Idols’ Inherent Distances Due to Packaging

**Inspired by Are K-Pop Idols Stupid? by Patricia. Strongly suggested read. It’s well-written and a good source of thought food, enjoy!

So I recently went from a full-on Triple S to an insane Cassie going head over heels for JYJ and DBSK. I honestly went through a severe guilt phase, especially whenever I look at my SS501 collections in passing. How and why, I’ve wondered, was I able to make such quick transitions? Was I not as attached to SS501 as I imagined?

I’ve always taken a liking towards DB5K, ever since I was introduced to them by a close friend in 2008, but never went beyond the point of mere appreciation for their music and performances. I didn’t develop a passion towards them as individuals like I did with SS501, I couldn’t squeal at their every word or appearance on shows. Even during 2009, when the hiatus and lawsuit broke out, I didn’t pay that much attention and had no reaction other than a light looming thought of “there went another good performance group.” It wasn’t until this past year, late in 2011, that I fell uncontrollably in love with JYJ. And in turns, I got a chance to look at Homin, and contrary to most who were JYJ fans first, I didn’t dislike them; blame Changmin, he is too adorable.

Now, in attempts to answer the questions posed above, I want to dive a little deeper regarding SS501, JYJ and Homin’s public images, their interactions with fans, and how they root in my world. Please don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely adore Double S, they are crazy sweet to watch and makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

For those who know SS501, they are really the sweetest thing on earth. They provide laughter and warmth through silly actions, showing deep bonds of brotherhood and love, and just being their lighthearted selves. Them being simple, kind, and almost always happy had certainly made them likeable, yes; but the problem is, the more one-sided their expressed emotions are, the less human they seem. I’m not saying that they are like plastic dolls that exerts happiness, but they don’t exhibit negative emotions such as sadness or anger. And this, I guess, makes them distant to me.

Of course, I don’t want to suggest that Hyun Joong, Young Saeng, Kyu Jong, Jung Min, or Hyung Joon are simple-minded. In fact, I know they are all bright boys. Instead, what I want to propose is that their public images lack depth. As the SB article argued, it is a lot easier for the general public to like a simple person; so of course, in order to not have an idol group to fail miserably, an agency would certainly package a group to simple, happy people for entertainment purposes. I mean, let’s be honest, who wants to sit and watch a person rage or angst on television for fun?

The problem is, the current packaging carries it way too far. Most idols only reference funny occurrences, their ideal types, their beautiful visions for their futures, and the standard celebrity spazz/rumor. There’s no depth in their topics, and I have difficulties finding a celebrity as someone I can have a long conversation on topics like, say, education or religion over a 3 hour coffee chat. Certainly, finding an idol to be pro-choice, pro-life, atheist, or even deeply religious can be such a turn-off, but these deeper thoughts and qualities provide other reasons to love an idol beyond his or her looks and entertainment values. Which generally result in more faithful fans.

I can like a simple person, but I can’t love one. And that pretty much sums up the reason behind my drastic change from being a Triple S to a die-hard JYJer (with a hint of Cassie). While JYJ and HoMin may be less entertaining to look at, especially now, I feel that they are more easily approachable since they are sharing their inner thoughts more frequently. In particular, I want to point out JYJ.

I swear, ever since they got their twitter accounts, my love for them has been growing exponentially. Granted, all the messages must have been done after some consideration, and none of them would be raw thoughts – but still, they are offering what is on their minds like normal people. Remember that Junsu-SM twitter flaming war? Yeah, it sucked, but I think I got to see Junsu’s perspective a little more, which made me like him more also. What I’m truly trying to say, and not to sound like a sociopath, is that when these boys show their pain, their anger, their regrets and things of that fashion, they seem real. They seem like someone I can actually meet on the streets. I feel more connected to them as an individual because it’s no longer a relationship where fans merely look up at the idols , but rather I feel that I can be supportive and pat on their backs as an equal being.

Beyond these negative emotions, I love when idols offer up their philosophies, or share things that have inspired them. This is precisely where my obsession with Jaejoong began. His occasional twitter messages of life views, of philosophy, and sometimes, of wisdom really made me look at him in a different light. I can’t help but taking a liking for wise people, they make me feel like I’ve much to learn which instigates me to get closer and hence more emotionally attached.

There is a fine line between offering the public a glimpse of your inner thoughts to gain the opportunity of liking you more and letting them know too much which winds up being a turn-off. After all, it’s not just celebrities, a normal person struggles with this in everyday life. The more difficult aspect of this problem for idols is that,when they are facing this so-called general public, instead of confronting their colleagues or classmates, they are up against a crowd whom they cannot place a face to, let alone knowing what the audience would approve or not. I understand the troubles and difficulties, but honestly, I’m getting sick of seeing people’s reaction towards any idol group be some mere comment like “they are hot” or “they have pretty legs”. I mean, if I’m getting disgusted over these superficial reasons for admiration and liking, what else would the idols themselves feel?

By packaging celebrities as simple and not-so-intelligent beings, the agencies are essentially attempting to sell them by their looks – which, I would imagine, is only capable of instigating short-term liking. It’s like falling in love with a person: if you only dug him or her over the looks, when someone better looking rolls around, it’s easy to be inclined to change target and walk away. And there will always be someone hotter.

Sure, making idols dumb in appearance is certainly a safe tactic to go. When they are all happy and cheery, though acting stupid, it’s hard for the general public to dislike them. But when it comes to creating that tight bond between the fans and the celebrity, a deeper layer of the idol must be revealed. After all, I can’t say that I love someone without knowing what and how they really think, can I?

Lylis

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