Hate and fanwars: One person’s hero is another person’s foe

Spanish translation for this article is available HERE (traducción en español aquí), courtesy of our reader Bea.

Disclaimer: My point of view is that of a non-Korean/Japanese speaking international fan and what I write here is mainly about the internet based international fandom and should not be generalized to the state of the Korean or Japanese JYJ/DBSK fandom.

Hate and fanwars: One person’s hero is another person’s foe

By: Vivien of TheJYJFiles

Why is there so much hate in the fandom nowadays? Are they the reflection of our disappointment, confusion, psychological self protection against harm?

I don’t write this piece to support any of the two groups blindly. Personally, I try to be appreciative of the boys’ personal decisions are and along with it, the decision of K-Cassies. We – the international fans – are forever hindered by the language and cultural barrier to fully understand their actions. We will always see and judge them from our own cultural lenses, our own culturally molded standard of moral values.

Nevertheless, what I can learn from the whole ruckus is that DBSK was and is never just a name. It is from the very start a social thing as it is personal. The group namesake represents aspirations and memories of the ideals, especially for people who helped make them happen and who believe in them. I never thought that an idol group can make such an impact, but just like religions represent the escapist imagination of hopes, dreams and everything ideal for many, history has shown that people are willing to shed blood in the defense of this imagination. And so I learn to appreciate the interplay of reason, human fantasies and desires that are involved in the whole dispute.

Hate and the ensuing fanwars are enabled by both the personal and the social. They are about us but at the same time they are also about how we react to the social and political network that creates JYJ and DBSK.  Socially, hate and fanwars emerge as the byproduct of a certain kind of enabling network of norms, values, institutional arrangements and policies. In this small article, I will try to discuss both personal and social networks of the hate and fanwars  and how these networks are related to each other.

The split in the fandom and the personal side of the fanwar

Looking at various comments and blog entries addressing the present situation of the JYJ/DBSK fandom, I cannot help to think that the underlying theme of all the emotional, heartbreaking rants as well as vicious attacks to both JYJ and DBSK is none other than sadness, disappointment and the confusion about which version of truth to be held.

When asked, most (old) DBSK fans would answer: we fell in love with DBSK because of the brotherhood they displayed when interacting with each other. We loved it that Yunho was our handsome appa, that Jaejoong was our pretty umma, that Yoochun was our  emo – quirky-lazy, talented composer; that Junsu was our cutie and that Changmin was the quiet, rather snarky boy-next-door. We also fell in love with their hard work. When they pulled off successful Dome concerts in Japan, it felt like it was our own success and triumph. When they managed to sell 500K ++ copies of their CDs we swelled with pride.

It didn’t matter where you are from; these values are increasingly appealing universally. It didn’t matter that there were already signs that they were mistreated by the company. It also didn’t matter that changes and conflicts were bound to happen as the boys grew into maturity and grew into five distinctly different personalities. We were happy that they were always there to fulfill whatever dreams and inspirations that we had – a luxury especially when dealing with our everyday mundane activities. It was when the network of love sustained both the five boys and us. The love defined them and defined us.

The disappointment

Then the group broke up. Everyone was harsh. Granted, when you get to the court, you have to be harsh because you need to beat your opponents. Although people always say that the constitution and legal system must always be independent of all influences, in fact the way the media reports on issues especially the controversial ones can very well influence the result of any lawsuit. The basis of the legal system I believe is that it must be able to reflect the sense of justice of the general public – and this is where the media plays a big role. It can create an impression about the sway and dynamics of the sense of public justice.

Both parties fight over their version of truth – through their letters, lawyers and press conferences. It leaves one inevitable victim, nevertheless:

The heartbroken fans.

If I were to make an analogy of the harshness of the situation at the end of 2009, it would have been like finding out that the boyfriend/husband/partner that you have been loving for years…is not who you thought he was.

This is also when I realized that for some Korean entertainment companies, and especially the case with SM , their business strategy’s focus isn’t on the music and talent, but rather on nurturing the loyalties of the fans through a perfect narrative based on the ‘universally’ accepted values that are dear to many. You look at DBSK, and there you have the story of the five hardworking, extremely talented young men, who are really close to each other – like a ‘family’. This is what most people crave to have in their life – good looks, fame, AND humility and familiarity at the same time. The discourse of stardom of DBSK does not revolve solely around their talent. It revolves around how they are the great characters in this big blockbuster movie called the Rising Gods of the East that represent the the ideals that most of us want for our life.

