Tuesday, September 10, 2019

[Review] Bring the Soul: Episode 3 "Relationship"

Episode 3 of Bring the Soul was not what I was expecting from the teaser. The theme of the episode was “Relationship” and a scene of Jungkook and Jimin sharing a meal in one of their hotel rooms post-concert had been highlighted, all of which filled me with a sense of dread because I have spent nearly my entire time in this fandom desperately avoiding the delusional former “Larrys” pushing the “Jikook” agenda. Ah, yes, the former One Direction fans and their horrific fandom habits of getting overly invested in the conspiracy theories that say two of the members of the group are actually dating and making babies. It feels like years ago but it was only a few months ago in late June that the Jikook takeover of twitter with #ReceiptNation, posting sasaeng photos and gossip of dubious origins in an attempt to “prove” that the imaginary couple was REALLY IN LOVE.

Ahem.

The one personal thread running through this episode was Jimin’s loneliness as the lone extrovert in a group overflowing with introverts. While the rest of the members seem more or less content to do their own thing in their own hotel rooms--whether that’s playing FIFA, watching YouTube, or whatever--Jimin, in particular, misses the physical closeness of their earlier years. In that scene teased as shipper-bait, Jimin and Jungkook are filmed having dinner together in the hotel and as the soju flows so does Jimin’s loneliness. He laughs a bit, embarrassed, as he tells Jungkook the story of getting blackout drunk and telling the staff how much he missed all his members.

But the “relationship” hinted at in the title of episode 3 wasn’t one endorsed by either side of #ReceiptNation but seemed more like a continuation of the theme from episode 2. What is the relationship between the members of BTS and their careers? Between BTS and their audience?

And this is the meat of the episode. We see what was happening as Bangtan left Los Angeles for Texas and then on to Canada (with the Canadian jaunt filmed for RUN ep 69-71 merely hinted at).

(Words of wisdom from Namjoon. This fame may be a blip but the after effects--the garbage--will linger.)

Episode 3 brings up a disconnect between Bangtan and their audience so big that my heart ached hearing them speak to it. Here’s the thing: the audience for BTS concerts in America (and for Kpop concerts more generally) doesn’t know or care about performance. There’s a reason Kpop groups generally half-ass their choreography and setlists here and it’s because we’re easily impressed by anything. I don’t know if I’ve linked this recently but I will never forget reading the reviews of Big Bang’s 2015 concerts here and wondering if we’d seen the same shows. If you’ll allow me to quote myself:

The review at Jezebel really hammered home how differently people can view the same show. Where the Jezebel review saw an extravaganza of confetti and background dancers, I saw a subdued stage with only a handful of confetti cannon blasts and a minimum of required background dancers. It all depends on where you're coming from. When your baseline for pop act are the slackers of One Direction--who don't even dance--then twelve dancers seems like a lot. When your baseline is a Johnny's & Associates concert featuring sixty-plus backing dancers, many of whom have fans of their own, then twelve feels like the absolute minimum for a decent concert. When you've seen concerts that feature hundreds of multicolored balloons released into the air, water features, harness work, multiple moving stages, random sword fighting, skits involving cross-dressing and robots, and a record-breaking number of backflips in a row, then a couple of confetti cannons and some pyrotechnics feel subdued, rather than cra-zy pop stuff.

And if Bangtan had a competent management team and guidance from people experienced in this market they wouldn’t be grinding their bones into dust sharpening choreography and performance for a western audience whose baseline for appreciation is ONE DIRECTION (who doesn’t even dance).

But Bangtan does not have that. They have a management team who “suggests” sharpening moves after a show that had left the group in a pretty good mood judging by their happy faces and comments.

Does it matter if they perform sloppily if both crowd and group go home happy?

Maybe. Maybe not.

If it motivates them to be in the zone on stage instead of feeling like they were “punching through water” as Yoongi put it, then yes. If it induces anxiety over failure, then no.

Because the American crowds will scream either way. And we see the camera linger on the crowd, hidden behind phones, caught mid-shriek, may as well have been ripped directly from This Is Us.

(An English-speaking fan saying how glad she is that Bangtan is always there FOR HER put over footage of the group doing their newly sharpened moves to "DNA". The performance goes unmentioned.)

You see it’s not about Bangtan. That’s the ending message of this episode: it doesn’t matter what they do on stage because the fans will see what they want to and what they want to see, according to the two English-speaking fans interviewed for the episode, is seven woke oppas who are here for us to sheppard us through dark times, agree with all of our opinions (represented by a “...” we can fill in the blanks), and validate our every feeling of micro-injustice served up by a society who doesn’t understand that I’M SPECIAL.

