“Other people are going to think it’s weird.”
February 9, 2021 9:48 AM   Subscribe

ON Pleasure By Lauren R. O'Connor.
I learned three things from this interaction: one, it is bad to be really interested in things; two, if I was really interested in something, I should therefore hide it; and three, my mother cared more about me being normal than about me being happy.

This essay isn’t therapy, so I will not be unpacking that third lesson here, but I want to address the first two and how BTS freed me to find pleasure and actually let myself experience it for the sole reason that it feels good.

If you're not familiar with BTS, here's a YouTube playlist to get started: "What's a good entry point for BTS?"
posted by Lexica (100 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh my god it's me. Apart from the married part and what fandoms this woman chose to get into, I might have written this exact essay. Also, to add, if you are an older fan - I am 39 this year - it's easy to think you're too old for a group whose primary audience is teenagers/early twenties. I was accepted warmly and wholeheartedly and nobody ever told me I didn't belong.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 10:03 AM on February 9 [17 favorites]


There's a great expression in French for this : "bouder son plaisir", which means a refusal to experience pleasure, even if something feels pleasurable.
posted by bluefrog at 10:08 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


My mother said EVERYTHING was bovine/dumb/embarassing/for nerds/ugly. I'm almost 40 and I still don't know what I like...what a horrid thing to do to children.

That said. I'm going to write a fable later, for extra credit, and I'm going to use the silly style that I wrote in as a child. I coulda been a contender.
posted by lextex at 10:08 AM on February 9 [18 favorites]


I haven't read the article yet but I want to extend sympathy to those of you so suppressed. although I always knew what I liked, as a child and young adult, I was EXTREMELY secretive of much of it. I would never dare to share and face scoffing, judgement, derision. I definitely still have splinters of this at nearly 53 but I keep working on them! (and learning that more people nerd out about a lot of interesting things and admitting your own can be a great opening to finding that you share one with someone else. but I agree, it can be terrifying.)
posted by supermedusa at 10:17 AM on February 9 [13 favorites]


In fact, nobody is "ostracized" for "nerding" out on pop culture at all anymore.

Really?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:06 AM on February 9 [27 favorites]


When I was a kid, I went through a years-long phase where I was OBSESSED with cats. As a middle-schooler, my room was like a shrine to Garfield, peppered here and there with cat figurines and paraphernalia from Cats the musical. I had (truly amazing, not gonna lie) cat sweatshirts. All the Garfield books. I subscribed to Cat Fancy and read each issue cover to cover, sometimes even quoting it to my mom when I read something that I thought pertained to our cats. I drew them and wrote stories about our cats. I remember keenly the time in 6th grade when we were all assigned to pick a poem to read aloud and I recited (from memory) The Naming of Cats exactly like it sounded on my Cats cassette tape - the drawn out silence when I finished and the look on my teacher's face as she struggled to come up with something to say is something that haunts me a bit to this day.

Throughout all of this, my mom NEVER told me I was being weird. She would listen to all my obliviously sincere monologues on cats, and she treated me with kindness and interest - I'm sure she had opinions that she kept to herself, but I felt like she took me absolutely seriously. Yes, I was very much bullied in school for being a ginormous weirdo, but I'm pretty sure that would have happened no matter what so I'm grateful to have had space at home where I wasn't treated like there was something inherently wrong with me. I'm so grateful for that gift she gave me.

Eventually I did grow out of the cat phase, but there have been multiple other phases I've immersed myself in (including one that landed me a brief freelance writing gig with the object of said phase - that was fun!). As an adult I've learned to share my joys in a slightly more measured way, but I don't think I ever really learned to feel ashamed of them, and again, I think I have my mom to thank for that. I try to remember her interactions with Young Cat-Obsessed DingoMutt, and I try to treat other people's interests with that same kindness and respect.

I don't know anything about BTS right now, but I love that they helped this woman rediscover what it's like to be joyfully immersed in something. Thank you for posting this, Lexica!
posted by DingoMutt at 11:08 AM on February 9 [45 favorites]


Everyone gets to like what they like, and I'm not one to look down on anyone else's taste in music or anything else, but I'm not sure how becoming a fan of something immensely popular is now an act of resistance to "sameness, conformity, obedience to the status quo".
posted by Daily Alice at 11:09 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


In a broad sense, Chesty, really -- at least this is a widely held observation, seen here, here, here and so on...
posted by justinethanmathews at 11:12 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


In fact, nobody is "ostracized" for "nerding" out on pop culture at all anymore.

Really?


Well now that that internet exists, one can find a group that enjoys the same thing so one is not totally ostracized.

But since pop culture still exists as a monolith that is defined by local tastemakers, marketers, and a big eastern syndicate, 'in real life', in contained cultures, like a classroom, workspace, or peer group, one can sure as hell be ostracized.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:18 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


If someone told me that the thing(s) I loved were "consumerist and shallow", a "scientifically-engineered Seven Basic Plots thing" as opposed to something of actual value "that requires anything more than `I felt a very basic feeling and that must mean something'", that the culture I loved was a "race[...] to the bottom in order to feed a Skittle to the largest number of people", that my "`culture [was] not about aesthetics' [but instead] for `social bonding'", that my nerding out was on something "designed by a committee that has contempt for [me] -- that requires [my] anxiety. That invents a problem and sells the solution" and that if it weren't for my tastes "how much richer the world would be", then yeah, I'd call that contempt.
posted by heatherlogan at 11:21 AM on February 9 [44 favorites]


I wish, desperately, that it were easier to connect the zeitgeist to art that's not so consumerist and shallow.

This is a tendency that really bums me out on Metafilter. You don't like something? That latest TV show or band isn't for you? That's fine! Hershey's chocolate is icky to you, and Olive Garden isn't to your taste? No worries at all! But the need to come in to threads about something just to declare its "shallowness", and to share your wish that others could instead appreciate the splendors of whatever you feel is superior ... I just don't see what that adds to the dialog.

People like different things, and one person's tastes aren't inherently worse just because you don't get them. Declaring that someone is appreciating something that was "designed by a committee that has contempt for her," as if this were a fact and not an opinion, is a great way to make others feel weird or ashamed of their own preferences - exactly the thing the author is talking about breaking free of. I'd never heard of BTS before this and don't have a specific dog in this fight, but I feel like there have to be better ways of encouraging people to explore things you think they should explore, without first taking a dump on the things that are special to them.

nobody is "ostracized" for "nerding" out on pop culture at all anymore.

Speaking as someone who works in middle and high schools, I would invite you to spend some time in a middle or high school and then revisit that claim.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:23 AM on February 9 [68 favorites]


On the other hand, agitating for Britten, for Tolstoy, for Chick Corea, for Maria Callas, for anything that doesn't taste like Skittles -- such a stance can, inexplicably yet inevitably, leave one open to the charge of being out of touch, at best, or being a racist, sexist cultural dinosaur at worst.

Or, worse, a hipster.
posted by heatherlogan at 11:25 AM on February 9 [8 favorites]


I actually think that’s a pretty narrow sense. In the experience of many people whose experiences might not be reflected in the Times, there are in fact giant swaths of even US culture — I’m thinking of people I work among, and of my eighth-grader, for example—to whom it would be news that we’re all nerds now and that unbridled enthusiasm for anything is automatically cool. Or that gatekeeping is universally frowned upon. I wish that were true. There are probably more pockets of frowning than there were, but there are still many, many places in which gates are enthusiastically ...kept.

It’s easier to find your people now, but that’s a different argument. I don’t agree that adults’ unbridled enthusiasm for a given pop-culture phenomenon is considered acceptable and normal as broadly as you seem to.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:28 AM on February 9 [12 favorites]


(trying to redirect from the "what's worse, the struggles of the BTS fan or the struggles of the Yayoi Kusama fan" argument)

What I find most remarkable is this writer's capacity for culture-related obsession and pleasure. I think most people relate to childhood obsession like the one she describes for Back to the Future (my kid is in the midst of a DingoMutt-with-cats level obsession right now). But how many adults get a response to art like the one this woman describes to BTS?

"I felt myself once again on that precipice of uninhibited adoration — but instead of stepping back, I made a remarkably conscious decision to lean into it. As 'Black Swan' played, I literally threw my hands up and surrendered any pretense of actually getting work done that day. I felt my heart beating in my throat during 'ON,' cried happy tears during “Moon,” and ... I had never been as happy in my life as I was after discovering BTS."

That's like sex-and-religion level ecstasy she's describing.
posted by hungrytiger at 11:35 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


The drive behind fandom is hedonism for adults. People who could love what they love without concern for being normal and dignified.