The lawsuit opened our eyes to the unpleasant realization. These gods are not who we think they are. The “gods” whom we love and trust..turn out to be just like us. They are mortals, who can hurt, feel the pain and who can scheme too. And chances are, they were probably not as close as we thought they were. Imagine the disappointment.

The internal fight over interpretation of truth

When the collective identity of the DBSK fandom crumbled, Cassies strove hard to find something to hold on to. The events that unfold in front of our eyes are confusing, to say the least. We question their actions, their silence, and their statements; because they no longer fit the ideals we were so used to.  Disappointment and discontentment emerge in the fandom as Cassies must now face the threat that everything we hold dear for so many years will be lost. We need something to keep our identity, something that can still give us hope and to fight for.

I catch this signature in one of the posts in Yunho’s acting thread [in Soompi]. It says something along the line of ‘some people may want to have more responsibilities; some others may want to be more responsible for their choice and the people around them.’ It sums up the basic underlying sentiment in the fanwar – people defending their different interpretations of what the members do. And it’s true, though. Both parties have reasons that can be justified from any angles.

It would have been easy if everything stops there. If fans would have had to only deal with the disappointment and sadness that the gods are actually mere mortals we would have had gotten over it soon enough. We would have still loved them and supported them with our heart and would have settled with their differences more easily.

Sadly, this is when we start to realize that the network of ‘personalized’ love that we spun for the boys is actually nothing personal at all.

The social network of fan wars: revisiting hate

As being a fan means sharing the love and affection to the celebrity in question with another fan, fandom is always a very social experience. The more I look at the intricate social and political network that accompany the global spread of Kpop idol culture, the more I am convinced that it is quite a peculiar network that probably mark the general tone of Asian pop culture to set it apart from its western counterpart and that force international fans to comply with its ‘rules’. The fanwars in the i-fandom apparently are oriented toward at least these two aspects – the murkiness of the actual situation and the worries about the monopoly in the Korean entertainment system:

The double faces of the internet

First thing to notice, the fandom revolves around the internet. It is accessible to international fans only mainly through Youtube and other social networking sites. Sadly, in view of the recent fanwars, the internet has become a double-edged sword. It provides access to information and ways to communicate with other fans but at the same time, the information presented is mostly distorted. Instead of fostering negotiations and compromise, the communication between fans creates further division and unresolved conflicts aka hideous fanwars.

The anonymity of the internet fosters the irresponsible circulation of various versions of news articles and with that – translation. It is increasingly difficult to differentiate and verify facts from fictions, lies and hearsays. In combination with the innate distrusts and doubts that have been planted in the JYJ/DBSK fandom since the beginning of the lawsuit, the murkiness of the situation propels cringe-worthy knee-jerk reaction from already biased fans to defend their oppas.

It is hard to maintain coolness if your twitter TL is full of people swearing and cursing your bias, not to mention the liberal use of TT^TT emoji which multiply your anxiety and worries for your biases. Not to mention coming to various forums to read comments with blatant illogical and faulty arguments from fanatics, trolls and the ignorant. A slight mistake in the wording could create intense bashing on YOU – both from people in your own camp and people from the opposite camp.

It is easy to see that the internet in this case create further divisions that highly weaken the ability of international fans to understand the real issues at hand clearly.  In short, the i-fanwars are based on severe misunderstanding, second-hand distorted information, and the inability to understand the Korean cultural background that innately mark the discourse of  JYJ, DBSK and K-Cassies respectively.

Kpop idol culture and the monopolized access for visibility

I think we all have grown to realize that the success of an entertainer depends not solely on his or her talents. In fact, it is likely that talent has taken a back seat in discussing fame and popularity – it still matters but if you are not in demand and do not sell, you will likely be considered a failure.

Thus it is important for a celebrity to stay visible and relevant to sell CDs and maintain their marketability. The dispute between JYJ and SM Entertainment and the accompanying strained relationship between the boys and their former band members and labelmates underlie the importance of access to stay visible, relevant and in demand. Sadly, as previous articles by Jimmie pointed out, this access is rife with problems as it is run by the invisible and powerful hands of the entertainment chaebols that could literally kill careers with their monopolistic control.

It is already bad enough that the free market already caters to those with wealth and influence: if you don’t have enough money it’s extremely hard to compete with rich companies. However, at least the free market lends a small possibility that there is a level playing ground and that being talented can actually get you somewhere. In various – albeit rather scarce cases – we have seen that even in this kind of system, talents do get you somewhere. I just find it sadder to know that people would think that they would most certainly fail if you are not under the wings of these big, paternalistic, dominating agencies and that they would do anything in their power to stay in these agencies’ good books even if it means (consciously) signing ‘slave contracts’ or surrendering to sexual exploitations.

