a closer kpop reading of kang daniel’s paranoia

delve into the symbolism of Kang Daniel’s powerful new music video, Paranoia

Kang Daniel‘s new video, Paranoia has already racked up an incredible 5.5 million views at the time I wrote this. The video is powerful and terrifying, and the visuals masterfully convey the message of the song that features lyrics written by Daniel. I would like to give a trigger warning here as I am going to be discussing mental health issues heavily in this article.

What Is Paranoia by Kang Daniel about, anyway?

Paranoia describes Kang Daniel’s experiences suffering from anxiety disorder, panic disorder and depression. In December 2019, Daniel announced that he was suspending activities to focus on his mental health. Since then, he has courageously discussed his experiences, and this song furthers those efforts. It describes anxiety as demons that you cannot run away from, as nightmares that continue when you’re awake and more.

What Is Anxiety Disorder? What is Panic Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is a very common mental health disorder marked by persistent and excessive worry. It is estimated that 3.6 percent of the world’s population, about 264 million people, suffer from the condition worldwide at any given time. The worries people with GAD experience may be about tangible things like school or work or family but often it is experienced as a looming sense of dread that has no particular cause.

Many people who have generalized anxiety disorder also suffer from panic disorder. With panic disorder, feelings of fear and anxiety come on quickly and sharply in a way that is completely overwhelming. These events are called panic attacks. I’ve had them myself, and for me, I get a sudden sense of dread with a feeling that I am going to die. My heart pounds, and I can’t breathe. It only lasts a couple of minutes but in the moment it feels like it will never end.

Panic disorder can become a vicious cycle because stress often contributes to them. Once you have a panic attack, you’re afraid of experiencing another. This increases your overall anxiety, causes stress and can make future attacks more likely.

Fortunately, there are treatments available for both panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. If you’re located in the United States and experiencing these kinds of symptoms, you can reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Now let’s get into some of the symbolism in the video.

1. Eyes & Surveillance

During dance sequences, Daniel is shown before two neon signs that look like red eyes The set that he is dancing on is also revealed to be a giant eye. At one point in the video, one of his eyes glows red as well.

In another dance sequence, Daniel’s dancers are wearing hoods with cutouts that reveal one eye and their mouths.

At the very beginning of the video, dozens of closed circuit TV cameras suddenly appear on Daniel’s wall and slowly pan toward him.

All of these symbols combine to communicate an idea of constantly being watched. There is always an eye on Daniel. This makes sense given that he is such a high-profile celebrity. Being under constant scrutiny is undoubtedly a form of stress that contributes to his anxiety.

The dancers are particularly interesting to me. Not only are they still able to see him with one eye, but they also have the ability to clearly speak because their mouths are uncovered. To me, this represents outsiders freely criticizing Daniel. Obviously, they can’t see the full picture of him clearly because one of their eyes is covered, but they still are always watching and can say whatever they want about him.

It’s really important to remember that Daniel’s one eye glows red, too. This suggests that he is also a source of stress for himself–that he is always watching and judging himself.

2. The Text

Daniel appears with two types of text on him. Some of it is projected on him in yellow light. There is also this mark that says Failure right on his skin. Another one reads Ugly.

Projected light comes from an outside source. Something shines it onto a surface. Here the projected words appear on Daniel, showing that these are labels and terms that other people apply to him.

Even if you have very thick skin, people saying negative things about you can leave behind scars. You can eventually internalize these insults and criticisms and take them on yourself. I believe that is what the writing that is now permanently etched onto Daniel’s skin represents.

3. The Man in Black & the Woman in the Veil

One of the scariest things in this video is this man wearing all black. He appears in Daniel’s room at the end of the video, brandishing a weapon. The two of them wrestle, but ultimately, the figure in black gets the upper hand. We see him descend on Daniel. When he is gone, that word failure appears on Daniel’s bloody hand. Never once do we see the face of this figure.

There is another ominous figure in this video: a woman who wears a veil. At one point, Daniel is walking through a crowded place. He looks confident and strong. But then he bumps into someone and suddenly she is there, whispering in his ear. After she delivers her message, his whole mood shifts and he begins to cower.

I believe the man in black represents how powerful and strong mental illness can be. Without help, it can be completely overpowering. You may try to resist, but it has the ability to overtake you and do its damage. Here, that damage is physically represented by the label that is left behind on Daniel’s skin. Because we don’t see his face, there’s a good chance that the man is Daniel’s own mind.

The woman embodies panic. When Daniel brushes up against the man, he experiences minor stress. He might be able to shake it off and keep going, but here comes panic. Once she arrives, it doesn’t matter that the incident was just a small touch of a shoulder. Things become irrationally terrifying, and Daniel is crippled, unable to keep going through his day.

4. The Bedroom

We typically think of bedrooms as safe, inviting places. They are where we go to rest at the end of the day. People will often say “safe at home in bed” because we imagine our bedrooms to be peaceful places of refuge.

Daniel’s bedroom doesn’t conjure those images, does it? An abstract painting on the wall swirls as if possessed by a ghost. Those video cameras appear. Jagged spikes slowly lower down toward his bed while he looks up helplessly. He is confined in a box covered with fabric, partially obscuring his suffering but still allowing us to gawk at him.

The setting of the bedroom shows that there is no safe place when your mind is the source of your fear. If anything, being alone can be the most terrifying of all situations because you are trapped with your own thoughts.

Final Thoughts

Incidents of mental illness are on the rise due to the upheaval that the pandemic has caused. I think that Daniel’s video is a masterful way to spark conversations about this growing problem. He is incredibly brave to be so open about his struggles.

Once again, if you can relate to the sorts of thoughts and feelings that I described, don’t suffer in silence. You are definitely not alone, even though it can feel that way. Help is available. If you’re from outside the US and don’t know where to turn, please get in touch with us and we’ll try to find resources for wherever you’re located.

Readers from outside the US–you can help. If you know about your country’s hotlines or resources for mental health support, leave a comment with the information in your native language.

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2 thoughts on “a closer kpop reading of kang daniel’s paranoia

  1. Hey there, this is such a nice commentary about Kang Daniel PARANOIA. I really enjoy reading this!
    I suffer from mental illness too, so I can relate with everything going in PARANOIA mv. Rather than feel trigger, I feel relieve. This mv somehow give me hope, that one day I will recover from this, and living my life happily. Just like Kang Daniel 🙂

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