Roundtable: K-pop fandom?
This week, we asked our writers to voice their thoughts about the joys, sorrows, heartbreak, and drama that comes with K-pop fandom. One can easily make the comparison that K-pop fandom is like playing a team sport…so from Cassiopeia to V.I.P. to ELF to SONE….what behaviors/attitudes are particular to one type of fan group, and why?
Patricia: I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time with ELFs lately (comes with the territory of nursing a brand-new fandom, I guess), and I have to say, my perception of the Suju fandom has changed considerably. While it’s a given that every fandom has its batch of crazies and incoherent obsessives, the majority of ELFs aren’t really butthurt; they just feel cheated. And to be honest, I would be too if I spent as big a chunk of my life and monetary income on a group that seems to consistently be getting the shaft by SM. A lot of ELFs’ so-called ‘irrational’ actions – e.g. buying albums in bulk just to ensure Super Junior’s spot in the GDAs; obsessively racking up Youtube view counts; indirectly bashing on SNSD because Suju’s material is comparatively inferior, et cetera – are because this fandom has become fragile and there’s becoming less and less for these fans to hang on to.
Oh my, am I actually being sympathetic towards a K-pop fandom? What have I become?
On the other hand…Cassiopeia. What is going on, guys? Y’all were so surprisingly chill throughout the lawsuit debacle…but now everything’s a cause for a fight. As a former fellow Cassie, I am disappointed. Like, frowny-faces-times-infinity disappointed.
Subi: I just have to say though: I’m really proud of Cassiopeia. After the whole scandal with Dong Bang Shin Ki, this fandom which was arguably the craziest fandom out there, they really matured and grew up. While there are some stragglers who have decided to camp out on the HoMin and JYJ side, for the most part, Cassiopeia has managed to celebrate Dong Bang Shin Ki as they have been in the past, as they are now, and as they will be in the future.
And I don’t mean to brag, but we did all shat on the Ideal Type World Cup poll. Just saying.
Nabeela: I’ve got to agree with Subi on this one – for the most part, the general and more original Cassiopeia has done a good job of celebrating both old and new developments in regard to DBSK. While the stans who’ve pitched tents on either sides still scare me with their inordinate amount of passion, Cassies as a whole have really demonstrated a lot of maturity and patience for both DBSK and JYJ, and I think those are major qualities that not a lot of fandoms have.
Young-ji: Subi – we love you, but your love for DBSK is starting to scare me…just a little. Anyways – so how do you become a Cassie? Do you pay to be officially called a cassie or is it a self-imposed label? Obviously, I was never a hardcore fan of anything to know the logistics of it. Also, do Cassies have some sort of rituals or events where you DBSK-obsessed ladies gather to pray or perform some sort of ceremony? Again, just curious.
Subi: HAHAHAHA. The only way to be a Cassie is to love Dong Bang Shin Ki with all your heart. But honestly, you can always join the official fanclub or a fan forum or just celebrate your fanship in private. In private, you can do whatever the hell you want. I, for example, have a poster of each member of DBSK and a poster of all 5 of them up on my wall right now (photo is attached for those who do not believe me). And this is something quirky that I do, but every time I get some type of new technology, like when I got my macbook, when I got my iPhone, and when I got my iPad, I always play their first single “Hug” on the product first for good luck.
Amy: You guys are killing me. I got into K-pop because of DBSK and am still a big fan, but I would never call myself a Cassie and look down on them with much disdain because of their inability to differentiate between criticism and slamming when it comes to HoMin and JYJ. See: Nabeela’s 800+ comment post. ‘Nuff said.
Subi: I will say this: As someone who comes from this specific niche of the fandom, the subject of the scandal is something I, and all other Cassies are extremely sensitive to. And while we’re trying to support DBSK with there they are now and where they are going, it definitely is a struggle. This group has obviously split in some fluid meaning of the term and they’re both going in different directions. There is an inherent conflict and tension in this separation and so the fandom is struggling to look beyond that and to continue to support them as five.
Megan: I think that Cassies are fiercely protective because DBSK was and is a high-profile group that had to take a lot of crap, from both the public and the inside. Not that it justifies the scary lengths to which they go, but SM manufactures groups to inspire rabid fanbases, and clearly, it works.
Patricia: Nevertheless, I’m with Amy on this one. I only call myself a (former/disillusioned) Cassie because DBSK was my first real kpop fandom, so I went all out with the fandom prayer circles and emotional outbursts….”always keep the faith” doodled all over my school notebooks and everything. Considering my history, I think people would probably call me out for being a Cassie whether I like it or not, so…yeah. *waves red balloon*
But I think the reason why Cassiopeia was so chill throughout the lawsuit debacle was because no one was willing to piss them off with anything that might be perceived as being “bash-worthy” – and granted, its pretty hard to bash a group that’s on the verge of breaking up due to unethical treatment on behalf of a giant entertainment company.
So yeah, I think Cassiopeia handled themselves well throughout the lawsuit debacle, but judging from the wank that’s been evidenced on every piece we’ve published that’s even been the tiniesy bit critical of JYJ or Homin, I don’t think Cassiopeia has matured one bit. I mean, I loved DBSK with all my heart and to a certain extent, I still do….but man, it’s like you can’t say anything about JYJ/Homin unless its unadulterated, worshipping praise. And even then, you’re bound to receive flack from the “opposing side” anyway.