It was a different time in the early 1970s, and hedonism for nerdish adults wasn't nearly as acceptable as it became when it was clear you could make money in IT as a nerd. Star Wars made a big difference, too.

I also had a mother who was very worried about social acceptance, though it didn't play out the same way, so I sympathize with the writer of the article.

justinethanmathews, Lord of the Rings is almost the ur-fandom, and it's a very rich work of art.

You've got my sympathy, but I suppose that if what you like is pushing the limits, it's unlikely to be broadly popular.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:37 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


(I cued a BTS record up -- just in case! -- but aside from "Dynamite," which is admittedly a banger, I don't think I'm going to be able to levitate with pleasure like the original writer did. Oh well)
posted by hungrytiger at 11:38 AM on February 9


a profit motive absolutely can and often does influence a creative product, sure. but that doesn't always mean something of lower value is being produced if it's made for money or with popular appeal in mind. tolstoy makes the kind of art that some sweaty man alone in a room can produce in 6000 hours or whatever (i don't know much about tolstoy). BTS produces the kind of thing that a half-dozen cool teens living in an affluent contemporary society can produce with an unlimited budget. totally different! also good! (by which i mean, if it's good to someone, it's good--period). isn't there room for both? different value, not lower value?
posted by The Minotaur at 11:39 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


1. Yayoi Kusama certainly sparked a lot of joy in Toronto during her 2018 exhibition at the AGO: Nearly 60,000 were in queue to get tickets to AGO's Infinity Mirrors exhibit.

1. Much more importantly, I loved this article. I have also coming into my fandom (of a variety of bits of pop culture, legal studies, film photography, etc) as an adult. I was very reserved as a child and being visibly invested in something always felt too revealing to me. I think it really changed when I started playing sports in university, which was a bit all-consuming, and gave me cover to be "really into" something publicly. Then I realized that I really liked people who really liked things. Didn't really matter what those things were, but people with a passion for something are much more attractive to me than people without.

Thanks for sharing this.
posted by hepta at 11:43 AM on February 9 [9 favorites]


I also had a mother who pressured me into conformity. It didn't take for me quite as well as it did for this writer; I was a natural enthusiast and could never really quell it, but I was fortunate in finding other adults who supported me.

I've had "OMG I love this how did I never know about it before?" experiences a couple of times in the last five years or so. One was discovering The Mountain Goats after a friend put "This Year" on a mix CD she sent me; the other was finally reading Moby Dick. In both cases. I have found other enthusiasts in sometimes surprising places. I think John Darnielle is a genius and that there's something wrong with a world where he and his band have a passionate following but you can still get tickets to a show for 20 bucks or so.

I'm glad for this writer that she's experienced this opening. I hope it continues to bring her joy and is only the first of many new loves awaiting her.
posted by Orlop at 11:51 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


nobody is "ostracized" for "nerding" out on pop culture at all anymore.

Have you met, like, a person?

I can't help but wonder how much richer the world would be, though, if this woman had discovered she could nerd out on something that wasn't designed by a committee that has contempt for her

My favorite band in the world has been around for over 35 years, is one of the most genuine things on the planet, and I get shit for liking them. Endless shit.
posted by bondcliff at 11:51 AM on February 9 [19 favorites]


justinethanmathews, I'm not sure that you're going to be able to successfully argue that all of pop music is worth less than boring classical music I can't dance to, just because it's not what you're used to. And I do think that's what it comes down to - you always seem to make a leap to universal value based on a couple of arbitrary properties you've been taught are worthwhile.

Like, you realize that this is not a new argument, right? People have been despairing the existence of pop music for the length of its existence. You're not speaking some sort of truth to power here.
posted by sagc at 11:53 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Like, you realize that this is not a new argument, right? People have been despairing the existence of pop music for the length of its existence. You're not speaking some sort of truth to power here.

I produce pop for a living. There's good stuff and bad stuff, almost everything is somewhere in between.
posted by justinethanmathews at 11:55 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


it's engineered to that level.

look, i think i really do get it. before i was a poptimist i was a 90s college radio snob (which is of course a super typical path of development, yawn). but think of it this way: without the profit motive, nothing would be "engineered to that level". that makes BTS's stuff (or taylor swift's, or whoever's at that level) fascinating cultural material in and of itself, doesn't it? the world we've created has in turn created this art. doesn't it make sense that the people who live in this contemporary, cool-obsessed world would be particularly drawn to it? and is there anything inherently wrong with that? in other words: is it the art you have beef with, or is it the underlying cultural priorities?
posted by The Minotaur at 11:57 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


I thought my capacity for joy was shrunken, starved into smallness, left to rot while I worked to fit others’ expectations of me; I was wrong.

This article comes at an interesting time for me, because just last night I was thinking about how much I loved horses and unicorns when I was in elementary school. I just loved them soooo much and collected books and sighed over all the Breyer horses in the toy stores that were too expensive for me. And that led to me thinking about how my parents did try to accommodate my love for horses - I had riding lessons for a season and was sent to Girl Scouts horse camp one summer and from that I learned I didn't actually love horses in person very much. Looking back, what I think I mostly loved was beautiful art about horses and unicorns, and collecting all kinds of facts about horses, and also I had some yearning for a stalwart friend who could whisk you across a field, away from your problems. Freedom of a sort.

I had other fandom type loves in high school and college, many of which were much less mainstream than being a horse girl, and earned me contempts and an outside reputation, but as I grew older I really lost that ability to feel passion and joy and even rewarding obsession about whatever and I miss that.

I'm pretty much here, with the lack of capacity for joy these days.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 11:57 AM on February 9 [13 favorites]


Bondcliff, it's RUSH isn't it?

No.

and also, *sigh*
posted by bondcliff at 11:58 AM on February 9 [12 favorites]


But how many adults get a response to art like the one this woman describes to BTS?
"I felt myself once again on that precipice of uninhibited adoration — but instead of stepping back, I made a remarkably conscious decision to lean into it. As 'Black Swan' played, I literally threw my hands up and surrendered any pretense of actually getting work done that day. I felt my heart beating in my throat during 'ON,' cried happy tears during “Moon,” and ... I had never been as happy in my life as I was after discovering BTS."
That's like sex-and-religion level ecstasy she's describing.


Without speculating about the author, I can say that as an autistic person I have that kind of response to some music. Bach, for sure. And yes, also BTS.
posted by Lexica at 11:59 AM on February 9 [8 favorites]


Also people absolutely do levitate with pleasure and obsession for "high" culture, and if you want to read some of those articles, here are a few:

The Annual Moby Dick Marathon
Moby-Dick Marathon weekend features the main 25-hour read-a-thon – fueled by caffeine, warm local soups, theatrical performances, and a fondness for the author’s artistry – as well as two mini-marathons: a Portuguese-language reading of Tiago Patricio’s abridged Moby-Dick; and a children’s version by Classic Starts.

The event begins with readers and audience members nestled onboard or alongside the world’s largest whaleship model – the Lagoda. Marathoners sit amongst the sails, lines, and whaling tools of the time while experiencing the first chapters. ...The remainder of the book is read non-stop in a gallery with 180-degree views of the fishing fleet and other vessels lining New Bedford Harbor. The only exception is Chapter 40, Midnight Forecastle, which is performed as a theatrical interpretation by Culture*Park in the Museum’s theater.

Hilda af Klimt's Show Has Become the Most Popular Show in The Guggenheim's History
The solo show for the Swedish artist, which has been widely praised by critics, has drawn in over 600,000 visitors. That influx of foot traffic has been accompanied by a 34 percent increase in membership to the museum, and more than 30,000 copies of the exhibition catalogue have been sold.

How Shakespeare's Blood Cult Became Ted Hughes' Fatal Obsession
A generation after its first publication, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being remains an extraordinary one-off: the record of an obsession, a would-be cult and an incipient nervous breakdown. ... He had plucked out “Shakespeare’s heart”, he said, and identified “the myth” within the poet’s work – the religious and psychological conflict caused by the Puritan suppression of old Catholicism in which the goddess of pagan beliefs still flourished. ... His conviction that he had unlocked the secret to Shakespeare’s work, one that would reconcile the war inside himself, was an idea he was determined to prove by an even closer reading of the plays. (see also: Bardolatry)

Becoming a Fan: On the Seductions of Opera
[The purpose of the following] is to explicate the processes of initiation in an activity typically considered “high culture.” ...Drawing upon an 18-month-long ethnography on opera fans in Buenos Aires, this paper ... shows that passionate opera fans enjoy opera based on their belief that opera is something that needs to be learned in order to be properly enjoyed.
posted by hungrytiger at 12:02 PM on February 9 [12 favorites]


Being unpopular does not mean an artist is "better" or more deserving of support than artists with a wider appeal, ffs. I'm not going to listen to artists that sound unpleasant to me just because some hipster or music geek thinks they're more "complex". Been there, done that - you wouldn't believe how many terrible "unique" indie bands exist. I've grown past the impulse to be cool and listen to what I actually like now, even if hipsters look down their nose at it for being unoriginal.

