For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following and watching the second(?) season of MNet’s Kingdom TV franchise (aired a day late in my country via tvN on cable). Initially, we decided to watch this again this year because we were able to watch the previous season—Road to Kingdom, where the idol group The Boyz took home the crown.
At that time, the participating groups were Pentagon, ONF, Golden Child, The Boyz, Verivery, Oneus, and To1 (formerly known as TOO). We didn’t really root for any particular group and just enjoyed the performances, which were quite enjoyable, however, were very much alike in terms of how grand and fierce their production was during each performance—dark make up, abs, fierce dance moves—and undoubtedly, The Boyz’s consistent concept throughout the show’s run propelled them to become the winners.
This year, there were six idol groups—iKON, Stray Kids, ATEEZ, BTOB, SF9, and last season’s winner, The Boyz. Among these groups, I’d already heard of Stray Kids, and was already familiar with The Boyz, however, I was unfamiliar with the rest of the groups. Episode 1 was the intro stage and they had to perform one of their hit songs that had won 1st place in a music show and would last for 100 seconds. Among the performances, iKON’s Rhythm Ta stood out for me because of how simple it was—six guys wearing white, dancing and singing, and just enjoying themselves, no drama, no fuss, no big production, just six guys having such a great time performing. It was refreshing, especially after seeing Bobby smiling in a very carefree manner—this was probably the turning point for me, from a life of indifference towards idol groups to jumping into the fan psychology pit by scouring youtube for their old videos, their discography, and basically any information about these guys.
And what a treasure trove I’ve found. It’s a known fact just how fierce the Korean idol industry is; thousands of idol trainees (if not more) go through a lot and it’s not even guaranteed if they’ll be able to debut, and even those groups that are fortunate enough to debut, their time in the limelight can be as short as one performance and never see the light of day again. iKON was one of the few who was fortunate enough to debut—albeit after going through a lot of physically and mentally taxing challenges pre-debut. They went on tour in several Asian countries, and once in Australia and the US, and also won a lot of domestic awards. They were on their road to fame, until some controversy/scandal that led to B.I departing from the group and the music scene (he is now making a come back as a solo artist and is launching his album in a couple of hours as of this writing).
It doesn’t take a genius to see that this departure had a great impact on the group. However, despite this unfortunate event, the group went on to release their EP—this time, one man short. In my opinion, the period between losing one of their group member and the release of their EP, and their participation was honestly quite short. I can compare this to a breakup, they’d been together for six years—going through hardships, performing, sharing all the highs and lows, probably dreaming of their future as a group, and everything that goes into a serious relationship—only to part ways just when they were at the height of their career. It must have been devastating. Add to that the various articles online describing just how underappreciated these guys are within their agency, and not being promoted and treated properly despite their overflowing talents and value in the K-music industry. But seeing them perform on Kingdom clearly shows their resilience as a group and the strong bond between each member.
As a noob fan of this group, I think the only good thing that came out of their decision to join Kingdom—despite the obviously rigged evaluations by so-called experts (10 actual industry experts and 23 rookie idols) and biased rankings—was that iKON gained new fans both domestic and abroad, and their existing fans were once again invigorated by their fantastic performances in the show—simple, no fuss, no overly dramatic production, no intensely fierce make up and just 100% engaging, refreshing and fun performance. Part of Kingdom’s criteria to determine the “winner” of Legendary War is the streaming stats for their original song from Apple Music (for international fans) and their GAON chart standing which is determined by domestic streams from various streaming platforms.
So after jumping into the fan psychology pit, I suddenly became active on twitter, as if injected with chicken blood (referencing the various danmeis that I’ve consumed thus far). I followed several iKON fanbase accounts, learned slang terms like stan, moots, and bias, etc., liked—I was already a serial liker to begin with, that was basically the extent of my activity in twitter before all this—replied and retweeted countless tweets, and interacted with people online. As a self-confessed introvert this was clearly OOC (or maybe not?), but it was such a novel experience—thus, I buried myself in the pit even further. In just ten days, I’ve spent close to $300, installed 33 apps in my phone, spent 15 hours on social media daily, and streamed 40 hours since—equivalent to one week in my 8 to 5 job—and I am still going. I’ve practically neglected work because of this—not that I’m complaining (I am taking responsibility for these choices and not blaming anyone, don’t get me wrong). I’m even afraid of claiming that I’m a fan at this point because I might not be able to follow through on any of the responsibilities of a fan. Of course, compared to seasoned fans, the actions that I’ve taken so far, collectively, is only a drop in the ocean. Quite honestly, I am feeling overwhelmed, and am thinking whether I can sustain this enthusiasm—clearly I am too old for the current fan culture.
While streaming and interacting on social media with other fans creates an almost inclusive community, at the end of the day, these are all virtual connections. I guess there are some who really foster a genuine friendship, but it doesn’t apply to everyone who engages in all these online interaction.
Thinking further, I had this wild thought that perhaps one day, the world will become all virtual. In my imagination (although probably not that original), the world will eventually be run by robots and AI, with a number of human beings developing all the advanced tech and software that would run the world. All interactions will be in a virtual space, our consciousness projected into that space and a virtual version of ourselves live in that space—we work, sleep, eat, drink, interact, etc.,—and our physical bodies just lie inside a pod, hooked up to nutrient solutions and regulated by various machines to sustain brain activity and basic functions, like blood circulation and waste management. Much like the matrix I guess, and that’s not really entirely impossible with how studies on virtual tech are advancing.
So I guess, what I’m trying to say based on these recent experiences is that, before jumping into pits that could potentially become addictive behavior, make sure you’re a whole person on your own, and that you do not go into these activities seeking company, or someone to alleviate your current boredom or loneliness, or to seek validation from the number of likes, retweets and replies you get for the thoughts and eureka moments that you’ve posted online. Social media interaction is like an addictive drug in my opinion. So be discerning, know your boundaries, and clearly identify your purpose for going there. And always remember that these are two separate worlds, the virtual and your real life world. After you go offline, you still have life to deal with. If you’re fortunate enough to foster a genuine relationship from these online interactions, well and good, but always be discerning.
Also, for the past couple of days, I’ve also been reflecting on my priorities in life, especially in terms of the money that I’ve spent so far after jumping into the pit (and I’m not even rich!!). There are clearly more pressing issues happening all over the world that call for donations—the need for oxygen tanks in India, the ongoing bombing by Israel of the Palestinians, climate change, ocean cleanup, poverty and hunger issues, animal conservation, and several others, and yet I’ve continuously hesitated spending money on these. Now I ask myself why I did not hesitate clicking on PayPal and entering my passcode when it came to the fanbase’s call for contribution—even sending tips during the stationhead streaming. Was it because of a lapse in judgement? But then if I say that it was because of that then I’d be saying that every other fan who does this has had a lapse in judgement, right? Was it because, in reality I’m not such a good citizen of the world? Perhaps unconsciously I was thinking that the more pressing issues should be taken care of by the government? I can’t quite explain my actions and decisions. There is no regret, only a feeling of guilt, and a bit of shame as if I’ve done something foolish and there is no way to redeem myself for my sins of omission. But what is right? Acting on your thoughts as a fan clearly isn’t wrong. I’m not looking for comfort or for someone to tell me that I didn’t do anything wrong by choosing one action over the other, but merely taking note of my behavior.
I have no resolution at this point. I am still reflecting…consider these as ramblings…and if anyone ever reads this, and you’re ever curios about iKON and would like to see just how good their group is, maybe you’d like to watch the following video on youtube, and perhaps decide to join me in the pit?
This is iKON: The Seven Pride of iKONICS