Came across another featurette (bless English subs) in which interviewees brought up two points integral to our discussion on ‘sasaeng’ fans (read it here: Part 1 and Part 2). There’s also the issue of ‘different types’ of ‘sasaeng’ fans — those who are not so much harmful as they are helpful. More under the cut.
THE ‘HERO SYNDROME’
The first is another theory we can add to our mini collection of hypotheses: the “hero syndrome.” The psychologist in the video (3:26) attributed ‘a degree’ of this complex (found mostly among civil servants such as police, doctors, nurses, and fire fighters) as a possible co-force behind sasaeng tendencies.
I couldn’t find any formal studies specifically on the ‘hero syndrome’ — the only thing I came across was this article from the New York Times. Accordingly, this phenomenon is the cause behind many ‘vanity crimes’ (albeit relatively rare) in which an individual commits a dangerous act to create an opportunity for themselves to act out as the ‘hero’. For example, a firefighter might intentionally set a building ablaze, only to put it out in the end. Reasons for such bizarre inclinations has something to do with “our culture’s obsession with fame” - a distorted need to reaffirm one’s importance or identity and align attention to oneself in a society where it is easy to be forgotten, especially with a very ubiquitous celebrity culture. I don’t think we’d be going out on a limb to assert that this has something to do with personality disorders as well, particular the “anxious-preoccupied” type in which there is a constant need for one to seek personal validation from others (as you may recall, the same model from which we can base ‘sasaeng’-esque tendencies off).
According to the video,
In some degree, [sasaeng fans] are affected by the hero syndrome and try to show they are more exceptional to the crowd regardless of torments celebrities receive.
In a way, going after celebrities and trying to collect as much personal information (and even recognition by and a sense of ‘closeness’ to the idols themselves, albeit antagonist) as they can, this is how ‘sasaeng’ fans assert themselves are better or ‘more elite’ than their peers. This, in conjunction with, again, degrees of severe developmental anomalies, and the very ‘oppa-is-yours’ vibe K-pop likes to market itself with.
HOUSEBREAKING AND ASSAULT IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE!
Apparently, it is! What these fans are doing is definitely against the law — breaking and entering and “indecent assault” can earn one up to 10 years in prison. So why the lack of indictments? Does it have something to do with the fact that many of these fans are juveniles?
Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that managers and idols are not taking action themselves.
Above is a documentary about some of the extremities found within K-pop fandom (‘sasaeng’ fans included) available on YouTube, but with no English subs, unfortunately. My roommate filled me in on some of its vital points (if you’re reading this, thank you!), one of which is that most managers consider it the lesser evil to actually leave these ‘sasaeng’ fans alone, as opposed to taking legal action. I’m not so sure why, but if I’m allowed to hypothesize, the latter could cause some fans to turn their backs to their idols. As we all know, K-pop thrives off the love given to it by its fans, and knowing what these ‘sasaeng’ fans are capable of, it might be a wiser choice to stay on their good side. That assumption may be a little bit out there, but there’s also this possibility: charging young students for criminal offences will obviously not resonate well with a lot of people, especially parents. It’s evident that the approach that needs to be taken is not legal but in fact educational, via civil services that cater to the unmet needs of these young fans that cause them to engage in such acts in the first place.
‘SASAENG’ FANS: THREATENING OR ACCOMMODATING?
I mentioned in my previous posts the possibility of there being ‘different levels’ or ‘gradients’ of ‘sasaeng’-ism; and indeed there is. The English literature I came across did not mention the following pieces of information the above documentary included: some ‘sasaeng’ fans invest in food and other necessities to give to their oppas when they’re on their schedule. The documentary talks about one case in which a group of ‘sasaeng’ fans brought a food truck to an idol (or idol group’s) filming set and had them serve lunch to not only the celebrit(ies), but to the rest of the production crew. Many idols talk about how they sometimes don’t have enough time to eat (or food to eat), so when such a deed is done I’m sure it doesn’t go unappreciated.
There is one thing I’m OCing over, however: are such fans still ‘sasaeng’? Does the label ‘sasaeng’ only connote the violence and privacy-breaching aspects of the phenomenon, or is it fixed on its literal definition and encompasses all fans who engage themselves in a celebrity’s private life, whether it be something charitable like donating meals or terrorizing like breaking into their homes at night? Then again, what do we make of this all when we have the very same fans doing things of both ends of the spectrum?
There’s also what they call ‘auntie fans’ (though I don’t know if they too count as ‘sasaeng’). These are way older fans (usually in their late 30s and above) who have legitimate jobs and families, but stan idol groups on the side. None the less, according to the documentary, they’re not like their younger counterparts who literally stalk around celebrities. Instead, they donate not only food but furniture, appliances, and even medication to their favorite idols. Their intentions seem quite motherly, actually; and that’s exactly what was implied in the documentary. One particular ‘auntie fan’ claimed that the more she watched her favorite idol on television, the more she couldn’t help but see him as her own, and in need of exclusive care and support. The documentary also interviewed the mother of a young (and upcoming?) idol, who said that she was very grateful to her son’s ‘auntie’ fandom. I definitely understand where she’s coming from. With my son being away from home pursuing his dreams of stardom, of course I’d worry; but knowing that he’s being sent everyday necessities would strangely reassure me that he’s being looked after, albeit by people I don’t know or don’t see.
Look at him. Whether it be a high-schooler or an ahjumma, wouldn’t want to give this adorable choco-pie free food. (source: watermark)
At the slightest bit, these bits and pieces redefine our conceptions of ‘sasaeng’ fans (or even K-pop fandom as a whole). What ought to be done and how to go about doing it is still highly subject to debate; and may even include as far as what Patricia from Seoulbeats suggested: restructuring the entire K-pop industry to ameliorate such intensities, if that indeed is the direction we all ultimately agree to pursue… even if also ends up discouraging acts of benevolence such as preparing meals or donating refrigerators*.
*Then again, if we were to give the industry a full-blown makeover, idols wouldn’t need such donations, right?