Idols emotionally support millions of fans through their music, personal journeys, and who they are as people, but this idol-fan relationship is not without its problems.
In the highly competitive, oversaturated K-Pop industry, producing great music isn’t enough to guarantee ongoing success. Great music is just the basics. In addition to being talented singers, rappers, and dancers, idols must also have likable personalities that will attract fans.
This is because K-Pop is as much a personality business as much as it is a music business.
Companies work tirelessly to give fans, not just good music, but music videos, variety shows programs, reality shows, live broadcasts, social media interactions, and in-person meetings to build a personal connection between idols and their fandoms.
In the entertainment industry, sex always sells but what sells even better is a strong emotional connection, especially in a world where people are increasingly living their lives behind screens and through social media.
People nowadays often stay connected with their own friends and families by using the many of the same platforms they also use to keep in touch with their favourite K-Pop stars. This contributes to the illusion that idols are just as accessible as the people in their fans’ personal lives.
Idol-fan relationships can be beautiful and life-changing for everyone involved. By giving idols love and support, fans help their idols dreams to come true.
In turn, idols give fans the courage to follow their own dreams and their music helps fans to overcome obstacles along the way.
Unfortunately, there’s a flipside to this relationship. K-Pop companies often go beyond marketing their boy groups and girl groups as “friends” and push “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” concepts.
Heck, there’s even a group called Boyfriend…
Idols themselves have sweetly referred to their fans as girlfriends and boyfriends as part of their fan service. For instance, EXO‘s Chen once wrote this adorable message on a fan’s poster during a fansign.
It reads, “This girl who never had a boyfriend is mine!”
Although most fans know where to draw the line between this girlfriend/boyfriend fantasy and reality some don’t.
This idol-fan “relationship” can lead to a sense of entitlement; some fans believe idols should involve their fans in important life decisions and not date without fan “approval”.
By dating, idols shatter the boyfriend/girlfriend illusion their companies have created. Some fans feel betrayed in the same way they would if their real significant other had cheated on them. This can then lead to harassment, defamation, scandals, and even the downfall of the idol’s career.
Fans need to remember that their role is to support their idols from afar. Idols are real people who deserve to have personal lives outside of their careers, just like the rest of us do.