Maybe it’s time we admitted it, but intelligence was rarely a criteria for being a successful idol, and there are probably a few good reasons for this.
Firstly, people always like their TV or entertainment personalities to be a little bit, for want of a better word, dumb. Not surprisingly, some of the best or funniest TV moments on variety have come from K-Pop artistes making silly comments, being utterly confounded by questions out of grade school, or just acting un-smart. Besides, in some weird ways, it is also proof that human beings are equal after all. Okay, he can sing and dance like he was born to do it, but he cannot do middle school maths or English, so that kind of balances things out compared to us.
After all, who really wants to tune out from the real world from seeing a smart pretty person on TV debating the finer points of national policy, or philosophy? There is always the Internet, News Channels or Documentaries for that. Most television audiences like their entertainers to be funny and amusing on television, even at the expense of some intelligence.
Another reason for why celebrities tend to be un-smart is also how most of them have chosen to prioritise their abilities in the non-academic field over studying in school. If one could do better in dancing and singing, then why bother too much with schoolwork,
when one could hone his/her talents and make it bigger in another field? As mentioned earlier, there are just as many other ways to be successful besides being smart in school and by having other skills.
Finally, maybe there is the argument that being book smart in Idol-dom just really does not matter. After all, if most of the musical output and marketing decisions are done by higher-ups, then really, all that matters is largely instruction following. This practice is most commonly seen in a large company such as SM Entertainment, where most business decisions tend to be made by men in suits clutching business degrees, suggesting that at some point for them love for music is also tempered by a need for dollars and sense. In fact, the man most famously behind SM Entertainment, Lee Soo-man, is also most known for having a degree very much unrelated to music, with his Masters in Computer Engineering.
In spite of this though, why do we find the idea of a smart Idol so appealing, and are there any idols that seemingly fit into this image?
Firstly, it is all about the varied personalities in idols that we enjoy. For every one of us who enjoy wild and played up television personalities, there are just as many who prefer their idols to be laid back and have that air of understated smart about them. Most of us have at some point fancied the idea of having some imaginary lunch sessions with a known idol, and for one I know that my preferences lie with one whom I can hold a conversation beyond just spazzing at the pretty or having the ultimate “imaginary girlfriend” experience.
Also, idols who are just as capable with the books also help lend credence to the “they are pretty much perfect” image that idol-dom is so obsessed with selling. I mean, he can sing and dance, looks good, and to cap it off, good with the academics (a la Lee Seung-gi)! What a perfect “ideal type”, so they would say. Then again, it also makes us feels that little bit inferior, that he has everything, while we struggle a bit at times.
Ultimately, while an idol’s appeal academically is at best debatable, one thing that cannot be denied is the need for another form of intelligence to succeed in their fields. In some ways, success as an idol hinges on the two Es: Egos and EQ. Enough of an ego to push one-self on stage and be charismatic enough to draw fans, or come to think of it, to care about his/her public image. Enough EQ, on the other hand, is to say or do the right things in the media spotlight.
The latter is especially true of MBLAQ’s Lee Joon and SNSD’s Hyoyeon. While they might not be brightest bulbs where school is concerned (have you seen them on shows where they are asked questions straight out of grade school?!), their abilities to think up honest and funny TV moments, as well as show understanding of how humans behave (working in a group, or even Hello Baby!) could be evidence of their idol smarts. And that is not including the in built capabilities to shine on stage.
So readers, what are your takes on the academically inclined idol? Do you honestly believe in “Idol Intelligence”, an alternative of smarts that idols have to survive?
(Hook Entertainment, SM Entertainment, KBS TV, thejoyofjelly2)