I don’t much care for k-pop. I don’t watch many Korean dramas. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV. I don’t follow “idols” or really pay attention to what they do.
Last week I was teaching a class. One of my students asked me for my thoughts on the recent suicides of Korean idols Sulli and Goo Hara. Honestly, I didn’t know who they were and only heard of them after their passing. As I mentioned above, I don’t know much about any of these things.
I normally pride myself on being cultured enough to be able to discuss any topic that might come up socially. I wasn’t prepared for this one at all. I had to think.
After a quick search, I read a little about both their stories. I won’t go into either much here.
Quite surely I can say I was saddened greatly by both. Over the past 5-7 years I’ve seen a scary shift in my students. They didn’t used to come to class in full makeup. They didn’t used to place mirrors on their desks as they sat down next to their books. They didn’t used to tell me about how it was okay because their makeup was made safe for kids.
They never had to.
I have a friend that terms this the Elsa syndrome. Elsa, as in the character from Frozen. He did a research paper where he asked 50 children in the UK their favourite star in Frozen and 47 said Anna. He did the same thing in Korea and 50 said Elsa. Shocking, really. Elsa is seen as the epitome of beauty whereas Anna is simply, “cute.”
“No one likes cute, loud girls!” One middle school student exclaimed.
I don’t make social commentaries much. I don’t really like to. I’m more of a head in the sand kind of guy.
I like my bubble.
That said, these idols’ stories hit me hard. I should preface I don’t know the full stories. I only know what I read and see.
Most of it felt so,
These girls lived with ideals thrust upon them they could never really live up to. I don’t know why they would want to. But I understand why they might feel the need to.
It’s sad. The ghosts of keyboard warriors following everywhere. The scrutiny. The ever-knowing knowledge that some battles can’t be won. Some foes too strong.
Age. There will always be someone prettier. Always someone younger. Always someone who needs less makeup to promote the use of more. Someone who is funnier, cuter, and more interesting. Someone purer.
Better singers or actors or actresses? Hardly the point.
A sad reality that fandom isn’t a dictatorship. It’s a democracy in the worst kind of way. It’s a kingdom that’s always at war, both civil and otherwise. It’s a place of revolt and anarchy.
“You’re dating who?!”
“You did what?!”
I asked one of my students two days ago about her love for BTS. I asked her how she felt about them being famous on a global stage.
“Ah, I liked them when I was younger (she’s now 14). I’m a _____________ fan now.”
“Who’s BTS?!” She laughed.
Nicely written, I am dreading the K pop safety video again on my Korean Air flight from Seoul to oz tomorrow.
Ah..i couldn’t edit my comment, the 2nd part was meant to say, it is worth reflecting on the impacts popular culture has on real lives. A thoughtful post.
Josh I had a great niece who was model beautiful, smart in school and a great athlete. No one knows why but she took her life by overdose.