The world of K-pop is almost home to controversy; there is never a day that passes when people aren’t debating something. Whether it comes from the mouth of the horse, the story-jumbling media, or war-fighting netizens, there is always something happening that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. What’s worse is when people actually logically speak about these situations. Rabid fans declare flame wars and attack those who speak neutrally. Crazy, much?
It’s actually considered normal, and it’s expected.
But what are these certain topics that I speak of? Plenty. One of which I’ve discussed already–not very well, but I did. Look at that title, Dyamond! What are you implying!? Calm yourselves, it’s not what you think. Or, maybe it is, I don’t really know what you think. Anyway, I want to discuss this because quite frankly, it’s been on my mind for months and it’s a big part of the K-pop music culture.
To get to the top, we need to start from the bottom, so let’s define, shall we? Urban Dictionary tells me that…
1. catering to the fans’ base interests instead of the integrity of the artistic work as a whole.
2. includes any sort of unnecessary visuals included simply because the fans, presumably, want to see them.
In blatant terms, fanservice is created to please the fans. Does it always have to be bad? No! Absolutely not! Quite frankly, the word fanservice was never supposed to be a dirty word. If you think about it, there are plenty of positive ways fanservice is used. One right off the bat, is a concert. If you think about it, an artist or musician doesn’t HAVE to promote anything. Sure, you’d make more money and get your music better known if you did, but it’s not as if that’s in the definition of an artist or musician. Concerts aren’t just a way to make money but they are also done to perform for and entertain the people who support them. Did Berryz Koubou HAVE to visit the United States twice? Did Big Bang HAVE to go on a world tour across 3 or 4 continents? No! So why did they? They realized they had fans across the world, not just in the country they live in, and decided to treat those fans with live performances. That’s fanservice.
The J-pop music community contains another great example of positive fanservice: handshake events. A lot of idol groups in Japan insert tickets to handshake events inside their latest CD releases. With these tickets, fans who bought the CD are able to attend the handshake events and do just that: shake their idol’s hand. It doesn’t sound very exciting but most of the time, the idol groups also allow autographing sessions in which fans can get their personal merchandise signed. In addition to that, I’ve seen some reports that idol groups perform at the handshake events, even more of a treat for their adoring fans. How awesome is that? You get all up, close, and personal with your favorite idols, get your precious merchandise autographed, and possibly a small performance. To me, that’s a hell of a time for the fans. And that’s fanservice.
There are so many other examples of positive fanservice in the J-pop music world. And that brings me into my next point. What is negative fanservice? What makes fanservice such a dirty word now?
This picture alone may just be the answer. No, I’m not a SHINee hater and no, I’m not homophobic. How can you be afraid of gay people anyway? That makes no sense to me. Anyway, this picture embodies what fanservice is considered to be like in K-pop. You like, yes? Well, you should, considering it’s supposed to be purely for the enjoyment of the fans. Oh, you aren’t a fan? Shawols will tell you to fuck off.
These aggressively sexual actions are why fanservice has turned into a dirty word. Have you ever heard of shipping? It’s when fans dive into their artistic minds to concoct a couple from a group; most of the time they’re lesbian and gay couples, since there aren’t many gender-mixing groups. I pay no mind to this and sometimes I think it’s cute. But that’s as far as I will go. I don’t think it’s right to purposely pair people together only for sexual enjoyment. If I were to log onto my computer, surf the internet, and find dirty stories about me with some guy or girl, I’d be appalled. That’s a very sensitive and touchy subject to freely suggest about someone. You don’t know them or what they do in their free time. Who are you to suggest such a sacred and personal thing about someone? It’s the equivalent to saying a girl is a slut simply because of her outside appearance and not even using the chance to get to know her. But this is what people find fun and who am I to ruin their fun?
This shipping seems to have taken a grasp on the K-pop society and music. Idols seem to openly accept fans’ OTP and fulfill their wishes by taking countless photos with the other and committing plenty of accounts of touchy-feely. But where does this line cross? Look, I have no problem with Jae Kyung(Rainbow) taking adorable photos with Woori(Rainbow), but the moment they start making out on camera purposely for the viewers’ attention is where I draw the line. If they were to, do it because they actually mean it, not because the viewers like it. It isn’t fair to Jae Kyung or Woori and it isn’t fair to the viewers.
But this aggressively sexual side of fanservice is much more common when it comes to males in K-pop. Groups like Super Junior, Teen Top, and SHINee insist on using only the sexual side of fanservice to please their supporters–most of which are females. These groups openly accept fans’ suggestions of shipping and take it to a whole other level. There is a deep rooted reason why people take this so seriously and become so offended by it.
Republic of Korea is almost an anti-gay society. Of course, like most democratic republic nations, they are becoming more open to the idea of homosexuality. But for the most part, most people in their society look down upon it. You might say, “America isn’t too ahead of them, though.” And sure, it might not be, since gay rights are still such a disputed topic here in America, but we are rising above it. America is a nation in which you are allowed to be any skin tone or any sexual orientation and no one can say you aren’t allowed to. South Korea is slowly but surely climbing behind America’s footsteps(not purposely, of course), but there have been times in SK in which people’s lives have been demolished because of their sexual orientation. This isn’t to say that people in America don’t go through the same thing, but famous beings who have all eyes watching them, like Ellen Degeneres or Anderson Cooper, are not chewed out because they love those of their gender. Hell, we even elected the first openly lesbian Senator a week ago!
Not only do those who are opposed to homosexuality frowning these fanservices, but those who ARE pro-gay look down on these actions as well. Why? Because those who actually are gay or lesbian are forced to stay in the closet and pretend that everything is okay, but when idols who may not even be homosexual promote it only in a way to gain attention, it’s okay. How is that anything but wrong?
So what if the idols actually were gay or lesbian, would that make it okay? Not exactly. If they really were homosexual, no one has spoken up about it yet. If they did, then those who are pro-gay in Korea would respect them more. In that case, they aren’t just doing it for the fans, they actually do have feelings for their possible partner. Oh wait, but what about being shunned in society? That’s just my point. They’re already promoting it like a movie, what would be the difference if they admitted they were gay? Would there be a difference? Would society shun them? In that case, it’d be extremely hypocritical. If society was okay with it when it was fanservice, why isn’t it okay now? Would society accept them for the way they are? In that case, it’d be a step up in South Korea’s society.
What am I getting at exactly? In K-pop, the term fanservice has been mangled and toyed with. Things like concerts and handshake events aren’t considered fanservice, they’re a given. Things as simple as girls poking each other to as extreme as Jonghyun and Taemin nearly making out onstage is considered fanservice. In K-pop, the more physical, the better, the more sexual, the better. Those who actually are gay or lesbian in average society are shunned and spit on, but those in idoldom who aren’t homosexual but promote it like nobody’s business are perfectly fine. In the end, it isn’t a battle about what’s gay and what isn’t, it’s about what’s right and what’s wrong. Promoting fanservice as a purely homosexual physical thing when those who are homosexual themselves aren’t accepted in society is wrong.