BTS: Boys to Men

By Jae-Ha Kim
January 26, 2018

This Vogue article on BTS is getting a lot of play, because it’s a fun day-in-the-life-of perspective from a huge U.S. publication on the most famous K-Pop band in the world. I really enjoyed reading it, overall.

It’s also getting a lot of play, because it supposedly is calling out the media for using the band for clicks and attention:

They are far from the first South Korean artist to make a splash in the United States—SNSD with their viral hit “Gee,” Rain, who famously defeated Stephen Colbert for Time’s top influencer in 2007 (as voted by fans)—but the attention around them feels different. It comes down to timing: At the right moment, they found a fiercely loyal group of fans called Army, who fell hard, grew fast, and delivered their boys to international stardom. Yet there’s also the current media landscape to consider. It is why the Billboard Music Awards marked a turning point; the media saw the potential for page views, and the exponential rise in coverage that has followed has at times, to Army’s dismay, felt disingenuous.

Take James Corden, for example, who drew some ire for pandering to fans. Worse still were those American interviewers who had done no research and asked often patronizing, uninformed questions—such as “Do you dance?” when they’re known for it. It has been tough for Army to watch wafer-thin interviews, conducted by people who barely know (and certainly don’t care) about their boys, only the attention they might bring; in many ways, they have been treated as an Asian novelty.

Most of the uninformed media coverage that the fans are complaining about didn’t spring from journalists, but rather from television/radio personalities who have a short amount of time to introduce the group to an audience of listeners/viewers who have no idea who BTS are. Right or wrong, in many ways, the treatment they received was no different from the reception One Direction or any other “boy band” before them received.

As for Corden, he’s a famous, wealthy celebrity who doesn’t need BTS to bolster his image. He also seemed like a fanboy and I have no problem with that. Personally speaking, his FLINCH segment with BTS was one of life’s small pleasures and I will always be grateful to him for showcasing them in such a fun manner.

This Vogue article overall was super fun.

However, I cringed at the way the men were infantilized by being referred to over and over as “boys.” The youngest member is 20. The eldest is 25. They are old enough to vote and serve in the military.

Then, too, there is already the disgusting stereotype of Asian men as not really being men, but servile, effeminate boys.

I expect less from media personalities who are hired to draw listeners or viewers by pandering to the lowest common denominator. And fans referring to their faves as boys can be cute, because the power dynamic is different. But coming from a magazine that is familiar with journalistic guidelines, the repetitive reference was disappointing.

© 2018 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved 

Comments (13)

  1. Denise says:

    Totally agree. Young men would have been more appropriate.

  2. Pat says:

  3. @lmalexander78 says:

  4. Pat says:

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with young fans who dream about marrying them either. They have to aim high so that they can find a partner who will treat them right in the future.💜

  5. @bangtanpodcast says:

    • @bangtanpodcast says:

      because there were a LOT of personalities doing the same thing at the time once they realized the traffic talking about the group brings. I agree though, his segment with BTS was one of the best and he definitely treated them with respect they deserve!

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      Her article was so fun. And I understood her intent in addressing fans’ worries. If ARMYs truly felt he/anyone was using the band for clicks, they could’ve ignored him. I truly got the sense he was a fanboy; just as Ellen was fangirling over them. People accused me of writing about the band for clicks, too, and (for me) that wasn’t/isn’t the case at all. I don’t get paid more if anyone clicks on my story/RTs me. I don’t even accept ads on my website; my syndicate doesn’t pay me more. I say what I like & enjoy engaging with people who have something relevant to add, too. Plus, I always enjoy drawing attention to Asians and fellow Koreans who are doing amazing work. Because, as many of you already know, I am all about #AsianRepresentation.🇰🇷

      • @bangtanpodcast says:

        thank you for this response 🙂 at the end of the day it was a minor worry/problem ARMY had yes! think the fandom becomes more sensitive to how they boys are received when they do promotions here for a bunch of reasons. the Vogue article was a great read — & bangtan’s exposure here is highlighting the flaws still present in writing on Asian & Asian-American artists/public figures here in US! appreciate your critiques, bringing attention to it (esp in generally positive articles like this one) is so so important 🙌🏼

      • Candice says:

        I think it had a lot to do with BTS old english name Bangtan Boys. Being 43, I always address BTS on fancafe or twitter as young men. Regarding the interviews in the US, I think James Corden and Ellen did an amazing job welcoming the group to their show and truly enjoyed having them. On the other hand AMAs little radio or tv interviews were (to my opinion) underestimating BTS’s intelligence with ridiculous questions. A good journalist should well prepare an interview.

  6. Robin says:

  7. Ren says:

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      That’s such a great question! I wrote about Justin Timberlake when he was 18 & touring w/ ‘N SYNC & referred to him as a man, because at 18, he was an adult, not a child.

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