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“Do you think BTS will get back together?” I innocently asked one of my students this week after she introduced herself as a fan of the group. Her reaction was something else. She went quiet, looked down, and then burst into tears. But this wasn’t a quiet sob. And there was nothing performative about her behavior. It was an outpouring of genuine grief played out in front of a large lecture hall of people she was meeting for the first time. The effect of K-pop idols on people is real. My understanding of what questions can and can’t be asked is increasing by the day. And now, the conversation has been about Karina, a member and leader of Aespa, being in a romantic relationship with Lee Jae-wook. K-pop idols are not meant to be in relationships with other people because this destroys the fantasy that their lives, romantically, spiritually, and physically, are devoted exclusively to the fans who stream, purchase and scan their every movement online. And so Karina apologized. She apologized for having a boyfriend. She’s 23 years old, has 14 million Insta followers, and earned more success than many of us could possibly even dream of. And yet she apologized for being in a relationship with someone.

Everyone has had an opinion on whether she is allowed to be dating someone. Most reasonable people suggest that as a grown woman with autonomy, she should be allowed to live her own life, pursue her own happiness, and date (or not date) whomever she chooses. And that would be correct…if she were a grown woman called Yoo Ji-min (her real name). But Karina is not a grown woman. Karina is a K-pop idol. She’s not an artist. She’s an idol. An entertainer. And with that comes certain regulations and restrictions. Furthermore, Karina demonstrated to the world that she is an idol by publicly apologizing .If she were an artist, she would have shrugged her shoulders. She would have stuck her fingers up at the press. She would have declared her love for her partner and told the world that she was excited about a new chapter in her life. She would have written a song about it and released it. Artists do not live for the pleasure of fans. They do not exist to make people happy. Instead, artists express themselves. They play out their inner life and creations to challenge and, at times, confront the public. They do not apologize for being themselves. Idols, however, are different. Not better or worse. Just different. An idol is not meant to have opinions, not meant to date, not meant to be subjective or demonstrate agency. An idol is to be a pure creation. It exists only for the fans’ happiness and to be a passive receptacle for fans’ devotion, love, desire, and fantasy. Idols are shaped, created, and sold by entertainment companies. They offer joy and companionship, a friend through the hard times, and arrive on people’s phones with specially designed messages, dances, demonstrations of aegyo, and much else. Such a product is particularly appealing to those who find themselves otherwise ignored or excluded from much of mainstream society. This is how capitalism creates parasocial relationships.

For those outside of the K-pop sphere, parasocial relationships can be a little bit difficult to grasp. But the phenomenon is not new. Groupies and devoted fans of pop stars and celebrities have long been a thing. We’ve all seen the black and white footage of young British and American women declaring their unending love for Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Marc Bolan, and so on. Believing that they would one day meet and when that day happened, the stars would align, and the teenage girl’s fantasy would come true. And while there are similarities today with that culture, there are also profound differences. Most importantly, technology has developed to the point that fans can now spend every minute of their waking day consuming content about their idol, in high-definition, direct to their phone, and in a personalized manner. Fans have also become prosumers, creating content online about their idol, some of which is pure, some of which is educational and some of which is homo-erotic fanfiction .And then there’s the difference between the idol and the artist and their relationship to the entertainment company that owns them. Can you imagine a company trying to tell John Lennon he was not allowed to have a girlfriend? Can you imagine someone saying that to Justin Bieber? To Taylor Swift? You can’t because that company would not be successful. Those artists would simply refuse to work for someone so controlling because the companies need the artists rather than the other way around. The artists are the star. They make the money and they produce the songs, the fashion, and the trends that captivate people. They have the “je ne sais quoi. ”Idols do not do this. Idols are simply vessels for other people. They are a conduit. The next release in a long line of people from a factory line production, ranging from H.O.T., Girl’s Generation, BTS, and Aespa. The same 3 or 4 companies release a new product every couple of years. Of course, occasionally, one of these idols will rise above their station and become an artist, just like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and so on. But these are the exception rather than the norm. By towing the idol line, bowing to the entertainment company that has propelled her to stardom, Karina reaffirmed her idol status. It tells us, perhaps, that she needs SM rather than SM 카지노사이트 needs her

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