Not too long ago, Leslie presented a fabulous flowchart game based on some of 2014’s biggest scandals. If you haven’t taken the chance to play pretend and find your own scandalous path to stardom, definitely give it a try.
For those of you who did play, get those imaginations running and envision yourself as a Korean celebrity one more time. Whether you want to be an established idol, a beloved actor, or a young and starry-eyed rookie is all up to you.
Now, imagine that you haven’t been on your best behavior. Perhaps you’ve been dabbling in illegal substances or (god forbid) dating another celebrity. Maybe you have a “spotty” past that is only now being uncovered. Whatever your dirty laundry might be, get prepared. Someone has found those old undies and has aired them to the public, complete with fuzzy pictures and anonymous eyewitnesses to back up their claims.
Obviously, this is no fun. You’ve now got a scandal attached to your name, and although you have devoted fans who promise to stick by your side through thick and thin, other people are demanding an explanation. Clearing your name won’t be easy, but never fear! Here are some simple tips that will help you understand the process to obtaining forgiveness from fans. By following these steps, you can easily navigate the maze of controversy and recover your once favorable image.
Tip 1: Be a man (literally).
The existence of a gender divide in K-pop is not news, and so it should be no surprise that fans are quicker to forgive (or try to explain away) incidents involving their favorite male idols or actors. Fangirls have a reputation for being fiercely possessive and protective of their male favorites, and the more extreme fans have been known to defend their biases even in the face of extremely incriminating evidence. Women often don’t get this type of protection in the face of scandals, making it much harder for them to simply let controversy roll off their backs.
This is especially true in dating scandals. It is true that male idols do not have it easy when their relationships are revealed. Angry or upset fans will always exist and will always make their grievances known.
After EXO‘s Baekhyun had his relationship with Girls’ Generation‘s Taeyeon outed, fans reacted with vitriol, calling him a traitor and even creating a petition to remove him from his group. Even so, he was able to remain below the radar, making only one public apology on Instagram (which he later deleted). Others, like Dynamic Duo‘s Choiza, are even luckier. He received almost no backlash after his relationship with F(x)‘s Sulli was confirmed. It appears that in dating scandals, males can simply lay low and rely on time to heal all wounds. Eventually they will be praised for snagging themselves a pretty lady.
Those pretty ladies, however, seem to have it much harder. When her dating scandal blew up, Taeyeon apologized publicly and even cried in front of fans, begging for forgiveness at every turn while Baekhyun stayed behind the scenes. Sulli seemed to drop off the face of the planet for a time and stopped promoting with F(x), though her boyfriend was able to crack jokes about their relationship on variety shows.
These women are representative of the psychological stress that is put upon females when they defy their carefully crafted image. Taeyeon had to deal with upset fans of both Girls’ Generation and EXO pelting her with insults for the heinous crime of dating. Even Tiffany had to suffer through attacks by fans of 2PM‘s Nichkhun after they were finally revealed to be dating. Women have to be careful when it comes to maintaining their persona, as the smallest misstep can easily attract the scorn of many “fans.”
Thanks to stereotypes that paint women as paragons of purity, there are certain types of scandals that are virtually unheard of among females. Drug-related occurrences are just one example. This year has seen Noh Hong-chul driving while intoxicated and Bumkey being charged with drug dealing; some might also remember when G-Dragon was caught smoking marijuana back in 2011. It isn’t hard to find instances of bad behavior involving drugs or alcohol involving men, but trying to find examples involving women is definitely a task.
Does this mean female idols and actresses don’t drink or use illicit substances? Of course not. More likely, they simply try hard to cover up any evidence. When one such scandal did arise for Park Bom this year, many people were quick to jump on the story and use it to try and tear her down. The accusations of drug smuggling were (kind of) cleared, though she abandoned her spot on the first season of Roommate in reaction to the controversy. Eventually, the story just faded away. She has managed to recover and join 2NE1 on their quest for world domination.
Even with Park Bom’s recovery as a positive example, the reality remains that women have it much harder than men when it comes to scandals. What might hurt a male idol for a time could ruin a female idol’s whole future (as seems to be the case with Glam‘s Dahee and her blackmail misadventures, though this is probably justified), and women have to work much harder to guard and repair their reputation.