I'm very used to people saying how much my favourite bands suck, but it's still disappointing to see the exact attitude from the article popping up here right away. Way to miss the point!
posted by randomnity at 12:03 PM on February 9 [16 favorites]


justinethanmatthews: Is the place... where this person is enjoying it? In this thread where we're talking about enjoying things? Damn. I can see why you get negative responses in response to making these points, as you alluded to in your first post in this thread - this is not the way to convince people that your view of value in art is progressive and tolerant.
posted by sagc at 12:03 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Give that this is a thread about not being ashamed to like things, it seems some of our newer friends on The Blue have never been exposed to Wheaton’s Law.

Glad I could “Lucky 10,000” you on this one.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:10 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Well, I was with you up to point 4 - we disagree strongly that there's such a thing as "undue scrutiny". You're saying it's possible for a band to have too many fans? She should check herself from getting paid to write an article? It evinces low standards to enjoy BTS?

I'm not sure if you don't hear the implications of what you're saying, or what.
posted by sagc at 12:13 PM on February 9


I should mention, too, that I don't think that 1-3 actually undermine the points of the article.
posted by sagc at 12:14 PM on February 9


Stop gatekeeping women's opinions.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 12:15 PM on February 9 [21 favorites]


as though liking these highly popular things is difficult to do publically

There's a really narrow range of enthusiasm that people are allowed to express for things. Dislike to moderate love. Anything that goes outside those, people tend to find offputting. People who are really, really into Harry Potter (and not just casual fans) absolutely are going to put normies off. Heck, I find extremely enthusiastic fans somewhat offputting and I'm occasionally one of them and have spent a lot of time around them, and they can be... a lot. So no, while it's become very normal to be a fan of Star Wars, it's not "normal" to spend all your spare time composing Star Wars fanfiction, and you probably are going to get a lot of side-eye from people who aren't immersed in it.

I have a couple of Facebook friends who I've ended up temporarily muting because their entire feeds are just BTS or Supernatural or whatever, and I don't particularly like those properties and I find their posts expressing their unbridled enthusiasm hard to read. I don't begrudge them, but it can feel like a bit of a barrage.

The things that give me the most unbridled joy have been more or less rendered impossible during the pandemic, so I've been in withdrawal from my thing for going on a year now. It's awful, and I haven't found anything to replace it. Life without something that gives you that feeling sucks. It's lovely that the author was able to find it.

Especially in quarentimes, sometimes an infusion of pure sugar is the only thing that can puncture the low-level fuckshittery of the world right now; complex flavors are just require too much.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:17 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]


out of respect for ourselves we should aspire to HIGHER STANDARDS

yikes! you're on your own there, buddy.

I'm not going to listen to artists that sound unpleasant to me just because some hipster or music geek thinks they're more "complex".

i remember being this music geek. (i'm still possibly considered a "hipster", whatever that might mean, and sorry-not-sorry about it.) just speaking for myself, i remember it coming from a place not of contempt for another band, and it certainly wasn't contempt for another music fan, another person--usually it was the opposite, where i was trying to connect to this person. it was sweaty-palmed evangelism. and when i would be mean--i remember in particular writing a cruel, ignorant review of an early-2000s janet jackson album that i very much regret--it was about either a) trying to be funny (groan), or b) trying to redirect another music fan's appreciation to something else that i felt was less celebrated and more deserving. the idea was like: oh, you're a music fan, maybe you could like this other thing that's less popular but is really good!

but yeah, that's not the way to go about it. i'm sorry you had some experiences that left you feeling judged by hipsters. i think we're all just trying to connect, often going about it badly, particularly when young.
posted by The Minotaur at 12:18 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


Well, I was with you up to point 4 - we disagree strongly that there's such a thing as "undue scrutiny".

I think I worded that really poorly. BTS is just doing their thing, and so are their fans. This is fine.

By "undue scrutiny", I mean that because of articles like these, I've got BTS under a microscope for how well/not well they "solve" middle-age anxiety, rather than what they say on the tin, namely, big loud fun.

My issue is NOT with BTS, it's with the contemporary elevation of pop culture where it doesn't belong. Not because I am so great! But because I want MORE for every person -- we all deserve for our music to be there for us for the long haul! And my personal feeling is that this kind of music is just NOT -- that it undermines itself.
posted by justinethanmathews at 12:20 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Yeah, count me in as someone who wants to follow my experiences of joy where they lead, not follow a curriculum.
posted by sagc at 12:24 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Really?

Depending on one's definition of "nerding out"... Yes, really.

I am a 41 year old who LARPs. As a hobby, that used to be pretty close to the bottom of the social hierarchy. The degree to which I can be said to "nerd out" is subjective but I feel it's pretty deep; the year before the pandemic shut everything down I spent over $7,000 LARPing, I was at events three to six days a month and I was a regular on a number of forums discussing LARP-related matters. Maybe it's that I've aged out of the groups where heavy bullying is a thing but I've been pretty open about this and being socially ostracized hasn't been a thing for a while. I'd mention on dates (FIRST DATES) that I was flying up to Washington for the weekend to pretend to be a farmer growing crops during the zombie apocalypse and the responses were mostly slightly baffled but still appreciative curiosity.

This doesn't mean one doesn't still need to read the room; if your criteria for "nerding out" is "I wear my robe and wizard hat to the grocery store" you're still going to have a bad time. In fairness to the author's mother, the enthusiasm of children can be fucking exhausting. I will never get back the hour-plus of my life I lost when I decided to humor my seven year old cousin's offer to recite from memory every pokemon in pokedex order; I expect after several weeks of Back to the Future talk I would be desperate to discuss something else.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:26 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


I want MORE for every person -- we all deserve for our music to be there for us for the long haul!

i appreciated this clarification. i think i get where you're coming from. in some other comments thread i'm sure many mefites would be happy to agree that we live in an infantilized, and infantilizing, age. but the good news is that brahms, or jazz, or whatever else is going to be there for all time for anyone who finds themself ready to take something from it. people are going to get what's good for them, you don't need to worry about that.
posted by The Minotaur at 12:27 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Wow, this thread. There's a lot going on here. As someone who works in the arts (and relatedly has some strong passions and judgements about certain kinds of art), I empathize with both sides of this argument. In every case I've found a poor reception when I've told someone why I don't like a thing they already like. I have had much better luck trying to identify what it is the person likes about that thing and then recommending something that I perceive as richer or more interesting based on that common enjoyment. Pop is a gateway drug.
posted by Leeway at 12:28 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]


> Without speculating about the author, I can say that as an autistic person I have that kind of response to some music.

I was thinking as I read this that many of the people I know who seem to get the most deep joy from their fandoms are autistic. I'm not autistic, so tell me if I'm being a jerk, but I think many people on the spectrum are able of appreciating a deep dive into an subject in a way that other people don't have access to.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:28 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


> I have had much better luck trying to identify what it is the person likes about that thing and then recommending something that I perceive as richer or more interesting based on that common enjoyment. Pop is a gateway drug.

OK, but: why? Why should people like what you like? Why not let them like what they like? Do you let them recommend things to you that they perceive as richer or more interesting?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:30 PM on February 9 [12 favorites]


OK, but: why? Why should people like what you like?

i'm not the one who wrote what you're replying to here, but i'll answer: because what i like is good! if i like it, there's a least a chance you will too. and if you do, your life is enriched, no?

Do you let them recommend things to you that they perceive as richer or more interesting?

hell yes! isn't this part of what having friends is about? sharing interests? is this dynamic unusual? strange to me that this would be considered aggressive or unwanted as long as there's mutual respect.
posted by The Minotaur at 12:35 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't feel respected if a person saw the book I was reading, or the song I was listening to, and said "Here, try this thing I like instead, it's richer and more interesting."
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:38 PM on February 9 [30 favorites]


OK, but: why? Why should people like what you like? Why not let them like what they like? Do you let them recommend things to you that they perceive as richer or more interesting?

That is often exactly what I do! As a social person (and a total nerd) I love connecting with people and I often do it by sharing my enthusiasms and getting other people to share theirs. What I'm talking about here is navigating a situation where I'm trying to connect with someone who is being enthusiastic about something that I can't connect with. It's a relational thing, not a prescriptivist thing.
posted by Leeway at 12:41 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


[Several comments deleted for violating the guidelines, particularly: "Speak for yourself, not others" please do not hijack the conversation, please consider taking a step back and letting the thread move on]
posted by loup (staff) at 12:42 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I miss Max. Miss him terribly

I do, though, enjoy the company of other people who get why I loved so much to listen to him play with his friends.
posted by flabdablet at 12:44 PM on February 9


It is the antithesis of friendly interaction to express the sentiment Raise your aesthetic game, because what you like is shit. Let’s be clear on that unassailable fact.

