Shipping is one of k-pop’s most divisive aspects, and there are decent arguments for and against it. The idols are the ones who encourage it, but how much of the fanservice is really up to them? One of the quieter, yet most powerful arguments is that the prevalence of homosexual shipping is a sign of progress for the LGBTQ community, that the fanservice and ship-teasing help promote acceptance and tolerance to the Korean public. However, as an actual member of the LGBTQ community, the following needs to be said: “I’m really sorry, but, shippers, knock it off.”
I know that no shipper is actively trying to insult the LBGTQ community. I also know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Shipping and fanservice are not real. It’s done for publicity, for attention, to stand out in a large group. It’s not done because the two people involved care about each other in a romantic manner. Netizens know this and treat fanservice like a show or a fictional persona, because that’s what it is. They’re performing, and because of that, the groping and the flirting is acceptable when it wouldn’t be otherwise. Getting riled up because Siwon and Heechul kissed onstage would be the same as saying Seo In-guk is gay because he played a gay character. This, right here, sums up the problem.
Idol couples are not real. No matter how close they stand, no matter how many selcas they take together, no matter how much their company pushes their image as a couple, these pairings are marketing tools, not relationships. Idols who promote apparent relationships are two people who are effectively playing roles, yet many shippers refuse to accept that these pairings are fictitious. Even though such ‘couples’ consist of people who frequently confirm their heterosexuality, even when one half gets caught dating, shippers will insist they know better then their oppas or unnis do about their own sexual preferences.
Case in point: TaeNy, the Taeyeon and Tiffany ship in SNSD. How long has SM been pushing this? A year, at least. There was the duet “Lost in Love,” the explosion of pictures on Instagram and interactions at concerts. As little as a week ago, Sones were complaining about how the “Mr.Mr” MV has too much TaeNy. Flash to April 3, when it was revealed that Tiffany and Nichkhun have been dating for four months. Logically, this would mean the end of TaeNy, and the acceptance that the romantic element is a lie. After all, if the last four months were fake, it’s a good bet the first year was, too. However, the most recent TaeNy picture on Taeyeon’s instagram is full of delightful comments like these:
Taeny forever <3 this love will never disappear and always in my heart :)
i wanna die ToT my TaeNy
Clearly, some TaeNy fans — no doubt well-meaning ones — have decided that Tiffany doesn’t know what she wants in a life partner; instead, they know what she wants in a life partner. Moreover, as demonstrated by some very disturbing tweets, Nichkhun fans feel the same. Just to sum up, after publicly acknowledging their romantic relationship, complete strangers, both well-intentioned and rage-filled, have decided that they have the right to decide the romantic and/or sexual relationships of people they have never met based solely on their own preferences and beliefs. See the problem LGBTQ people have with this?
It’s not that LGBTQ people have issues with shipping as a general concept, or even shipping canonically straight characters. There’s a reason the Kirk/Spock-inspired shorthand “slash” rose to prominence almost concurrently with the first gay rights movement. Hell, my Harry Potter OTP is Charlie Weasley/Viktor Krum. The objection held by LGBTQ people to real-person shipping is that, well, they’re real people, not fictional characters. Idols are in the same boat as the LGBTQ community: they have to hide their relationships. If anyone finds out, it could ruin their career. Complete strangers feel they have the right to dictate their lives. To force this position onto one group of people, and then claim that you are advancing the rights of a different group suffering similar wrongs in doing so, is hypocrisy at its finest.
It’s amazing how blind some shippers can be to the fact that idols are real people; that pain and awkwardness might result from their actions. DBSK has been broken up for over 5 years, yet YunJae (Yunho and Jaejoong ship) fans still show up to TVXQ performances, signs in tow. In the drama Monstar, the male lead, Seol-chan, is an idol, and the negative effect of shipping is shown frequently, both on idols and fans. Seol-chan is always uncomfortable around one of his fellow members due to how often they’re shipped. Eun-ha is Seol-chan’s fangirl, and her dedication to shipping (incidentally, she ships him with the previously mentioned member) is portrayed as unhealthy and obsessive. She even stops speaking to her best friend when said friend catches Seol-chan’s eye. Her character development is learning to treat Seol-chan like a person, not a star. It’s not hard to imagine that these issues, or similar ones, plague real life idols.
Homosexual shipping is a complex topic. Attempting to justify it by claiming it supports LGBTQ rights is a flawed argument, as casual fans know it’s not real, and the dedicated ones end up as hypocrites, attempting to force their opinions onto strangers. I get that shippers mean no harm, but sadly, harm can be done anyway. What do you think, readers?
(Images via Avex (via TonnamYJ), Deviant Art, Instagram, Popcorn Radio)