Welcome to this week’s Roundtable!

The K-pop industry is all about the give-and-take of trends. Companies produce idols that cater to our perceived needs, while the fans’ reactions to the content (whether it be through sales of tickets, digital downloads of songs, or simply keeping the buzz alive through gossip and macro currency) feed back to shape whether companies decide to keep following their formula, or to jump to something new. An up-and-rising part of this equation is the direct feedback from fans via self-recorded reactions to MVs.

The question that we posed to our panel of writers this week was: What are your thoughts on MV Reaction videos?

Paloma: So I’m a little bit torn in this topic – ok, not like there’s an intense debate inside of me about MV reaction videos, but the thing is I have been really interested in participatory culture and fan culture lately, so from this side I can’t help but find MV reaction videos fascinating. I think K-pop is probably one of the “fandoms” (not even a fandom in the traditional way, but I wouldn’t know how to call it) that rely more in fans itself, not only fanclubs and the likes, which are the basics, but I don’t think I have ever seen a fandom with such a massive production of fanmade material, from fanfic and fanvids to fan critics. And I think the MV reaction videos are one of those elements that show how much K-pop relies on fans and fans interacting among themselves, so in that way, I really wish I knew more about those reaction videos, why do fans feel the need to do them, why do other fans take delight in watching them — and I guess it has something to do with identification and a sense of belonging to a group, but I honestly don’t know enough.

However, from a personal point of view and because I’m a fan myself, I find them boring and pointless. I don’t think I have ever watched a complete MV reaction video, and I always end up looking at the small square of the actual video they usually put in a corner. I’ve always wondered what would happen if I recorded a reaction to a MV reaction, has that already been done? Do you think there’s market out there for it?

Gaya: I sometimes watch these MV reactions by this one French girl who’d just swear in English thoughout the whole thing with her French accent. She’d have a male friend with her sometimes, and his overall indifference juxtaposes nicely with the girl’s own reactions. I think those make the best kind of MV reaction videos, when there is more than one person present: that way someone can at least act as a foil, or they could hype each other up to the point of hysteria which can be considered to be entertaining. But going solo seems much tougher to make interesting to watch.

The main appeal of MV reactions are to hear people blurt the first thing in their head when they experience something for the first time. It feels like watching people chew with their mouth open to me, though, and so I don’t find it all that appealing, though there are exceptions (like French girl, though I don’t watch her videos anymore).

Nicholas: I agree that the OTT comments on the idols fashions, hair and moves in the music video would be the main attractions for anybody watching a reaction Music Video. Oh, and the guilty pleasure of watching any 11 year old swear like a sergeant, what with the swearing that usually accompanies such videos.

To be honest, such fan reaction music videos tend to be high on the spazzing and little much else, considering they are made by fans themselves fawning over the idol’s pretty looks. I much prefer to watch music videos a few times, make observations, then give a more grounded conclusion.

Having said that, there is a type of reaction MV I would not mind watching. The guys who are totally neutral about what they watch, and play it real serious. They tend to make interesting and funny observations of what goes on, like continuity errors or when awkward moments in the Music Video appear.

Maria: There are two main trends in MV reactions that I’m aware of: the OTT ones that you mentioned, Nicholas, which are the most popular and those guys or girls who have pretty much a straight face and take music videos very seriously. I tend to appreciate the second category, mainly because I empathize with those guys. Seriously now, who the heck is shocked by K-pop videos? They’re pretty tame most of the time and you don’t need to scream for five minutes if you see your idols in a room doing a dance. At some point, I’m double checking to verify if the dude is talking about the same video.

While I am not MV reactions’ biggest fan, I love the ones with two or more reviewers. When I’m watching movies with my best friend, we comment a lot, but whenever someone joins us, they shush us and it’s no fun. So I really love seeing people blab all throughout the music video. Weirdly enough, it gives me a sense of belonging to the fandom.

