Fortunately — or unfortunately — the world of K-pop comes with a plethora of unique guilty pleasures in which to indulge. Maybe you’re a K-drama junky, staying up all night watching even the worst shows. Or maybe you’re a die-hard aegyo fan, but don’t want anyone to know.
This week we ask our writers to come clean with the question: what is your guilty pleasure in K-entertainment?
Rachel: I would say that it’s the rich chaebol transforming into the dream boyfriend storyline. I got tired of watching dramas with it because I wanted something new and less predictable, but there is definitely something very entertaining about it. It’s a guilty pleasure because it sets a terrible example when you look at it in the cold light of day; insults, kidnapping and manhandling aren’t supposed to be desirable traits. But then you see those little moments that the female lead doesn’t, the ones that show his heart isn’t a pit of darkness. The first drama I watched was Boys Over Flowers because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I hated Jun-pyo as much as Jan-di did. But then in what can only be explained as an act of sorcery I started rooting for him instead.
Mark: K-pop itself is a guilty pleasure so there’s certainly much to choose from.
Camiele: By its very nature a “guilty pleasure” requires you to feel guilty or embarrassed for enjoying it. Mark pointed out that that K-pop itself would be considered a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty or embarrassed by the fact that I enjoy it. It’s just another genre of music, plain and simple. I guess if I had to choose on it’s Shinee‘s “Lucifer,” since apparently it’s a song that K-pop fans are embarrassed to say they enjoy. But I never did. I always liked the song, and I always played it with no sense of irony whatsoever. So I guess I should wait to see what everyone else chooses as the one K-pop pleasure they sort of hide their faces in public over, because thus far I don’t have any.
Cjontai: Being an older fan, sometimes liking K-pop itself can be seen as a guilty pleasure. I’m well aware that fans of a certain age are regarded as childish for even enjoying it, but I feel music crosses borders and generations. Since when was there an age limitation on music? Am I supposed to be listening to adult contemporary tunes only? Oh, please!
If I had to confess to any guilty pleasures, it would be the airport photos and fancams. Even though greeting idols at the airport carries the risk of causing chaos, there’s something about watching your favorite group get all that love. Not going to lie, I’ve watched some scary ones that made me feel really bad for indulging, but I’ve also wondered if idols secretly covet that moment when they know they’ve made it. Throngs of screaming fans clamoring for their pictures has to be better than arriving to crickets and wondering if anyone cares that they showed up. As I see it, hordes of fans means success, and I hopefully won’t have to read headlines about disbandment any time soon.
I also have a strange mukbang fetish. Maybe it’s my protective older sister instincts, but seeing idols actually eat food comforts me. I don’t care if it’s all for show. I want to believe the illusion that nobody has an eating disorder, and everyone gets adequate rest and works under fair conditions. In order for my K-pop obsession to be as guilt-free as possible, I need these lies.
Lo: Like Cy, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I am of the opinion that guilty pleasures are a false construct, designed by the snobbish world of critics to explain away why they like things that are not, in their perview, ‘cultured’. I have no shame for liking anything, even if it falls into the realm of ‘so bad, it’s good’. Thus, I can say that I enjoy Grease 2 and the 2012 reboot of Beauty and the Beast with my head held high, and if you can do that, then literally nothing else can embarrass you. Except . . .
I love Boys Over Flowers. It is a terrible drama that offends me as a feminist and an aspiring television writer. Jun-pyo and Ji-hoo, what with their possessive behavior and habits of treating the women around them possessions and the belief that wanting a woman means you’re entitled to her, can both go die in a hole. The writing is uneven, actions are often made without motivation, and it rests heavily on cliches. But I adore it entirely due to Ga-eul and Yi-jung. Their slow development is the best-written aspect of the drama. Starting as casual acquaintances, their romance develops equally on both sides, Ga-eul drawn to Yi-jung’s inner nobility and laid-back attitude without delusions of being able to ‘fix’ him, and Yi-jung drawn to Ga-eul’s bright attitude and faith that people are capable of more than using each other. The emotional payoff of him greeting Ga-eul after 4 years in Sweden is ten times stronger than anything involving Jan-di and Jun-pyo.
Andy: My guilty pleasures tend to be outside the scope of K-pop (trash TV, computer game obsession, etc.) When it comes to K-pop, like Cy mentioned, I don’t have the requisite shame or guilt. People know I listen to it and watch K-dramas, so it’s not a big deal. Though, I’m not exactly going to blast my K-hip hop playlist in the car with my parents, since they are a bit conservative.
Those that share my appreciated for the music/dramas tend to perhaps be a bit crazier or just as crazy as I am. I don’t stay up all night watching dramas or MVs, however; I love my sleep. Maybe I do have an illogical love of Lee Jong-suk photo shoot videos, but in the K-entertainment world, that’s nothing to feel guilty about, right? Okay, perhaps I do have a bit of shame over my designated Lee Jong-suk and Kim Woo-bin photo shoot playlist…
Willis: I can understand the sheepish feeling of a guilty pleasure. When I let my negative initial reaction to a song be known, I feel culpable after finding that same song catchy at a later date. This happened with AOA‘s “Like a Cat” and Infinite‘s “Last Romeo.” Neither one were impressive to me when they were first released, but I’m surprised by how they have succeeded in latching onto my K-pop conscious.
