With BTS accelerating the mainstream-ization of K-pop in America, the ever-popular question among Asian American guys becomes more pertinent: is K-pop good for the beleaguered Asian male image in America? Chris, Jong, and Q join forces to talk about breaking free of traditionalist American masculine norms and the importance of Asian Americans to be in touch with what’s going on in Asian pop culture.
The following are edited excerpts from “BTS and K-Pop’s Impact on Asian American Guys”, the 28th episode of Plan A’s podcast, Escape From Plan A.
K-pop boy groups have an advantage when it comes to performing their masculinity in non-traditional non-hegemonic ways. This isn’t exclusive to pop music or K-pop at all. If you look at hip-hop for example, you’ll see Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug who’ll wear dresses and skirts, yet are still embraced whole-heartedly by the industry that’s very traditionally hyper-masculine.
[With respect to Asian American guys who think K-pop is bad for their image], what their main insecurity is that they themselves have invested wholeheartedly into this traditional American idea of masculinity, only to find out that nobody really wants it, especially if it’s a knock-off version. Like an Asian guy trying to do a white masculinity performance. What people really like are these BTS guys, who don’t even bother to learn English, and they’re just completely showcasing their Koreanness. And that’s what people actually respect more.
K-pop becoming more popular is a good thing. Straight up. The abusive practices of the industry is something that needs to get fixed, regardless of whether K-pop becomes more popular or not. How I feel about it is that they are contributing to national pride and representing our country, so they should be treated very well.