I’m a devoted BTS fan (a Stan as twitter would say) and upon revealing this to people around me, the most common reaction is judgment. I’ve dealt with all sorts of responses; “ larkay hain ya larkian?” , “ they’re overrated”, “ in ki ching chong language kaisay samajh ati hai?” , “ all their fans are twelve-year-old girls”. I would be lying if I say this doesn’t hurt me, but now instead of trying to get my friends to like BTS, I’ve started thinking about why is there so much hatred around them?
Racism and Xenophobia
Western media is filled with deep-rooted racism. It’s this internalized xenophobia translated within the South Asian community as well that leads to a quick disregard of BTS due to their Korean heritage. What’s interesting is that it's visible at both the individual and industry levels. The common belief is that we can’t be racist towards Asians, and that allows various Pakistani people to be extremely disrespectful of various East Asian nationalities.
Secondly the Western industry intensely gate keeps its charts and awards. The remarks regarding their femininity or language simply present the idea that we are unwilling to accept any cultures other than the global north. The colonialism is truly very deep-rooted in our people, they’re willing to sing ‘Despacito’ with no idea of the lyrics, but when it's not Western pop, language suddenly becomes a barrier.
The industry was welcoming of BTS as long as they believed that they were simply a viral group that the public would soon forget. But as BTS fans kept charting songs with longevity, the blatant xenophobia started showing. Various award shows created new categories for K-pop instead of allowing them to compete within mainstream categories. BTS would often not be nominated (as is the case in Grammys) despite achieving more than their Western peers ever will. BTS has been continuously treated like outsiders in an industry that monetizes off their presence and music.
It is insulting to pretend that colored artists are given the respect and credit they deserve for creating music as we know it, just as it is insulting to pretend that white artists are the saviors and pioneers in the music industry when they’re anything but.
A very interesting phenomenon is disregarding musicians or artists that are strongly appreciated by women, or young girls in particular. A very similar fanaticism is seen within men regarding sports but it is considered valid and healthy, and yet women are considered crazy. BTS has one of the most diverse fandoms, with the majority of them being in the 30-40-year-old age group. It is one of the most organized fandoms with various organizations within it; dedicated to helping fellow fans. There are a lawyers' community, tuition for students, donation accounts (making millions of dollars of donations worldwide), medical care organizations, and various more. Going back to my original point, why do we disregard the choices of young women? Are we implying that they are incapable of making sound decisions? There is a lot of misogyny here to unpack.
In the end, I respect your opinions if you simply do not like BTS’s music, but if you have been making the comments mentioned above, perhaps think about why you do so. Please respect your friends if they support BTS or other K-pop bands, and try not to judge!