Roundtable: Love Intrigue
Judging by the success of shows such as We Got Married, Music and Lyrics and the old classic Love Letter, K-pop consumers simply can’t get enough of love intrigue in the K-entertainment sphere. The hypocrisy of the situation is that while many fans that seem to support the couples on these shows, they also turn around to throw hissy fits when their beloved idols are caught having relationships in real life. Why do you think this is? And just for kicks, which set of K-entertainers would you most like to see paired together for these shows?
Johnelle: We Got Married is what got me into K-pop, so this love intrigue — I know it well. I believe the reason that most fans, after the initial shock and butthurt, are okay with their idols being in these ‘virtual’ relationships is because deep down the fans know that they aren’t real. It’s kind of like watching your faves in a rom-com K-drama. Why it also works is because we all have a little voyeur in us and are interested in how our favorite idols would interact in their real life relationships. If they’re successful in their portrayal of their virtual relationship, fans begin to love the couples together and they start building ‘happily ever afters’ for them in their virtual dating world, “JoongBo Fighting!” and all that. And although recently some real life idol couples have survived having their relationships ‘outed,’ it’s probably true that if other idols’ dating was revealed the shit would hit the fan.
There’s no way to really explain the hypocrisy of these shows with virtual relationships being so successful, because the actions of a fan that gets upset because their idol is leading a normal life by dating isn’t really rational, is it?
My choice for the next couple on We Got Married: Daesung and Jung So-min, Taeyang and IU, Lee Joon and Secret‘s Hyosung, or Jo Jung-suk and Lee Yoon-ji (I know she’s been on WGM before, but I love them).
Gil: What came first, the chicken or the egg? What really happens in the Bermuda Triangle? Where is my Hogwarts letter? What are those odd circular patterns in the cornfield behind my house? Will any K-pop act come within a 50 mile radius of me? These are the mysteries of life that will never be anwsered and the question of the mental process of a K-pop fangirl(or boy) can be included in those mysteries. It’s a place where few psychologists explore. I mean, who would dare explore the dark abyss that is the fangirl/boy mind? However, I will attempt to try and answer this complex question.
One aspect of K-pop fandom is the unhealthy attachment that some fans have with their idols. Both entertainment companies and the idols themselves promote that close relationship with the fans so that there is a personal connection between star and fan. Sometimes a K-pop consumer become enamored with their idols and this industry does nothing to dissuade that notion. And why would they? It rakes in the cash and that’s all it boils down to doesn’t it? Some fans I see like to imagine themselves in a romantic relationship with their favorite idol(s), I’ve seen plenty of fans (including myself) refer to an idol as their boyfriend/husband/true love/harem bitch/etc. Most of the time it’s joking but there is still that element of wanting to be with this idol. So shows like We Got Married pair up popular idols in a pseudo relationship and have them act cute and in love. It allows for the fans to actually gauge how the idol is in a relationship and make him/her more attractive — if they’re actually good. It’s comparable to shipping in K-pop, people will ship everything under the roof but god forbid the members are actually homosexual. It’s complex but its the dichotomy between fantasy and reality. All of these situations aren’t real so fans indulge in them but they all know that it isn’t real.
I don’t acutally watch these shows or ship so…Subi/Yunho. Gil/Harem. I suggest you all do the same. Oh and Nabeela/Jun.K. just for kicks and giggles.
Salima: Gil, Nabeela and I have already agreed to fight for Jun.K until the K-pop death. That one is still up in the air, I tell ya!
I like to put myself in the shoes of other K-pop fans rather than looking from the outside in. When I look from the outside in, it’s easy for me to say “K-pop fans get attached to these idols because they’re irrational and immature.” But if I were honest with myself I can admit that I too would be totally bummed out if some of my biases went and got hitched. I wouldn’t go and start an anti-cafe or anything, but I’d definitely spend a day in my pajamas with a tub of ice-cream.
In regards to the question about why fans seem to support couples on shows and not real life, I think some of it has to do with wanting to share a piece of an idol’s life. When an idol reveals his or her relationship, it’s a betrayal to fans who have to accept the fact that the idol has something special with someone other than them. And it’s a private relationship that no one, not even beloved fans, can penetrate. But on shows like We Got Married, that “relationship” isn’t private. Idols can sort of share the relationship with the fans and fans can live vicariously through the show.
Personally, I would LOVE to see Taeyang and IU finally make it official. They are the cutest thing ever! I’d also love to see Song Ji-hyo and Kim Jong-kook have a go. I’ve made up this world in my head where they’ve secretly had crushes on each other for years.
Maryse: Just like Johnelle, We Got Married was also what got me into K-pop. But these feelings of getting butthurt from idol pairings never really occurred to me until I had this obsession with Yunho a few years back. Like I totally used to think that Yunho was mine for the taking, and no one else’s (sorry Subi).
However, taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, I would say that the management agencies have a part to play to why fans (like us) behave like this. We have all heard about the dating stories between the senior idol groups (Shinhwa, H.O.T, S.E.S, Baby Vox etc), and they stated that the main reason why they were dating secretly was because their managements had a dating ban imposed on them, and they also add on that they didn’t want to hurt their fans.
