BTS, the name of a Korean Pop band, is an acronym for 'Bangtan Sonyeondan' which means 'Bulletproof Boy Scouts.' As much as this group of seven talented musicians has turned into one of the biggest trends not only in South Korea but globally, it has also brought up some issues and controversies surrounding this glamorous face in the Korean music industry.
Being part of this fandom, the admirers are constantly subject to lots of criticisms and taunts from their family members, relatives, friends, social media platforms-- almost on a daily basis. The writer conducted interviews with some people from different institutions mostly in Dhaka including both BTS Armies (fans) and non-Armies (not fans but familiar with BTS) and found out inherent traditional socio-cultural reasons and beliefs behind BTS hatred.
The forms of stereotyping
"Actually, the most popular taunt that you hear when you express that you're a fan is that all the BTS members look feminine. They question their gender identity," said Nabila Ahmed, an HSC candidate from Holy Cross College. Supriya Sarker from the same institution mentioned how those stereotyping comments are made: "BTS is homosexual, they look like girls, they wear makeup, they have ear piercings-- these are the most common dialogues we get from general people."
Also, BTS is laughed off for some pre-conceived notions even when it is about something very relevant.Intisar Islam, HSC graduate from Government Hazi Muhammad Mohsin College, Chattogram, shared, "I have seen laughing react on a social media post regardless of the post being really informative or helpful, only because it involved BTS and its members."
People often tend to think that BTS's music is not a real production material and they are overrated. Apparently, roasting BTS fans have turned into a tremendous trend. Some BTS fans shared that they often feel tensed to admit their BTS fandom.
While exploring the reasons behind this, answers such as gender stereotypes or stereotypes including what type of music you need to like in order to be considered decent, narrow mindset, xenophobia, homophobia, racial discrimination, toxic masculinity, vilifying a different culture, language difference leading to disrespecting other languages which are incomprehensible to people from other nation, misogynist views, society's inability to digest something new, etc. came.
"People don't laugh at the fans of Hollywood or Bollywood movie lovers, or Bieber's fans or Lady Gaga's fans as much as they mock us," shared Labiba Ali, a science student from Holy Cross College and a a BTS fan. Not everybody has to like BTS; Labiba just expects others not to spread hatred and toxicity.
What fans feel?
Regardless of all the insults or offensives comments, BTS fans are always open about how the band has become one of the biggest inspirations and sources of strength in their lives. Inspiration, home, motivation, excitement, hard work, saviour, healer, self-acceptance-- these are what the fans call BTS. Even some non-fans, as well, are not shy of speaking highly of BTS. Fahim Doula, managing director of Agragami Engineers Limited, and not a fan of BTS himself, remarked, "The song is called Fake Love. It was full of life and energy which I appreciate. It shows their dedication and passion." Other survey participants mentioned ‘dynamite’, ‘permission to dance’, ‘life goes on’, etc.
There are many BTS Army groups around the world, even in Bangladesh, who launch philanthropic projects to aid underprivileged people. Tahosina Mehnaz from Gazipur Cantonment Board Girls’ High School, working in BD Army OFC, volunteered in a mask distribution project along with other volunteers. She mentioned humanitarian projects carried out in Rajshahi, Gazipur, Chandpur and Mawa which were inspired by the members of BTS.
Cliche and conventional
Another tendency prominent in today's generation is labelling any kind of hype or trend as cliché. When people tend to like something, it is not because they are influenced by others but because they also genuinely want to be part of it based on their own taste. The others seem to mock them for being a fan of something generic and use the terms 'normie,' 'wannabe,' etc.
The conventional perceptions of how a man must dress or behave to be socially accepted by all have a huge effect on building strong stereotypes. The definition of gender and behaviours are still really conservative among the majority of the people. But things that would otherwise be considered unusual or get labelled as 'anomaly' are starting to get normalised by some which might be a small section of people. And they struggle to fit in society while getting confronted for their different views.
Karen Lu from Yale University published an article on studybreaks.com where she talked of BTS blurring the line between femininity and masculinity, redefining them towards a new era of self-acceptance where everyone would be unafraid of expressing their gender identity regardless of traditionally held ideas. According to her, toxic masculinity expectations are one of the aspects that BTS is willing to eradicate through their songs that preach self-love. Toxic masculinity is associated with suppressing emotions or holding back one's tears and always acting tough, using violence as an indicator of power, etc. When a man does not possess these characteristics or has different preferences in terms of appearance or choice of clothing, he is often portrayed as feminine or weak, especially in Western cultures.
Arpa Zunaith, a student of Holy Cross College and a resident of Azimpur, Dhaka, expressed her opinions on toxic masculinity. "My male classmates, most of the time, address them (BTS) as homosexuals. According to them, they (BTS) don't look manly enough." This is the reason why BTS fandom tends to have more female than male fans.
Other side of the coin
But there is another side of the coin-- toxic fans. Becoming overprotective and defensive through negative memes and comments on social media platforms, giving out frantic reactions after receiving remarks from others, deeming them as low and belittling them just because they are not fans, demonstrating arrogant behaviour, obsession over the Korean beauty standards, etc. are some of the most common examples of intense action by these fans.
Some of the BTS fans even admitted the fact how BTS might have one of the most toxic fan bases in the world and this toxic fandom is one of the main reasons for people showing outright hostility towards BTS.
Supriya Sarker believes this toxicity stems from not knowing BTS properly. "I think they just like to fangirl over them because of their looks and fame," she commented. Safa Chowdhury, a 12th grader from Dhaka Commerce College, further addressed the toxic fan base by saying, "It would be really great if BTS having a toxic fan base is properly highlighted. These people should really be called out and they should understand that they are causing harm to the very band they are so obsessed with."
While advising others to not judge, people often tend to be judgmental themselves. "It's extremely hypocritical how the whole world preaches not to judge someone by their looks or getup, yet they themselves are aggravating the whole situation by doing this,"expressed Nooha Rayeeda, a 12th grader from Holy Cross College.
People are free to express their own opinions and pursue their likes and dislikes. No generalisation, stereotype or hatred should suppress others from expressing their preferences freely.