International K-pop fans come in all ages — our own staff is proof of that. But there are times when K-pop may have made us go “I’m too old for this.” SM‘s new unit NCT Dream, with an average age of 15-point-something and a young-looking MV, is just the latest in a list of examples that have fans feeling this way.
So, we ask: Has anything ever made you feel too old for K-pop? How did/do you handle it? Do you think the rules change as you get older?
Pat: I always feel old when I see all these barely legal teens debut — though I then remember that when I got into K-pop, I was amazed that Taemin was the same age as I. But when I really, really feel my age is when all these fandoms are waging their fandom wars left and right over such little and inconsequential issues that mostly amount to their group achieving all-kills and whatnot. When it doesn’t involve a group I’m invested in, I just watch from the distance with morbid curiosity — it’s very interesting to see these teens and young adults engage in SNS wars over what some K-pop idol did. It almost makes me wish I had taken psychology or sociology instead, because surely these youngsters are a case study or social experiment waiting to happen.
I definitely think the rules change when we get older. For one reason, we as older fans have less time to deal with the little things due to our life — be it work, or school. As we get older, we just don’t have the same time and energy to put into being active in a fandom, at least not in the same amounts as the young ones. I also feel like the time I got into K-pop was vastly different. Social Media just wasn’t as big back in 2008. It took a while for news to spread. There wasn’t as many avenues for discussion, not to mention the internet wasn’t the same. Most of my fandom interaction pre-2013 came from the international forums for specific groups. There, the focus was mostly on the selected group, so discussion rarely touched other groups.
Nowadays, it seems like the forums are not as active and most interaction is on Tumblr and Twitter, where there are diverse number of fans of different groups, some being very vocal with illogical reasons why the group you are stanning is inconsequential and should disband.
That being said, I always get a good laugh whenever the little fandom wars go on. As long as it doesn’t involve VIXX, because I only have time to be full-on invested in one group and I have chosen them.
Lauren M.: I’ve chosen to be invested only in BTS, so I feel old every day. Ha! Just kidding. Kind of.
The ARMY stan life doesn’t let up, let me tell you. From Big Hit dropping mixtapes and photo books and perplexing M/Vs left and right to the worst parts of the fandom being… well, the worst, there’s always something going on. Unfortunately for me, there’s also no end in sight to the stanning so I have learned to deal with it.
The funny thing is, if I was five years younger and still in school, I wouldn’t have time for K-pop. It’s only that I’m older and more settled in my career that I seem to have more time for keeping up with it. Going to Kcon really confirmed that K-pop is ageless. There were people of all ages there to enjoy the festivities. I just chilled and had a good time. I didn’t feel old; I just felt like any concert-goer. The only time I really felt like I was too old for it was during the red carpet event. Having a couple hundred teenagers screaming in your ear is a quick way to feel like you’ve aged out of any activity.
The good thing is that since I’m not really deeply invested in any other group besides BTS, it’s easier for me to navigate all the debuts and comebacks and not feel overwhelmed. If I was really into being multi-fandom, I can see how it would quickly become too much. For now, I’m keeping it casual, for my own sanity.
And I’m not touching NCT Dream with a ten-foot pole.
Cjontai: I don’t think I’ve felt that old until I looked up the age of Lee Min-ho and discovered he’s younger than my little brother. After that rude awakening, it’s been a downward spiral of finding out how many South Korean celebrities are younger than me. I think finding out how close in age I was to Yoon Mi-rae shook me the most. Almost every time, I find myself shouting, “I’M OLDER THAN THIS ONE, TOO?”
I’ve just accepted the fact that there will always be a decade of distance between me and my faves. My age prevents me from getting too emotionally involved with my biases because I realize I could’ve babysat a majority of idols during my college years. It’s kind of cute to imagine them as toddlers, though.
Actually, there are many times I’m glad I’m older because I don’t feel peer pressure to like certain idols to fit into the k-pop fandom. I’m confident in my musical choices because I’ve reached the Age of No Effs Given. Don’t like my biases? Wonderful, one less person I have to battle for tickets to their next concert.
And I’m definitely beyond the age of allowing b.s. behavior slide because I don’t want my biases to be “attacked.” Don’t tell me to accept their bad behavior because of age. With aging comes growth in maturity, but none of that can happen if fans treat idols like kids all the time. These idols are young, but they’re not babies.
Camiele: Luckily for me, I tend to favor the older groups and artists. Where you still have actual “oppas,” as it were (Shinhwa Changjo and Fly High, represent!), and are the same age as 60 percent of your bias group (Cassie ’til I die!), it’s easy to not get caught up in the age of all the kids that end up debuting.