To the managements, or even in any businesses, making money is a top priority; hence, from their perspective, preventing their artists from dating is a form of damage control that they have to adopt in order to effectively profit from their artists. With this so-called damage control, which also turns out as an “intention” to protect their fans — has turned K-pop into a bubble world over the years, giving fans the mentality that their idols are their ideal and perfect “lovers”, and that they wouldn’t date anyone because they love their fans. Well that’s what I perceive it to be — a culture that is triggered from managements being over-protective.
For my ideal pairings, I would totally love to see Lee Dong-wook and Lee Da-hae going at it (totally adored them in My Girl), and also Kim Jong-kook and Yoon Eun-hye, just for Yoo Jae-suk to joke about them on Running Man.
Patricia: The paradox between shows like We Got Married and the backlash that comes with idols dating other idols (or worse, commoners!) is a persistent one. I think there are several reasons why We Got Married is so widely embraced whereas the idea of idols being in an actual romantic relationship is so easily rejected.
For one, We Got Married isn’t real, and will eventually come to an end. For those who find themselves in fits of jealousy over the We Got Married pairings, this serves as a form of consolation.
But from what I’ve observed, even the most obsessive fangirls don’t become jealous when their idol of choice goes on We Got Married. Not in the traditional sense, at least. Rather, We Got Married might even be a cause for celebration for many fans, and I think the main reason for this is because We Got Married serves as a kind of romantic role-playing. You wouldn’t ever see an idol hold a girl’s hand, give her piggyback rides, make lunch for a girl — scenarios that some fangirls might fantasize themselves being in with their favorite idols — unless it were to take place on We Got Married. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the popular idol in question is a male idol with a notable female fanbase. In a sense, fans watching the show could easily displace the idol’s “wife” for themselves. It’s like a live-action You/Idol fanfic, in a sense.
Of course, it’s not to say that all fangirls will do this, but I wouldn’t doubt that the continued popularity of We Got Married and its history of using highly popular male idols isn’t due at least in part to this theory. I would even venture to say that this is the same reason why male idols casted in romantic dramas get so much buzz; even though the male idol is playing another character, he’s still going through the motions — aggressive wrist-grabbing, angsty crying, fishlips-kissing his female costar. Once again, we’d never see idols do any of these things in real life, but the fantasy world of dramas and variety shows allows us to see them act out the part.
Bethany: I was never a big fan of We Got Married. Sure, I’ll admit that Yonghwa and Seohyun looked cute together and to this day, they have been the only WGM couple that has truly interested me for more than thirty minutes (just because their personalities were so different and they were just so awkward around each other that their “relationship” seemed a bit more real than the rest of the couples I’ve seen on that show, where the girl and guy just seem like awfully close friends willing to pretend to get jealous, etc.etc.). Therefore, I’m still incredibly puzzled as to why the show is such a big hit because it’s just so fake. Like everyone else, I think the fact that WGM has an end in mind (and it’s so clearly set-up) allows crazy fans to accept the situation. Perhaps they think that the idols on WGM will do the same things for them — make lunches, bicker, knit them scarves, and create scrapbooks practically every month documenting their “relationship.” Perhaps no one actually wants to accept the grim reality of what an true relationship for an idol would be like — sneaking around and avoiding the paparazzi, going on dates at three in the morning, and never getting to see each other. Who knows?
As for me, I have my biases and as much as I love them, I hope they do get settled down eventually and get to lead a normal life complete with a normal relationship. For now though, if you asked me which couples I’d like to see, I am definitely on the Yoseob/IU boat. Or the Taeyang/IU one. Can someone cast them on WGM already?
Dana: I agree wholeheartedly with Patricia — shows like We Got Married are an in-your-face demonstration of just how perfect of a boyfriend/girlfriend one’s favorite idol can be and provide tangible scenarios of adorableness to which fans can point to as evidence of their idol’s enduring perfection. The interesting thing, however, is that depending on the popularity of the couple, sometimes the shows engender new vehicles for shipping; in other words, rather than being happy that a couple’s time on the show has come to an end, they continue to harbor hope that the couple is actually for real.
That being said, I guess that the difference here is one between hope and reality. You can hope that your favorite couple is real, but it probably won’t come true and therefore the situation is non-threatening. When reality hits, it hits hard — hence the overblown fan reactions, the Twitter meltdowns, the mini-hompy closings.
Favorite K-idol couple for a television show? Jessica and Tiffany, obvs. Okay, just kidding. Or am I?
Nabeela: Fans are special creatures. I guess the thing about WGM is that instead of an idol sneaking around to meet a special someone, the show offers an inside look into borderline-real relationships and staged but also honest human emotion. When you watch two people grow together from that kind of vantage point, its protection rather than jealousy than fans, including myself, most often feel. However the idea that your bias may or may not be in relationship with a person fans have no knowledge of can easily cause anger or jealousy because fans only know their own passions for their favorite idols. This whole plant-a-relationship-in-front-of-your-face business on WGM forces viewer to accept intimacy as human by showing them vulnerable human sides of the idols they worship. Out of that context, however, idols in undercover relationships can be bad news for some jealous fans.
As far as the pairing I’d want to see…..well, like Salima said, I would fight to the death to be on the show with Jun.K….but I’d also really love to see Taeyang and IU. And Dongwoon and like….some cute chick. Also Yunho and some cute chick. And Hyuna with some hot actor. Gosh, I’m so unrealistic….
(Images via: Star News, Sports Seoul)