“I love romantic comedies. I feel almost sheepish writing that, because the genre has been so degraded in the past twenty years or so that admitting you like these movies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity. But that has not stopped me from watching them.”
–Mindy Kaling, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”
Mindz, I feel you.
Why is it so difficult, and even in some cases problematic for anyone over the age of 16 to acknowledge their interest, fondness, and even love for K-pop? What’s with the fan-shaming? Why must K-pop be a secret, guilty pleasure for smart women? What’s with these homies dissin’ my boys? I have so many questions.
Do a search for “bubble tea” on Google and Sehun’s image appears as a top result!
It’s Not Your Cup Of Bubble Tea
Every genre of popular music will have its share of haters and all those haters have their reasons for hating a particular genre of music. It could be as simple as “It doesn’t sound good to me”, which is entirely valid. However, oftentimes hating on a musical genre does not even stem from the fact that something does not sound good to one’s ears, rather stemming from the listener’s own refusal to absorb a particular musical genre. This is true of people who claim to “hate” country music when they cannot even name five country albums and think Shania Twain is where country music begins and ends. (News flash, country music haters: it doesn’t.) The same is true for rap music or hip-hop, any kind of heavy metal music and polka. The reputation of the musical genre precedes anything that may honestly represent it, so why bother listening anymore? Who has the time to listen to all kinds of music and weed through all the bad stuff? Well, that’s just being lazy and elitist. If you’re fine with being lazy and elitist in your consumption of popular culture, then that’s your prerogative.
One misconception you might have about this photo is that it was taken in the 80’s. Because Sussudio.
Misconceptions (of You and Me)
The type of media a person consumes has become an index for how we perceive a person’s character in the same way the type of font a person uses has become an index for how we perceive a person’s IQ. When it comes to choice in literature, chick lit has had its share of being knocked around some. Mention that you’ve read/are reading/will read “50 Shades of Grey” and watch how people react. K-pop is just one of those things that have been added to this same index. A love for K-pop must indicate some shortage of good sense in general because if you are smart, you would listen to more intelligent music. Well it doesn’t work that way. Besides, who’s to say that someone who enjoys K-pop won’t be able to appreciate other genres of music? That’s just being presumptuous and narrow-minded.
Maybe we can do the twirl!
Act Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size
K-pop is a young musical genre that targets a young audience. It’s fun, instantly appealing, hook-laden – the very same building blocks that make up any Western pop music track ranging from the early Beatles to Justin Bieber. A lot of the songs have melodies that are easy to hum and remember. Yes, you can dance to it. Teens like it, therefore it’s childish to like it. If you think like that, then don’t ever bitch to me about feeling old or whine about your lost childhood if you keep rejecting things that make you feel young.
…but is it (fan) art?
But Is It Art?
It’s so easy to dismiss K-pop as a highly manufactured, mass-produced product rather than an actual real musical genre because K-pop is a highly manufactured mass-produced product. But so are sports cars, and yet a lot of people regard sports cars to be works of art. There are pieces arguing against K-pop as a “legitimate” form of music available for your reading pleasure all over the internet, and those are laughable because they remind me so much of that J. Evans Pritchard Introduction to Poetry from “Dead Poets’ Society”. There is no shortage of pompous, self-important reasons why K-pop isn’t real music, as if real music was something that was meant to be validated through Pitchfork articles rather than being validated through the actual enjoyment of the thing. Shiny males in tiny pants sing the songs, therefore it’s not done by real artists. (Have you seen their thighs in tight white pants? How can you say that isn’t art? Excuse you – that is pure fucking poetry!)
Along with being a measuring index for personality, character, taste and mental capacity, an acknowledgment of liking K-pop has an economic stigma, and it is from this stigma that all other stigma associated with liking K-pop branch out. Here in the Philippines, declaring a love for K-pop immediately puts one in the “masa” (literally, “the masses”) or even worse, the “jeje” category (someone who belongs to a below average economic class and is therefore “uneducated”.) An economic stigma has been set just because one says she likes underage-looking singers with pink hair, implying that the masses (and those lower in economic standing) are mindless drones who do not practice any kind of discretion when it comes to the media they consume as they do not possess the faculties for critical thinking.
But there’s more. It isn’t enough to be labelled as poor. Declaring your love for K-pop sends out the message that one is “cheap”, “classless” and “lacking in breeding”. This line of argument has spurred on some K-pop fans to argue “Who the hell are you calling cheap?! We spend thousands on shipping fees alone”, a statement which, while disproving the “poor” claim is a misguided rebuttal that reinforces the argument’s points on K-pop fans being “classless” and “lacking in breeding” rather than dismisses it. Just like any fandom or subculture, it takes all kinds.
The encompassing logic behind the overall elitism breaks down like so: You like K-pop because you like dumb music. You like dumb music because you have bad taste. You have bad taste because you are stupid. You are stupid because you are uneducated. You are uneducated because you are poor.
Saying you like K-pop out loud in a conversation with other adults can get you any of the following: the side-eye (“Is she being serious, or she being ironic about it?”), the eye roll/nose wrinkle (“That’s so manufactured and stupid! I don’t approve of this!”), or even nervous laughter (“I don’t get it, but okay…”). However way you choose to express your love for K-pop – you will be judged aggressively.
While I could care less about what other adults might think of my interests, these stock reactions serve as a reminder that these people are no fun, and that it’s their loss if their attitude towards something that gives me so much life is dismissive at best, and outright rude at its worst.
Being a card-holding, full fledged adult female balancing work, personal and inner life, I am allowing myself to like whatever it is I like without feeling creepy, stupid or judged about it. And what I like is K-pop. You can judge me all you want, but I’m judging you right back.