My mother has become quite the K-Pop fan, probably partly due to my almost daily chattering about the genre to anyone in my family who is kind enough to open their ears to the noise.
It is still quite strange to see my Mum make the effort to learn the names of all the Super Junior members or debate with me about which BIGBANG song is the best. It has even gotten to the point where she is the one updating me about the latest scandal to occur!
A few days ago, she asked me if G-Dragon was gay, I simply shrugged my shoulders and asked why she inquired such a thing out of the blue. She then told me that there was an allkpop article that she came across that discussed which K-Pop entertainers were most likely to be Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual and that G-Dragon’s name popped up a lot. I was perplexed, but after a little internet search, realised that my Mum was probably talking about a forum discussion thread that she must have come across on a Google search.
Most K-Pop fans will be familiar with this sort of debate, upon showing someone a male K-Pop idol for the first time, a common question seems to be: “Is he gay?”
I’ve put this down to many reasons, to name a few – male K-Pop idols often wear a lot of make-up, have well-coiffed hair and a very flamboyant dress sense. All these are stereotypical signifiers of a homosexual male in Western culture.
Like any other K-Pop fan, I have my favourites and biases. I have been known to squeal at my computer screen when one of them winks at the camera or makes another similarly cheesy gesture to get a fangirl’s crazed reaction. Admittedly, I also like hearing the latest chunk of gossip about this individual and their private lives. However, I can personally say that I really don’t mind what sexuality or lifestyle choices they are making in their own time as long as they are happy and are not hurting anyone else in the process.
I could be completely wrong, but it seems that the practice of a LGBT identity is not accepted in South Korean culture. I think I have only come across one openly homosexual Korean entertainer in the few years I have been a fan of the area. It got me thinking, it would be such a shame for South Korean celebrities to feel that they have to hide their true selves for the fear that they would be shunned by others.
There have been a few incidents that I have read in the past that have helped confirm that this would be the case, such as when it was revealed that JYJ’s Xia Junsu would be required to kiss a man for the musical Elizabeth. The article on allkpop that covered this got many positive comments, but there were so many that were rather disgusted at the whole idea that Xia would be kissing another male.
I understand that the comment section for a news sharing website for English speakers is not a good way of judging the tolerance levels for LGBT individuals in South Korea, but I think the simple fact that it is so difficult to come across in this area in itself speaks volumes.
Having said all this, many K-Pop fan fictions embrace homosexual relationships. The few that I have come across involve male homosexuality over female, but one could still say that this shows a level of acceptance from the K-Pop fandom.
You could also say there is a slight leaning towards a trans-gender lifestyle in the genre from the very common partaking in cross-dressing. This is often purely for comedic purpose, but I have now become someone very accepting of the reshaping and bending of gender roles partly due, I think, to my K-Pop consumption.
Whenever I tell my brother that I am watching a K-Drama, the first thing he asks is: “Does the main female character dress up as a boy?” thanks to the fact that there are quite a few that have this as their plotline.
Of course, I am not saying that this is the same thing as being transgender, but again shows this often marginalised lifestyle being embraced in the South Korean entertainment industry.
Then there is the whole concept of ‘fanservice’ to be considered, which the main image from the article illustrates quite well!
This is undoubtedly a very contentious subject for many and far be it from me to suggest a complete upheaval of an entire nation’s culture and traditions. However, I personally feel it would be terrible for any South Korean entertainers (or anyone as a matter of fact) to feel that they cannot be true to themselves in any aspect, including their sexuality.
[I’m still upset that G-Dragon looks so much better in a dress than I do though…TT.TT]
What do you guys think about this subject?
Do things like ‘fanservice’ show a gradual change in attitudes, or do idol just do it to get a reaction?
Share your opinions!
[Sources: Google Images, allkpop.com].