Wednesday, May 22, 2019

TL;DR on #IHeartBTS or BTS visits I Heart Radio and it's a complete shit show!

(View of American ARMY from the stage)

This past weekend BTS finished their last tour dates in America for this leg of their Speak Yourself World Tour. Next weekend they will be in Brazil and not a moment too soon. It didn’t take long after the gushy love fest of Speak Yourself at the Rose Bowl for all of the shit I hate about American fandom to come marching through waving stars and stripes flags and blaring Sousa marches. (USA! USA! USA!) We were treated to numerous call out posts and tweets directed at “fans” bullying and scamming their way to the front of every line as well as at people just minding their own business at the concerts. There was a collective realization at how strange it was that the same group of fans with massive cameras (and their friends) somehow managed to get floor seats and soundcheck to every concert stop when most of us cried tears of frustration to even get one seat because of Ticketmaster prices and scalpers. There were the fans bragging online about their “Y/N” moments where oppa noticed them personally and then there was the live I Heart Radio interview with BTS that well… I have never been more embarrassed to be an American ARMY.

Most my experience as an active participant in fandom has been through Japanese fandom and, yes, obviously Japanese fandom has its own issues but I can say with 1000% certainty that Japanese fans would never have yelled out a member’s name if an interviewer asked the group who was most likely to mess up the choreography as the attendees of the I Heart Radio event did.

The entire interview was a mess and you can see it on their faces.

“How about that Halsey, huh?” (She’s fine but they didn’t fly halfway across the world to promote Halsey.)

“Is anybody planning on seeing them on tour?” (Bro, the last date in US has come and gone.)

(BTS trying to lighten the mood of the room by doing the choreo for "Boy With Luv". Look at those smiles COME ON!)

(What American ARMY did instead of dancing along and having fun like BTS was trying to get them to do.)

But it’s BTS so there were some highlights. When BTS were asked what their favorite tracks were on the album. RM starts rapping “Persona” and the crowd joins in for a bit and you can see Yoongi crack a smile. “I love ‘Home’,” he says afterwards, to loud cheers. (WE LOVE “HOME”; JUSTICE FOR “HOME”)

The whole extended stay in America clarified two things about American fandom for me.

1) The clout chasing has gotten out of control. BTS fandom is not about YOU, individual fangirl, and it’s not about BTS noticing YOU. If your only goal in going to a concert or event is to make eye contact with Taehyung or have Hoseok point at you then you need to rethink your priorities because there are 60,000 seats in these venues and behind every single one of those ARMY bombs, behind every single cell phone LED light during “Mikrokosmos”, there is an ARMY who is just as passionate and full of love for the group and for her favorite member as the people in the front if not more so. YOU ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PERSON IN ROW ZZZ SEAT 99999 JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE AT BARRICADE OR SOUND CHECK.

(Who should we be paying attention to when RM is talking? Yes, that's right Yoongi.)

2) The culture gap is wide and getting wider as more Americans from completely outside the Asian pop scene become involved. Here’s something that I feel like a lot of Americans--especially white Americans--are missing: Even though BTS are from Korea and do not speak fluent English, they are human beings. They are not dolls. They are not walking memes. They do not exist to provide you with glossy Teen People photo spreads to wank over. These are adult men who have homes and lives and families halfway across the world. They do not have to tour America. They do not have to do these media appearances. And they certainly don’t have to put effort into learning English. This may be hard for some of you to hear but plenty of musicians have long and very profitable and fulfilling careers without ever gaining support from the mainstream American market. Have you heard of TVXQ (aka DBSK)? Mr. Children? Seo Taiji? Asha Bhosle?

The American market is a prize, yes, but it’s not mandatory. If it becomes not worth the hassle to tour here, they don’t have to. NEVER FORGET THIS. America is not the center of the universe and we are not owed any attention from BTS.

Yes, RM speaks good colloquial English and the rest of BTS are doing their best to also learn English but to be a fan of a foreign act means that we also have to put some effort in. Over and over again on those behind-the-scenes documentaries from the WINGS tour, we hear members (especially Seokjin and Yoongi) say how incredibly moving it was to hear foreign audiences singing in Korean. Brazil, Indonesia, Argentina. They learned the lyrics--phonetically if need be--and sang along at full volume to show how much they appreciated BTS. What did we do in America? We yelled “TAEKOOK” really loud during a pause in the I Heart Radio interview.

Look, American ARMY, I know a lot of you are coming from outside Asian idol fandom, whether its from 1D fandom or whatever, and that we are an individualistic people but there is (or was) also an American tradition of banding together to work towards a common cause. Let’s get more on that tip. We collectively need to examine exactly what it is we want out of this fandom because if it’s just boy band hysteria and “oppa noticed me” posts then I feel justified in completely checking out and putting my resources into attending concerts in places like… Brazil. Or Japan. Or Korea. Where I’m more likely to meet and talk with like-minded fans.

There is a reason I stopped paying attention to American music and American pop culture years ago and this BTS extended jaunt here reminded me exactly why that was.

(Tag yourself: I'm Jimin's "SIT ON A DICK" shirt)

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