It’s trying to turn appreciation into a power move. May as well be beating one’s chest like a monkey till the troop falls in line.

Friends say “Hey, I love this thing and I think you might as well. Maybe we can share this interest.”
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:44 PM on February 9 [16 favorites]



I wouldn't feel respected if a person saw the book I was reading, or the song I was listening to, and said "Here, try this thing I like instead, it's richer and more interesting."

I would feel the same way. The intent isn't "that sucks try this" but "if you like that feature of that thing then you might like this too!"
posted by Leeway at 12:45 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


9 comments in a 45 comment thread (20%) telling us how the article author is wrong to love what she loves? C'mon. You're smarter and more cultured than the rest of us, we get it.

As 50-something, I'm realizing one of the things I miss about being younger--aside from some general optimism--is the ability to go all-in on a topic. I'm looking at my bookshelves, which have sections of All the Books on particular topics which I was into at one point or another. Not having a shelf I'm currently filling with tomes about [whatever] feels like I'm flat.
posted by maxwelton at 12:46 PM on February 9 [15 favorites]


My issue is NOT with BTS, it's with the contemporary elevation of pop culture where it doesn't belong. Not because I am so great! But because I want MORE for every person -- we all deserve for our music to be there for us for the long haul! And my personal feeling is that this kind of music is just NOT -- that it undermines itself.

This is pretty condescending. As is comparing fandoms like BTS to "candy". FYI, an argument that amounts to "eat your vegetables" isn't really the best way to convince people to engage with art you deem "better." There's also the fact that people contain multitudes: the same person who's an earnest and excited member of the BTS ARMY, joyfully participating in that fandom with thousands of other people and making social connections with them, might also have an intense interest and appreciation of, idk, avant-garde theater, while being perfectly content with indulging that interest in a more individual way.

Not everything I love leads to intense fandom, some things I'd consider myself in the fandom for are things I'm often critical of. For me, fandom is about having room to play. There are a lot of works of art that don't have that room to play, but that are very good and that I love very much. I'm not interested in participating in a fandom for those things, because my enjoyment of them is complete in and of itself, more or less. BTS offers this writer, and many others, a media experience that does have room to play, to participate in a big, active fandom that only exists because it's been so manufactured.

It's like having fun in a theme park: is it kind of crass and designed to have the broadest appeal possible? Yeah! That's WHY it's fun, that's the whole purpose of its existence. The theme park is doing exactly what it set out to do, fulfilling the exact need that people have when they go to a theme park. If someone tells you they want to go to a theme park, and you take them to, like, idk, something like Derek Del Gaudio's In and of Itself, they're probably not gonna be happy. Del Gaudio's one-man show is great and intense and an incredible artistic experience. It probably left a big impact on people who saw it live. But it's not Disneyland. And the inverse is also true: if someone tells you "I want to see a really exciting and innovative performance, theater, music, whatever" and you take them to Disneyland, they're gonna be pissed.
posted by yasaman at 12:53 PM on February 9 [22 favorites]


so, while i've been hanging in this thread the past hour, i listened through BTS's album Map of the Soul: 7 as recommended in TFA. personal verdict: not doing a ton for me.

now at this point, were i 20 years old and a huuuge music enthusiast/nerd/snob, i would probably be posting here in comments about stuff i thought was better than BTS and then being called a prick. which, fair.

what i see now with the wisdom of age is that i listened to a single BTS album one time through (i wasn't familiar with them before this except for one radio single) and didn't love it. which means: i didn't get it. not that it's worse than anything i like. i just couldn't access it today, or right now, or because i don't have some other context, or whatever else. its melty goodness is unavailable to me. and that's on me.

and that feeling, while it's maybe a minor bummer, is sooooo much nicer than how i used to feel at 20 when i would hear something popular and not like it. back then, popular stuff that i didn't like was an existential threat. it felt like an assault on my values! absurd but true. it's so much nicer to just feel like there's pleasure to be had in anything anyone has found pleasurable. the cultural landscape is an almost impossibly diverse buffet of experiences, some of which i'm ready to suck the juice from and others which i'll need special mouthparts for, which i can pursue or not--up to me. nobody's wrong for liking a thing, and i'm not wrong for not liking it--just different mouthparts, so to speak.
posted by The Minotaur at 1:05 PM on February 9 [10 favorites]


I've always maintained that MDMA saved my life, and this realization that liking something because it feels good is ok is what I meant. I was a depressed hipster who hated pop music because it was popular and thus bad and then I took MDMA and it opened the door to joy. I realized that one could sometimes just feel good and that it was great. Joy is a good thing and not necessarily just for unthinking sheep who like 98 Degrees or whatever. I was able to loosen up and un-ironically like media that made me feel good. Being joyful in the things you love and being enthusiastic in other peoples joy is the best.
posted by Uncle at 1:05 PM on February 9 [12 favorites]


> As 50-something, I'm realizing one of the things I miss about being younger--aside from some general optimism--is the ability to go all-in on a topic.

If I might brag: I can still dork out like I could in my twenties. I'm currently trying out a few different size tablets to see which one will best let me dive into my latest interest -- X-Men comics, for better appreciation of WandaVision -- despite my aged eyes. (Why do they have to print comics so small? And faint? And blurry?)
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:07 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


The thing I really enjoy about the now is that while gatekeepers still exist many people just route around them like they don't and the confused and bewildered utterances of the frustrated gatekeepers are a taste of the sweet nectar of revenge to this slightly old man who grew up in a narrower time. Keep getting weirder world! It is a delight.
posted by srboisvert at 1:10 PM on February 9 [21 favorites]


I would invite you to spend some time in a middle or high school ...


... or a typical American corporation. Nothing really changes after 6th grade.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:25 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


If I might brag: I can still dork out like I could in my twenties.

Oh, yeah, my comment wasn't meant to be "all people in their 50s lack this ability" but "I somehow lack this ability in my 50s".
posted by maxwelton at 1:26 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (33 1/3)

A book about a rock music snob learning what's worth liking about Celine Dion's music. He doesn't end up loving the music, but he finds out that snobbery isn't that great.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:31 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


we all deserve for our music to be there for us for the long haul!

It's okay if musical tastes change. I nerded out over jazz fusion and Baroque music when I was in high school. Then I was into Information Society and Milli Vanilli. Then Enya and The Prodigy. Then Värttinä and Skinny Puppy. I've gone through dubstep, bellydance, powernoise, chiptune, glitch, alt-country and Viking metal music phases, several of them simultaneously.

These days I'm very much into dark ambient drone music (and in fact, I make it myself).

I have no patience for any flavor of "fine art good, entertainment bad" and even less so where it comes to peoples' tastes. Does it speak to someone, does it make them feel something? Then it has value.
posted by Foosnark at 1:45 PM on February 9 [14 favorites]


A close friend of mine lives outside of the US, but she faces the same challenges in her culture.

I can tell you 100% that BTS has saved her sense of joy, her commitment to her own creativity, and on some days her only source of hope. She is an accomplished business woman, mother, and artist, and sincerely connected with BTS one time at a concert a friend invited her to, and after that she was hooked. It is glorious seeing her so happy.

I can also tell you that she spent two years stuffing her enthusiasm in the closet because she was constantly having to argue others for such "terrible offenses" as: the BTS boys look too feminine, she is a mother and should only care about her child, she is a wife and should only care about her family, she is too old to bother with this, they aren't that great, etc, etc, etc. This came from everywhere- family, friends, total internet strangers DMing her on instagram.

Every time she scaled back her (IMO tame) enthusiasm, I watched her soul dim. She'd stop working on projects. Her painting and poetry would cease. She would be irritable. Distant. She would feel guilty, constantly saying she was "too much" and needed to be hidden under a rock.

It took her quite a while to learn to stuff all of those voices into the dumpster where they belonged.

I'm not a BTS fan, but I am a fan of my friend, and I love seeing her happy, and I have nothing but utter contempt for people who need to beat that down in others.

Thank you for this article- I just sent it her way.
posted by haplesschild at 1:56 PM on February 9 [31 favorites]


I wish, desperately, that it were easier to connect the zeitgeist to art that's not so consumerist and shallow.

