It’s time to address the elephant in the room: Hi, my name is ChibiChonk and I love BTS.
When I first told my son, he told me, “Whoa, Mom. Their fans are toxic. Are you sure you want to go down that path?”
And this statement made by my own flesh and blood is exactly why I dislike generalized opinions based on conjecture and not one’s own research. The world is not black and white. There is always a lot of gray area. I do my best to try to see all sides of the issue. That doesn’t mean I always do. It just means I try. The same went for BTS. I had also heard their fandom was “toxic”. I heard that any dissent regarding BTS would result in getting attacked. I had read articles about fans bullying other fans, tv anchors, commentators, and hosts. Even though I didn’t quite like my son’s generality, he wasn’t exactly misinformed. A quick Google search will bring you a ton of bad behavior by Army, but on the flipside, there is a lot of good, too. That being said, I never condemned Army or judged them. I was just very indifferent.
At what moment did you acknowledge BTS’ talent?
It happened on August 3, 2020.
I was browsing YouTube when one of the suggested videos was BTS Carpool Karaoke. At this point, I had never actually watched BTS. I couldn’t tell you their names or the titles of any of their songs. While I knew of BTS and the alleged toxicity of their fans, I had never actually cared enough to listen to them. I was not particularly interested in K-Pop and overall, I was indifferent to their existence. I have always enjoyed the Carpool Karaoke skits, so I thought, “What the hell. Let’s give these guys a shot.”
My first impression was: These guys make me smile. BTS opened with their song, Mic Drop. I found myself bobbing my head and thinking, “Wow. This isn’t really ‘boy-bandy’. This is catchy as hell.”
After their first “performance”, RM was explaining how he learned English. It is a well-known fact that RM learned to speak English by watching the show, Friends. That’s when Jin says in the background, “Well, I’ve watched Friends, too. But, I can’t speak English…”
That’s when I belly laughed. I was shocked that the smile that began at the beginning of the video had not dropped and, now, this adorable Korean man was making jokes. They all seemed genuinely happy to be there, and they all seemed like they were being themselves. A lot of times, you watch boy bands and it can be obvious they don’t want to be there, or having a bad day. I recall not really feeling that even though there was a language barrier. I was impressed with RM as well. I later found out RM has a genius IQ. No wonder he could learn English from Friends.
As they sang the next song, I distinctly remember Jimin’s voice. The smile faded from my face. I remember being dumbfounded. Is that his real voice?! It was as if the angels swooped down from heaven and took my heart. It sounds stupid, but I was breathless. I was literally entranced by his voice. That’s when I noticed his face. Could a man be any more beautiful?! He sings like an angel and looks like one, too?! How unfair, life!
The next part of the skit was James Corden asking about their nicknames. The whole time, I smiled. My heart felt full. Who are these guys? Why do their smiles make me smile? Why do I want to give all of them a hug?
Their next song was ON and the musician in me was “Whoa.”
Is this the type of music they sing? It had that getting out of school, starting your beater car, rolling down the windows, hitting play on your portable CD player connected by that weird tape adapter, putting it on full-blast, peeling out of the gravel parking lot vibe. Not that I did that…much. I remember thinking, “Is THIS what I’ve been missing out on?”
It finally ended with a dance class and I was blown away. I’ve always known boy bands center around the entertainment aspect, but I could tell they were next level. Jimin gets up to teach part of their choreography and I remember I leaned back in my chair and said, “Whaaaat just happened?”
And, that’s where it started y’all. That’s where it started.
I probably spent a week learning everything I could about the group. I listened to all their music. Learned their names. Developed my biases (Jimin/Jin/Suga). It only took a week to consider myself a part of Army.
What do you most admire about BTS?
I admire their work ethic. Not their innate talent, or dance moves. Their work ethic. If you take the time to learn about BTS, it is hard to not acknowledge how hard they work. They set high standards for themselves always working to perfect whatever task is in front of them. You quickly learn they have dedicated their lives to this group. They work through exhaustion. They cry when they feel they let someone down. They acknowledge their weaknesses and do everything in their power to make up for their lack of dance experience, or singing experience. They will perform with injuries. Their professionalism is so high, you would never know that they were in intense pain if it weren’t for the eagle eyes of Army. I have a lot of respect for musicians that work hard and continue to work hard. They sing all of their performances live. Yes, they do it with tracks, but I dare you to pull up a performance and not be able to tell that they’re singing. I am always in awe of their stamina to do what they do.
They genuinely make me happy
When I am feeling run down, or in a bad mood, I can turn on YouTube and watch a video. They make me laugh so hard, it hurts. Just a few of my favorite clips:
Suga – Bullfrogs and Water Deer (I dare you to not immediately Google the sound of a water deer.)
All Members – Complaining about their choreography difficulty
Is Army toxic?
I think any fandom can be toxic. It is no lie that Army has its share of blemishes. But, you know what? I’ve also seen their generosity. When I ordered a keychain from Etsy, the seller also enclosed a second keychain, Jimin photocards, and a Jimin mini-button for free. In her note, she wrote that she made all of the items in hopes to see BTS in concert before the pandemic. Her plan was to hand it all out to fellow Army. How sweet is that? Since she couldn’t do that until after the pandemic, she was including it with all of her BTS handmade merchandise. That is the Army I want to focus on. I acknowledge there are fans that are over the top. Paying for billboard trucks to express your dissatisfaction on how the group is being managed is crazy. You are straight-up crazy. I can’t imagine anything more toxic and I can only imagine how it makes the group feel. People call themselves fans, but then partake in such selfish actions without consideration on how it makes the artist feel. Honestly, I would be embarrassed if my fans did things like that. Like, damn. Take a chill pill. It is crazy to spend money on the illusion that you have any control or influence on an artist. Like, find some reality.
If you’ve never given BTS a chance, I suggest their cover of Fix You by Coldplay. You don’t have to enjoy K-pop to appreciate their musicality.