Tip 2: Have your legal affairs in order.
Regardless of your gender, always hope that you will have your company to back you up in a bad situation. Having public relations and legal teams to help with reputation recovery after a scandal is priceless (unless, of course, your company’s strategy for damage mitigation is to ignore the problem and try to distract the public with a rookie group’s debut). In some situations, though, your company is the actual problem, and solving it requires you to strike out on your own. If this happens, having evidence of wrongdoing is crucial.
Kris, Luhan, and the entirety of BAP are 2014’s poster children for idols taking matters into their own hands. BAP broke off from TS Entertainment as a complete group, ensuring that fans would follow them in condemning TS’ misdeeds. Kris and Luhan chose to go it alone, fighting SM Entertainment without the advantage of their fellow group members standing beside them.
Thankfully for them, dislike of SM has been simmering below the surface since JYJ broke away in 2009, and most EXO fans easily accepted that the two rogue members probably had good reasons for leaving. In all three cases, though, the idols had legal evidence to back up their actions.
Singer Megan Lee made the mistake of attempting to sue Soul Shop Entertainment without a clear legal basis for the lawsuit. The discourse between her and her company is confusingly complex, making it difficult for anyone to choose a side in the issue. If her story ends up being the wrong one, it is likely that her reputation within the K-pop industry will be damaged. Without clear cut evidence or a large fanbase to support her through her legal battle, Megan Lee has little reason to expect fans to give her the same warm response that BAP and the ex-EXO members received.
In the end, when a scandal involves conflict between an idol and a powerful entertainment company, the combination of legal standing and fan support is key for the idol to build a successful future after the fight ends. Block B is a clear example of this, and their success in 2014 can be counted as a bright spot among the year’s dark backdrop of company misbehavior.
Tip 3: Know when not to expect forgiveness.
There are some things that will flat out ruin your name and leave you with little room for damage control. You cannot fight against these things, nor should you. In these situations, attempting to rescue your image will do nothing but harm. Out of all the scandals this year, one stands alone in its gravity and unacceptability — SS501‘s Kim Hyun-joong and the charges of domestic violence leveled against him. Regardless of how vehemently some fans tried to deny his wrongdoing or how fervently he attempted to defend himself, the fact is that the majority of people will not quickly forgive him. Given the evidence in the case, this treatment seems fair. Domestic abuse is a serious crime, and it is honestly quite comforting to know that even ultra-devoted K-pop fans know when to give up on loyalty and admit that their idol can no longer be defended.
Some other scandals of 2014 have the potential to pop up as more serious issues in next year. The rape allegations brought against Lovelyz‘ Seo Ji-soo present a somewhat unique intersection between gender and violence that is unfamiliar in the K-pop world. Whether the allegations prove to be true remains to be seen, but how fans react to the eventual outcome is similarly hard to predict.
If she is found guilty, will she be shunned? Will fans welcome her with open afters after an apology and promise to change? If her name is cleared, will the scandal continue to haunt her and her group in the future? The case involves many factors at play, and time will only tell whether Ji-soo’s case becomes K-pop’s next unforgivable crime.
Scandals like this test the ability of the court of fan opinion to correctly deliver justice. When aspects like gender or popularity can so easily determine the way fans react to controversy, it can seem as if we are too blinded by our love for idols to rationally decide whether they actually deserve our support. That doesn’t have to be the case. While those fans who will stand by their favorites through any scandal or crime are always going to exist, there is power in numbers. If enough people stand up and refuse to accept bad behavior from idols, our voices can make an important difference. While we might seem silly as we react so loudly to dating rumors or get worked up about an impending comeback, the fact remains that we hold a tremendous amount of power to determine who succeeds and who does not.
When looking back on the rollercoaster that was 2014, how do you think fans handled the responsibility of handing out forgiveness? Are there things you wish to change about how fans administer justice? Got any more tips for idols caught up in scandals? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
(Images via Kaila Pictures, Dispatch, YG Entertaintment, TS Entertainment, and Woollim Entertainment)