Before getting started on this piece, I must admit that I have never actually watched a single episode of the South Korean programme ‘We Got Married’. However, I do know that the basic principle of the programme is that a male and a female celebrity embark upon a fake married life together for the entertainment of its viewers. This will include a wedding photoshoot and even a honeymoon amongst many other things. I recall when I first heard about the programme some time ago and was left quite perplexed by the whole thing. Having said this though, I can still understand why the programme has done so well over the years, it provides a space for viewers to fantasise, whether that be in entertaining the fact that there might actually be a real relationship forming between the two celebrities, or perhaps by allowing the viewer to put themselves in the place of the ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ of their bias.
Aswell as knowing the basic idea of the show, I am quite familiar with some of the different debates that have taken place between fans on social media websites and online forums. Receptions to certain couple formations or events have been extremely varied and occasionally quite heated in the past and I am struck by the difference in fan reactions between these events involving idols as opposed to other celebrities. I am taking into account two different ‘We Got Married’ couples for the purpose of this argument, MBLAQ’s Lee Joon and actress Oh Yeon Seo as well as SHINee’s Taemin and A Pink’s Na Eun.
I remember the quite harsh backlash Yeon Seo received when she was revealed to be cast alongside Lee Joon. Many fans mentioned that the actress was ‘too old’ to be cast as the idol’s fake other half and suggested that this pairing would mean that Lee Joon’s first official solo position on a programme would be unsuccessful. As it turns out, after only about 4 months on the show together, both of them pulled out. Whilst their respective agencies cited overly-packed schedules as the reason, many suspected the dating scandal between Yeon Seo and co-star Lee Jang Woo that came about around the time was the actual cause. The marriage fantasy is shattered if one of the celebrities is enthralled in dating rumours with someone that is not their fake other half, even though these are staged marriages in the first place, it appears that someone who is taken by another in reality cannot partake in the ‘We Got Married’ façade. As you can imagine, this situation only added more fuel to the fire for fans of Lee Joon who were against the coupling, even though the dating rumours between Yeon Seo and Jang Woo were allegedly unfounded.
Taemin is the youngest member of SHINee, having debuted at the delicate age of 15; many fans tend to still categorize him as a baby – a forever innocent maknae. When it was announced that he would be taking part in ‘We Got Married’ alongside A-Pink’s Na Eun, many of Taemin’s fans were left very upset and incredulous that he would be taking the role as someone’s fake husband. It was revealed that the producers wanted to inject some youth into the programme and took on the two idols to portray the feelings of young souls embarking on their first romantic relationship. This did not placate the SHAWOLs however, with many expressing how uncomfortable they were to see Taemin in such situations.
These are obviously only two examples of adverse reactions to couplings on this programme (and I haven’t even researched into what some of Na Eun’s fans’ reactions were), but I can’t help but feel it is a much more risky business for idols than it is for any other type of celebrity. It is well known that idols are often given the strictest dating bans among all in the South Korean Entertainment Industry; their free marital status is as much a part of their image as their immaculately coiffured hairstyles it seems. Frequently, idols are encouraged to portray a sense of availability to all fans, all over the world, all of the time. This is bolstered further by their proliferation on all types of media. Perhaps this ubiquity leads to a sense of overwhelming familiarity and even ownership for some fans, which in turn results in strong emotional attachments to idols, to the point where they feel they know what is better for them and what they should be doing with their careers and lives.
I am quite an idol fan myself, so it is plausible that I have paid more attention to the idols involved in this programme rather than the other celebrities, but I have never seen such public backlashes for actors and actresses involved. I have no doubt they have fans that may be a upset at their casting on the show, but it could be their specific job and arguably higher privacy level (when compared to idols) that means fans tend to be more accepting or at least less vocal about their dissatisfaction.
A lot of these idols’ fans do not seem to consider the possibility that their bias has taken part of the show for their own reasons. Perhaps Taemin took on this role because he wants a change of image, or perhaps he wants to be viewed more of as an adult rather than a being barely out of the foetal stage. Lee Joon may have wanted to push the boundaries and try his hand at portraying a loving husband. It seems the suspension of disbelief utilised in this programme is both its maker and its breaker.
Having said all this, 2PM‘s Nickhun and f(x)‘s Victoria’s relationship was fairly well received, as was the couple made up of 2AM‘s Jo Kwon and Brown Eyed Girls’ Ga In who were affectionately dubbed ‘Khuntoria’ and the ‘Adam Couple’ respectively by fans. So perhaps it is more about individual idols as opposed to idols as a whole?
What do you guys think about this issue?
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[Other images: Google, News article: allkpop.com].