Hi! It’s Annie!
There’s been a lot of tension and confusion in the fandom right now. And by a lot I mean, definitely more than normal. And with this new amount of negativity in the fandom, a lot of ARMY are reasonably scared. I mean, we used to have the reputation of being the most positive, kind, and supportive fandom anywhere ever. We coordinated amazing events for change for the better, we protected the boys from racism on multiple occasions, and we went through all of BTS’s highs and lows unwaveringly with them. Which is why it is truly jarring when ARMY log into Twitter every morning to see other ARMY getting into another absolutely needless Twitter battle and why it was absolutely heartbreaking and undeniably true when Namjoon said that ARMY had changed in a recent live. And while he did say it for a particular reason, which I will get to later, the undeniable truth is that ARMY has changed. But starting to compare ARMY to fandoms that have been glaringly toxic from the beginning isn’t helping and it isn’t a one to one comparison. So in this post I want to talk about how we got here and why this is not the end of the kindhearted ARMY fanbase that we all know and love. There is absolutely hope for the future! We have to hold ourselves accountable for the unhelpful things we’re doing before we get there though.
I think the first thing all of us have to acknowledge is that changes, whether they are a good thing or a bad thing, always come with some form of struggle. Changing for the better takes a lot of strength and sacrifice, and it can leave people feeling unstable. When BTS, a year ago at this point, announced that they were taking a break it raised a lot of fears for ARMY like changes are bound to do. While we all knew that this change would absolutely be for the better because it meant that our boys were taking care of their mental health; it raised the common fear that this break would end up being permanent. No matter how many times the boys assured us that it wouldn’t. And just to assure you, ARMY was never alone in this fear! Namjoon expressed in a live that he was afraid they would come back and everyone would have forgotten them! (Never going to happen, Joonie!) It’s ok to feel afraid; what isn’t ok to do is judge them for taking this much needed break or constantly scrutinize everything they do to try and determine whether or not they’ll come back. A few people have judged certain members for how much it seems like they may or may not be hanging out with other members. Firstly, we do not see how much time they spend together and secondly, even if we did it doesn’t speak to their relationship as brothers or to the status of the band itself. Yes, BTS is like a family. But imagine only seeing six members of your family for years and years and barely getting to meet with or even talk to anyone else. Using some newfound freedom to expand your social circle would not suddenly mean you don’t love that family.
Things also came to a head when BTS took their military service decision in their own hands and all decided to go. I personally can’t say that I’m supportive of a system that forces people into the military; at the same time I acknowledge that I am not sharing borders with a country that has a dangerous government like that and don’t know how to respond to such a situation. A lot of fans, especially international fans, were absolutely livid that they hadn’t gotten an exemption sooner and many people were fearful when their enlistment became more scattered than some people originally thought. Again, none of this was or should have been any of our choices. It is for them to choose and them alone, and we should all support them in these decisions. It’s time to stop reacting to every military decision regarding them with anger. But whatever side of this decision you were on, this is another fear that started to create a divide in the fandom. Fear usually divides. ARMY who had never fought before were suddenly at each other’s throats. Even though, again, this was never a decision for any of us to make. This divide has continued.
This divide that I’m talking about was only made worse by the way certain fans have handled the separate solo work for each individual member that has come out. And yes, I do think we should all be giving their solo work a listen. But I am also not going to condemn people for not listening to everything that comes out. I’ve said this so many times on this blog, but I’m a Namjoon bias. He’s one of my ults if not my actual ult. He is legitimately one of my favorite people in the world and I mean it sincerely when I say that he changed my life. I have been keeping up with all of his solo work, but I’ve noticed that a lot of other Namjoon stans have been going after other ARMY for not listening to some of his recent collaborations. I don’t think that going after people for what they are or are not engaging in is the best course of action here. I completely understand it when you’re calling out people who call themselves ARMY but won’t listen to any of their Korean work and will only listen to their English songs. It’s absolutely deserved there. But there are people who don’t have time, or the attention span, or show their support differently. Some fans show their support by streaming while others have more of the attention span to write or create fan art or engage in other ways. Many ARMY have become recent multi-stans and are just trying to figure out how to divide their time between groups. Being a multi-stan is a good thing for K-Pop! We also know that solo work fights have led to bad fandom places in other fandoms before. Let’s all be a little more understanding of each other! And I hate it, but certain members getting more attention than others has always been in every K-Pop fandom. Even in BTS. We all know that the hyung line fancams always got less views than the maknae fancams. This is not something new. Let’s all continue to support all of the boys in the absolute best way that we can!
On top of the fighting over decisions that should be BTS’s and theirs alone, and fighting over solo work streams; there have been other issues going on that don’t look great. Namjoon has actually seen and mentioned the fighting between ARMY on lives and spoken out against it. Which should have been our first clue. But this is not why Namjoon said that ARMY had changed. A little while ago, Namjoon went on live to talk about the concert in LA directly after their concert. I remember this very clearly because this was the day that I went to the concert and I remember watching his live on the car ride home! It was my first ever K-Pop concert! In this live several people asked Namjoon to marry them in the comments and he expressed that this type of comment made him uncomfortable, especially because it is a short comment that is usually spammed and drowns out some of the more meaningful comments. This was a boundary that Namjoon set and communicated to us. Why did some of us not listen? Recently, Namjoon and Yoongi have talked even more about these comments. (Shout out to the guy in the band for Yoongi’s recent concert who had the message on his phone!) In some situations it can be funny, but for ARMY in general we need to stop using it especially because they’ve expressed discomfort regarding it. This was the context of Namjoon saying ARMY had changed. If they express a boundary we have to honor that! ARMY have also been randomly going after other fandoms for non-issues that make no sense. Like today got7 was trending because two members got seven tattoos and ARMY started accusing them of copying BTS. BTS does not own the number seven. In fact, seven is in that group’s literal name. What are you doing? Not long ago ARMY started accusing Kai of EXO for trying to skip enlistment and making fun of him for the fact that his company made a true mistake and he had to last minute enlist. That is a loss for everyone. For him, his fans, everyone. He wasn’t trying to skip; that was just a sad situation all around. Why did ARMY feel the need to rain down on him and his fans who were already hurting?
Trauma and Hope:
I personally think this partially comes from an over-protective nature that we’re seeing in ARMY. The fear of change resulted in a divide and an anger that the fandom is still reeling from. Not only that but other things have come up that we haven’t been able to protect the boys from. Like their information being sold by sources close to them and now these insanely terrifying accounts of stalking and death threats. And it feels like HYBE isn’t doing enough. But reacting with this anger and this amount of overprotection also serves absolutely no-one, especially not our boys. We can call for action, absolutely! But we shouldn’t be turning our anger on other fandoms by imagining slights against BTS. It is understandable that the fandom is reeling right now, but that doesn’t justify any of this behavior. It never will justify any of this behavior. We really owe some fandoms apologies. Like I said, it makes sense for the fandom to be reeling and making some mistakes at a time where we’re going through change. This doesn’t mean that the fandom is doomed. We just need to acknowledge our flaws and grow! It’s part of growing pains for ARMY! We haven’t always been a toxic fandom, in fact for the most part we haven’t been before this. Which means that we absolutely have the tools to pull together and repair. But acknowledging our mistakes and making ourselves better for the boys has to come first before we can get there!
I really believe that ARMY can become that warm place of belonging again! Even if it’s in smaller groups; I know it’s more difficult to control since there are a lot more of us now. But there’s hope for safe spaces in ARMY enduring! Especially because we are all inspired by all of these incredibly kind men. So don’t lose hope!
See you across the pond!