I am a fan of your blog. I read everything you posted and wish that you updated more often, but I know you have other priorities.
Usually, I am a silent reader, but I am writing to you because I would like to have your opinions on ‘fanart’ like such
I know this type of photoshopped pictures is nothing new in Kpop fandom but I haven’t come across anybody who adresses this issue in depth. I’ve recently spoken up briefly about it in my sub-blog (unfortunately I am not very eloquent)
Most the responses I got from other fans were “It’s just a picture”, “It doesn’t hurt anybody”, “They (the idols) all know about otps/pairings, what’s the big deal?”
While I could point out what is wrong from those ‘arguments’, I would like to hear from another person about this issue.
Do you think it’s really harmless and not a personal violation to the idols in any forms?
And is it considered more explicit than smut fics and drawings?
Another angry Kpop fan
Thank you so much for your message. First of all, I apologize for only responding to this until now. I too also wished I had more time (or better time management skills) to update more often and to answer questions sooner than I tend to; and I especially regret it this very moment since the link to your thoughts on the matter isn’t working anymore. If you’re reading this and have it posted in another source, would you please link it to me?
Moving on to the question at hand. Before I dive into it, I want to clearly state that I’m just expressing what is merely my own opinion. I’m not interested in forcing anyone to agree – that’s up to you to decide on your own.
To be honest, I’m sort of on the fence with such artistic portrayals of real-life people. Subjectively speaking, it’s not my thing. I feel like it is both an exploitation of the image they show us and of the line between their public and private lives – what is our business and what is not our business. For me, this issue is not about sexuality – it does not matter whether the fanart is homoerotic like the ones you linked above, heterosexual or of any sexuality. Arguably, it is unfair to ship any two people who are not a couple in real life, or even go as far as illustrating them in a very erotic way. It is kind of complicated though, because I’m not referring to the fact we shouldn’t be exposing ourselves to anything erotic at all. Sex isn’t something we should be all hush-hush about – I believe we need to talk about it in all its dimensions so that we retreat into our own lives, we are equipped with the abilities to make informed and progressive decisions; but in talking about sex but we should do so in a matter that does not end up blindly dictating who should have sex with who and when. We talk about it for personal empowerment, not power over others. None the less, this distinction gets lost in public discussion. As a public figure, what is ‘private’ and what is ‘public’ are always intertwining and overlapping; and it is usually outsider opinions shape the dialogue surrounding that particular celebrity, thus overpowering their agency. For some reason, I feel this way about outwardly expressed imaginings of real-life celebrities.
I want to bring in the issue of OTP fanfiction, because there are definitely some parallels here. With this and erotic fanart, I feel like:
I’d like to now bring in a comment by adaydreamerstory (thanks for your thoughts!), in which she revisits the specific case of fanfiction:
I know there’s been some time since you had that discussion about fan-fiction on your blog, but I recently came across a post about it -http://beyondhallyu.com/k-pop/kpop-fanfiction-the-disturbing-truth/
I even wrote my opinion on it (http://adaydreamerstory.tumblr.com/post/43302095836), but I’d like to know if you have anything to say about the matter touched there.
In her response, the first of the issues she brings up is the ‘objectification’ of idols:
Yet you can not simply neglect this use of real life persons as mere characters. At least I can’t. Just think about it, you use them, you kind of objectify them […]
You see, you don’t make use of their names only; that would actually be okay. You, as a writer of K-pop fan-fiction, take each and every information you have gathered along the years about them as persons and use that to portray them in your stories. And where do you take that information from? TV shows, mostly. And how manufactured are, usually, their image and personalities on TV? Extremely manufactured. What you see is not necessarily what there really is.
And here is the real problem. You take some already-modified characteristics of K-pop idols, believing them to be quite true, and merge them with your own ideas of how these people are and there you have it, the characters of your fan-fiction.
K-pop fanfiction for me and adaydreamerstory is symbolically a de-personification of real-life people. By carving out characters from these idols – characters that are also extracted from our notions of ‘ideal types’ – we are measuring them according to our own standards. Just as importantly, as this is happens what is unconsciously taking place is a redefinition of the idol as we see them. We are not just creating a character from these idols – the characters that are created are recreating our image of them (mouthful). Of course, this is just me offering a possible understanding. I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone, and if you are aware of it you can help it, but it’s hard. I myself admit it’s difficult to shake off some of the images that have formed in my head around certain idols after reading some stories, and honestly, I don’t enjoy this feeling. I guess as fans (depending on how ‘die-hard’ you are), we are continuously consumed with curiosity about and interest in our favorite idols. We seek satisfaction to complete the image of the idol in our heads since it’s lacking in so many attributes, particularly in terms of their private life and intimate affairs. In other words, we don’t know the idol but we would like to. Fanfiction gives us that immediate, satisfaction. It’s not real, and we know it’s not real, but part of the art of fiction is its power to consume its audience, even if it’s only temporary.
The second issue adaydreamerstory brings up are the implications of how these idols are portrayed in fanfiction:
But do tell me how often did you find a K-pop fan who doesn’t get influenced by the stories he writes or reads? As that post suggested, there is indeed quite a bit of trouble with the ages some of them have and the maturity level the fan-fiction they read/write involves. My problem is not the age itself; it is the level of maturity one has […]
[…] they grow up with wrong ideas about many aspects of life, such as friendship, love, career, success, sex etc. and with an unreal impression of those who they admire. Speaking of girls only, suddenly they “learn” to think that a relationship should involve a certain amount of violence for it to be true love, because let’s be honest here - how many fan-fictions use scenes of the girl being pinned on the wall by the boy or being held way too tight by her wrists or being told way too often what to do or not?
