As a k-pop fan, one obvious behavior I have been following is our fascination with watching how k-pop idols interact with other k-pop idols outside of their group. It’s not exactly too hard to be a witness to these interactions from a very light-surface level.
YouTube alone has a crazy upload of fan-made clips. Obviously, these are small moments caught on camera, usually at award shows – whether it be a small gesture as a handshake or something more where two idols appear to be engaged in a deep conversation on the side. Everything is not only caught on film but analyzed to death by k-pop fans. Fans will draw their own conclusion of what is going on which I find amusing – because none of us really know what’s going on. None of us have a clue if it’s all for show or for real.
Never-the-less, the fascination-part from fans is interesting to me and made me question why we want these interactions to mean something more than what they probably really are.
For one, I think it’s just very human nature for us to gossip. This nature of ours probably stems from us wanting to belong to the bigger community. Which is a secondary emotion for feeling secure, stemming from our survival instincts (‘greater in numbers’). This is not something that is uncommon across any fan-base of favorite celebrities. And to us, this fantasy-like gossiping feels safer than gossiping about real life people. It’s a way for us to drive our need to gossip at a safe level.
Is it safe, though? I think it could be if we keep it light and off-line. We need to understand we have no idea what is really going on. And if we’re ‘shipping’ idols together and then causing rumors they are dating, this can go viral extremely quickly. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with this phenomenon because once put online, rumors spread rapidly and I believe there’s too much risk of it hurting the idol. Talk among the privacy with friends of ‘what if’ and ‘imagine this’ but keep it off the public platform – that would be the safest bet!
I also think our connection with k-pop idols is more intimate than connections between the usual celebrity to fan-base. I won’t go into this further because I believe that is a whole different discussion. There is a dark side to what I have seen with the vicious cycle created by the k-pop industry for their idols to connect with their fans and for their fans to reciprocate back to the idols.
I will, however, focus on the positive side for now. When this intimate connection is done in a more moderate, balanced and healthier way, I see the fan-base worrying about their idols.
We worry why they fainted. We worry if they are getting enough rest. We worry they are losing too much weight and going on dangerous diets. We worry about their self-esteem. We worry about their level of happiness. We worry they are depressed or lonely or overly stressed and anxious. These are nothing to be ashamed about. Worrying for another human being, regardless of whether we actually know them or not, is never a bad thing. If we do not have compassion in us, we would be fucked on a much global scale.
And so I think we take comfort in seeing them interact with those outside of their own group and company. There’s still a bit of sadness they might not have much of a choice to make/keep friends outside the industry but to see them at least creating friendships at some level is better than nothing.
Variety shows and talk shows often have more than one k-pop idol as guests. It’s no wonder why these shows are so popular – they know what they want. And it gives fans a glimpse of what their idol life is like, especially if a talk show is able to get the idols to discuss and compare similarities of living with their members. The clip about RM and Suho comparing leadership stories on Problematic Men comes to mind (with bonus clip of how Suho nags Sehun like a mom):
As for variety shows, my favorite was watching Jooheon (MONSTA X) and Jackson Wang (GOT7) on Celeb Bros. There were several parts over two separate meet-ups but I’ll embed just the few I think is most significant at showing their budding friendship:
And then sometime later, they meet up again and we get to see a different comfort level between the two. This had me cracking up so bad! They argue like an old married couple! :p
So are these ‘bromance’ all an act or are they real? I don’t know – it’s not easy to say how scripted they are or not.
I do recall during end of MONSTA X-ray Season 1, all members were given 2 hours of free time so long as they went off on their own. Jooheon hopped in a cab and immediately asked to be taken to JYP Studios. On the way there, he was trying to call Jackson Wang.
For their sake, I hope these friendships are real.