Against this not so flattering backdrop, in relation to what the idols mean for most us (OBS’s PD actually summarized it quite succinctly – idols represent our ideals, hopes and dreams) there is a justifiable worry for the future career of JYJ (and DBSK alike). Coupled with the vulnerability of internet dependent i-fandom, this worry has clearly contributed a lot in the intense confusion and conflicts of the i-fanwars.

Epilogue

At this stage, looking at the causes of the hate in the fandom both in the personal level and the social level, fan wars are inevitable and they may still continue for a time being. I always hope that one day, i-fandom will be more empowered in the way that it will have more say to the exploitation and monopoly going on in the Kpop industry instead of becoming an easy target for media play and smear campaign. I just hope that by trying to understand the roots of all the hate, i-fandom will be able to organize themselves better – in Cecilia’s words – to be a better fandom – in the quest to help pave a better system not only for JYJ but also for our other idols.

~Please do not remove with full credits~

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42 thoughts on “Hate and fanwars: One person’s hero is another person’s foe

  1. *clap hands*
    this is the reason I just read good news about JYJ and avoid others.. I don’t want to get hurt anymore, because the more I get hurt, the more I hate one side, I can’t stand on both party and ended up trying to do a fan war with others.

    so, before I hate the one side, I’ll avoid my self to read any bad news (or even if I read it, I will just put a concern on some parts and never re-reading it).

    I’m happy that JYJ fans are more positive that makes me always smile and try to be happier everyday. ^^

  2. A very well-written piece you have here. I thought it was eloquently written and very engaging to read – and intriguing about how DBSK’s image is constructed, particularly the part of SM painting a narrative based on universal values. Also, the inclusion of relevant and meaty issue of misinformation and multiple interpretation of information and the role of internet in propagating this. Thanks for writing.

  3. Fanwar is definitely inevitable right now. But what sadden me is how some fans can be so biased and can’t see the lawsuit with a logical and an open mindset.

    Instead of trying to analyze why JYJ chose this path, all they did was pointed out that JYJ are traitors for leaving the other two members and caused the disband of DBSK as 5 members.

    If SM is really that good of a company then why there was this problem with H.O.T and Shinhwa before.

    I just hope that some fans will stop blaming JYJ for everything that happened.

    • If as Vivien had written, that idols stand for our ideals, hopes and dreams, do you not believe that the believers would fight to the death for them? They’re not fighting for Yunho and Changmin, they’re fighting for the ‘images’ unto which they had given their hopes, ideals, dreams, love and wishes. That is what they’re truly fighting for. A blank canvas shaped the way they like it.

  4. Thank you for writing this article. It’s nice to see a site with actual written material where authors take the time to come up with well thought out and researched material. It’s a nice break from the norm.

  5. Another well-written article
    This fanwar in the i-fandom is really sad, and seems like no matter what kinda stance you made, as long as you voice out an opinion –> argument will follow
    Alot of points you made in the article were really well-thought of. I never really look at the matter at that deep level…but one thing I know is that, if only ppl learn to respect others’ decision, none of this would happen
    One thing struck out to me: for both sides, ppl keep saying “respect the guys and their decisions…so fans should xxxx…” So then they should respect other fans’ decision as well, and not trying to force them to do as everyone else, or criticize them for their own choice , hence, the reaction to Kcassies’ decision.
    I seem to repeat myself, but really, support whoever you want to support, and use your effort to support the artists rather than fighting w/ ppl that dont share the same view… its as simple as that
    Lets strive to be a better fandom so the artists we support can be proud of their fans

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, very well written. I’m happy to be part of this fandom which focuses on intellectual/logical analysis of the issues, It’s a great help for the fans to become reasonable, constructive and “loving” rather than sowing hatred .

    • Thanks for the kind words
      I honestly think that what is needed is a body of ‘critical’ fans – who are able to look at the whole issue (especially between JYJ and SM) with reason.
      I find it a better way to support them ^__^
      Let’s support them together, neh!

  7. This is also when I realized that for some Korean entertainment companies, and especially the case with SM , their business strategy’s focus isn’t on the music and talent, but rather on nurturing the loyalties of the fans through a perfect narrative based on the ‘universally’ accepted values that are dear to many

    When I first read this, I just want to laugh XD I don’t doubt this’s what SM is doing. As pheonixia points out in a comment she/he gave on Jimmie’s last article, SM has a cult mentality. Personally, I study theatre production & design, so I pretty much have a grab of the entertainment industry. As I know people who work there. Not just Korean entertainment industry is evil, generally, it’s all like that through out the world. That’s why I don’t trust and don’t like SM! Really, I want the Korean government and the court could do something to weaken their power. They’re just like gangsters to me.