Johnelle: I enjoy reaction videos, but not all are created equally. The quality of the MV reaction really relies on the quality of the MV itself–it’s not easy to make an interesting reaction video if the MV is boring as hell. I’m not sure how long people have been doing reaction videos or if this is a K-pop only phenomenom, but I watched my first reaction vid back in February. I was watching the MV for Big Bang’s “Bad Boy” and noticed all these related videos that had Big Bang “Bad Boy” MV reaction on it and I was like “what the heck is this?” Next thing I knew I was watching a bunch of reaction vids for the next couple of hours.

Since then, I’ve noticed that TONS more people seem to be doing them and the people that I first watched are getting thousands of subscribers and YouTube hits. I will have to say that my favorite MV reaction videos were for Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby,” they were hilarious–seeing everyone’s reactions to the outlandish MV was classic and I did watch quite a few my favorite coming from Courtney and Jasmine.

What was especially hilarious was that I realized how alike I was to so many other K-pop fans when watching the videos and scanning through the comments on them. The comment that made me realize that the most? The one which said “who’s watching all these reaction vids just to see what they’re gonna do when Daesung’s part comes up?” Raises hand.

And I think that’s why these MV reaction videos are growing in popularity. We all want to know what other people think about the things we love or hate. We like to agree or disagree with other fans from across the world. And you know K-pop fans can be obsessive like that. How much longer will this trend go on or grow? Not sure, but I’m enjoying it for now.

Jasper: Oh, I love Courtney and Jasmine! The two of them are so hilarious.

And I agree, these MV reactions vary greatly with the MV they’re reacting to. I find the more engaging ones — or quite simply the ones with more fanservice, since that’s usually able to get quite a reaction out of people — are far more interesting, as you anticipate reactions of the more infamous parts of the video.

But what can also make the experience vary is basically how easily a viewer would relate to the person/people doing the reactions. The main appeal I see in these reactions is that they trigger K-pop fans to relate to each other, comparing their reaction of the MV with someone else’s. There’s a satisfaction and a feeling of connectivity I’d get watching some of these, knowing other fans reacted the same way as you when watching the video, thinking “Oh, I reacted the same way!”

These MV reactions are simpler ways for fans to get involved, but what I found interesting was that there was a contest held by MNet asking for the best reaction for Super Junior’s then-brand new “Sexy, Free, and Single.” I found it a bit interesting that these fan contributions were not only being acknowledged, but judged, since how could someone really judge people’s first reactions? The experience varies greatly from person to person, and it almost felt like the contest supported contrived reactions just made to amuse, when the point of most of these videos is to share a genuine reaction.

Ambika: I like the MV reactions that have actual comments during the music video, when people share what they like as opposed to just shrieking or hyperventilating on camera. While that can be amusing, I don’t see a point to watching that. I also like when those that put up videos having logical comments or interpretations at the end of the video about, for example, the effect of the video as a whole, not just saying which members turned out the most attractive this time around.

That being said, I don’t watch MV reaction videos very frequently. Instead, I usually find myself reading comments on some form of social media, mainly because those get to the point of what someone thinks quickly while videos take at least the length of the music video.

Fannie: I cannot, for the life of me, bring myself to watch MV reaction videos. I’d rather watch the music video again rather than watch someone else react to it… I don’t know, maybe I just don’t like seeing K-pop fans all up in my face. But I do understand the appeal, especially if the reaction is funny.

Johnelle: Some of the better MV reaction uploaders do a little of both–reactions and commentary. The boring ones to me are when the persons just sit there and watch the vid and hardly say or do anything. And those that just react spastically are too much. I’m not too serious of a person so am not a fan of those just giving a commentary with no fun added in — I’d rather just go read someone’s opinion on their blog in that case. So I like those that mix it up with fan girl/boy spazzing along with commentary and impressions. One of my other favorite uploaders are Khannie and friends. Khannie is one of the biggest spazzers ever, but her boyfriend John comes up with some of the best interpretations of the MV’s story and Brittany (and any of her other friends that join in occasionally) usually provide some interesting commentary.

(2MinJinkJongKey, RikaxHikari; images via: SM Entertainment, GTV, KBS)