Idols — or entertainers in general — and cameras have a very interesting relationship. From the start, idols are taught to eat the camera up. They are taught to be aware of the camera’s presence at all times and keep the camera’s attention lest they be thrown into the background. Idols cannot afford to make mistakes on cameras or else endless criticism will ensue. As such, when under the camera’s gaze, it is often said idols turn into different people, behaving differently for the sake of entertainment or professionalism. When the camera starts rolling, it is often the case that idols liven up or exaggerate their actions in an effort to amuse viewers or get attention. Of course, this isn’t always true as there are those whose personalities stay consistent on and off camera, but plenty of times idols mold themselves into a character in an effort to paint themselves as appealing as possible.

But idols can only do so if they are aware of the camera’s presence or aware of the situation the camera is recording. Variety shows have varying levels of scripting to keep the pace of the show organized and uniform and to keep potential accidents from happening. We’ve talked about the subject of scripting before, and how it could potentially detract from a show. While ideally, aspects like cast interaction and gags are genuine, scripting is still present and, while not necessary, helpful in almost all forms of variety. When an activity starts, oftentimes, the ones participating at least have an expectation of what is to come so they can react accordingly. Especially for variety newbies, scripting is like a crutch that allows one to be aware of a situation so he or she can manipulate it to make it as entertaining as possible.

But there are moments where entertainers are purposely kept uninformed of the situation in an effort to entertain using their genuine reactions. If you’ve tuned in to a fair amount of variety shows, idol-centric or not, you’ve probably witnessed the phenomenon that is a hidden camera at least once. Now a variety staple, in these hidden cameras, the ones planning it build tense or unusual situations for its victim(s) to react to. These hidden cameras aim to surprise the victim(s) it is designated for and rely very much on the individual(s)’ spontaneous reaction.

While hidden cameras can potentially create genuinely sweet or hilarious moments, the way they are treated as of late is becoming a bit worrying. Hidden cameras are often used as either a prank or for celebrations, being used to surprise its victim for whatever reason be it a birthday or just for fun. Seeing how they rely on a person’s genuine reaction and are used to evoke emotion, there is a blurred line between entertainment and reality during these hidden cameras. When a hidden camera is being filmed, the ones involved are unaware that the events going on are planned, oftentimes not even being aware a camera is even rolling. As such, to them, the things that are being said are very real, and they probably will take those things personally. They are no longer acting for a camera and can no longer rely on scripting as for all they know, everything going on is real. And this is where things occasionally get troublesome with hidden cameras.

Nowadays, it seems as if the ultimate goal of these hidden cameras is to bring the one being targeted to tears. In many hidden cameras, the antics don’t stop until the one involved is in tears or is only a success when the one targeted starts crying. To set up a situation and to add to the ultimate surprise of it all, harsh words are usually voiced out or situations are set up that end up against the victim’s favor. While this could potentially lead to some heartwarming conclusions where the victim learns that he or she is cared for after all, sometimes the words said during this build up can get a bit too far.

Take for example, Secret‘s Sunhwa‘s hidden camera back during the first season of Invincible Youth. While the random mention of her toes in the dire situation was amusing, the scolding she got for being late could have been too much for her. At this point just a rookie, punctuality would have been an important matter for her as it would have helped boost the reputation of her emerging group. Seniority and reputation are very important matters that rookies especially need to keep in mind, so being scolded by industry seniors would have been a very big deal. It ultimately lead to her tears, and while she learned it was all just a joke, judging from her reaction recalling it, it was still an embarrassing moment that should would have rather overlooked.

Another case would be a hidden camera played on Super Junior‘s Sungmin and TRAX‘s Jungmo during their recording of MBC‘s Oppa Band. Once again, while the visual of Shin Dong-yup yelling at the boys struggling to work the fake vending machine was amusing to say the least, at one point of this scolding, it was even suggested that Sungmin and Jungmo quit the show due to their tardiness and busy schedules. This solution would have been extreme for the two idols, and one can easily see the tension in the two, Jungmo especially who ended up in tears at the end of it all.

And it isn’t just the words said that could go too far in a hidden camera. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. For a particular hidden camera seen during SNSD‘s debut documentary Girls Go To School, it was a lack of action that went a bit too far. During this hidden camera, the girls, still rookies, were set to perform their debut track in a school as part of MNet‘s School of Rock program. However, they were put under a hidden camera where the students initially didn’t cheer for them at all. While the response after the hidden camera was revealed was supportive and positive, for a rookie group with an uncertain future in front of them, having no cheers during a performance would have been extremely distressing and discouraging. While we are all aware of the level of success SNSD achieved five years later, as a rookie group, SNSD was visibly shaken up by this.

But all of this doesn’t mean that all hidden cameras go too far. A benefit of hidden cameras is that it humanizes the idols. Some put them in situations that allow them to be sympathized and admired even further, shown with a particular hidden camera involving DBSK‘s Yunho. The way he handled the situation with his fan left viewers nothing but admiration for him. And like I said before, hidden cameras can lead to some heartwarming moments. All the surprise birthday parties are almost always heartwarming moments for the ones involved, with Seo In-young‘s surprise birthday party during SBS‘s Heroes being a favorite for this writer.

Overall, while providing some amusing situations, the line between entertainment and reality becomes very blurred during hidden cameras. Hidden cameras are really a pretty big gamble and not because of the lingering risk of the plan being discovered but because of the risk of not getting the expected reaction from the victim being targeted. And while they happen pretty sparingly, because of these hidden cameras, idols need to stay professional even in moments where they think it would be okay to be more comfortable.
But what do you think, Seoulmates? Do you like watching hidden cameras, seeing them as nothing but entertainment? Or do you think some occasionally push the limits? Are there any particular hidden cameras you think were memorable? Leave your thoughts below!

(SBS, MBC, KBS2, Mnet, KpopDreams1, thejoyofjelly2, yawnroo, azndramadbsk)