This is a tendency that really bums me out on Metafilter. You don't like something? That latest TV show or band isn't for you? That's fine! Hershey's chocolate is icky to you, and Olive Garden isn't to your taste? No worries at all! But the need to come in to threads about something just to declare its "shallowness", and to share your wish that others could instead appreciate the splendors of whatever you feel is superior ... I just don't see what that adds to the dialog.


Yeah, it happens in every thread. I've probably done it. It's one of the defining features of the culture of Metafilter. I wonder how that tendency evolved.
posted by mecran01 at 1:57 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Self selection?
posted by Jacen at 2:30 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I am constantly reminded of a bit of poetry:

"We are forbidden to dream again
We maim or joys, or hide them"

Stop maiming and hiding your joys.

If someone doesn't like what I like and enjoy and tries to sneer and put me down, not because it's actually harmful but just because they are judgmental, I think it might be best if I don't waste time with them, even to argue. They are defining my value based on what I like, vs what I am like.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:35 PM on February 9 [9 favorites]


PU, I personally think LARPING is fascinating and would absolutely listen to someone talk about it. Cosplay in general, is a legitimate art/form of theatre.

To really enjoy art requires being vulnerable, letting it affect you. In our capitalist patriarchy, we frown on this or try to channel it into into "acceptable" reactions, such as valuing it for its investment value or as a display of wealth. The wealthy went to the opera to be seen, not to be moved.
posted by emjaybee at 2:36 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


So...I have been going to the beach at sunrise and sometimes at sunset every day for a few months. And every. day., pretty much, there are humans there, socially distanced from each other. And pretty much every time the sun comes up, several of the humans say "look at that sun!" and every time there's a full-ish moon someone says "look at that moon!"

There's no art, not really any science - I mean you can appreciate the quality of light, the contrast of the clouds, the colours, the rotation of heavenly bodies. But seriously, the sun, it comes up every day. I had one day where I was stressed and I felt like oh my god people. But then I realized...Oh, my god, people. Middle of a pandemic, walking around in the cold, everyone is a potential Covid carrier but - THE SUN, IT RISES, JOY! JOY!

I actually think this is what gives me the most happiness to be human, that we just - experience joy sometimes because we like things. Simple things.

It makes me sad that we take each other down for it too, maybe because we're just not able to access that feeling right then.

I think there's value in the kind of experience of art, literature, etc. that comes from a slightly more technical and "learned" understanding - to inform, to grow connections with each other. But I'm increasingly less sure that these are really connected to joy. I am glad for my classical music background that gives me an appreciation of Bach and Shostakovich but I have to tell you that it's Beethoven's 9th, for all its pomposity, that makes me want to be alive.

That and Mary Mary's Shackles.

I dunno man. When I had the opportunity to meet really, really successful artists...they were more like the people pointing the sun out. Now the donors, they wanted High Art.

I'm really glad this author rediscovered her joy.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:40 PM on February 9 [25 favorites]


It's great to be passionate about something! I've been working on really paying attention to my instinct to cringe at enthusiasm, and instead sit with it and examine whether it's justified. I read another essay in this series though, and:
The world may turn its back on you, but never will I. You will always have me. I am always willing to cheer you up to the last sound of my voice.

My love for you, BTS, has grown deeper and it’s beyond records, achievements, and awards.

Even in my next life, I will still choose you. I will hold your seven beautiful hands and never let them go.
This is edging into parasocial territory?

(Not O'Connor - she sounds like she's reclaimed a lost part of herself through fandom, and that's wonderful.)
posted by airmail at 2:44 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


This is edging into parasocial territory?

It's a BTS fanzine. It's more like a shared diary than the LRB.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:03 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I was thinking as I read this that many of the people I know who seem to get the most deep joy from their fandoms are autistic.

I don't think this is coincidental, actually. In many ways, fandom culture is neurodiverse culture. The kind of folks who wind up building communities and lives around an interest or enjoyment of a thing are pretty likely to be non neurotypical. There's a tumblr essay somewhere to that effect I can go dig up if someone wants it that points out that squee, for example, is exactly the same action that I've noticed autistic kids' parents calling a "happy-flap."

I don't want to say shame at being awkward is an allistic thing, exactly, because allistic people seem really eager and enthusiastic to make sure that autistic people know when we are behaving awkwardly or weirdly or too much or too little, and that shit does eventually stick. But self-conscious concern about whether you like things Too Much and you're being weird about it is absolutely allistic culture, and wherever you find large pockets of autistic people congregating you get exactly that alarmed disgusted those-people-are-Too-Much reaction from the broader neurotypical culture. I can list a few of these subcultures that aren't media fandom (and have therefore not acquired the Nerd Is Cool Now overlaid vibe) if anyone's interested, but you can probably come up with a few of them yourself with a little thought.
posted by sciatrix at 3:13 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Because of the way the Kpop industry works (a group will drop a single, then perform it repeatedly over the next few weeks on various TV shows, and if it gets award nominations they'll do more elaborate performances for the awards show), it almost seems designed to make an autistic brain (at least my autistic brain) happy.

For example, the song "Love Killa" by MONSTA X. Do you want the original MV? Or the Japanese MV? Or the performance on M Countdown? Maybe the 30th Seoul Music Awards performance? The Inkigayo performance on November 8 or the Inkigayo performance on November 15? They also performed it on The Show and at the 2020 MAMA awards. And then there's the performance that was waiting in my Youtube subscriptions this morning when I woke up, of them performing at the Blue Dragon Film Awards last night.

And that's before you even get into the fancams, where for a single performance you can also get videos focusing on each individual performer: Shownu. Minhyuk. Kihyun. Hyungwon. Joohoney. I.M.
posted by Lexica at 3:39 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


It's one of the defining features of the culture of Metafilter.

Seems to me that TFA suggests it's one of the defining features of culture, period.
posted by flabdablet at 3:44 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


mecran01: "Yeah, it [status-seeking about art preferences] happens in every thread. I've probably done it. It's one of the defining features of the culture of Metafilter. I wonder how that tendency evolved."

Evolved here, or in the culture more broadly?

It's so common in the culture that it would be surprising if it *didn't* show up here.

I've heard a theory that as religion faded as a source of primary value, people tried to set up art in the place of religion. This sounds possible to me, but I don't know whether it's sound.

What are the earliest examples of people saying or implying that better people like better art and worse people like worse art?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 4:00 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Is there any reason for judging someone's tastes other than to feel superior? More complex doesn't mean better. That X requires more effort to consume than Y doesn't make X better. It's fine to not like things but don't make it like your opinion is based in some sort of objective fact.

It doesn't help that a lot of these fandoms are populated by women and coincidentally seen as low brow and not worthy.
posted by simmering octagon at 4:33 PM on February 9 [9 favorites]


My daughter is a Carat/Stay, rather than ARMY, and caught crap from her peers for being so into kpop and only wanting to talk about kpop and listen to kpop. It made her feel lonely. So I've learned the names of all the members of Stray Kids and Seventeen, and took her to see Stray Kids in Miami last year--we live in Colorado, plane tickets were involved-- and I just bought her a decant of the cologne Seungcheol wears after she mentioned it since I like geeking out about fragrances and she wants to know what one of her favorite members smells like. It's hard enough being a kid; I don't want to squash her ability to find joy in the things she loves.
posted by danielleh at 5:04 PM on February 9 [14 favorites]


I like Simon Pegg's two takes on "geeky enthusiasm". He first said, being a geek means not apologizing for the things you are enthusiastic about, even if they might seem silly to others. As a follow-up (having been oft-quoted for the first bit), he said, yes, but also it's important to recognize when you need to grow.

I wasn't raised in a "conformity" household. If anything my parents valorized non-conformity, and criticized anything I liked that seemed mainstream or "canned". I was thus perfectly suited to the hipster culture of the 00s, and slipped into it like a tailored suit. I had some Really Big Feelings about some stuff that was Hipster Acceptable (e.g. The Microphones Glow Pt. 2) and some stuff that was less Hipster Acceptable (BTVS, which turns out to be Hipster Acceptable in many hipster groups... just not mine at the time, I guess). I also had middling feelings about Hipster Acceptable stuff and pretended to like it more than I did, and convinced myself I had middling feelings for some less Hipster Acceptable aspects of my life that were actually Big Feeling parts.

I would say, now, as a middle aged person past my hipster phase, but still feeling its echoes (themselves echoes from childhood), that I agree with the author. Joy is here for its own sake, and is not limited to "pure" experiences like sunrises, live cello music, or organic food. As a matter of fact such limitations are the opposite of joy. And also it is important to experience growth and think critically about joys, whether they are Joss Whedon or Flaming Hot Cheetos. I need that balance to feel whole.
posted by a_curious_koala at 5:10 PM on February 9 [10 favorites]


Another example of how Kpop can be appealing to an (my) autistic brain: here's a video of Idols dancing to Taemin's Criminal. If you're familiar with the original MV, it's interesting to see how different performers interpret and execute the choreography.
posted by Lexica at 5:51 PM on February 9


Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (33 1/3)

A book about a rock music snob learning what's worth liking about Celine Dion's music. He doesn't end up loving the music, but he finds out that snobbery isn't that great.


