I grew up on boy bands. From NSYNC to One Direction, I loved them all through feuds, breakups and rumors. So, when BTS took the forefront of the music industry, it would only be natural for me to become a fan, but I never really looked into them. Even when everyone around me started to listen to them, I convinced myself that I was finally past my lifelong boy band stage. Then, I got a call from my sister asking if I wanted to go to a concert with her, so I finally put my hesitations aside and listened to their songs. Just like that, I was yet again hooked on another boy band like I had been so often before. The only difference here was that I had bought into society’s stereotypes and judgements and allowed them to stop me from pursuing something new.
Society tends to demean things like boy bands for a variety of reasons that are fueled by prejudices, but because it is assumed that they are just meant for crazy teenage girls, we ignore the deeper implications behind these jokes. Our attitude towards these groups reveals the prejudices our society fosters and how we get away with it at the expense of young girls.
When you think about it, sports and boy bands are not that different. A football team and a boy band are both groups of men who perform together, whether it be a game or music. There is, however, one big difference: Sports are considered cool, and their fans are socially accepted; boy bands are lame, and their fans are fanatical. The cause of this difference is that sports are supposed to be for men, and boy bands are supposed to be for girls.
The obvious issue here is that media is not created for solely men or women to like. There are no limitations to who can be a fan of what. Women like sports, not because they want to look cool or impress men, but because they like sports. Men like boy bands, not because they aren’t real men, but because they like boy bands. People can like whatever they want and that isn’t up for further interpretation.
However, there are deeper implications of society’s rejection of what is stereotyped as a woman’s hobby. Firstly, there’s the indication that women are too simple-minded and easily pleased to actually have an interest in something with depth, as if running into each other to chase a ball is modern-day poetry. By passing off a woman’s interest by saying the only appeal is that it’s pretty or cute, it implies that we aren’t capable of liking anything of substance because we’re too concerned with appearances.
This leads to the second assumption that women are obsessive and fanatical. The stereotype of hysterical women is prevalent throughout literature, history and even Disney movies. For example, you might recall the scene in Hercules where women chase him around. However, a stereotype is exactly what this is and that’s all. Again, things aren’t reserved specifically for men or women; it’s just that the incidents involving women are sensationalized while those pertaining to men are swept under the rug.
There are plenty of examples of men lashing out in sports-related incidents. Take, for example, the man who assaulted two women at a football game, or Sen. Bill Cassidy talking about a call in a football game on the Senate floor after the longest government shutdown our nation has ever had. However, these incidents don’t define men and their interests, just like the perpetuation of a tired stereotype shouldn’t define women and their interests.
As if this isn’t enough of an issue on its own, it worsens when you throw in a cultural factor. Western society’s preconceived notions of international artists, especially those that are considered to be marketed towards young women, cause them to become a taboo despite their growing popularity worldwide, revealing our fear of things that differ from our norms.
A prime example of this is Western cultures’ difficulty accepting the success of K-pop sensation, BTS. After the band members were ranked within the top ten of the 100 Most Handsome Faces of 2018, hosts of the Greek talk show Eutixiete faced backlash for making ignorant comments questioning their masculinity and appearance. This isn’t an isolated mindset as a similar incident occurred when the hosts of the Mexican talk show Farandula 40 compared the band to an LGBT group performing at a gay bar and female truck drivers. What this shared bigotry reveals is just how much racism and homophobia we still foster in our society is swept under the rug under the guise of poking fun of things girls like.
The outrage that has been invoked by BTS’s success highlights how we are incapable of accepting minorities as something more than the expectations they have been cast under. Just three years ago, the Oscars aired a joke insinuating that all Asians are destined to be accountants and engineers. With these jokes that perpetuate racist stereotypes in our mainstream media, our culture has become numb to the fact that they are just stereotypes and not truths. Because the popularity of BTS on an international level defies all the labels and categorizations society has placed Asians and specifically Asian men under, people are opposed and threatened by them, causing such visceral, hostile reactions.
Additionally, one of the many appeals of BTS is the fact that the group is made up of seven men who are confident enough in their masculinity to be more open about who they are. All the things that western cultures reject men for doing such as showing emotion, appreciating fashion and cosmetics, and maintaining healthy friendships, BTS embraces. While this is what makes so many fans appreciate them, it is also something that makes our society uncomfortable. The fact that these men so confidently counter the characteristics that society has associated with the image of strong men and its positive reception signifies a means for a change to the norms that we typically accept, making those who strongly believe in them feel threatened.
The way in which Western culture treats boy bands indicates a plethora of flaws. Our society allows the perpetuation of misogyny, fragile masculinity, homophobia and racism by disguising it all as poking fun at something crazy teenage girls like. If people actually took the time to appreciate and understand why these groups are so popular, they would understand why it is so great to have such influences in the media. The positivity and meaningful messages that they share throughout their art are important for young people to see. Rejecting things that are new and innovative is rejecting the opportunity for our younger generations to grow and change society for the better.