Towards the end of the episode Jin says, “The idea that fans who only see us once a year won’t see us at 100% felt like getting slapped.” The meaning the episode wants us to take from that, I think, is that he’d gotten complacent about performing and the scolding from the staff member was a wake up call. But coming next to the narcissistic statements from the fans it just felt sad. They were up there on stage giving their all to their art and all that Army wants from them is to hold up a mirror back at us in the crowd.

I was at those shows in Hamilton, Ontario (read about it here!) and they were incredible. The atmosphere was warm and I’ve seen enough idol concerts to tell that the members were having a genuinely good time on stage. We even literally hear Jungkook say that these shows in Texas and Canada were great, he’d had a lot of fun, and the audience knew how to have a good time. And yet the mood of the episode was all gloomy music and tragic undertones. Why?

It’s something I feel like it’s worth hammering at again and again because the message never seems to come across to certain parts of fandom but reality shows and documentaries are scripted and edited to tell a story. Jungkook’s GCF in Newark gives his side of the story. What we are watching in this documentary is not objective truth, it is a subjective narrative pieced together from some real events, yes, but editing matters. Music choice matters. The inclusion of certain interview snippets matter. The decision to mix and match interviews from random days and times with no context for the questions was a decision made. The decision to score these happy concerts with wistful or sad songs was a decision made. What we need to ask ourselves is why.

(Jimin eyeing the camera before they begin their dinner.)

Why did they title this episode “relationship” and tease the Jungkook-Jimin dinner? Is it because they know their audience is filled with former Larrys who have moved on to Jikook? And, knowing that, deliberately encouraged Jimin and Jungkook to film a dinner together in order to deliberately include it in the documentary as Jikook bait?

(A cheerful Jungkook post-concert.)

Why was this episode of happy concerts edited together to be so depressing, especially when we know the awful stuff that happens as they death march this tour into Europe? We won’t know the full narrative arc until the end but either they are going to try and whitewash the parade of injury and illness that was Europe 2018 by making this early part of the tour seem far, far worse than it was or it’s just going to get worse from here as we fall down an emotional porn rabbit hole with nothing to grab onto.

Either way, the episode left me feeling sad. And wishing Bangtan had more support--the idea that Park Jimin cannot have his preferred in-ear monitor is just astounding--and better guidance in their journey.

(Edited to remove the mention of Taekook with #ReceiptNation. It was pointed out (kindly) that the hashtag was for JiKookers to post their "receipts" of their relationship after some gossip about Taehyung and Jungkook going to the movies had come out.)

6 comments:

Leffetpopculture said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Filmi Girl said...

Much appreciated! Thank you for reading!

I agree with all your points. And especially with Jungkook and knowing he is a perfectionist it seemed very cruel to crash his good mood. I didn't explicitly write this but I do wonder how much of that little intervention had been planned by Big Hit for the cameras to generate drama. I was at that show and can for a fact that it went well. Are there always going to be things to improve? Sure! But part of managing a "team" whether sports or anything is celebrating the wins when they come, you know? I just get the feeling the staff had been instructed to do it for the cameras.

And YES! on Speak Yourself. I also noticed that (Anpanman for example) and share your hope that it was less tiring.

Pocky said...

Hello! I am the person from Twitter who wanted to contact you, thank you, once again, for giving me a chance! This is not going to be a hate comment in any way, but in case you might won’t feel comfortable posting it, then of course I understand and accept that, and my DMs on Twitter are open for discourse, if you’d still prefer to address the topic. ^^ I truly hope that you don’t receive upsetting messages anymore, and wish you support and all the best!!
So, let’s begin. I tell you in advance: I'm a Jikook shipper/supporter, sort of? (Although, recent events made me reflect on and reconsider my ”shipper” status, but that’s a different topic hehe) So please take everything what I'm going to write with a grain of salt, as I might be biased a bit. Plus, I apologize for my English, it's not my first language but I hope my message will be clear enough. :) I'm going to send my comment in 3 separate parts, sorry for blabbing this much… First of all, I enjoy your reviews, mature opinions and insightful discussions, thank you for creating such intelligent and interesting content. The way you debate things is always down-to-earth and good food for thought. Secondy, the thing I want to address in particular is this sentence: "I have spent nearly my entire time in this fandom desperately avoiding the delusional former “Larrys” pushing the “Jikook” agenda." Then, this part, too: "…And, knowing that, deliberately encouraged Jimin and Jungkook to film a dinner together in order to deliberately include it in the documentary as Jikook bait?"
I'm pretty sure you know more than me, you are more well-informed than me, when it comes to ARMY the fandom. However, please let me tell you how I see things as a JM-biased person; as someone who has never been into but was often a silent observer during shipping wars, has never really been part of the so-called "stan-twitter" arguments, but does like to read about different views and opinions, and enjoys how beautiful the relationships (no matter what kind) between BTS members are. I especially like the dynamics between JM & JK, because the way their bond has developed through the years is fascinating to me, and I’ve never excluded the idea of them possibly having a romantic relationship, that's why I'd call myself a "Jikooker".

