K-Pop: China’s Ban

Promotional photo of Park Jimin for “Butter”. Copyright goes to BTS and the Hybe Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’m not usually one to talk about politics or world news on this blog. That isn’t really what this blog is for. But China’s recent decision to ban “pretty boys” is definitely worth talking about, both because of K-Pop and because of K-Dramas and C-Dramas. This ban has the potential to influence quite a bit of the things we talk about on this blog, though not in the ways some people are theorizing. Also of note here, we don’t know exactly what things are going to change or how they’re going to change. A ban on “pretty boys” doesn’t offer much specificity, especially when it’s evidently up to the president to decide what’s “pretty”. But let’s look at what actually has been said about the ban so far.

BTS and Idol Groups:

This is the main thing most news pages are focusing on. The ban on “pretty boys” is absolutely partly targeted at K-Pop and we already have proof of that. Idol shows, most of which come from Korea, are being banned in China. And one of their first specific crackdowns was on BTS. Or more specifically, a Jimin fan page. Fans of Jimin were raising money to get him a birthday present, his image on a plane, when the page was taken down by the Chinese government. That’s proof enough that BTS isn’t welcome in Chinese media. Some have speculated on the impact this will have on BTS themselves, but it’s not likely it will have much of an impact on them at all. BTS hasn’t performed in China or done any major promotional content in or for China. Who it will affect is ARMY in China, who will now have to be unfairly careful about expressing their love for BTS. It can be expected other K-Pop groups will be targeted as well and some of them may not have the luxury of being as lightly affected. How groups like NCT will be affected (NCT famously has members from various places including China,) is unclear at the moment. Is this just a matter of banning them from Chinese media? Or will China pull full support from the members? And will China make some exceptions based off of monetary gain? All uncertain. Frighteningly uncertain. Just as uncertain as how China will deal with their own idol groups who fall under the “pretty boy” description. As of now the only idol groups they’re promoting are groups that fit the new beauty standard being enforced. Groups with facial hair and bigger builds. This seems like it might lead to the phasing out of their own idol groups, but then again, these groups make them money. So we don’t know much about what’s going to happen here at this point.

K-Dramas and C-Dramas:

Various areas of media are already being affected. I already mentioned the ban on idol shows and even social media influencers who are deemed too “pretty” are being banned from mentions in larger forms of media or threatened with entire account takedowns. Additionally, the president noted that he wanted a return to “traditional” shows. That probably means a bigger crackdown on K-Dramas overall. Especially K-Dramas starring lead male actors considered to be too “pretty”. But it also might affect C-Dramas as well. There’s no telling whether or not actors in China are going to be affected by the “pretty boy” ban, but there’s a clear attack on feminine traits seen in men happening here. Which may affect shows that have become increasingly more popular, like “The Untamed”. “The Untamed” and shows like it are screen adaptations of LGBTQ+ centered stories that try to skirt around the Chinese censorship laws as much as possible. This ban may have made these shows even more difficult to make. Considering the fact that the men hired for these roles are definitely not of the more “masculine” beauty standards China is trying to push right now, that alone could be a danger. Also, the fact that these LGBTQ+ themes are already challenging China’s ideas on masculinity could make the whole thing even worse. But internationally, shows like “The Untamed” are getting some of the most attention of the media coming from China. With the money they get from these shows I have to ask again, will monetary reasons keep them from completely banning things like this?

Toxic Masculinity:

Now we’re onto what this entire ban is really enforcing. Toxic masculinity. The phrasing of “pretty boys”, which apparently was even more insulting in its original language, already blatantly states an effort to attack feminine traits in men. But the government’s insistence to only push musical groups and stars with facial hair and bigger builds only further proves it. To be clear, everyone has both feminine and masculine traits. And everyone should be allowed to embrace these things. This new ban on all things that allow men to express themselves in this way is textbook toxic masculinity. And it will result in brutal bullying and hardships for many people. Especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, who already experience unfair hatred and violence due to their connections to more feminine traits. This has the potential to be more horrifying to everyday people than a lot of people seem to be considering.

So what does all of this mean? As I said, we don’t know. We know they’re going to crack down largely on things from countries like Korea and Japan, but we don’t know exactly what they’re going to do with content that comes from China itself. We also don’t know exactly what they can enforce. It seems to me that this is an effort made by the Chinese President to fit himself into the beauty standard. He’s basically banning conventionally attractive men from appearing too often in the media, which makes it hard to imagine that this type of thing could come from anywhere but jealousy. There’s even word that conventionally attractive men by American standards, like those with abs and muscular builds, might also get a ban. But there’s also a clear sign of homophobia in there too. It’s just another reminder that China is a communist country. There isn’t reason to worry about BTS here, but there is most definitely reason to worry about Chinese fans and men who don’t know what this ban is going to mean for them.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie.

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