Yes, this book is the basic primer about what Aesthetics really means to us all.
posted by ovvl at 6:20 PM on February 9


The culture definitely loves to judge "things teenaged girls like" as shallow, empty, commercial, etc., but that requires willfully ignoring that

a) teenaged girls frequently have obsessions with great works of art (there are Jane Austen reenactors all over the damn place and a lot of them fell in love with the fandom as teenaged girls);

b) teenaged girls frequently become obsessed with high-quality contemporary works -- Hamilton fandom didn't happen in a vacuum, and Ron Chernow's biography that Hamilton was based on began selling absurd numbers to teenaged girls wanted to engage more deeply with Hamilton;

and c) teenaged girls are leading indicators of cultural phenomenon that DO stand the test of time -- like The Beatles, for the most canonical example.

Teenaged girls latch on to a thing and make it huge, while adults and young men ignore it, scoff at it, make fun of it, proclaim not to understand it ... and eventually, in 10 or 20 years, those young men who insisted the Beatles sucked become gatekeepers who insist that the girls who discovered the Beatles don't actually really appreciate good music like the Beatles.

I mean, an awful lot of early jazz music was driven by its popularity among teenaged girls and young women who danced to it, got engaged in performers' careers, and followed them as they went in moodier, stranger directions as jazz evolved.

And yes, teenaged girls are also a leading indicator of things that are going to be commercially huge while not necessarily being very good (such as Twilight). But maybe that's because women are 80% of the fiction market, and men as a group don't actually engage with fiction very much once they're out of school? Women are driving the success of Hilary Mantel and Colson Whitehead and George Saunders and Margaret Atwood, not just Twilight. And I absolutely guarantee that in addition to driving the success of BTS, teenaged girls are driving the success of some incredible indie artist I've never heard of who's going to be the next big "serious" thing.

You should pay attention to things that teenaged girls turn into commercial successes. They turn out to have good taste a lot of the time, and they tend to be a lot more deeply engaged with culture -- in all its breadth and depth -- than most adults. Which is probably why they discover things -- both excellent and trashy -- that speak to the culture so well.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:36 PM on February 9 [51 favorites]


Love what you love. Shall be the whole of the law. Or something.
I know in this world that people enjoy deriding others for their tastes, fuck'em. It's your life, we may only get the one, so make the best out of it for yourself. Now I, as a grown ass man, am going to watch some anime (Laid Back Camp) and enjoy it as I have been known to do.
posted by evilDoug at 9:14 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Whoa... I was here earlier before someone apparently left a judgemental comment of questionable merit, which also may have had an aftertaste of the type of misogyny that doesn't trust/allow women to like things in general. I'm really sad to see that the thread has taken this turn.

I am 34 and have a professional job at a non-profit, a master's degree, a small business on the side... and I am a proud BTS ARMY. I am also the type of person to happily and vocally violate societal expectations about liking things. Sure, I like 'acceptable' things like knitting, baking, reading, and going out for happy hour. I also like to wear Lisa Frank leggings, make TikTok videos, watch anime, and collect stickers... because those things bring me joy. We are all tiny specks riding a mote through the cosmos, and I'm not going to let anyone spoil my ride.

It seems like very few people in this thread know much about BTS, though I appreciate those who have taken the time to listen a bit. I'll admit I'm a bit fired-up after reading this: "I can't help but wonder how much richer the world would be, though, if this woman had discovered she could nerd out on something that wasn't designed by a committee that has contempt for her." My love of BTS simply will not allow this to stand unanswered, especially since their popularity doesn't just stem from their pop music but also from their unusual beginnings, their lyrics, their breadth, and how they carry themselves in the world. If you have any interest in a BTS crash course, feel free to continue reading...

1 - Here is a general, academic overview of BTS and their success.

2 - Here's a critique of BTS and how they fit into the kpop genre/industry as a whole, including historical origins. I like that they are subversive, socially conscious, and self-aware. I also think this critique provides context and insight the differences between US pop music and Korean pop music.

3 - This popular TV appearance shows you more of their personalities.

4 - The video for the song Spring Day is an example of how BTS breaks out of the typical pop box, using symbolism and allusions to make a political statement. In 2014, South Korea saw the Sewol Ferry accident, during which hundreds of high school students drowned while following the orders of the captain and their elders. With roots in Confucianism, South Korean culture emphasizes an age-based hierarchy, so young people are discouraged from questioning authority. The government at the time tried to sweep the incident under the rug and was reluctant to hold people accountable for the tragedy. In BTS’s video we see yellow ribbons, a symbol of the tragedy, along with other symbols of grief. It also references The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Le Guin and the movie Snowpiercer, both of which have narratives of challenging societal structures that lead to suffering. The wild and enduring popularity of Spring Day leads some to believe that it assisted in pressuring the government to sentence the Sewol Ferry captain in 2018 by keeping the incident in the public consciousness.

5 - BTS donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter and ARMY matched it in less than 24 hours.

6 - They are willing to violate Korean social taboos by supporting LGBTQ rights and speaking openly about mental health. They also challenge traditional ideas of masculinity.

7 - They can sing. They can dance. They can rap. They can write. They are uplifting. They are honest. They are romantic. They are hilarious. Did I mention they can sing, dance, and rap?

In short, they are absolutely worth becoming a fan of, perceived weirdness be damned. Oh, and by the way, Kamala Harris follows them on Twitter.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 9:25 PM on February 9 [44 favorites]


Thank you delicate_dahlias! This is much more of what I was hoping to find in this thread. I was just about to write that I'd be interested in learning more about what BTS fans find in the music/scene that's so compelling -- and your response gives me a lot to look into. I like learning about scenes that get people excited and make them feel good and seem to strive to good in the world and welcome people in, even if I'm not part of them. The last time I was casually dismissive of a such a scene was when Lady Gaga was just starting to become a household name. I finally sat down and paid attention and I'm so glad I did -- her music and inclusiveness and artistic inventiveness have meant so much to me over the years since then. Lesson learned (I hope).

As a long-time Grateful Dead fan, I've experienced my share of derision and dismissal from people who despise them. In discussions like these, I like to think of Jerry's quote “[The Grateful Dead are] like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.” Hey, if you and I both really like licorice and feel like talking about it, let's talk licorice.
posted by treepour at 9:50 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Looked through my comment history to see how MetaFilter used to talk about kpop: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6)

Link 1 was from 2009. Link 6 was 2017, probably the first time we talked about BTS on MeFi? Kpop has grown so much over the past decade. BTS is global pop history in the making.
posted by fatehunter at 11:43 PM on February 9


In mildly related news, BTS just made it to the top of the omegaverse tag on AO3.

Given how many published authors get their start writing fanfic, some of the people who are going to win big literary prizes later this century are quite possibly currently writing omegaverse fanfic about a k-pop band. I think that is beautiful.
posted by zymil at 12:56 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


In response to the article: this is a lovely piece against prevailing patriarchal expectation that women should 'be smaller' and 'take up less space' and I wish everyone who gets joy from BTS to keep going.

In response to my peer mefites:
>>OK, but: why? Why should people like what you like?
>i'm not the one who wrote what you're replying to here, but i'll answer: because what i like is good! if i like it, there's a least a chance you will too. and if you do, your life is enriched, no?

How would this conversation go if the words were slightly different? Let's say you used not 'good' (which has the unavoidable sense that this is a moral choice and is a desirable contrast to 'bad') but ... literally any other phrasing, such as 'I got joy from this and wish your life was enriched by it'.

Human society has a history of maligning 'bad' things and raising up things viewed as 'good' which is all the gatekeeper-y nonsense of comments in response to this post. If we each choose to share joy we also lose nothing if 'that's not for me'. Social Media is one of many avenues in society that has somewhat corrupted this -- we seek to garner likes for our content and become influential -- but putting cats in scanners (and puzzling out why people got the cats in the scanner) has been a long-term source of delight and long may it continue.
posted by k3ninho at 2:55 AM on February 10


A week or two ago, I became aware that something was happening on Twitter that I'd heard about happening before: the right-wing noise machine had created a hashtag, something really foolish, intended to slander the new Presidential administration. But an organized band of kpop fans had hijacked the hashtag and turned it against the creators; everyone using the hashtag was clowning on the original idea. This was the first time I'd been signed on while such an effort was taking place.