Pocky said...

2nd part:
The way I see things, Jikookers are dragged through mud left and right for years now in this fandom, ”Jikook” as a relationship in general is most often completely dismissed and degraded by the majority of the fandom. JM is the butt of most jokes (99% of them are not funny but disrespectful), he is the target of mass hate coming from his own fandom and it has almost everything to do with certain shippers. I don't want to sound like someone salty who is here to point fingers, though. But to deny that TKers have many big accounts on stan twitter with hundreds of thousands of followers and sometimes a low-key anti-JM agenda, would be foolish, in my opinion. They have lots of followers and thus huge influence over a big part of the fandom. I'm in this fandom ever since 2013, I'm a Jikooker since 2015, and yes, of course I admit that I saw some fellow Jikookers being disrespectful towards members, I saw Jikookers portray Jikook in an offensive way, I saw Jikookers act immature or in a harmful way. I saw horrible tweets written by Jikookers dragging JM for not posting on JK’s birthday this year. But, I think and feel like that compared to TKers, this bad side of Jikookers is much smaller and more quiet. I don't say it's insignificant or much better, but, for example, I rarely see Jikookers harassing TH, on the other hand for TKers to do the same with JM is almost normalized at this point. This is not about some twisted contest of "whose shipper base is better or worse", this is about that some people have really negative impact on fandom and even the boys, and it’s getting painfully obvious that the hate against JM is reaching critical levels. Or at least that's how I see it, but to be completely honest, ever since early 2018 I don't really care about ARMY in general, because the fandom, as you mentioned it as well, has grown way too selfish and ignorant for my taste, so I might missed out on some changes...
Anyways, I think calling Jikook the "Larry of this fandom", calling out their shippers as toxic "ex-Larrys" meanwhile TKers and their conspiracy theory videos with millions of views are ignored; videos that are actually harmful and disrespectful towards Vminkook but especially JM, who is portrayed as either a jealous sl*t or a supportive cover-up person in many of them, is unfair. JM receives criticism and mass hate towards basically every move he makes, he gets called an "attention wh*re" all the time, he gets stalked and mobbed during vacation; not any other member’s location was spread online, only JM’s. And why? Mostly because of TKers, I believe. Please don't misunderstand, of course I don't wish the other members the same treatment! Neither I’m saying that they don’t have antis on their own, don’t face criticism and hardships. Also, I don't say all TKers are like this. I'm just saying that as I noticed, TK theories often portray JM in a bad light and many TKers act on their generated dislike towards him. Meanwhile, Jikookers don't usually have a malicious agenda against any member of the group, thus their theory videos/posts – albeit often ridiculous – are less harmful, in my opinion. Another thing is, that maybe I see this wrongly, but most former Larrys I met in this fandom are now TKers, not Jikookers. But maybe this is a 50-50 situation, I don't know for sure. ^^

Pocky said...

