Things I don’t get: The role of fans edition

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I was read Asian Junkie’s latest article on the whole GOT7 debacle (background here, and I should note that BamBam did apologize), and there was a debate down in the comments, where some people essentially suggested that international fans shouldn’t have complained, because that got the group into trouble, and others were really upset by that.

I’ve seen the idea that fans should basically hide it whenever an idol does something wrong a lot in K-Pop–it even has a name, “shielding.” It’s so common that that’s what everyone is assuming GOT7’s label, JYP Entertainment, is relying on as it keeps the group off social media: Fans everywhere of course would notice something like that, but presumably the K-Pop press in Korea will not, and hopefully after enough time the international fans will have quieted down–and of course the Korean fans will “shield” GOT7 by keeping quiet the whole time.

I don’t get this. Yes, I do think people sometimes REALLY overreact, but I don’t understand why fans should be expected to keep quiet when they see something they don’t like–I certainly don’t. I don’t get why GOT7 fans should have kept quiet about the use of a racial slur, I don’t see why they should pretend a member’s stupid friends aren’t acting in an inappropriate manner toward his fans–I just don’t understand the purpose. In fact, I think that if someone had read the riot act to that member’s stupid friends earlier on, this entire clusterfuck could have been avoided, because the stupid friends probably wouldn’t have stupidly done the stupid things they did, they wouldn’t have stupidly filmed them, and they certainly wouldn’t have stupidly put them online for all the world to see. (Or maybe they’re just that stupid, but at least everyone involved would have had fair warning.)

Whenever I’ve seen fans “shield,” it’s been just laughably pathetic as a method of persuasion. So-and-so said one thing but meant another. The video showing X does not really show X. It’s all Photoshop and a conspiracy!

This kind of thing might make the “shielding” fan feel better. (Because oppar will see how loyal they are and MARRY THEM!!!!–and then beat them, and the other “shielding” fans will blame the bruises on Photoshop.) But any non-fan reading it just thinks, Dear God, what a whack job.

Obviously I think a big part of it is fans having trouble letting go of the fantasy that a particular idol is, you know, like, so totally perfect and not a human being. The other part of it is that I think it makes fans feel important–like they can really have an influence on things.

That I think was a contributing factor to this massively crazy rant, which also appeared on Asian Junkie, where some nut job said that people should (all caps in the original, of course) “QUIT BUTTING INTO OTHER FANDOMS. WE WILL DEAL WITH OUR OWN ISSUES.”

“OUR OWN ISSUES” (which are “FOR US TO DECIDE NOT YOU”) was the fact that a member of JYJ was accused of being a serial rapist.

How the fuck is that a fandom issue? Fandoms can decide that, I dunno, it’s OK or not OK for a K-Pop idol to date or adopt a new hairstyle or sing a different genre of music. Actual crimes do not get handled by a fucking fandom–they get handled by the criminal-justice system, all right?

Now obviously, that person is a loon and their attitude is extreme–but not that extreme. I’ve seen “the fandom will handle it” offered up as a response to drunk driving and the like. I honestly don’t know how you get to the point where you say something like that and even remotely believe it–if Western pop stars have proven anything, it’s that fandoms will gaily enable misbehavior until someone (or more than one someone) winds up dead.

But this is one of the myths sold by K-Pop: The fans have the power!!! I’m sorry, but you don’t. You can shut your wallet and walk away, but that’s about it. Even if you do that, you can’t ensure that five more fans won’t step up to replace you.

When you’re a fan, you’re just a fan–you don’t make the music, you don’t make the business decisions, and (for fuck’s sake) you certainly don’t make the legal decisions. Yes, performers appreciate their fans, but that doesn’t make fans omnipotent or anything.

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