While everyone understands that no one is perfect on this planet, it seems that in the world of K-pop, fans expect their idols to come as close to that standard as possible. It’s not surprising (albeit a bit saddening) that idols have to work to the standard of their fans in order to maintain a steady fanbase for themselves (and a job), but does anyone really stop to consider whether or not the standards of “perfection” placed on the shoulders of idols is too unrealistic? Idols are supposed to appear perfect to the general public basically 24/7. Sure, fans can always say that they know their favorite idols are flawed and that they are comfortable with knowing those flaws exist, but it’s easy to see that this sense of perfection idols maintain is what keeps their career going. Female and male idols alike rarely go out in public without their makeup and hair done beautifully. On variety shows, idols always know how to answer questions with a charming smile and laugh — giving off the impression that they are always prepared for whatever is thrown their way. Performances don’t even need to be addressed; idol groups work hour after hour to execute difficult dance moves perfectly in sync. With a pop culture so focused on the idea of perfection, the backlash an idol receives from an action that is “imperfect” is many a time undeserved.
Perhaps the most common example of a slip in the perfect facade an idol puts on for his or her fans involves responses during interviews. Over the past few years, countless instances have been recorded when an idol gave a less-than-satisfactory answer to a question they were asked by an interviewer or an emcee. Krystal of f(x) has been called out more than once for her “rude behavior” on various talk shows, and Block B certainly received a lot of criticism for Zico‘s careless joke about the flooding in Thailand earlier this year. Taeyeon of SNSD has been scolded by netizens for looking “bored” during group interviews as well. But is it fair of us to expect idols to be engaged during every single interview they participate in and give answers that are expected of them? In a sense, that robs idols of their own personalities because we’re basically dictating what they say with our expectations. One little slip-up during an interview can cause an idol’s popularity to nosedive, so it comes as no surprise that many idols’ responses to questions nowadays on shows are scripted. Even if it means that they have to act like someone they’re not for the camera, almost every idol would pick that over losing their fans.
When it comes to things such as drinking and smoking (two very common habits in South Korea), idols are held to extremely high standards as well. When G-Dragon got caught smoking marijuana around the end of last year by authorities, the response against him was loud and unable to be ignored. He apologized to his fans and decided to keep his head down on the K-pop scene for a little while before the issue finally blew over. But did he really deserve all the hate that he received for his mistake? Although yes, everyone wants to believe that their idols are faultless and can do no wrong, it’s a little unfair for people to heap so much anger stemming from their fantasies being shattered on one person, who after all, is just like the rest of us and may show flaws in judgment occasionally. Sure, the excuse that YG Entertainment tossed out for this scandal was a little unbelievable (Nihon TV in Japan explained that there was no a way a first-time user of the drug could test positive) and G-Dragon took the fall humbly, but some of the words, such as “It’s even more disappointing for me because I’m a fan. He’s horrible, isn’t he even apologetic to his family, label, and fans?” that were thrown at him during that situation were truly unfair.
Some of the biggest scandals caused by idols during the last few years were car accidents. There was Daesung‘s high-profile one from last year and even more recently, Nichkhun‘s accident at an intersection. Nichkhun had been found to be under the influence during his accident, which caused many people to criticize him for drunk driving. However, witnesses at the scene revealed that the accident was not completely Nichkhun’s fault and the Seoul police department ruled that his blood alcohol content had nothing to do with the accident itself. While driving under the influence should not be acceptable in any form, sometimes the damage an idol suffers to his or her image due to a car accident is too much. After all, while car accidents can be avoided for most of the time with good driving, not all of them happen because of poor driving.
Typically after an idol commits a mistake that seems to be receiving a lot of negativity from the general public, the company or the idol will issue an apology. Idols who have been involved in car accidents apologize to the victim of the accident and the family of the victim, idols who have been involved in drinking or smoking scandals apologize to their fans, and idols whose rude behavior got them in trouble with netizens apologize for their disrespect. Many a time, the apology is simply to close the book on the idol’s scandal and draw attention away from the scandal so the idol can continue his or her activities, because scandals can seriously damage an idol group’s career for more than just a few months. If a group is inactive for that long, the company that they’re signed to can lose good money. Block B fell off the radar for a significant amount of time after a successful comeback with “NanrinA” just because of that one interview, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if Brand New Stardom lost money because of that. Apologies have also become a way for fans to return to their fantasies of idol perfection, because hey, if their favorite oppa apologized for his mistakes, he didn’t mean it, right?
While I understand the obsession with perfection in K-pop when it is associated with performances or songs or fashion, I don’t understand this idea that an idol should be the perfect human being. Of course not every fan of K-pop considers their favorite groups flawless, but there are a good number of starry-eyed fans who insist upon that fact. Why should we expect perfection from an idol’s character? They’re regular human beings, just like the rest of us, behind all that makeup and expensive clothing. They’re going to make the same mistakes as anyone else on this planet. In fact, idols aren’t even really supposed to be considered “role models,” so who are we to criticize their characters based on a few mistakes they’ve made in the past? It’s one thing to put pressure on groups in K-pop to give us beautifully executed performances onstage, but it’s simply unfair to expect perfection personality-wise from them.
(Netizen Buzz, Nihon TV)