Ree: I’m there with Amy and Patricia. DBSK is my bias band, but I wouldn’t call myself a Cassie. They’ve calmed down in some cases, but holy cow, talk about Cassies vs The World. Or more like Cassies vs Each other vs The World. I don’t want to sound like one of those VIPs who thing they’re better than every other fandom, but VIP is the only thing I’d call myself- granted, there are crazies in the BB fandom as well. But they’re a lot less extroverted, and there’s less baggage that comes along with being a VIP. I mean, I don’t like T.O.P- and most of them are okay with that as long as I still support the band as a whole- which I do.
Cassies were calm during the lawsuit yeah. But I think in that case it was like they had a common enemy- Lee Soo Man. And I don’t know, to me it looked like most of the Cassies were expecting HoMin to come around and sue with JYJ, which is why they all banded together. When ultimately they didn’t, there became a huge divide in the fandom- and that’s what’s starting all these fan wars. If you criticise JYJ- you’re HoMin biased. If you criticise HoMin – you’re JYJ biased. You say you’re OT5- they don’t believe you. It makes you want to stop being anything altogether.
Amy: Honestly, I hate all fan groups but I hate VIPs the most. Sorry, to any VIPs in this team who are sane, nice people. But VIPs are just constantly up on every single fangroup about how chill they are, how chill their group is, and like 99% of it is condescending smack that’s written off as being “chill.” Give me a freaking break. The constant insisting that YG artists are the only ones that are “real” artists, different, blah blah blah. I can’t deal with it.
Patricia: Agreed, and I also think YG in itself propagates this ‘holier (chiller?)-than-thou’ attitude that thus reflects upon the fans. Gah, I just don’t like YG, period.
And Ree, about the whole ‘disliking-one-member-but-liking-the-group’ thing….oh, that’s my favorite. I love it when fans are all, like, “YOU AREN’T A TRUE CASSIE/ELF/SHAWOL/WHAT-HAVE-YOU IF YOU DON’T LOVE ALL THE MEMBERS!!!1!!!” *frothing at the mouth* Dude, I will lovingly hate on whomever I please.
Megan: Yeah, that “if you hate one member you can’t be a part of x fanclub” thing always did me. I might have been a card carrying Shawol if it wasn’t for the fact that Minho makes my knuckles itch. I was almost a Cassie, but I just can’t watch Yoochun. And hell, I don’t like half of Super Junior.
Bo Kyung: I think it’s so hard to like all the members of a group… I mean seriously – it’s usually from 4- 13(?!) members in a group, how do they expect us to like them all equally?
Fannie: Something else that I found admirable in the past was Yoseob’s attempts to moderate and teach his fans about proper fan behavior. I believe there were two instances when this happened: when he harshly tweeted at his fans to apologize to Rainbow’s Jaekyung for maliciously attacking her, and again when he called his fans out on being disrespectful when they put graffiti of Junhyung’s name on a wall of his residential building. He gained a lot of respect from the whole K-pop community for these actions and ultimately, it made the B2UTYS a better and more self-aware (and in the long run, respected) fandom (they even wrote an official apology letter to him). I wish more idols would take the initiative to keep their fans in line – it’s beneficial to everyone involved, really.
Johnelle: I also gained respect for Yoseob for stepping up and reprimanding fans for their errant behavior. He’s only 21, but he showed a lot of backbone in telling fans that they stepped over the line- it’s something more idols should do when their fans go to extremes, but few do. Props to B2UTYS too for not flipping out when he scolded them and for their efforts to make amends.
One thing I don’t understand is fighting in the same fandom, like when T.O.P. fans were accusing G-Dragon of being an attention whore for doing the GD&TOP album. I don’t believe you have to love every member in the group to be a fan, but should there be infighting like that? I didn’t even understand when VIPs were complaining that YG was spending too much time and effort on 2NE1 instead of Big Bang- especially when both groups were doing well. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Some of the infighting in SM fandoms I can kind-of understand because it’s obvious not all groups were being promoted fairly, but in YG it didn’t seem that way.
Patricia: But to be honest, I’m kind of uncomfortable with the idea of K-pop fandom as a whole and how militaristically organized it is. I mean, this probably applies more in Asia than anywhere else in the world, but there’s something a little offputting about the unified chanting, lightstick waving, mindless dedication of K-pop fandom that makes my Amurrica-influenced, self-over-society mindset queasy. Even though I’m a diehard DBSK, Suju, and SHINee fan, I still hesitate to call myself a Cassie/ELF/Shawol because it feels like I’m joining some sort of cult. I mean, did you ever think of why many people find it ridiculous that Justin Bieber fans call themselves “Beliebers”? That is, besides the fact that it’s one of the worst puns to come out of this decade. But I digress…
Chloe W: I totally agree with you Patricia. The whole militaristic organization is scary. Especially when they don’t like something. The amount of power the have in the music industry is scary, with their protests and petitions that submit to the Korean government. Moreover, what kills me is the government actually takes in to account what’s these fans have to say. I think Cassies a notorious for this. I have never scene ppl across the world organize faster when DBSK was having their scandal. The Americans didn’t even organize that fast to save Europe from hitler in WW2. Fandoms are just plain fanatical.
Subi: I just wish Sones and Blackjacks would vote for Miss Seoulbeats.