Third and last part:
So, what I want to say is, that turning a blind eye to TKers' behaviour despite it being more harmful to the boys (JM in particular) than Jikookers', and then even implying that JM & JK were "encouraged" by staff to have a dinner together, made me a bit sad. This is what TKers parrot for years now, too, after all; that Jikook's entire relationship (again, the nature of it doesn't matter) is just fanservice (or a cover-up for TK), and JK actually hates JM, and only spends time together with him because he is ordered to do so. I find the idea very degrading and disrespectful, that they can't have a dinner together without people speculating about the possible ulterior motive behind it, and not even entertaining the potential of JM & JK spending time together because they want to, because they like to have dinner together (as friends/bandmates/"brothers"/lovers, doesn't matter once again). Of course, overly delusional shippers who think that whenever Jikook as much as breathe the same air is some declaration of true romantic love are kinda problematic, as well, though. Also, I know that in your review you talked about editing and that every scene is a decision made by the filmmakers, but I want to point out how this is a trend apparently, that whenever JM & JK are seen spending any time together, their relationship is completely dismissed, because people feel the immense need to point out immediately how they are "just friends"/"brothers"/"just bandmates", or in worst case to tell the world that "Jikook is just fanservice and oh-so-forced, and JK actually hates JM ever since 2012". I've seen this type of behaviour within fandom only when it comes to Jikook's relationship. This is not about ships and shippers anymore, in my opinion, this is disregarding two human beings' close and important relationship over and over again for the sake of I don't know, what; either way, the result is that there are some ARMYs, who, in 2019, are still convinced that JK really does hate JM. There are also people who go directly to the boys at fansigns and beg them to post couple selcas.
So, my question is: can you please explain to me why did you compare only Jikookers to Larrys, and why didn't you mention TKers as equally – if not even more – problematic? I know this episode was advertised with a clickbait Jikook clip, but still, I find the comparison a bit unfair, so I'd really like to hear your reasons and opinions on this case. ^^ I’m not that familiar with 1D but I know how bad of a reputation Larrys have, I know about "Babygate" and all. To me, some TKers – often with big influence – believing in the theory of BH hiding TK (the "real couple") with the help of Jikook ("the cover-up fanservice ship"), of JM being nothing but a camouflage (or in some occasions a jealous b*tch who wants JK for himself) seems more similar to Larrys' mindset than anything I've come across from the fandom's Jikooker side so far.
Phew, this was very, very long; much longer than planned... I'm so sorry and I really hope I neither wasted your time, nor offended you, since it was not my intention, at all! This shipping debate, and especially that sentence about them being encouraged by staff to have dinner together just rubbed me in a wrong way, I guess... :/ Lastly, thank you for writing these reviews! Except this whole Jikook-issue in the 3rd one, I’ve agreed on with everything you wrote so far! Amazing points were made in each of them. If you don’t mind, I’d like to leave some much less shipper-y comments under them in the future hehe
Again, sorry for this huge text wall, and if you took your time to read it all, then thank you so much!! If you decide to answer, too, then thank you for that! Have a wonderful day/evening! :)

Filmi Girl said...

Hello Pocky!! I really do thank you for your comment and I want to say this is the kind of critique that I think is helpful because you're right. I did single out Jikookers and Taekookers can be just as bad (if not worse sometimes!). I singled out Jikookers for this post because it was pushed so heavily as the theme and I do think that Big Hit has recently been pushing that pairing since it has gotten so popular (and Taehyung seems to have fallen out of favor with the company so he is not featured as much). Maybe that was not fair of me to drag JiKook as a ship but it's been the one most on my radar recently since the fiasco of #Receipt Nation.

I have talked about this with some Jimin-fan friends in DMs and I think you are right that Jimin gets a lot of hate and negative treatment and to be honest I'm not sure where it comes from. I want to make clear that I really do think Jimin and Jungkook are friends and probably do have meals together but my point in this episode was that it appeared that this specific dinner had been arranged so that it could be filmed and used in the documentary and I suspect it's because Big Hit knows that the Jikook ship is popular. That doesn't mean I don't think they are not friends, just that this dinner filmed for the cameras felt staged. It probably didn't help that it was the same episode where they had the "review session" that felt like a bad reality television story line so I may have been more aware of it.

Shipping is a difficult topic because it's such a part of idol culture and it's intended to be a fun and light-hearted fantasy. The traditional fan experience is to enjoy interactions (I really like YoonKook interactions!!) and write fanfics and do cute art and have the members tease us (like the Sope song) and it's harmless. Shinhwa used to even ask their fans "which pairings are popular right now?" but everybody understands the romance is fantasy. Just pretend. The problem now is that this pretend romance (and real interactions) have been dragged into Larry-style shipping which is just... insane conspiracy theories and homophobic nonsense. And I think it's a dangerous game to play. These types of shippers harassed "Larry", Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison, the stars of Supernatural... I hate seeing the same thing happen to BTS.

But really thank you for commenting because I think it's also good to have these debates underneath the post. I'm sure you aren't the only person who thought I was unfair to Jikookers. ♥ I really have no problem with any ship as long as we all understand it's part of idol magic. When it gets to #ReceiptNation and posting sasaeng photos to "prove" points then I get upset.

 
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