IU’s Sexual Interpretation of “Zeze” Criticized by “My Sweet Orange Tree” Publishers


With IUs interpretation of her new song “Zeze” on the chopping board, Dongnyok Publishing, the publishing company for “My Sweet Orange Tree,” expressed their concern.

For some context, Zeze from the autobiographical Brazilian novel “My Sweet Orange Tree” is the character that IU based her lyrics on. Zeze is a five-year-old boy who is suffering from domestic abuse. His only solace and friend for much of the novel is Minguinho, an orange tree in his back yard that he has the ability to communicate with.

IU has said in an interview, “I wrote the lyrics about Zeze in the point of view of Minguinho in ‘My Sweet Orange Tree.’ Zeze is innocent, but in some aspects, also cruel. When looking only at his character, he is a very hypocritical character. Because of that, I found him charming and sexy.”

With this interpretation, she wrote sexually suggestive lyrics for the song such as, “You are innocent / But also definitely cunning / You seem as transparent as a young child / But somewhere, you are dirty” and also, “Zeze, hurry and climb up the tree / Take the youngest leaf / Pick the only flower / Climb up me.”

The publishing company as well as many others are taking issue with IU’s interpretation of “Zeze” which sexualizes this abused five-year-old boy. Dongnyok Publishing made a post on their official Facebook expressing their distaste, saying, “IU-nim, Zeze isn’t a child who’s like that.”

They wrote, “Zeze is a five-year-old who is hurt because of the abuse he receives from his family. With his words, ‘Why must children grow up?’ he makes many readers cry. Minguinho is the only friend that Zeze has who gives him warmth. But to make a song in Minguinho’s point of view and to call Zeze cunning?”

They also point out the image of Zeze in IU’s album, saying, “Of course, there can be freedom of interpretation […] but to put fishnet stockings on Zeze and to put him in a pinup-girl position…”

Film critic Heo Ji Woong offers another opinion, saying on his Twitter on November 5, “It isn’t right for a publishing company to offer a concrete guide for the interpretation of a literary work.” He also said, “All literature is newly discovered by the reader who will interpret the work in their own freedom and capacity. Zeze wouldn’t agree with the publishing company.”

You can listen to the song in the video below:

What are your thoughts on the issue?

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