The wake of the Shopee Blackpink fanmeet scandal was a trail of intrigue, deception, and K-pop stan-sponsored scorched earth. The online retailer has been accused by fans of scamming customers, failing to deliver their promises on a promo that would reward top-spending Blackpink fans with special privileges. Shopee would come to learn the hard way, through the hell-hath-no-fury brand of K-pop stan outrage, not to mess with a fandom as devoted as the Blinks.
The Department of Trade and Industry is in the middle of investigating Shopee and the members of Blackpink are pretty much fine. Given these ends, one would normally consider the fuss and mess wrapped up and done with. But also left to fill the wake of the scandal were takes about K-pop fans — how they’d be better off redirecting their fervor towards more important things. Causes, advocacies, national issues, you get the idea.
It’s not a wrong opinion, but it’s corny. It’s a corny take. It’s corny, exasperating, shit out of nuance, and it buckles under the weight of how much it misunderstands politics, devotion, energy, community, and the ways we search for meaningful experiences. It’s a bad take, and the people who made it should be embarrassed. I’m not even a K-Pop fan (I do love Kill This Love though, even though it has WAY too many horns) and even I know this.
Imagining people overthrowing authoritarian governments with the same ardor as scorned Blinks is an amusing thought, but that’s just not how getting mad works.
We’re all grown up enough to know that there will always be more important things to be angry about, systemic problems whose pervasiveness totally eclipse our smaller, day-to-day sorrows and frustrations. Game of Thrones had a crappy finale? Farmers are starving! Your boyfriend broke up with you? Go cry a river, the children of immigrants are being detained at the border. There’s always going to be another, terrible soul-shattering thing doing more damage that what’s immediately inconvenience you.
So what? Does that mean in order to be good, we have to constantly feel philanthropic grief?
I get why it’s a tempting stance to take. Imagining people overthrowing authoritarian governments with the same ardor as scorned Blinks is an amusing thought, and I’d like to think that such cataclysmic things are possible in our lifetime. But that’s just not how getting mad works. Isn’t it fallacious to assume that anger is a feeling that can just be redirected from one thing to another, like fuel through a valve? Sounds a lot like feelings of dissent mimicking the organizational tendencies of capital.
The more sensible thing to do would be to say, hey, the #ShopeeScandal is just one symptom of an ideology that allows businesses to cheat their consumers and cut corners just to make money. The truth is, awakening the political consciousnesses of others means educating others, promoting good will in your communities, participating in the parliament of the streets, and other things that don’t involve shaming others for their interests.
And shaming Blinks for being disproportionately angry seems to be the heart of this issue, isn’t it? I get that some fans go way too far when it comes to proving their devotion or commitment to a thing they like, but speaking as someone who genuinely likes a lot of problematic shit with annoying fanbases (Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman come to mind), fandoms will always have toxic people in them. What about Blackpink fans who actually do devote time and energy to big issues? Are we just going to lump them in with more unsavory personalities?
Why don’t we say these sorts of things about other fandoms? How about neckbeards who want politics out of their precious video games?
This kind of thoughtless moralizing from a place of condescending infantilization, one that paints the interests of young people (young women, especially) as frivolous. Why don’t we say these sorts of things about other fandoms? How about neckbeards who want politics out of their precious video games?
Accusing K-pop fans of being thoughtless when they get a little mob-like obscures the reality that their interests give them a sense of meaning, community, and belonging. I’ll leave it to the Blinks to call out the more zealous of their own. In the meantime, we on the outside had better get to work on thinking of better hills to die on.