I used to be on my high horse when it came to K-Pop, going as far as saying that I don’t think I’ll ever get into it. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s confusing and intimidating — the spectacle, language barrier, and intensity of its fanbase were enough factors for me to withdraw.
As a former obsessive fangirl, I thought that I had graduated from it all. I spent most of my early teens invested in bands and the whole pop-punk scene. Back then, All Time Low, The Maine, Paramore, and the like were the center of my universe. It then evolved to a deeply tumultuous hang-up with One Direction that lasted for years.
Turns out, the fixation is mostly hardwired in you.
It was baffling to see my best friend get pulled into the vortex of K-Pop, and since I live with her, I couldn’t get away from it. Suddenly, there was this obvious gap between us that I didn’t understand — literally, because all I could hear was Korean. In short: major FOMO.
Being the neurotic lady that I am, it was only a matter of time before I gave in and found out what it was all about. First, it was the music videos (it always kind of starts there), next came knowing their names and listening to their hits, then it escalated to a point where I was spending countless hours watching videos.
Somewhere along the beginnings of adulthood, I thought I lost the capacity to actively care about something that wouldn’t necessarily love me back.
Since I was familiar with the customs of stan culture, I eased right into it. I was searching for every bit of information that I could consume, learning the references and inside jokes, and familiarizing myself with the ins and outs of how the industry works. And with K-Pop, the content is abundant — I have never been this spoonfed by any band, group, or artist. Years later, I was once again fully engrossed with a thing, and it made me retrace parts of myself that I thought I had abandoned long ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still always excited about things, but not like this. In romantic terms, it’s almost like unrequited love — and the thing is, you don’t mind. It just makes you happy. Somewhere along the beginnings of adulthood, I thought I lost the capacity to actively care about something that wouldn’t necessarily love me back. I just didn’t expect it to be in the form of an entity that I used to be so aggressively indifferent about.
I learned a few things as well — that I still have to be more critical of myself when it comes to internalized racism of other Asian cultures, that just because you don’t understand something means it’s beyond you, and that feeling strongly about something is never silly or wrong. It made me protective of a community too, as K-Pop can sometimes be looked down upon.
With my love for it came the rush of being fiercely curious again. It made me relive being in my early teens, eager and passionate about my interests. It made me feel young — fervent and willing to love something so uninhibitedly.