Back when BTS was a baby group, they were subject to what seems (to me, as a fan coming later on to the group) like a really disproportionate amount of criticism. One theme that got the group loads of criticism?
Their relationship with and attempts at embodying hip-hop culture.
When you watch their m net -hosted series American Hustle Life, the first episode has a selection of headlines revolving around BTS’ debut as a group under BigHit Entertainment (around the 1:05 mark). These headlines, when translated, say things like “BTS challenging real gangster”, “BTS debut, opening up with 90’s gangster”, and “BTS, strengthening the industry with gangster rap”.
As an act, BTs was marketed and developed as a hip-hop idol group.
In the time period that they trained and debuted, a ton of idol groups were also debuting. Exo (2012), Block B (2011), B.A.P (2012), Winner (2014) and Got7 (2014) are just a handful of male idol groups that debuted roughly within the same era as BTS. But as far as I can tell through research, while all idol rappers are met with the same sort of disdain and suspicion from “mainstream” and underground rappers alike –
Some of the documented nonsense that BTS – and more specifically, their rapline – has been hit with by some of these dudes and, most likely, their fans has been… wild.
Case in point?
Rapper B-free’s on-again, off-again beef with BTS following a 2013 KBH Hiphop Radio interview that swiftly went sour.
Note: The section on RPF and whtiewashing deals pretty plainly with real person fan fiction – where a real celebrity is treated like a character in fan works – but from the POV of “stop whitewashing them” rather than a judgement call on the fandom itself. I’d suggest skipping this section, scrolling down to the solutions section of the piece, and waiting a little bit for me to finish writing my actual RPF-focused installment of What Fandom Racism Looks Like later this year because it’s been in the works for a while and will tackle K-Pop RPF, Hockey fandom, and the One Direction fandom’s endless racism towards Zayn.
The Fanlore page for Migratory fandom describes it as, “the most recent term used to describe the idea that slash fans are always on the lookout for the next shiny, new juggernaut pairing”.
First seen in fandom discussions across Fail_Fandomanon – one of many multi-fandom anonymous memes – the term is a reference to this idea that slash fans are constantly moving to the next fandom that’ll provide them their dose of slashy goodness.
On the surface, there’s nothing even remotely wrong with moving to another fandom because the one you’re in is running dry on content. Honestly, I’m right there with folks because when a fandom I’m in is dried up entirely or the fan content it’s creating has been done to death before… I always feel like jumping ship at least for a little while.
So I get the motivation.
But this is “What Fandom Racism Looks Like” and you know that means that there is something I find frustrating about migratory slash fandom that falls under this series….
Stick around because I’ll try to have a bonus featuring my BTS nieceling’s thoughts on the album and our thoughts on the official music video for ON ASAP.
(Not a 1:1 match with the audio as I did go off script a few times and might not have caught them all.)
Regular readers and listeners know that complaining is my love language. The first two episodes of Stitch Talks Ish probably proved that considering that that’s like what… over an hour of me complaining across the episodes?
But we’re breaking from the trend with the third episode of my series where in I give into the urge to get downright obnoxious on main about all things BTS following the release of their seventh studio album (fourth if you’re only counting the Korean ones). Map of the Soul: 7.
If you’ve managed to miss everything I’ve been going through for… what I want to say is a year and a half edging close to two years if you count the offline fandom-ing I’ve been doing – I’ve spent a lot of my time talking and thinking a lot about Korean popular culture. Like I will keep my foot on the Star Wars fandoms’ throats until the damn fandom stops being shitty, but in the rest of my time?
Well… I’ve been k-popping.
(Look, y’all know that I’m a cheesy mess at best and I needed to get that out.)
One of the recurring comments when K-pop fans talk about cultural appropriation as performed by idols is “so and so isn’t appropriating culture, they’re APPRECIATING it”. The idea that appreciation renders conversations about cultural appropriation null and void is clearly a belief that many of these people have and the thing is –
These idols probably genuinely appreciate what they know about Black culture, but when they go to take it into themselves and perform Blackness, that appreciation becomes appropriation.
This video talks about that appreciation often leads to appropriation in these circles, how j-hope’s appreciation in his and Becky G’s version of “Chicken Noodle Soup” sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and antiblack backlash in BTS’ big ole fandom, and why intent doesn’t matter when the impact is kind of harmful.
If you want to know more about my thoughts on the way Black hairstyles are appropriated within K-pop and why that matters, check out my video from August.
And of course, I’ve got my lengthy article on cultural appropriation for y’all to check out!
This isn’t entirely tied to the video’s content, but it’s related to what inspired me to put together this video:
The end of September, j-hope from BTS came out with “Chicken Noodle Soup” with Becky G. It’s an updated take on the 2006 song which was apparently one of his biggest inspirations as a dancer.
In the initial images that he shared (via BTS’s twitter
account), j-hope appears to have some kind of twists in his hair that are
clearly reminiscent of the kind of twists that primarily are associated with
Black hair – as in, Black people‘s hair.
I’ve been in my feelings since I saw those photos.
But then, I am always in my feelings about Korean idols
wearing hairstyles they think are necessary in their quest for authenticity in
hip-hop. Every single time it happens – and it happens often – I find my
One thing I and other Black K-pop fans – especially those a bit further along on our own journeys to unlearn internalized antiblackness – have come up against as we make our way through these fandom spaces and enjoy content form performers is that we’re constantly put into positions where it feels like we have to choose between our identities as fans of a group or the industry and our identities as Black people.
So when a performer or a group of performers does something that’s antiblack or that makes Black fans feel like they’re not being seen as actual fans or even as people, that sort of feeling rears its icky head.
We haven’t had a ton of truly celebratory fandom-related content on here in a hot minute and that’s because my critical brain is in overdrive working on various projects.
However, one thing I’ve wanted to share with y’all across my deepening investment in K-pop and alongside the critical work I’m doing about the genre/industry and its related fandom spaces is what I flat out love about it.
So instead of the BTS World review I’d actually planned to try
and get out, I’m going to do a post looking at my favorite BTS songs and why I
love them. I’m including solo member songs (solo meaning that they’re not a
part of the EPs/CDs they put out with the group) in this and uh… you’ll be able
to tell really fast what my favorite kinds of BTS songs in terms of
arrangements/who gets the focus.
(And on the subject of BTS World: no joke, the game’s a time
and money sink and I am surprisingly not captivated by it despite my love of
dating sims on top of the frustration. And since I can’t screenshot anything since
I’ve got an Android phone – the game lets iPhone users screenshot with a
warning ugh – it’s kind of annoying.)
Anyway! Here’s a list of my most favorite BTS songs!
I’m glad I can share this sort of purely celebratory
experience with you nerds!
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