    To be honest, I like TVXQ is because of their friendship. I admire their talents too, but what it hit me 1st was their friendship. That’s why I was a little surprise with HM’s “revealing” press con’s answers. However, I believe that what they went thru together was not just simply a memory; their love to each other is greater than what we thought. Not just a family, not just brotherly-hood love; their love raised to a level where no words can explain and none of us can understand. Therefore, I read the press-con article with 1 eye shut. Not that I don’t believe them, but I believe the “invisible hands” do have effect here.

    I’m not joining the fanwar. Not now, not future. I just want to ♥ my 5 boys^^ From the beginning to the end, just 5 of them!

    • lol I’m a she. ^___^
      I agree with you. Company manipulation is too rampant.
      What I dislike most in this world is people’s herd-like mentality. “He/She said so and I agree with them therefore I am also going to mirror their actions…”
      I wish there were more people in the world who could think for themselves, after judging all sides of a story and then make a conclusion. Then the best conclusions could be made and history wouldn’t constantly repeat its tragedies.

      • Some ppl might did just that…but cause of the backlash they received, they then thought it’d better to just follow the masses, or keep quiet altogether… its sad really =_=

  8. 2 days more….please pray harder…
    JYJ must win over the SME…. This is our battle too not only JYJ’s.
    God knows their passion…please protect them…. JYJ be strong!!!!
    JYJ Fighting….JYJ’s fans Fighting!!!

  9. great… great… great…
    if only people have the appetite to read more informative stuff like this instead of ‘juicy’ fanwar-enducing gossips posted in other sites…
    but that aside… i love this article as much as i loved all the other articles you guys have put effort in sharing with all of us…

  10. I cannot agree more! This editorial is such a blessing to read!

    Now, in our fandom, whether you are into JYJ or Homin or support all the 5 members – you are judged. You are automatically labelled and stereotyped. A lot of people seemed to have forgotten the need for responsibility over the words they say and post online. Reasoning that free speech is a right one must practice, they vocally express their hate, bash other people like a reflex. Almost everyone forgets to be accountable for these hatred that we freely express.

    I came across a line that caught me in this drama I am watching:
    “Do you know what the most frightening hate in this world is? It’s when a fan turns into an anti-fan and love deteriorates into hatred”

    From what is happening now, I couldn’t help but agree. i do hope that at the end of all this, although it’s a hard lesson learned, we’ll slowly learn and aim to become a better fandom and respect each other.

    • What is SECRET GARDEN?????!!!! Do I get Double Jeopardy??? 5,000 points? kekekekeke ^^

      I LOVE that drama…and it has one kickass OST too. Also, truer words couldn’t have been said~~

      Btw, Vivien, I really enjoyed your article. It taught me a lot as a newer JYJ fan…I can only imagine what the old-school DBSK fans are going through right now >.<

    • @Juhwang – I agree.
      The fanwar is exhausting but I suppose were people willing to learn, it teaches us about how freedom of speech goes hand in hand with the limits of tolerance.

      @ Jimmie – I am not in the fandom that long myself, but I was able to catch the glimpse of the OT5 and I could relate to the warm feelings most Cassies have for all the 5 boys. I believe it was a horrible emotional ordeal for many. Really sad actually.

  11. Vivien, thank you for writing such an excellent article on hate, yet in a completely rational and sympathetic tone =)
    I agree so much with your takes on what the whole TVXQ hype was/is all about, and why the breakup had lead to such strong and often negative emotional reactions. BTW your “academicness” totally shone through, and I mean this in a good way XD!

  12. Thanks for the article. It really reflects what has become of the fandom lately.
    So much drama going on in fansites, forums, twitters, …
    why do I feel like fans are emotionally manipulated and trapped based on bits and pieces of news..^^’

    Fans interpret the same piece of news differently according to their own shape of minds. That’s how amazing one’s mind works.. One comment can either add fuel to the fire or put off the fire or even create another fire..

