“KPop allies, we see and admire your contributions within the struggle for justice too” posted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a June 20 Twitter thread lauding Zoomers and TikTok teenagers for his or her ticket prank.
The media and political narrative round vigilante Ok-pop followers matches firmly into the “youngsters are alright” mythos of newly radicalized youth poised for passionate activism. The truth is extra sophisticated.
International Ok-pop followers organizing on-line for social good isn’t a novel prevalence; extremely invested pop music followers are consultants in rapidly mobilizing on social media to pattern hashtags on Twitter and assist their favourite artists prime music charts. Speedy response mobilization and amplification on social media is a large factor of on-line fan tradition typically, however particularly Ok-pop.
These techniques have been simply modified by these identical followers for on-line campaigns for charity and social causes, typically finished below the names of their favourite idols, or the collective fandom identify of stated idol. What’s uncommon is the mobilization of primarily U.S.-based Ok-pop followers round such a particular and pressing political second as Black Lives Matter.
It’s additionally useful to know that the motivations of followers are sometimes drawn from the identities that followers deliver into these areas. Ok-pop fandom is much from monolithic, although the overall assumption is that almost all of Ok-pop followers within the U.S. are largely white, teenage women. The truth is that many followers are sometimes older and extra racially various. The so-called “Korean wave,” the rise of worldwide curiosity in Korean popular culture has existed because the 1990s, and the music’s robust affect from Black American seems like hip-hop and R&B has attracted numerous Black followers for a few years.
Black followers have lengthy been lively in calling consideration to problems with cultural appropriation and racism with each Ok-pop fandom and the trade itself, typically leading to harassment and even doxxing by different Ok-pop followers. Black followers had been particularly vocal in calling upon Ok-pop idols to make public statements in help of the Black Lives Matter motion, posting feedback to the Instagram and Twitter accounts of Ok-pop idols and the businesses that make use of them. This as soon as once more made Black followers targets of on-line harassment by different Ok-pop followers on the identical time that the media was heralding the Black Lives Matter viral activism of Ok-pop followers.
Whereas the narrative of Ok-pop followers as social justice saviors is hopeful and even charming when seen from these exterior of Ok-pop fan communities, the lauding of Ok-pop activism that neglects this extra data contributes to the erasure of Black followers’ longtime efforts in addition to their harassment inside these communities.
As somebody within the distinctive place of being a Black feminine Ok-pop fan that’s additionally a popular culture author and a communications skilled centered on social justice points, it’s been irritating to witness a few of my friends eagerly (if considerably jokingly) talk about the potential of mobilizing Ok-pop allies in digital campaigning with out totally understanding the nuances of those digital areas and the individuals lively in them. Lower than 24 hours after the Tulsa rally, the Lincoln Mission PAC posted a low-key cringey tweet “welcoming” Ok-pop followers and TikTok teenagers to “this nice trigger” and soliciting their enter and counsel.
I consider it’s crucially vital for progressive organizers and campaigners to know the nuances of this second, particularly these concerned in tradition change work with on-line communities. Not all the followers taking part in these mobilization efforts are motivated by their politics; some are merely motivated by garnering one other on-line “win” and reward for his or her fandom. Whereas that motivation doesn’t make these followers dangerous, it doesn’t essentially make them allies both.
The draw of Ok-pop fandom itself just isn’t what organizers ought to give attention to right here, however the values of the people who comprise these communities. However as journalist Abby Ohlheiser just lately wrote for the MIT Expertise Assessment, the embrace of Ok-pop followers as roving #resistance warriors obscures a murkier actuality about followers’ precise politics: “[N]ot each Ok-pop fan is anti-Trump, that even those that are protesting in the present day could not protest tomorrow, and that the identical methods used for non-harmful protest have additionally been deployed by—and inside—these identical communities to harm individuals, together with or particularly minorities.”
It’s personally troublesome for me, as a participant inside these communities, to view popular culture fandom as a dependable and constant software for activism. Ok-pop fan activism could be useful, and an entry level for significant progressive change, however the main focus of any popular culture fan neighborhood, finally, is to help a company curiosity: an artist and by design, the corporate that artist works for.
In an age the place fan consumption is commonly linked to each private id and social motion, real engagement of those on-line fan activists because the residents and constituents they’re exterior of fandom, is the essential factor wanted to mobilize them for systemic social change.
Ok-pop followers should not a monolith of giddy teen keyboard warriors however a neighborhood as heterogeneous—and typically messy—as some other neighborhood, on-line and off. Understanding this—and being conscious of the advantages and pitfalls of this neighborhood’s potential affect—is extra constructively hopeful than any hero narrative may ever be.
Keidra Chaney is a author, tradition critic ,and non-profit communications skilled based mostly in Chicago. She has been printed within the Chicago Solar–Occasions, Time Out Chicago, Bitch Media, Paste, and a bunch of on-line publications that not exist. She is the co–founder and writer of popular culture web site The Discovered Fangirl and founding father of the TLF Freelance Emergency Fund for writers.
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