cliques, pettiness or jealousy. Where an individual triumph is greeted by all with equal joy.
This is what makes them special, this bond of sisterhood. How are they more a family than most families I know? How did this happen? How did 9 become 1? That’s where my study began.
I first focused on Taeyeon, because she was the leader, and yes I believe that a huge part of Soshi’s success lies in Taeyeon’s soft but effective leadership. She never stifled the girls’ rowdiness or individuality, and she shouldered the burden of leading them, always professional and responsible when the girls faced the public. It’s lonely and difficult being the leader, but she got them through the hard times and the girls never let her down. Then down through the ranks, Tiffany and Hyoyeon were the surrogate moms, Jessica the cool unnie. Sunny, Sooyoung and Yuri were the goofy middle siblings, and Yoona the slightly younger sister who had a duality of odd maturity and adolescent prankster. And there, at the end, the least, the youngest, the (not) smallest, was Seohyun, the baby.
Seohyun is the maknae by definition because she’s the youngest, but just as Taeyeon grew into the best possible leader, Seohyun became the best maknae. What does it mean to be the youngest? She goes last, she’s the lowest on the totem-pole, she’s given the chores, she’s bullied, her opinions don’t count for anything. Right. Isn’t that about as far from Seohyun as night from day?
I suppose I’m preaching to the choir when I say that she’s something special. Pick any superlative you’d care to, and most apply to her. She’s dedicated, multi-talented, focused, innocent, loving, adorable, respectful to a fault, wise beyond her years, humble, reserved, studious, quick to learn, unintentionally hilarious, and she makes the people around her insanely protective of her. And not one iota of that is intentional or manipulative on her part. She’s just trying to live her life, with out-sized goals that know no limits, because in her mind, anything is possible.
Her presence, her uncomplicated trust, her simple and straightforward view of life is like a guide rope for the girls. Taeyeon leads by example with gentle nudges and talent, but Seohyun is firm ground, structure and sense. She has this quality, if she’s happy, everyone around her is happy. Unni, if you do this, it will be good. Unni, that’s bad. Unni, that hamburger. Will. Kill. You. She’s also one of the safety valves, a predictable release. Want a hug? Need a hug? Mug the maknae. She’s the safe one, the one without ego or pretense or prickly pride, the one that everyone loves without reservation.
Perhaps now, with all their history, loving each other has become an easy habit, but when they were starting out, Seohyun and Taeyeon set the tone, formed the bonds and got the ball rolling. The Roman speaker Cicero said, "In the master there is a servant, and in the servant a master." If it isn’t a tyranny, then the leader listens to the group and takes on the hardest jobs, which is Taeyeon to a T. And as the maknae, think about how much responsibility Seohyun chooses to shoulder without complaint. If the youngest can do this much and never complain, how can her unnies do less? She makes you want to do your best, and then do better. Maknae on top indeed.
But she’s more than a goad. She’s protected and cherished and loved by her sisters because Seohyun is their heart. She’s their innocence, their abbreviated childhood, the stand-in for absent family, the little sister some of them never had. If they can keep Seohyun Seohyun for another day, then all the sacrifices are a little easier to bear.
Their unconditional love for her and each other is the thing that appeals to such a broad range of people, the fact that 9 really are 1. We look at them and see not just 9 really beautiful girls, but we see an example of something good and right and wonderful. Taeyeon had a quip that Korean soldiers would salute for their officers, their country and Soshi, and that ain’t too far from the truth.
Think of how Seohyun makes YOU feel if you just see her smile, and then imagine her right next to you in your life every day, asking your opinion about this and that, smiling or pouting. How do you deliberately disappoint someone like her? That’s powerful juju. Seohyun’s charm and grace is the simplicity with which she views the world. We define it as innocence or purity, but she’s really not ignorant of how the world works. In fact, she’s very very (almost scary) intelligent. She just refuses to see shades of gray, and she chooses to ignore the things that would get in the way of her goals (like boys). Things fall into the good/bad equation, the acceptable and not acceptable. Really, she’s a bit of a puritan.
Think about that for a second. Since the whole attraction to boys isn’t part of her worldview at the moment, everything associated with that is also ignored. Revel in the irony of this. One of the sexiest, most talented and beautiful girls that we know doesn’t understand that she’s gorgeously desirable. Seohyun simply follows the choreography of the dances, she wears the short shorts, the tight tanks simply because that’s her job. Her being sexy? Does not compute. Beautiful? Nope. Astoundingly precious? Not at all. In her mind’s eye, she’s just a girl who has 8 beautiful sisters that take care of her and that she takes care of in turn, because, you see, they have bad habits that need correcting. That’s her job.
Our job? We lucky souls get to watch her grow, and it will be something to see when she discovers more about life. There is a small chance the world will end when she takes a genuine interest in men, but its only a small chance. As for her appearance on WGM, she’s approaching that like every other challenge she has had; with an open mind, with the best intentions and a clarity of thought that is hilarious, touching, genuine, and wondrous to behold. A part of me wants to feel bad for her ‘husband’, but he’s the lucky sod that gets to be beside her as she learns. It’s an enviable position, because he’ll learn that there is nothing banal about a life that has someone like Seohyun in it.
Cheers. To the best maknae. EVER.