    I have tried to avoid all dramas here and there, but once you’re in this fandom, drama is inevitable….Although drama is addictive, I hope we have the best interest of ppl we care for, JYJ, in mind rather than immerse ourselves in the drama and neglect their well-being. Let’s focus more on their happiness and achievement on their activities ^^

  13. well, call me selfish if I just want to see them in five. hate me if I dislike the separate fandom. Homin’s fans and JYJ’s fans. I almost cry reading your article.
    it’s so horrible watching the fanwar. I’m only for 5 of them. it’s so hard to keeping my faith in this situation.
    I almost leave fandom because I was shamed with cassies. sorry, I can’t leave them all. I’m here for 5. not for 2 or 3. I support them all with all my heart. don’t judging HoMin and JYJ bcause they’re both were fragile and we don’t know what’s in their mind, how suffer they are.
    I won’t losing my faith. 🙂 AKTF! cassiopeia. spread the love

  14. Pingback: [Article] Hate and fanwars: One person’s hero is another person’s foe~ « ixiahcassie

  15. *clap..clap..clap*….wht a well-written and unbiased article related to this inevitable fanwars and hate among fans (i’m soo happy and proud of u..hihi ^.^)….but as a fan (i’m not trying to defend for those (cassies) whom being bias, irrational or simply exaggerating sometimes and unable to see on the objective sides bout this matter)… i just want to say tht “a total fan is total”….”idols (supposed to) give us hopes, happiness, and dreams” and tht what we (or some of us) ‘re looking for and once all of those are taken…we all die…. its not tht we fail to see on the both sides and being objective (cos recently this wars are getting insanely insane) its just simply tht we don’t want to see it…we don’t want to see DBSK fight each others and split apart…WE ARE IN OUR LAST EFFORTS ….WE ARE IN DENIALS…its just as simple as it is…for those who say that “we have to respect and support DBSK to go on different paths” is just like those who feel certainly lost in a battle and waiting for their deaths to come and take them…but for those who say tht “DBSK is forever 5 and always keep the faith” is just like those who dying and (99,9%) lost in a battle but keep their last efforts and hopes to win the battle (believe in 0,01 % possibility) and if they lucky enough, avoid the death…i believe, we all mature enough and fully understand well why do JYJ decide to fill in the lawsuit…but since the very first, to be a fan is all about using our feeling and forgetting (most of the time) about our logic…for now, “my illogical win over logical side” and tht’s my right to do so and none can take those rights or force to change those rights from me….that’s wht see from my own side as a fan…wht i hope in the future, is tht my logic will win over illogic side..only time can heal everything….just wait patiently for me to join u in the future..to walk on your chosen paths beside u…T.T

    • Hi rest_tea, good to see you here! Glad that you find your way to this blog..
      It’s difficult to maintain our logic in this chaos and fanwar, but I strongly believe that it is something that – just like concerning other things in our life – has to be done. I always believe that being realistic in assessing any situation, even if it may hurt a lot, will keep you save from harm.
      So, fighting! ^_^

      • keke..i do believe so ^.^….being realistic will keep us from harm indeed…hwaithing!!!! (Luv u!!!) n.b. i’m your no.1 fan ^.^

  16. Well written piece on fanwar , I recollect my thoughts from the very 1st day,(Nov 2010) that I’ve start reading DBSK articles and watching fancam videos include some backstage video clips from DBSK’s 2003 .
    I was so impressed with these then ‘rookies’ boys band stagemanships followed by their impressive asian well mannered ,humble attitude towards their seniors given their age then. It is not difficult to spot their well behaviors behind cameras and their true emotions too.(‘displayed’ true or not emotions can be read by ‘certain field’ person)DBSK boys is a boy band that most family would approved for their kids to idolize.
    I read about the Disband and the Lawsuit and was sadden by the fanwar.Lots of hurts and exchange online is something so loud that not being a fan myself can feel
    the strained situation. The more I understand the more I feel sorry for the whole Korean entertainment artistes especially the girls.But this boy band actually went through all these is just unbelievable. Korea need to change the way it used to be real soon. I am just too pleased to see that JYJ fans stay united as one with amazing supports/drives from all fans(all time fans and new fans) As a supporter, I am just so glad to see more and more good events unfold as fans are reading more reliable sources and truths are coming out with more public awareness on this issue. Do remember that these five boys will have more pain than any of us after very hurtful words from all sides ‘arrowed’ at them during the whole episode. Over five years together as team members to loving brotherly bond is something bystander cannot comment or interfere.They see each other more than their own family.

  17. Very well said. I was enlighten by your post. It clearly shows what is the situation of i-fandoms and how each or most of us react to JYJ and DBSK’s situation. I agree with all the points you gave and it’s a must read for everyone. I like the way your entry holds no specific biases compared to other related post about the topic. More power!!! ^^

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