Now I've been making a practice, over the past several years, of investigating music that's new to me. And not just new to me, but anything waaaay outside my area of familiarity. It's been a lot of fun...I've discovered a lot of really terrific music, and this seemed like a good opportunity to branch out again. So I dug into the hijacked hashtag, and started scrolling backwards.

Most of what I saw at the top was people reacting to the hijacking effort itself, so I had to go quite a ways before finding any tweets that looked like they were actually part of the campaign to redirect. It was single person saying, "good job! I'm proud of us!" I replied to that tweet saying, "Hey...what's worth listening to? I'm familiar with Blackpink already."

RIP to my notifications! I had dozens of people jumping into the thread to share band recommendations and video links. People were at pains to make sure that I new that "listening" was only part of the experience, that I should really be aware of the choreography as well. One person shared a 20 page document they'd created, listing all the groups they stanned, and providing vital statistics for each (member count, nationalities, alliances, insight to their intra-group dynamics, factors mitigating against any scandals they may have been a part of, etc.).

It was the most heartwarming experience I've had online in I don't know how long: a bunch of young people eager to help a stranger find a way in to appreciating the thing they all love. So, kpop fans are awesome as far as I'm concerned. Anyone who's first impulse is to correct their musical taste, no matter how gently, is missing the forest for the trees. Worse, they're staring at a dead shrub and insisting that's the forest.
posted by Ipsifendus at 4:53 AM on February 10 [11 favorites]


Without speculating about the author, I can say that as an autistic person I have that kind of response to some music.

I was thinking as I read this that many of the people I know who seem to get the most deep joy from their fandoms are autistic. I'm not autistic, so tell me if I'm being a jerk, but I think many people on the spectrum are able of appreciating a deep dive into an subject in a way that other people don't have access to.

But some things? Some things are so much easier. Sometimes being autistic means that you get to be incredibly happy. And then you get to flap. You get to perseverate. You get to have just about the coolest obsessions. (Mine are: sudoku and Glee. I am not ashamed.)
...It’s that the experience is so rich. It’s textured, vibrant, and layered. It exudes joy. It is a hug machine for my brain. It makes my heart pump faster and my mouth twitch back into a smile every few minutes. I feel like I’m sparkling. Every inch of me is totally engaged in and powered up by the obsession. Things are clear.

It is beautiful. It is perfect.

I flap a lot when I think about Glee or when I finish a sudoku puzzle. I make funny little sounds. I spin. I rock. I laugh. I am happy. Being autistic, to me, means a lot of different things, but one of the best things is that I can be so happy, so enraptured about things no one else understands and so wrapped up in my own joy that, not only does it not matter that no one else shares it, but it can become contagious
.

As an autistic, I know I used to wonder if neurotypical people literally weren't wired for the kind of pure levitating joy I and other ND people I know experience from both sensory input and from 'special interests.' And I kind of couldn't imagine how you'd get through life without it, the idea of life without that seemed so flat and bleak.

I don't know if that's true - neurotypical people might not be wired to get it from the same sources, but I don't know whether they *can't* experience it, or whether it's just that they're more effectively trained to suppress or hide it.
posted by BlueNorther at 4:57 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]


@heatherlogan "Or, worse, a hipster."
What is a hipster? This word has lost all meaning for me.
posted by DJZouke at 4:57 AM on February 10


I teach a workshop at the design school of a very traditional university here in Chile. The students work in teams and they have to define by themselves what topic they work on.
Last semester, we had a team design an interactive holographic glove for kpop fans at concert (think a more cyber-ey glowstick). The lead members of the team were themselves big kpop fans. They were very surprised that I, a 50 year old male teacher at a conservative school, a) took their fandom (and kpop in general) seriously and b) actually knew the basics about kpop, in terms of what the main bands are, how their fandom works, etc.
I'm not really an uppercase FAN of anything, but am a lowercase fan of lots, and enough of a nerd to (try to) never look down on what other people are into.
Plus, there's a lot of great kpop jams.
posted by signal at 5:25 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


HIPSTER: Noun, informal. “a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.” Originally applied to female Jazz dancers in the 1930s. See also: HEPCAT

Because when your tastes are more refined and elevated beyond those of the ignorant masses wallowing in their mere “entertainment”, then you can shit on the normals who aren’t “with it” enough to know what’s “actually good”.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:44 AM on February 10


Lord of the Rings is almost the ur-fandom
To me, the ur-fandom will always be Sherlock Holmes. It was a serial publication that added a "nerdy" twist to a well-trod genre of crime fiction, and the fan base quickly assembled what they termed a "canon" of works to which they wrote enthusiastic "apocrypha". This may be the origin of our modern fan-usage of the term "canon", and it has its roots in the selection of the books of the New Testament.

And in that choice of terminology, wasn't there just a hint of wry self-mockery? Were early Holmsians not laughing at their own pseudo-religious fervour for a fictional character?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:25 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Sherlock Holmes is definitely the template for modern fandom but I'd push the origin back to Charles Dickens' superstardom, though I'm sure it's arguable.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:22 AM on February 10


I love recommending stuff to people, but I'm pretty sure I've never done it in the "mine is better" but more "hey, if you like this, you might also be into this." I also like it when people recommend stuff to me. I came up in the pre-internet world, and how I learned about things was someone at a book store or a record shop making an recommendation or a write-up in Sassy or a friend lending me a a copy of her favorite book or putting a song on a mixtape or whatever. There was always something kind of beautiful and intimate about that too, the sharing of fandom or whatever. The whole, "I really like you, so I'm going to let you in on how much I love Pylon" or whatever. And in those days, especially if you were a weird fat kid from a small town in the South who was an obsessive nerd about all the wrong things for even the nerds (The French Revolution, the Cure, ballgowns, Gothic novels, Cary Grant, non-musical theatre), the act of simply finding out about a thing was a little like secret door to another world, that looked or sounded the way you'd never known things could look or sound, and it was like, maybe I have a place in the world after all

These days, everything is available with a touch of a finger. Anyone can find anything, so I get how the recommending feels like oneupmanship. But I still love talking about my favorite things and hearing about other people's favorite things and how and why they love them and sometimes, through them, discovering my favorite things. It's also fine to not like something, by the way. And not liking a thing is no more a character flaw than liking a thing , even if that thing is generally accepted to be "great" or "wildly popular." I am not a fan or either David Foster Wallace or Taylor Swift, for example. I don't think my distaste for the former makes me an illiterate, heartless idiot or disinterest in the latter makes me a misogynist hipster asshole, but people are protective of the things they love, so I understand when they react that way.

Short version: there's is so much cool shit out there. It's overwhelming in all the best ways. Mostly, I just want to find as much art to love as possible, because that seems like the best version of a life I can imagine.
posted by thivaia at 7:35 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


The critique of kpop that should be taken seriously is that the entire industry is hyper-exploitative and rife with abuse. for example
posted by thedamnbees at 9:37 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Parent of young adults here. Trying on new identities is the defining experience of adolescence and young adulthood. But if you didn't get the support you needed to try on new identities in those years, you can, should, must do it later.

Everyone deserves to be what they are. Everyone deserves this kind of joy. Never too late.

I think we under-invest in the arts in the US because we have utterly failed to see the connection between performing/receiving creative work, and productivity in the rest of our lives. I hope we find out some day that some Nobel Prize level scientific discoveries have been inspired by BTS.
posted by sockshaveholes at 9:37 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Awesome comment, delicate_dahlias.

People who are inclined to write BTS off as insubstantial fluff might think about why so many academics consider them worth studying. BTS: A Global Interdisciplinary Conference Project was held at Kingston University London in January of 2020, at which more than 100 papers were presented. The follow-up conference, BTS: A Global Interdisciplinary Conference II, will be held May 1 & 2, 2021, at CSU Northridge.

