When I was in high school, I used to dismiss and sometimes laugh at my friends who love K-Pop. For me, a group of men doing synchronized dancing with matching uniform is just too weird and feminine. The girls were too weirdly dressed and the stigma of plastic surgery made me appreciate them less. Granted, their songs might be catchy, but it was not a strong enough pull noting the “plasticity” and the “femininity” factor of K-Pop.
This was until I entered university and the Hallyu wave (or the Korean craze) hit many parts of Asia, including the university that I was studying in. My (male) friend introduced me to Girls’ Generation or SNSD – and boy, karma does exist, it didn’t take me too long to like them and their seemingly perfect legs. It was just a short hype, no longer than two months or so. However, not long after, out of curiosity I heard the more upbeat songs of GD & TOP (of Big Bang). I started with the song “High High” and really, it hooked me almost instantly! I really loved the song (from a musical perspective) (and not to mention TOP’s ultra-sharp jaw line…) and slowly I found their music to be…acceptable.
Cutting the story short, my encounter with SNSD and GD & TOP led me to the world of K-Pop. Surely the synchronized dancing is still pretty much there in the industry, so does the rumors of plastic surgery, and debates about the slavery-like contract of the idols and the immense pressure of Korean showbiz industry – but I got hooked. I find it to be very entertaining at times and I just simply enjoy it.
I have lived days where I would watch SNSD’s The Boys and their live version of Genie over and over again, ship YongSeo in We Got Married, went crazy over Jung Yong Hwa (of CNBlue). Now, I am a HUGE (all-caps, no regrets) fan of Winner (#teamMino), am patiently waiting for Big Bang’s “D” series to be launched in a few hours, am an avid listener of 2NE1, and (you guessed it) a YG stan.
Although I can tell you Song Minho’s birthday (30 March 1993) or the history behind “Banmal Song” (Goguma Couple!), up to this moment I have never really proclaimed or identified myself as a diehard K-Pop fan. I even distanced myself from being labeled as the “K-Pop fan”. When I told my friend that I like a Korean boy group, I spent about a minute or two explaining why I like their songs and how this band is the “okay part of K-Pop industry” and “it’s not what you think it is”.
I have always tried to justify my liking of K-Pop.
I don’t want people to know that I like K-Pop.
The reason behind that is that I don’t want people’s perception around me to change. I’ve always thought and observed that K-Pop has this negative stigma that if you like K-Pop, you are a superficial person that can be really freaky at times who loves feminine guys and plastic girls. It’s almost as if you’re not cool anymore. And I don’t want people to label me as the freaky fangirl.
Truth be told, when I shared something related to K-Pop be it in the real world or in my social networking sites, people would have various responses. Some were positive, some were neutral, but it’s the negative responses that got stuck with me. Some people did say “huh, never thought that you’re that kind of person who likes K-Pop. I thought you’re more of the cool girl who likes Western music”. Some said “what???? What on earth are you doing liking K-Pop??” Some would go as far as “are you really serious now? Do you need me to pour mercury into you so that you’ll come to your senses?” Thus with fear of being mocked at, I shut myself.
I shut myself and conveyed the message that I like Julie London and Ella Fitzgerald (fyi, I honestly do) so that people would still think I’m the okay girl. It is sad that I have to partially conceal myself so that it will be more acceptable to people.
I succumbed to public stereotypes and I let people’s judgment dictate what I do and what I project to the society.
It took me perhaps a couple of years or so to finally realize that my hiding and denying of my musical preference (for God’s sake it’s just a simple thing – music!) is me rejecting a part of me. How would I expect people to be okay with it whereas at the same time me myself is busy denying it? I rejected, looked down and laughed at myself for something that I honestly enjoy! I was not even at peace with myself!
For something as seemingly simple as a favorite artist or musical preference, it was such a drama (ahem, I just made a 804 words long blogpost above to admit that I like K-Pop) and it made me realize how evil judgmental behavior could be. Extending it beyond musical preference, I realized how our millions of little daily activities and decision making is heavily impacted by fear of other people’s judgment or perception on us – what we are wearing today (will this make me look fat? Is this cardigan outdated already? What if people think this is a cheap dress?), what we tweeted or posted in the social networking sites (will this tweet make me look witty? I don’t want to sound stupid or superficial. Is this post consistent with the hipster image I’ve been trying to portray?), what we post in our blog (will this blogpost make my friends laugh at me?).
Let the avid cosplayer cosplay their favorite character; let our romantic, poetic friend post their pages long poem; let our girl friends who love make up do a make up vlog in YouTube; let our activist friends support the cause they believe in. Really, your life is yours to enjoy – don’t let people limit them for you.
K-Pop is just an analogy. Every day, everyone is dealing with stereotypes and judgments. It’s tiring, useless and vain to keep up with what people are expecting us to do. I have finally came to terms with myself –
And finally admitting, I love K-Pop.
P.S.: through this post, please allow me apologize to my high school friends whom I used to laugh at for liking K-Pop. *bows*
P.P.S.: here’s one of my favorite performances of Winner (especially love that first song – Go Up):