I feel, the need to belong somewhere, the need to fit in makes people do crazy things, even if it hurts others and that’s what makes me pity them. “Haters”. This term is nothing but a bunch of people wanting to fit in and make each other believe that since they ‘hate’ the same things they might as well stick together. They’re nothing but an awkward date trying to make everything common between them just to be liked (Oh my God! I love to drink my water cold too! We have so much in common!).
And, well, that’s exactly what happened…
The Rise of BTS, in the global industry started sometime in 2015 and with it started the Hallyu (Korean) wave, “a collective term used to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean culture and popular culture encompassing everything from music, movies, drama to online games and Korean cuisine”. Anyone whose met a K-pop, K-drama or K-anything fan has already met a very passionate individual, it’s the same when you meet a hater, except they’re usually in denial about their intense and emotional feelings towards the exact same thing. (If you thought K-pop fans were dramatic, let’s talk about a dramatic denialist in constant agony and pain because they are too afraid to admit the truth.) I’m sure a lot of this hatred emerges from a mentality not suitable for the 21st century. I mean, just consider the Asian hate crimes and general xenophobia some people have to face every single day. Once you actually think about it, you’ll be surprised to realise that a lot of this hate actually comes from the want to hate something, anything, rather than because they are actually affected by where one comes from or how one looks. Huge, successful Boybands and their fandoms common communities such haters target, too proud to fathom the glory and success of someone who isn’t them.
Due to their use of extra-institutional tactics, K-pop fans constitute a social movement. Taking ‘Armys’, or the fans of BTS, as an example; they are actually quite a transformative fandom that acts as our new generation activists. BTS faces a lot of racism and discrimination due to the existing capitalistic Western hegemony in the music industry. However, their fans have helped bring about a massive change in how the mass audience perceives not only their music but also music in itself. With BTS producing music about self-love, personal issues, social issues and raising their voice against hate crimes in their mother tongue, Korean, their music has resonated with Armys from all around the world and from all age groups, races and backgrounds supporting them through their journey. The fans stand to prove that music is a universal language that ‘transcends language, countries, races, ethnicities and all other barriers. Because of this, a lot of the public opened up to listening to music from different regions of the world, which has also helped local and traditional music artists to be recognised globally on a platform equally shared by other mainstream Western music artists.
Being huge in number and sophisticatedly organised, K-pop fans have showcased an appreciable ability to organise large-scale collective efforts. For example, the initiative of the Indian Army to donate five lakh rupees to relief funds in Assam when it was hit by floods in May 2020, resulted as very successful with 5 lakh rupees raised within the first 24 hours of its initiation. During the Black Lives Matter protests in Texas, the Dallas Police curated the iWatch app meant for citizens to send in anonymous videos of any illegal activities from the protestors.
Over concern, the K-pop fans started flooding the app with fan-made videos of their favourite artists instead, which eventually crashed the app server. BTS themselves contributed to the BLM movement by donating $1 million, the largest payment from a celebrity thus far. In addition to their contribution, Armys organised a fundraiser the very next morning, led by the fan formed ‘One in an Army’ charity project.
By the next morning, the fanbase had donated about $2 million with the hashtag #MatchAMillion trending number one on Twitter. For Armys, whose efforts broke the record for the most viewed YouTube video within 24 hours for the BTS music video “Boy With Luv”, breaking the record for the largest celebrity donation was not something extraordinary or impossible to achieve, following in similar footsteps as BTS. Thus, influenced by BTS themselves, the fanbase has shown the power and potential of fan activism a multitude of times.
Of course, perceptions don’t change overnight but these efforts have got us to a point where we, as a fandom, can stand tall and united and have hope that someday, people would realise how useless ‘hate’ is and how pathetic it makes them look, or maybe just have a better reason to hate than, “ Oh my god they look like girls! EW”.