And will they be able to look objectively at a music video or even a K-pop idol or listen to a song without starting to judge them based on fictional realities? What is worse, as I’ve said before, they will use these standards in real life too. Which is a pity. Because that means they deform reality based on fiction.
This goes back to my point about talking about sex (or love and life) in public in a way that allows empowerment, not domination, especially when it comes to a very young audience. As adaydreamerstory points out, reading about one’s favorite idol overpowering her physically, violently pinning her against the wall before smashing his lips onto hers as she resists is going to leave a young girl and boy who has yet to learn about or acquire real-life experience in love and sex romanticizing about relationships that involve such situations. Little would they be aware that in the nonfiction world, this can be justified as rape.
Generally speaking, much of the fanfiction out there are imbued with such romanticizations, and it’s a cycle that constantly reproduces itself: writers who have such fantasies produce stories that reflect them, who are read by readers who walk away after being ‘taught’ about life and love, some of which may write more stories or allow these expectations to lead their lives. In the context of fanfictions, there could little room for internal negotiation of what one reads especially if the will to think critically is not there. People often read fanfiction to ‘escape’ from real life, but if we’re not careful, we return to reality with slightly skewed interpretations. If we’re not aware of how flawed these interpretations are, we may later end up realizing it the hard way.
Let’s return to the first question about erotic fanart. When we factor in sexuality, and when we look specific into the case of homoerotic fanart, maybe for some people, sexuality may be too intimate or complex of a matter to be, I guess, playing imaginatively around with. Such art, especially if it’s a product of fantasy or for personal gratification, can be seen as an instrumentalization of a real-life matter with real-life implications. It can also be seen as the romanticization of a certain sexuality*. Homosexual love happens between people from all walks of life, coming in all shapes and sizes, not in a neatly-arranged package that allows you to recognize it once you see it. Think about why any portrayal of LGBTPQIA* in the media is more often than not controversial – casting aside ‘homophobic’* opinions, there are those who are divided between “hey this is awesome finally diversity and acceptance in popular culture” and “they are stereotyping the community not every LGBTPQIA* is like that.” Moreover, for some sexualities in certain cultural/social contexts, implications are often more negative than they are positive. In South Korea, for example, coming out still continues to elicit personal attacks, shunning from communities or all of society, etc. How fair is it to fictionally ship Korean idols as a homosexual couple when in reality, this same situation can unfortunately get them into quite a bit of trouble? Does freedom of expression and or right to personal creativity trump reflections of real-life implications?
*But don’t we always romanticize heterosexual love, and in so many ways at that? Maybe because it’s so normalized such romanticizations have barely any negative implications on the shaping of our perceptions because we’re so exposed to it on a daily basis?
*The ” because is it really a phobia or are you just choosing to be ignorant?
*This asterisk after LGBTPQIA (also commonly seen after ‘trans’) indicates not just what is abbreviated (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/trans*, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or ally), but also the inclusion of many identities, such as transgender, transsexual, trans-men, trans-women, genderqueer, agender, gender-fluid, gender non-conforming, non-binary, androgyn, bigender, and a ton more. This is to allow recognition for the both diversity of identities that currently exist, the fact that they are fluid through time and space, and the fact that there may be more identities to be realized in the future.
On the other hand, it’s progressive to convince ourselves that hey, this isn’t a big deal, and it shouldn’t be. Putting myself in an idol’s shoes, if I saw a photoshopped picture of me and a group-mate of the same sex in an intimate position, I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t freak out even the slightest bit because goddamn that’s ME AND MY UNNIE/DONGSAENG, but certainly not from the fact that this is a homosexual portrayal while I currently identify as a heterosexual. I wouldn’t allow myself to. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the mistaken assumption – I myself have been specifically asked many times if I identified as lesbian or bisexual, and I found no reason to feel offended nor disturbed (except for the thought that generally speaking, for some people certain behaviors or choices, especially those that ‘deviate from gender expectations’, are valid indicators of certain sexualities. Liking pink if you’re a guy does not mean you’re gay. Likewise, playing football does not mean you’re straight.) Furthermore, what if we allow ourselves to see the potential in such expressions to foster openness towards not only homosexuality within the K-pop fandom, but towards the fact that some of these idols may in fact be lesbian, gay, or of a non-heterosexual identity? What if we allow these images or thoughts to become ‘normalized*’? Then again, this may be too optimistic of me; and even the process of normalization is a capricous one – does homosexuality in all its forms become normalized, or a certain image of homosexuality?
*Is normalization the appropriate word…?
To sum it up, my opinions are all over the place. Personally, I’m not into fanart and fanfiction as much as others may (and I provided my thoughts on why), but I’m cool with the fact that the K-pop fandom is full of people who do. It’s up to the individual, really. People have shared different reasons for engaging in this pastime, and when it comes down to it, it’s all subjective. All I wish is for people to be able to distinguish the line between reality and fantasy, which makes all the difference in turning this pastime from safe and fun to harmful.
I would really appreciate it if you guys joined in with your thoughts. I recognize I’m treading really sensitive waters here, so my most sincere apologies if I said something that you found offensive. Please bring it to my attention and I’ll rephrase it, clarify myself, or I’ll ask for clarification because there is still a lot to learn when it comes to this issue and the language we ought to address it with, and I mean absolutely no harm nor disrespect despite what I have yet to understand.