Two Sides of Being a Black K-Pop Fan: Indescribable Joy

Part One, Incredible Rage [Incoming]


The thing is that being in this fandom is not all white-knuckled rage at antiblackness…

I promise.

Korean pop music and hip-hop spark genuine joy in me.

I left an incredibly antiblack main fandom (Star Wars) where I was being harassed and where I am still slandered to this day because I wanted to be a part of this fandom. I looked at what I was going through with that fandom, looked at what I knew of Korean pop culture fandoms already, and kind of went… “sure, let’s do this”.

And I don’t regret a single moment of it.

How can I?

For every single stressful incident of antiblackness in fandom or from an idol, there are honestly at least a dozen more purely positive moments and people who make this worthwhile. There is such incredible value in the friendships I am building and the work I’ve been able to do –

I literally love what I do. I love this fandom. I love the friends I’ve made.

I love that I have found my people and that we’ve bonded over these artists and this music.

Last year, early in 2019, I had a piece go live for QPOC-focused platform ColorBloq that really does serve as the backbone for this part of the post.

I got into Korean pop culture fandom properly and deeply after over a decade of being a casual fan of East Asian media because of BTS’ ARMY. I was interested in unpacking their behavior from a critical lens, as is my thing, but I found myself getting invested in BTS as a group and in their fandom because… this was a fandom where the spaces I was immediately adjacent to because of my friends from other fandoms and their friends –

Were incredibly queer and primarily populated by queer people of color who were also trying to find their folks in the fandom.

Like I know that complaining is my love language and so I do it a lot, but I’m going to be real here: for the most part, the people I have directly interacted with in this fandom? Have been incredibly kind to me. Even people who’ve slid into my DMs to helpfully correct me about something I’ve said in the process of my ongoing project.

Even when I’ve been clumsy or grouchy. Even when (sometimes) I’ve been an asshole.

Folks have been… pretty freaking nice across the various fandom spaces.

(And even the folks that don’t like me because I’m critical and because a lot of my content is talking about antiblackness in Korean pop culture? Tend to just… block me and pretend I don’t exist. Not do… whatever a surprisingly large part of the Star Wars fandom has been doing for all of 2020 so far.)

The other thing is that… the folks I’ve met as a result of taking a deep dive into Korean pop culture fandoms – on or off the internet so far – have been incredible.

Straight up.

I have met so many cool people who just can’t get enough of their artist of choice and they’re so dang happy to share their joy with the people around them.

“Who’s your favorite group?” and “what are your favorite songs” are conversation starters, true.

But they’re also questions that can open you up to the start of new friendships.

To joy.

To people who think of you when they see a photo of your bias and send you ridiculous memes of your favorite group. To people who will have your back in fandom and who’ll raise their voices when you’re mistreated in this fandom or any other. To people who become a part of your world in a way that doesn’t seem quite real when you look back at it.

Not to get all goopy on main, but in my long ass time in fandom, this is only the third time I’ve felt so very welcomed by a circle of fans. That I’ve found my fellows within a fandom. (Previous fandoms were the DC Comics fandom and then Star Wars… and we know how that last one ended…)

I still can’t get over that I… that I have this. That I can tweet about how much I love RM’s hair or that I miss Wonho (Monsta X) or gush about a new hip hop track I’ve been replaying for my project… and have people just as excited about the thing as I am. That when I was Losing My Shit On Main over the Flight From Hell, people in my fandom sent me pictures of their biases and mine in order to distract me.

That there are people in my social circle within fandom who don’t just see me –

But like seeing me.

That we like seeing each other on our timeliness and that we think of each other and our biases, sharing images and memes and all kinds of delightful shit.

Here’s the thing: BTS alone has like twenty-three million Twitter followers – and I am fond of several other groups with hefty followings. My small account, which isn’t even a visibly stan-twitter account, is only exposed to a microscopic percentage of any Korean fandom that I’m in or adjacent to.

Which makes the friendships I’m forging in these fandom spaces all the more valuable to me because it’s all so concentrated. (Like orange juice in the can in the freezer section!)

The linked piece up there is older and it’s… complicated. It’s something I wrote when I was first struggling to figure out how to talk about the things I’d experienced and the joy I’ve found amidst incredible fandom frustrations.

My feelings about these fandoms are… still complicated. But honestly? More positive.

I want to be a part of this.

I love that I (usually) feel that I am.

Even if it’s just in my corner of the fandom – which, for all of us, is really the part of fandom that matters the most to our experiences and our fandom-ing so like… whatever.

Part of the best thing about being in fandom is finding your thing. That thing that truly sparks joy in you. It’s finding the people who understand how you feel about the thing that you love and getting to shout about that thing with them.

I’ve always talked very plainly about the bad parts of whatever fandom were in.

However, one of the things I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about across my past almost-year of talking critically about Korean pop and hip-hop is how to share the highs with you as well. I don’t know that I’ve been doing that good a job at it.

I don’t know that you can tell that I am so fucking invested in these artists and their music. I don’t know that you guys can tell that I’m fandom-ing just as hard as y’all are. But y’all –

I will make sure you see it.

Because for like two years (including offline fandom-ing here), this fandom has fueled incredible positivity and creativity and community for me. I’ve made friends, fellow fans of some of the most talented performers I’ve ever seen.

There are people, fans of various artists and groups, who I know by name. Who know my name and even those of my niecelings (which never happens). I have friends in this fandom who I’d fight for and who’d fight for me, who’ll let me DM them with some slick shit when it’s cultural appropriation concept season on the timeline. Who take incredible selfies and let me tell them how cute or handsome they are! Who don’t all love the same songs that I do or the same groups, but who have made a space for me in their fandom-ing and allow me to do the same in return.

I’m going to be real here: this genre and these fandoms spark so much joy in me that I can’t ever bring myself to regret it. It’s like a wildfire of fannish joy inside of me because where I am in these fandoms? I have more room to do whatever the hell I want and be welcomed by people – some of whom are also Black fans going through it and looking for Their Folks – who just love these spaces and these groups.

And I’m going to share and show that more in addition to the critical work I’ve been doing.

Because there really are two sides to this fandom experience for me…

But y’all really haven’t been seeing them both.

And I want to send my love to my friends in this fandom. To the people who have welcomed me and who care about me. I don’t want to thank y’all by name and miss someone but like… There are so many people who have made joy in these spaces possible and I am so fucking grateful for them.

For you.

❤️

About Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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