In a haunting mixture of beautiful cinematography, eerie mannequins, and a borderline satirically saccharine voice over, Nils Clauss’s Plastic Girls aims to tackle the issue of the sexualization of South Korea’s public sphere. Clauss focuses on the sexual mannequin robots that stand outside of businesses, inviting men into their shops. But these are not sex shops, but a variety of businesses that range from traditional Korean spas to petrol stations to restaurants.
Clauss creates a narrative for these “plastic girls”, humanizing them to emphasize just how sleazy this practice is. The “girls” talk about how men prefer to see them in short skirts, and how they frequently bow to show their chest, in order to keep working. Each of the “girls” featured has their own name, presented with a description of their body type, ranging from “Cola bottle” to “Barbie” to “Ant Waist.”
Adding to an already disturbing subject matter, the cinematography and style make you feel as if you are intruding on a weird futuristic landscape. Long tracking shops in these eerily deserted commercial centres almost transport you into an Andreas Gursky photograph, shelves upon shelves of everyday products, rows upon rows of empty couches, all being peddled to the public by these lifeless sex slaves. All of this is set to the perfectly fitting soundtrack of “The Crack-Up” by Udo Lee.
At its core, Plastic Girls is a political campaign against the sexualization of the every day, not just in South Korea, but everywhere. If animatronic mannequins are being so overtly sexualized, what does that mean for the actual female population? Furthermore, if we are living in this strange, detached narrative knot, what does the actual future look like in regards to the sexualization of women worldwide?