There's also The Rhizomatic Revolution Review [20130613](R3) journal (a registered non-profit 501c3) dedicated to "a rigorous, interdisciplinary examination and exploration of the art, fandom, economic effects, and sociocultural forces of and surrounding BTS (방탄소년단)."
Our journal name was inspired by the philosophical concept of the rhizome, developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus, and later applied to the “BTS Phenomenon” in the book by Dr. Lee Jiyoung, BTS, Art Revolution: BTS Meets Deleuze.
Serendipitously, this article from the journal Media, Culture & Society came across my Twitter feed this morning, thanks to the @ResearchBTS account: BTS as method: a counter-hegemonic culture in the network society.
This study focuses on the BTS sensation, examining how three entities – digital networks, the K-pop industry, and fandom – have engaged in the production of an alternative global culture. Based on a multimodal critical discourse analysis of this rising cultural act, the current study pays attention to the dialectical interaction of digital transformation and cultural subjectivization in the contemporary music ecosystem. By integrating Manuel Castells’ notion of the network society into Stuart Hall’s articulation of cultural resistance, I consider BTS as a counter-hegemonic cultural formation from the periphery within the network society. I also argue that the BTS phenomenon has not only unveiled the ideological dimension of Korean cultural formations, but has also proposed new possibilities of non-western and peripheral societies and subjects in the globally networked cultural sphere.
Regarding the stigmatization of things teen girls like (as Eyebrows McGee discussed above), I think this Venn diagram comparing characteristics of fandoms (sports fans vs "boy band" fans) is illuminating.
posted by Lexica at 10:59 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Sharing a little bit of shared BTS delight -- a Youtube channel from ChrisBeTalkin which is analytical but (ime) wildly enthusiastic dancer's watch-alongs of, for instance, "Blood Sweat & Tears". Also, Chris' voice is delicious.
posted by clew at 12:48 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


In fact, nobody is "ostracized" for "nerding" out on pop culture at all anymore.
Really?


It still definitely happens - I was just listening to this radio segment the other day and the interviewer seemed to be astounded and incredulous that someone could be doing something creative in comics outside of their job, and basically insinuated that comics are weird... It was so bad that even my partner, who is nowhere near being a nerd reached over and shut off the radio.

Myself - I actually am not a comic-book-guy (never bought any as a kid) - but, it's weird how people will look down on it still, when the most popular and money-making movie franchise in history is firmly rooted in comic books.
posted by rozcakj at 1:58 PM on February 10


I've loved kpop since about 2009 (when I first started watching Korean dramas, which I like even more than kpop, but that's another story for some other time).

At the time, it felt weird that a young non-Korean woman in her twenties enjoyed binging all these ridiculous (but so fun!) music videos instead of pursuing other "more important" things. As I obsessed about these boy and girl groups, I was, in my mind, like the giggly teenager I had never allowed myself to be at the time I actually was a teenager, because back then I was academic and Very Serious and prided myself on not listening to the pop music of the day (which included NSYNC and Backstreet Boys and Britney and the like). I was into literature and classic film. In college I became obsessed with WW1 and Cubism (Braque, especially!). I still have shelves filled with books about all of these various things I threw myself into, ones that were more socially acceptable for a Very Serious artsy nerd girl (and that I still enjoy very much, to the point where I get emotional in museums).

But when I got thrown into the "real world," working a job that I didn't feel suitable for but it was a recession so I took what I could get, what got me through the day were these ridiculously pretty Korean celebrities and their pop music. It was pure escapism, but it was fun. I loved learning about all the members and watching all the variety shows I could find. This was back before DramaFever (RIP), before Netflix had streaming, before Youtube would allow more than 20 minutes for a video, so you'd be tearing out your hair to figure out where "Pt 4" of a show that had Pts 1-5 went. This was also when we 100% relied on the kindness and organization of fan subbers, so if there was something they didn't want to sub, I was on my own -- which lead to me learning Korean so I could consume even more.

But... no one really knew about this obsession. It was awkward to talk about. Friends and family and acquaintances could understand my fascination with Cubism, but not about Cube Entertainment. I could bore people about all the ways Hemingway was an ass, but no one wanted to engage with me discussing the merits of being known as the "4D" member in a group. I had a lot of hangups about talking about it with other people because it seemed like a joke, so I just stayed quiet, keeping this obsession private.

It was really only online that you could find others to geek out about it. The international fandom community was... well, I'm not going to say it was great, but it was definitely a different beast than it is today. It was smaller and you had to find content by actively looking for it. There was thrill in the hunt and then sharing that find with others. There were fewer groups back then, so it was easier to follow everything. Even if the general public didn't understand "Hallyu", when you found another fan, it was like you found another soulmate (even if they weren't fans of the same group!).

PSY's viral "Gangnam Style" MV was... well, it was a thing. It became exhausting trying to explain to people after 2012 that all kpop wasn't just PSY, but at least we finally had a common ground to discuss kpop. More and more groups began to tour the States, and it was so thrilling to travel and meet other fans who shared the same interest! Who understood what it meant to have a bias and fan chants! I've gone to the majority of my kpop concerts solo, but I've always loved how easy it was to make friends with the people around me just because we were so excited to finally have someone to talk to about our shared interest. My favorite memory of standing in line at a concert in LA was chatting with a 70-year-old Latina grandma who said she watches all the dramas and goes to all the concerts she can -- proof that there is no age limit to fandoms.

Anyway, I'd been a casual fan of BTS since their debut (back when we called them Bangtan Boys, ha!), but watching them grow to become a global sensation and household name has been baffling, exciting, annoying, and thrilling. Baffling because... yes, they are good, but it was just a few years ago that kpop was a niche interest that no one really cared about! Exciting because finally people would understand what I meant when I said I like kpop! Annoying because kpop is not just BTS and there are so many other groups that should be recognized. Thrilling because it's so much easier to find songs and MVs and variety shows that don't require me to risk downloading a virus as I torrent off a shady site.

It's also weird to realize that this niche thing, that felt like such a small, underground, "hipster" fandom (at least internationally), has now become so large and global and unwieldy. There's perhaps a bit of envy, because it's much easier to be fans of this group and the genre. The barriers are lowered and anyone can become a fan. There's no effort involved -- well, except for the battleground of buying concert tickets.

But... that's good! I shouldn't be gatekeeping something that I've longed for other people to understand and enjoy with me! But then I turn around and see that people insist BTS isn't for "adults" (aka anyone over 20) or that loving something so pop-culture basic is not cool, and a part of me wants to shrink back to quietly liking the things that give me joy and not letting anyone else in -- but this time it's not letting in the online world, the place that once used to be my refuge. This is probably just a "me" problem, though, considering how lovely it's been to see so many people find so much good in discovering BTS and the ARMY fandom (like the author in the article).

Anyway, what's kept me invested in kpop these days has been finding less popular groups with smaller fandoms, because that reminds me of why I fell in love with kpop in the first place (fyi my latest obsession is Dreamcatcher). During the last year when concerts haven't been able to happen as scheduled (sob), I've been trying to throw my money at the smaller groups from smaller agencies so that these groups won't disband and live to sing and dance another day. BigHit and BTS don't need my money, but rookie groups do. (Although you will pry the Gold Soundcheck tickets for the BTS postponed concert from my cold dead hands because I'm never gonna have the luck to get those again because there are even more fans in just the past year that future concert ticketing will be an even worse bloodbath.)
posted by paisley sheep at 10:40 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


So I've learned the names of all the members of Stray Kids and Seventeen, and took her to see Stray Kids in Miami last year--we live in Colorado, plane tickets were involved.

First of all, danielleh, you sound like a great parent! My parents were always supportive of any random interest I threw myself into when I was kid, and tolerated my explaining kpop to them when I was adult even if they didn't understand my interest (but my dad would adorably ask me after every concert -- even if it wasn't the right group -- if I had "seen Hoya" aka my favorite idol.)

Second of all, as a fellow Coloradoan, I FEEL THAT PAIN of having to factor in travel and extra costs of flights/etc any time I want to go a kpop concert.
posted by paisley sheep at 10:52 PM on February 10


BungaDunga, good point about Sherlock Holmes fandom. Do you know anything about what Sherlock Holmes fandom was thought of at the time?

Gender and fandoms: It's certainly true that sports fandom is male and respected, even to the extent that lots of public money gets spent on stadiums. On the other hand, pornography is extremely male and extremely despised. It's even more despised than romance, so there might be something complicated going on.

I agree that teenage girls liking something is generally enough for it to be despised. I remember when teenage girls liking livejournal was a convenient insult against livejournal.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:40 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


By "undue scrutiny", I mean that because of articles like these, I've got BTS under a microscope for how well/not well they "solve" middle-age anxiety, rather than what they say on the tin, namely, big loud fun.

I was just rereading this thread and this caught my attention for the high degree of WTF?

A) The members of BTS range from (in international age) 23 to 28. Why would they even be thinking about middle-age anxiety? While they are dealing with age pressure (the "living on K-pop time" thing, where a male performer's prime years are in the late teens to twenties, but there's a deadline for enlisting in the military) they're nowhere near middle-aged.

B) Where does this expectation that they provide something other than "what they say on the tin, namely, big loud fun" come from? Is this expected of other performers from other settings or musical genres?

C) I'm sorry, have you even listened to their lyrics? Would you like links to explainer videos discussing how, over a multi-album cycle, BTS explored Jungian psychology? Persona. Shadow. Ego. And that's only one axis of things they've discussed that listeners find emotionally resonant.
posted by Lexica at 5:10 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


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