While I have had moments of “I’m too damn old for all this playground drama” when it comes to K-pop fandom as a whole, I’ve never thought myself too old for the genre. Music is music, and it has no age limit. Those who profess it does are probably too young to understand that much.
In all honesty, if the music’s good, everything else is secondary. Looks fade and so does youth. If the music stands the test of time and ages along with your audience, eventually all fans will become “too old” for the genre. After all, if our favorites can grow out of the glitz and facade of idol-dom to become something maturer and sometimes greater, so can we as their fans.
I came to K-pop a little later anyway. I’ve had my time with fandom nonsense with the Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync (and maybe aging myself, but New Edition). When all is said and done I’m not here for everybody else. I’m here for the music.
Besides, even if I happen to be older than some of the artists I love (*cough*DEAN*cough*), the fact is the music’s good. I don’t have any romantic inclinations toward children, the whole “peedo-noona” and “older uncle” culture both irrational and just disgusting. But someone a few years younger than me…? Hey, I wouldn’t mind teaching a younger chap a thing or two. If that gives me cougar status, so be it.
Cjontai: Actually, it’s sort of strange to realize a former and current member of U-KISS are both fathers. I remember when I first got into them years ago, and now Eli and Dongho are daddies, not “daddies.” Even funnier when I recall interviews where the group chose Eli as most likely to become a young dad. (See, that’s why fans should stop playing with that weird term; they’ll take you seriously, haha!) Do y’all understand that former baby of the group has a son? I don’t necessarily feel old thinking about that, but still, I’m like, damn, look at time passing.
But for real, I need the idol baby bus to slow down. I ain’t ready for all of them to be parents yet (G-Dragon, I’m watching you).
Qing: What Camiele said about the music pretty much sums up why I don’t tend to feel I’m too old for K-pop.The sex appeal/ romantic attraction factor is much stronger for younger fanbases, but for groups to have staying power with older fans, they need to have meaningful, good music. I do have my favourite groups, but my focus has drifted over the years according to their musical development (or lack thereof).
What does make me feel old, though, is when I think of how things have changed since I first got into K-pop. I’ve mentioned in my profile that I got into K-pop through DBSK. I was introduced to DBSK by a friend through exchanging songs via our Sony Ericsson phones (my W810i is actually still working). I don’t know if Sony Ericsson enjoyed the same popularity where you guys are from, but it was THE phone in Singapore during my secondary school days (this was after Nokia had their reign with the indestructible phones).
I saved a bunch of DBSK videos in what I thought was super good quality, but later discovered was 144p. The internet was so slow back then. The only fangirl-y thing I remembered doing back then was buying CDs and listening to CoolKTime, this 2-hour K-pop segment they had on the expat radio station. A couple of years later KBS World came along so I would watch Music Bank on it, and this was back when Song Joong-ki was a MC and KARA was performing “Honey” (I remember this especially well because they were out-of-tune).
Gaya: I used to have a Sony Ericsson, Qing! But everyone else had Motorola Razrs, remember those?
Speaking of feeling old, I felt that recently when I realised that some fans didn’t know who Chad Future was, or only knew of him through his collaborations with some recent faves. It’s a crying shame they missed out on Heart2Heart‘s smash hit “Facebook Official” — I shouldn’t be the only person who suffers from that song playing in my head every time I see a relationship status update. Farewell, David Lehre — you will not be missed.
Pat: I had a Nokia, A Motorola Razr and a Sony Ericsson – I broke my cellphones a lot. Although technically, my Nokia is still alive and working.
Another way I feel old is when people do not know how truly legendary and widespread Wonder Girl‘s “Nobody” was. Not even “Gee” reached the levels of “Nobody” – I remember that it was late-2009, my first semester of college included Physical Education and our final exam was having to do a team dance with all the other first year sections. Our section/team were the only ones not to have “Nobody” as part of the dance. Heck, you could turn the radio on in the Philippines and “Nobody” would be playing. The only time another K-pop act got more airtime then “Nobody” was 2NE1‘s “Fire” and that was because Dara started her fame in the Philippines.
Qing, let’s not mention “Honey.” And I think we had the same experience: first time I watched a music show on television and I too had to experience the ear destroying experience of “Honey.”
What about you, readers? When does K-pop make you feel your age?
(Images via: Sports Chosun, SM Ent., Kcon, DSP Media. Dara image: credit to owner)