K-Pop and K-Dramas: BTS and the Teenage Girl Argument

Shot from a BTS photoshoot. (From left) Park Jimin (Jimin), Kim Taehyung (V), Jeon Jungkook (Jungkook), Kim Seokjin (Jin), Kim Namjoon (RM), Min Yoongi (Suga), and Jung Hoseok (J-Hope). All rights go to BTS’s Instagram and social media as well as ‘Big Hit Entertainment’.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Sick of BTS yet? Unlikely. Recently I’ve been expanding my collection of BTS merch and I came across a magazine that made me want to address this topic even more than I already wanted to. It has become increasingly clear that we have to have this conversation, and what better way than through BTS? Because they are the newest example of a group being looked down on by a certain group of people for specific things that really don’t make any sense whatsoever. Specifically, I’m talking here about the teenage girl argument. This phenomenon seems to occur largely around what society has labeled ‘boy bands’, but can sometimes also occur surrounding fiction like ‘Twilight’. So why does being associated with teenage girls cause a specific piece of media to be looked down on? And what exactly does this have to do with BTS?

Society’s Punching Bags:

If you haven’t heard the phrase “Teenage girls are society’s punching bags”, I’ll give you a brief explanation of what that means right now. Do you remember the ‘Twilight’ or Justin Bieber fiascos? It’s unlikely that you don’t. People were ruthlessly bullied in middle schools and high schools alike for liking either one of these things, and god forbid you like them both. Yes, they both had their problems. Sometimes a lot of problems. But that wasn’t what initially drew the ire of the public. People were taught to look down on these things specifically because tween and teenage girls liked them. I remember this so clearly because I was a part of this. Though I never shared these opinions to anyone who had a true love of either of these things, I possessed an irrational hatred for them both. I cringed at the name of either and I blanched at the thought of reading or listening to these things. I called them stupid along with everyone else. Why was this so different from things that I just deemed as ‘not really my thing’? Because teenage girls are society’s punching bags. Teenage girls have always been intensely scrutinized in comparison to teenage boys. Why are you wearing make-up? Why aren’t you wearing make-up? Why do you have a boyfriend? Why don’t you have a boyfriend? Society has set up a system where a teenage girl cannot do well for herself because there is no right choice. Every choice you will ever make as a teenage girl will probably be seen as wrong by society. Society has deemed that teenage girls are too “stupid” and “emotional” to have taste; so if something has a massive fan base that is made up of teenage girls, even if it isn’t just teenage girls, it somehow becomes without taste or class.

Boy Bands:

This has become it’s own genre in America, and simply belonging to that genre can change the public’s outlook on an artist or band. For example, when One Direction was a boy band, liking Harry Styles was a teenage girl thing. As soon as he made a solo career for himself he was socially acceptable to be liked by everyone. Why? Harry Styles is around the same age as all of the men in BTS, isn’t he? Because boy bands are a teenage girl thing. Not all boy bands are created to be for this purpose exactly, but many boy bands have in recent years been cultivated to appeal to teenage girls. And it works, every time. This is because we still live in a society where we teach girls that they have to be careful about the way they treat boys but we teach boys that they don’t have to be careful about the way that they treat girls. With boy bands, companies will sometimes attempt to give female audiences something they’ve been lacking. Boy bands often carry with them the feeling of being the best a woman may ever be treated by a man in her entire life. Often, they are just that. This leaves companies to again turn their backs on teenage girls for falling for such a trick as believing they could actually be treated well in a relationship.

Media Labeling:

I’m going to say this once; BTS isn’t a boy band. One of the things about the magazine that I mentioned before that angered me was all of the comparisons to European boy bands. Especially The Beatles. South Korea is half way around the world from where we are and America really needs to stop taking music from other countries and forcing it under labels that Americans find comfortable. BTS isn’t a boy band like the Beatles. BTS is BTS. Artists should not be pinned down because we think they belong under a specific genre. Many artists actually explore multiple genres, which makes it absolutely nonsensical to label all of their music under one. Just because a large part of their fanbase consists of teenage girls, doesn’t mean you can label them a boy band. What you are failing to understand is that BTS is quite possibly the most popular band in the world. Their fanbase can’t only be teenage girls. In fact, as this band grows the fan base has become more diverse; now growing to include thousands of men and just as many adults as teenagers. BTS is their own thing and neither them or their fanbase should be judged because of America’s media labeling system that has been problematic for years.

Racism:

The other reason why this band is looked down on by many popular people in the media and thus shoved onto teenage girls. You thought BTS was exempt from racism because they’re so popular? I really hope you didn’t. Several journalists have faced backlash for racist comments made against BTS. Everything from making fun of them for being able to speak on the behalf of youth at the UN Assembly in Korean instead of English to joking that this wasn’t the type of Korean news they were expecting to “blow up” in America. Despite the fact that North and South Korea are very different places who do not get along. These comments are beyond disgusting and a great example of just how unequal and unfair America can still be. Especially when it comes to media. And somehow these people are also able to throw sexism into the mix by shrugging their shoulders and using “teenage girls like them” as some sort of excuse for their behavior and racism.

In no way am I trying to say that you’re wrong or bad for not liking BTS. It isn’t everyone’s thing, and that’s perfectly fine! What I’m saying is; don’t shame other people for liking BTS. And especially don’t shame them for the absolutely nonsensical reasons that the media already does. Unless someone likes something really harmful and problematic, we should all be supportive of each other’s preferences. We need to be mindful of the fact that we still live with many people in entertainment media that train the public into buying their products while still trying to keep their thumb on societal perceptions. The issues any minority group is having with getting representation in movies, television shows, music, etc. is proof of this. Everyone should be free to like what they like without the fear of being judged. Frankly, neither BTS or ARMY should be getting anything near this reaction. BTS puts more hard work into their songs and performances than many ever will in their entire lives and ARMY supports the work of these men as artists. They should be seen as the artists and people they are rather than just another ‘boy band’. If anything, I hope this has changed your perception on how much American media still needs to change.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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