The Relationships of Goo Hara: A Look at the Fourth Episode of 'Hara On & Off'
*You can read about our look at other episodes of Hara On & Off here
This week's episode of Hara On & Off: The Gossip slows down the program a bit, after we had a more focused story of Goo Hara's Japanese tour in episode three. The episode strives to fill in the context for what we have already seen. It's like reverse engineering. We've seen bits and pieces, now we get to see longer scenes of Hara's relationship with Gyuri and Seungyeon, as well as her taking care of educating Youngji on the ways of an idol. It's even explicitly asked by the interviewer (in yet another interview segment), translated loosely: "What's the reason you are giving your attention to Youngji and taking care of her?"
To which our Goo Hara answers, saccharine music behind her, how she joined Kara as a new member (you forgot that, didn't you?) and she, herself, learned from her seniors. Now, with her seniors and Youngji, "I feel I need to be a bridge between them." Which is what we've suspected from last episode's interactions. Goo Hara is doing her part as the senior but-not-so-senior idol.
How does she do her part? Besides letting Youngji tag along with her, Goo Hara takes her time working on Youngji's relatively poor Japanese. Hara works with her as she struggles with her pronunciation, she helps Youngji develop a thankful speech for the future Japanese crowds. Hara even gives her lines - "You made it happen," she hands to her, like a gift, here, take it. This is a new side of Hara previously unseen, here she is as a teacher, an educator. She speaks fluent Japanese and that's not a small thing when you're a Korean idol stretched out in a thousand ridiculous directions.
Youngji clearly feels the most comfortable with Hara, which Hara acknowledges, and that's not a small thing either. Her kindness to Youngji is an act of compassion but certainly an act of self-preservation as well. If Kara is to continue succeeding, Youngji's comfort and happiness is of utmost importance.
If it seems like I'm writing a lot about Youngji's friendship with Hara, it's because the episode spends a lot of time with the pair during this lesson that devolves into lighthearted banter over Youngji's signature laugh. It's a sweet scene, one that really shows Goo Hara's amiability. And Youngji? How could you not root for Youngji after these segments?
As you can tell, this is an episode about relationships. That's the only cohesive narrative this episode presents.
Did you know that Hara turned red when she drinks? You will after you see her drink with the rest of Kara. The group is in festive spirits for what we see in this episode (except for Hara missing Nicole and Jiyoung and wishing to have a drink with them above all others). The members of Kara play games in the waiting room, eat as much as they can after concerts. Hara has bursts of mischief with her seniors, as she imitates herself singing at the concert, as she tells fans to cheer for Kara and not just her at a surprise restaurant encounter, and then, when the rest of Kara is out of ear-shot, she instructs the fans to cheer for her again.
That mischievous side of Hara makes its appearance mostly when she meets with her fans. She loves playing tricks on them, even when the trick seems mostly inauspicious.
Observe: Goo Hara disguising herself via face mask and hoodie. What is her plan? "Put that camera away," she tells the PD. This has got to be good!
Goo Hara makes her way to a Kara merchandise booth, takes her place among many other salespeople, handing out merchandise to unsuspecting fans who can't tell it's Goo Hara because her entire Goo Hara face is covered. It's all going according to plan.
And then? And then Goo Hara...leaves? She makes it to the hallway, giggling with her production team, one of the crew uses her name, and people begin to notice. The jig is up. Fans start to wave, a crowd begins to emerge. Goo Hara runs! She makes her great escape!
So. Mission accomplished? Goo Hara seems to think so, as she laughs with her crew in the garage, her security detail sharing in her exploits. Goo Hara being mischievous is tantamount to the teacher's pet blurting out the answer before their teacher has the chance to finish the question, or that same student telling that same teacher that the teacher forgot a comma in that sentence, giggling with their friends for the rest of the week.
With a certain pride, Hara tells the interviewer that she's known by the Japanese staff as the trouble maker, and it's endearing and it's also undeniably dorky. Now, I don't mean dull, slow witted, or socially inept as the Dictionary reads. I mean silly, and awkward, always charmingly so, always unafraid of being oneself with those that she loves. In the multidimensional prism that is Hara's personality, being a goofball with her fans is very telling. Even with the image-consciousness that overwhelms the Kpop industry, Hara is not afraid of reaching beyond the glamour, because she truly loves her fans. It's an intimacy that many idols must develop in the stressful road to stardom. How many times has a fan's kind words, these strangers, pushed these idols to keep going? How many times has a fanbase's undying love warmed an idol's heart? With all the trauma of the agency system, how wonderful must it be to have someone out there that absolutely adores you?
With Hara, who's been an idol for seven years now, these devoted fans, like Kara, like her management team, must be something like family. Her opening their gifts looks like Christmas morning, and the thing is, Hara will give out gifts too. She'll think about how they must have felt creating these albums, paintings, gift boxes, the care they put into their packages, and the care she in turn puts into her gifts to them. It's strange to think about, but one does. Relationships that value empathy are healthy and stand the test of time. When you think about it that way, Goo Hara's relationship with her fans is a relationship most of us can only dream of.
Now, on to episode five!
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.