On his annual summer diving holiday in Malta, a colleague picked up some abandoned beach slippers that had been worn by a K-pop band member when filming a video promo. Coincidently, when my colleague bumped into their biggest fan back in England, my 12 year old daughter, the bidding began.
“50 quid?” she offered, as a starter. Then I explained to him why he could get a whole lot more. Despite singing mainly in Korean, they had managed to get to number one in America, conquering the entire globe. It was only later when I mentioned to him that I have an “unverified” Elvis jacket, my mother’s obsession, that he decided to give them to to her for free. Recently she went to London to see BTS, rejecting offers of up to £5,000 for her tickets.
Fan worship is nothing new, of course. I write about it in my 2010 book which covers celebrity and ideology. All would agree that some of the BTS hits like ‘Fake Love’ and ‘DNA’ are very catchy. While many bemoan the supposed fakeness of their message – don’t be a slave to others, when they are actually slaves to their label self confessed workaholics – unlike George Michael, and many other dead stars, they at least have the support of band mates. Their love for each other does not seem fake.
We all have our idols, especially in academia, which is rampant with weird worship, normally for dead heroes. For my sins, I still go to conferences and often hear Foucault mentioned in every other sentence, known as “good boy scholarship” in the States. I once heard Deleuze mentioned in every sentence at a conference in Tasmania. All of us need to feel someone may have an answer. In the very best case, as in BTS, their answer ultimately is they don’t have the answer – you do. If you can be bothered to look.