When Ok-Pop Fans Scold Their Idols

The statue of the Hindu god Ganesha flashed onscreen for simply seconds within the music video by Blackpink, an all-female Ok-pop band. The elephant-headed deity was proven on the ground, close to a bejeweled Aladdin lamp, as a member of the band preened and rapped on a golden throne.

That glimpse of Ganesha within the video for “How You Like That” was sufficient for eagle-eyed Ok-pop followers, lots of them in India, to unleash a torrent of criticism towards Blackpink final month, accusing the group of cultural appropriation, of utilizing the non secular object as a prop and of defiling it by inserting it on the bottom. They demanded that the picture be eliminated.

“No hate to the artists but our hindu religion and Gods aren’t a toy/prop/aesthetic for pop culture music videos to use,” a fan from Delhi with the person title Iam_drish wrote on Twitter, including that it wasn’t the primary time Indian and Southeast Asian tradition had been disrespected by Ok-pop.

As the tempest grew, Ganesha instantly vanished from the video posted on YouTube, and followers declared victory. On Wednesday, Blackpink’s administration acknowledged that it had edited the deity out, saying in a press release that its use had been an “unintentional mistake.”

The swift re-editing of the Blackpink video illustrated how Ok-pop followers, who’re deeply invested within the mythmaking of their musical idols, use the web to unfold their messages, attain the artists (and their administration) nearly immediately and get fast outcomes.

Ok-pop, fueled by extremely choreographed musical performances, is South Korea’s greatest cultural export. The nation’s music trade generated greater than $5 billion in income in 2018, most of it from Ok-pop, in response to a white paper revealed by the Korea Creative Content Agency in March. YG Entertainment, the company that manages Blackpink, made $220 million in revenue in 2019.

But the followers are key to the phenomenon, and so they understand it.

They have helped to propel bands like Blackpink to stardom by coordinating mass postings and stunts on social media earlier than an album launch or a star’s birthday — in some instances, even pooling their cash to purchase subway advertisements. Blackpink, whose members use the stage names Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa (actual names Ji-soo Kim, Jennie Kim, Roseanne Park and Lalisa Manoban), has greater than 100 million followers throughout social media platforms.

But Ok-pop followers — an internet-savvy military that spans the globe and counts members of various races, ages and social-economic strata amongst its ranks — are additionally pushing their idols to be socially progressive. They have develop into extra politically lively, claiming to have focused an Oklahoma rally for President Trump’s campaign by registering for hundreds of tickets with no intention of displaying up.

Ok-pop teams are additionally reaching throughout cultural boundaries to search out new muses. The boy band BTS was praised for “Idol,” a tune launched in 2018 that was infused with Afro-beats and Korean folk rhythms.

But bands have additionally stumbled over cultural and racial pink traces. The inclusion of spiritual and socially delicate motifs for his or her opulent-looking video backdrops and candy-colored costumes has led to accusations of cultural misappropriation. Members of Blackpink, for instance, had been criticized for carrying bindis and field braids.

Ganesha was the most recent cultural touchstone to fire up the fan base.

YG Entertainment, Blackpink’s company, was bombarded by social media posts and emails, some of which followed a fan-created template. Fans demanded a public apology and the Ganesha statue’s removing. On June 30, the company uploaded a brand new model of the “How You Like That” video with out the deity. “It was immediately edited when we became aware of it,” stated a YG consultant, Cho Woo-young.

Vedansh Varshney, a 21-year-old college pupil and Ok-pop fan from Delhi, stated of Ok-pop’s cultural mash-ups: “Some people will feel like our culture is represented. But this is not the situation at all when it becomes disrespectful.”

The checklist of comparable Ok-pop scandals features a 2016 social media put up by Taeyang, a singer with the band Big Bang, who used an app to merge his face with an image of Kanye West and want his followers a “Happy Monkey New Year.” In 2017, the group Mamamoo performed a parody of “Uptown Funk” in blackface.

In 2018, a member of the Ok-pop band BTS was photographed carrying a hat with a badge resembling Nazi insignia. That was after a special member of the identical band was seen carrying a T-shirt with an image evoking the atomic bombing of Japan by the United States.

Apologies adopted, together with solutions that cultural ignorance was responsible. But some ask why the bands preserve making comparable errors.

Some consultants level to South Korea’s historical past to clarify the prism by which Ok-pop artists distill international influences and inspiration.

“When you take elements of a culture and use it in a way that demeans or ridicules the people in that culture, that’s disrespectful,” stated Crystal Anderson, an affiliate Korean research school member at George Mason University. “What is often left out of the conversation is how those images and their creators got to places like East Asia in the first place,” Dr. Anderson stated by phone.

South Korea was largely lower off from the surface world throughout the Cold War, with many newspapers, books and movies banned by navy dictators. As the nation opened up within the 1990s, many seemed to America as a mannequin for cultural success. But some racist tropes had been imported and replicated throughout a marketing campaign known as “Let’s learn from Hollywood,” students say.

“When foreign cultures came into Korea, they arrived through the lens of mainstream American media, making the situation prone to distortion,” stated Shim Doobo, a professor of media and communication at Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul. “K-pop has grown faster than the industry had time to raise issues with or reflect on their problematic behavior,” Dr. Shim added.

Even as followers chastise Ok-pop stars for utilizing offensive photos, it’s unclear what number of impartial creative selections the singers are allowed to make. The teams are tightly managed by businesses that dictate virtually every detail of their public lives, from their look to their romantic relationships.

Discussions of racism within the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis have additionally led to requires change in Ok-pop. Last month, many praised BTS’s donation of $1 million to the Black Lives Matter motion, following up with donations of their very own. But Black followers additionally renewed longstanding critiques about Ok-pop, significantly what they noticed as a refusal to acknowledge the style’s influences in Black music, dance and tradition.

Still, although all of the controversies — even the unholy pairing of a Hindu god with gyrating musical stars — the international military of Ok-pop followers has remained fiercely loyal.

Mr. Varshney, the coed from Delhi, stated the style had impressed him to shuck off conventional macho habits and a hypermasculine look. He began studying Korean three years in the past to know the lyrics, and he mashes up K-pop choreography with Bollywood music.

But Mr. Varshney desires his Ok-pop idols to incorporate extra nuanced portrayals of different cultures within the music he loves. “If there is a pattern and we don’t speak out about it, it will keep happening,” he stated.

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