The Physiology of Goo Hara: A Look at the Second Episode of 'Hara On & Off'

Goo Hara Cat Pic

"I hope the viewers will be able to see myself without decoration"
Think about this for a moment. What makes Goo Hara Goo Hara

I know that's painting a question with broad strokes, especially considering how impossible it is to define any person by any singular ambition. But if we are, as I believe, made up unique individual characteristics, the question can possibly be examined through an individual's physiology (physiology as defined as the normal functions of living organisms and their parts). 

With Hara On & Off: The Gossip (why The Gossip is needed here, I'll never know), the show's basic premise requires the viewer to understand the clear distinction between Goo Hara when she's "on," in the spotlight as a Korean superstar, and when she's "off," at home, training, eating, playing with her cats, etc. But that's a major simplification of the fact that Goo Hara, like all of us, is far more complex than any one duality. So if it's not simply on or off, what makes up the many parts of Goo Hara? Can an episode of a variety show really provide us any insights?

Why not give it a shot?

Goo Hara Framing Segment

"Did I show too much? I kinda regret it..."

Disappointingly, we're given another framing device to a show that benefits more from spontaneity. Goo Hara is being interviewed and is decidedly "on" with her answers. The episode's moments are guided by answers to some of the questions that many fans may have been asking about for years.

Like: How does Goo Hara keep that slim figure?

Goo Hara Workout

Well, she works out. Quite a bit, actually. Every day, actually. And she does intensive Pilates to keep those "11-line abs" you may have gossiped about, thank you very much. And after her first round of Pilates she does...more Pilates? It would seem so, except this time Hara works with a Japanese teacher, so she can also learn how to speak Japanese fluently.

What we're getting here is Hara's physicality. Her core is strengthened. She knows how to move her muscles to their maximum efficiency. She wills time to her advantage, using her workout to become fluent in Japanese. All of this is part of Goo Hara.

When she works out can most certainly be considered a time when she's "off," but the interesting consideration here is that she's also, when she wants to be, very "on," as we see when she brings one of her managers into the fray, subjecting him to some of the same strenuous exercises she constantly practices in.

Goo Hara Workout Manager

Hara sparks to life in these instances and one is left to wonder if the "on" and "off" has less to do with differentiating the idol from her personal life than differentiating Hara's performative side and what? What would we call that other side of Hara?

I'd call that other side of Hara (now hear me out), as her being an introvert.

I can delve further into this idea by looking at another question that Hara seemingly answers with this episode: Who are Hara's best friends?

At least in the first two episodes, that answer could be considered slightly depressing for some viewers who imagine weekend retreats with Gyuri or bi-weekly girl's nights with Seungyeon. These activities may occur and we're likely to see the rest of Kara as episode three promises a Japanese concert. But, by Hara's own admission, she feels closer to her managers than to her fellow members.

Goo Hara Best Friends Manager

"It seems the managers know my personality better than the members."

She compares her managers to oppas and brothers. Her cats, Hara refers to as her children, her family.

Goo Hara Cats

She evens brings them on her photo shoot (more on that later). If the first two episodes are any indication, Hara spends much of her downtime with Chacha and Pico, with an attachment that anyone who's never had a cat would judge as odd. Some have even posited that Hara's attachment to these cats, and even to these managers, is sad.

But I'm not seeing that.

As an introvert myself, I have the ability to be affable and even charming (so I've imagined), but only in bursts. Hang around for too long, I become irritable. Deprive me of my required time alone, I will hold a grudge. I see Hara being performative, sometimes at the largest scale imaginable, and then needing her space - her essential quiet. She is not a bubbling idol always seeking attention. There's a quiet to her that some could view as cold (something I've been accused of as well). When Hara's alone with her cats, I don't think she's lonely at all. What I think is: She's recharging. Yes, I'm comparing myself to a 24-year-old female Kpop idol, without irony. But I see similarities between behaviors, my own and the introverts I've met, and it's not as simple as someone being shy. It's about time, and energy, and (personal) space. And Hara values all three immensely.

So, let's say Hara's introversion is a part of her too in this complex physiology we're trying to map. What can we say about Hara from her photo shoot?

Or, as the framing interview would ask: How do we reconcile Goo Hara's noticeable introversion with the unenviable scrutiny an idol's life demands?

Okay, so maybe they wouldn't ask that question, at least not in the framing segments we've gotten so far. But in hopes of answering that, I can look at a few things. 1) Goo Hara is a professional in every aspect of her life (as we also see in the photo shoot segment). 2) Goo Hara is intensely organized and structured in her professional life. 3) Goo Hara's professionalism, introversion, amiability, and charisma give her a complexity that strips away at the duality of the show's promise. If we are to answer, what makes Goo Hara Goo Hara, we can't just look at the "on" or the "off" or the body or the mind or the personality or the cats or all of the foods she eats or friends she keeps. Goo Hara is Goo Hara by being every quintessential part of Goo Hara, full of complexities and contradictions that every person can relate to.

I feel like one of the last moments of the episode especially resonated with me (unintentionally). As the photo shoot ends, Goo Hara is asked to say the title of the show. She does so, but because of future dubbing, she only mouths the words: Hara. On & Off. She is both performing and being silent, the "on" and "off" here, like the many intersections of Hara's life, is simultaneous.

Hara On and Off Intro Mute

Now, on to episode three!


Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.


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