You’ve heard of BTS, the Korean pop group that has taken the world by storm with their alluring charms, addictive music, and selfless characters. BTS has managed to globalize the K-pop genre through its marketing ingenuity, creating a contagious wave of idolization from fans who call themselves “ARMY” across the world – even reaching UW.
This has spawned communities of passionate, dedicated and like-minded fans known as “stans”. Linked together by their favorite group, these fans are powerful agencies with an international presence, recognized for their strong conviction. They also venture beyond the music itself into topics such as political activism.
In a time of rampant anti-Asian hate crimes and global racism, it is important to recognize the powers and dangers of stan culture in an anti-racist movement.
Reflecting on my experiences as an Asian person, I have been the victim of many stereotypical Asian jokes. Living in a predominantly white UK countryside during my school years, I simply accepted the reality that my face was different from everyone else and that I always made fun of my ‘unconventional’ features. This marginalization was the product of a societal standard of white beauty – blue eyes, large nose, and fair skin. The powerful beauty industry lacked diversity and sent a message that made us believe that our facial features were undesirable.
But then came K-pop, a phenomenon that has reached not only Asian countries but also predominantly white countries, where these Asian idols are now celebrated for their beauty – although the beauty has been heavily influenced by Western standards. . K-pop’s obsessions with pale skin, double lids, and high nose are all proof of the colorism and celebration of white. This wave of cultural imperialism has also been embraced by neighboring Asian states such as China, and an examination of one of China’s most famous female beauties lists will reveal the extent of Western influence.
For example, a blog post on China 163.com, a popular news site, ranked 10 women, all of whom possess the same Western archetypal characteristics, among the most beautiful celebrities in China.
However, the K-pop beauty standard for men tells a different story. While the male “ideal” is also obsessed with Western norms, Western expectations of masculinity are not necessarily present.
Compare celebrities such as Michael B. Jordan and Channing Tatum, both recipients of People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” designation, to visually acclaimed K-pop idols such as Cha Eun-woo, and the deviation becomes extremely blatant. The traditional Western beauty standard of a “male” face is now being questioned, and the stan culture is there to support this movement.
In 2018, a Greek TV show criticized K-pop idols for looking like a woman as they scanned the 100 Most Beautiful Faces of 2018. One of the panelists said the K-pop idol -pop Kang Daniel “should have been on the other list,” referring to the list of attractive women.
After this incident, stans mobilized to criticize the TV show and its host on Twitter and everywhere on social media, expressing their dismay and disappointment.
As we move forward in a more globalized world, the diversity of cultures and social movements are key elements in the destruction of ethnocentric norms. Stan culture acts as a facilitator of the K-pop movement and, by extension, the anti-racist movement.
While Stanic culture has helped advance anti-racist sentiments, it’s also important to recognize the harm it can do.
Anyone who surfs the web regularly shouldn’t be surprised to know that K-pop stans aren’t generally popular. If you search “why kpop fans …” on Google, the most suggested searches are “why kpop fans are so boring” and “why kpop fans are so sensitive.”
These bad feelings stem from toxic behavior associated with K-pop stans and stan culture in general.
“I have seen a lot of cyberbullying, [and] not just between stans from different groups, ”said Catherine Mae Tolentino, a third-year undergraduate English student in the K-pop scene since eighth grade. “People in general have been very toxic on the Internet on Twitter and Instagram.
Over the years, we’ve seen the K-pop community attempt to cancel celebrities and other performers. Jason Derulo, KSI, and Charlie Puth have all fallen victim to this “cancellation culture” from K-pop stans, which is ironic – the most toxic stan community cancels other people for their own behavior. These stans seem to have a misplaced sense of justice, attacking any criticism and opinions about their favorite idols without internalizing this critique of their own community’s behavior. The K-pop community is teeming with toxic users, which has even resulted in the creation of a Twitter page that lists Blocked problematic K-pop stan accounts.
“I’ve personally met toxic fans of the ARMY fandom, so it gives off a bit of a bad vibe about stan culture,” Tolentino said.
This toxic behavior, although carried out by a small minority of stan culture, poorly reflects the community as a whole and may delegitimize their positive efforts. It is important that the public does not generalize stans, but it is even more important that the stan culture continues to condemn the toxic minority, in the name of anti-racism.
Contact contributing writer Max Cheung at [email protected] Twitter: @maxtszc
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