Cjontai: I’m a bit surprised that no one is confessing to the guilty pleasure of reading fanfics. I don’t read them because I know how my mind operates, and I will turn into a story line snob when I spot a plot hole because I do that with K-dramas already. Still, is no one going to confess to reading the sordid smut that we know exists in the darkest nether-regions of K-pop?
Lo: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t read K-pop fanfics. I am a connoisseur of other fandoms — if you ever need good Arrow, Miss Fisher, or Kirk/Spock fanfiction, I am your girl, plus I know every era of Harry Potter fanfiction and fanon with disturbing clarity, both common and uncommon ships (Charlie Weasley/Viktor Krum 4 LYFE) — but I have a hard and fast rule against RPF. It’s one thing to start playing with fictional characters, but I would be beyond creeped to find out someone was writing things like that about me, and as such, I don’t engage in it with other people. I loathe the idea that being famous means you surrender the right to privacy, let alone your identity.
Alolika: I think Lo has pretty much explained why I consider fanfiction my guilty pleasure. Not so much because of the reasons she has stated — Real Person fanfiction politics are slightly more complicated than that — but because there is an audience of K-pop who tend to deride RPF for the very reasons Lo mentioned; reasons I thoroughly do not agree with; reasons that make me think twice before opening a discussion on something I consider a very integral part of my life both, as an abashed consumer and as a student of literature.
More than just K-pop fanfiction, my most shameful guilty pleasure would be reading K-pop fanfiction with terrible grammar and cliched storylines — pretty much like the written form of Boys Over Flowers. I have absolutely zero justifications for such an indulgence; however, I cannot deny the fact that I find myself gorging on these “poor” fanfiction on a day-to-day basis with almost an addict’s fervour. Kind of makes me understand why poorly written fanficiton on AFF are occasionally featured — they have an undeniable albeit questionable charm to them.
Lo: Just a point of clarification: I don’t hold anything against people who do read real person fanfiction, as it is more complicated than just “fictional yes, real no”. I find it uncomfortable for me because I am a very private person, and tend to project that onto other people. If others, like Alolika, want to read it, I have no issues with that, more power to them. It’s just not my cup of tea.
The bad grammar, though…
Camiele: Yet another area where I don’t actually feel guilty. I read only a few authors anyway, and if you stick to the few that are actually gifted writers you can easily avoid anything that induces your gag reflex. I’ll read anything that’s got an interesting plot line, grammatically and structurally sound, and contains characters that are actually intriguing. I don’t want to get into the conversation about “fan fiction isn’t real literature,” because this isn’t the space, and I don’t actually want to have to go off on someone for being unnecessarily close-minded. But, yeah, this is something I feel absolutely no guilt over.
Hania: Like Cjontai, airport fancams and photos are definitely my biggest guilty pleasures, but for a different reason. Being interested in fashion and street style, I’m always keen to see what idols are wearing, as its often trendy and different, and sometimes bizarre. Feeling like you get an insight into their real fashion sense rather than their glitzy stage outfits makes airport photos particularly fun to peruse. Unfortunately, the reality is that the airport fan culture is highly problematic, where fans harass and hassle jetlagged idols and create chaos for other commuters. It’s essentially an invasion of privacy in a public space where idols have the right to feel comfortable. When looking at airport photos, you can’t help but think about all the pushing and shoving that took place just to snap some stylish photos.
Gaya: Now that I’m engaged, I feel like I should stop lusting after all these Asian men… But then I see Minho‘s thighs in a “View” performance and I’m like #cantstopwontstop #dibidibisforever.
Morgan: I started reading fanfiction when I was 13 with some ‘great’ works of fiction about the television show, Storm Hawks. I read a lot of different fics based on different stories and movies, but I didn’t really know about K-pop fanfiction, despite knowing about shipping, until I watched Reply 1997. I laughed so hard when Eun-ji‘s character got caught writing a fic in class. Anyway I dabbled a bit in K-pop fanfiction like Camiele, because anything well written and has an interesting plot is okay with me. That said, there are a lot of things that annoy me about fanfiction — bad grammar, the normalising of certain (bad, dangerous, unsavoury) behaviour and the high volume of creepy material — but I steer clear of that stuff. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a guilty pleasure because I am not afraid to talk about it with people. I find that telling a majority of people that you read fanfiction is sort of like telling people that you like K-pop; they usually get a good laugh from it and/or they’ll actually listen to why you like it.
Chelsea: I’m long past considering fanfiction a guilty pleasure. It’s just part of my K-pop routine at this point. I think something about the familiarity of the characters, ease of access and also the instant gratification makes it one of my favorite ways of wasting time online — both in terms of reading and writing. (Though I also admit to reading those cliche, grammatically incorrect stories pretty regularly. And enjoying them.)
I think my real K-pop guilty pleasure is my fascination with the rumor mill. I get a kick out of all “what idols are really like” posts and “insider” scoops. Though I rarely buy into it, I think it’s always fun to entertain the tabloid-esque tales of what goes on behind the scenes. Along with that goes my enjoyment of dating scandals and the netizen reactions; whenever a new one breaks, I get my popcorn ready. Overall, I spend entirely too much time in the depths of various K-pop forums/threads reading baseless rumors and the subsequent fandom discussions.
Laverne: The rumor mill is definitely my guilty pleasure. I don’t even bother trying to figure out who the the rumors are about. I just love reading the rumors!
What are your guilty pleasures, readers?
(Images via KBS, SM Entertainment, tvN, CéCi and Dispatch)