I’m a fangirl.

I love binge-watching TV shows, getting sucked into different book universes like Percy Jackson and the Olympians and listening to K-pop (my favourite group is Tomorrow X Together or TXT).

Being a fangirl can be fun — not just for the fantastical worlds or the music but for the fandom itself. I enjoy delving into the different content online. Some create gorgeous art, others write fiction or come up with theories — in many ways, it is a supportive community.

It is great being surrounded by people with similar interests, where you can share your opinions freely, and have them, more often than not, agreeing with you.

But being a fan is not always easy.

These same supportive communities can quickly turn into a place of toxicity the second a negative comment appears, whether from non-fans mocking fans or fans turning on each other.

K-pop fans like us also often get a bad rep: The other day I watched a video that asked, “Why is it so hard to be a K-pop fan?” and most of the comments I read came from others who teased people for liking the genre.

Mainstream media also doesn’t do us a favour either by playing up K-pop fan stereotypes as hysterical screaming youths.

Let’s talk about that BTS meal

 

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A post shared by McDonald’s Singapore (@mcdsg)

I believe everyone in Singapore would have heard about the Macdonald’s BTS meal by now.

The collaboration between one of K-pop’s biggest band names and the ubiquitous fast-food chain had many people excited when it launched in Singapore on 21 June.

There were a flood of social media posts following the launch — some influencers even blended 40 orders of the meal into a homemade soft-serve ice cream, yes really.

 

What so special about BTS Meal?
Image source: Mustsharenews/Facebook

We have heard about the excitement over the sauces but more, we’ve marvelled at the high-priced listings for the packaging on Carousell (not sure if any of those were actually sold), which just added to the unfortunate stereotype of K-pop fans as being “obsessive”.

However, I think that Tiktok user @tallytubbies summarised the situation quite well.

 

@tallytubbiesTLDR: let’s all just be nicer to one another because in the end, it’s just nuggets #fyp #foryoupage #tiktoksg #bts #btsmeal♬ original sound – Tally

There have been people on the Internet calling BTS fans (or ARMY as they call themselves) crazy or buying the meal just to spite them. In her Tiktok video, @tallytubbies shared reasons why this wasn’t right.

Being a K-pop fan (especially if you’re a collector or a multi-fan) is not cheap. Albums can range from $20 to $40. Merchandise (or “merch” for short) is often expensive, especially so if you ship them from overseas sellers.

So, as a fan, wouldn’t you be excited over a chance to grab cheap merch (the meal costs $8.90) and get a tasty snack as well?

Most expensive listings for BTS meal in Singapore
Most expensive listings for BTS meal in Singapore. Image source: Carousell

Yet that excitement has been turned into making BTS fans an object of mockery or worse, taken advantage of.

I do not agree with the hiked up prices at which these items are being sold at. It seems pretty clear to me that these were listed to make fun of the fans.

Nevertheless, even if someone wants to buy it, it’s a marketplace and we shouldn’t be told how we should spend our money.

In any fandom, there are enthusiasts who derive pleasure from collectibles. We don’t mock Pokemon fans who collect trading cards — some of which can run into very high prices. Nor do we needle sports fans who pay extra to have their favourite player’s name embossed on their football jerseys.

 

 

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A post shared by McDonald’s Singapore (@mcdsg)

And Mcdonalds itself isn’t a stranger to other hyped-up collectible events. Have we forgotten the endless Hello Kitty queues in 2019, 2013 and as far back as 2000? How things were different before Covid!

I think that people have focused so much on these incidents that emphasise the “crazy” extent that BTS fans seem to go to, like making ice-cream or (potentially) getting scalped on Carousell that they don’t realise that most ARMYs are simply having a good time.

This piece of affordable limited-edition merchandise is meant to be a fun experience for fans. You may not have the same interest in the merchandise as they do, but you can still be respectful of it.

 

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A post shared by Josiah Chua (@josiahchua)

I applaud ARMYs for being so creative. I have seen people turning the packaging into jewellery, phone case decorations or keychains. There was even one Singaporean ARMY who created customised sneakers with the packaging!

What is “cool” changes over time

I’ve always found it interesting that what we define as “cool” has always changed over time.

BTS meal might be the coolest thing in Singaporenow
Image source: Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

Today, online gaming or reading DC and Marvel comics are considered “cool”. But it wasn’t so long ago (until the DC and Marvel cinematic universes came along) that people who liked these things weren’t so socially accepted.

Even K-pop, which has become a lot more accessible in recent years, still gets a bad rep nowadays.

I remember being hesitant about getting into K-pop in secondary school, because I was afraid of classmates who kept making fun of fans in my class. It was only after I stopped caring about their opinions that I started to listen to K-pop. Now five years later, I’m a full-fledged fan.

At its core, all fandoms are the same. We are all passionate about something — we collect the merch, we talk about it with like-minded friends (online and off), and yes we shout (or scream) in excitement when we see our idols.

But I’ve seen other people use this passion to hurt fans.

Online and offline, I’ve seen and heard people make harsh comments, calling others for being “delusional”, “weird” or even “crazy” for being a fan of something that is a little less mainstream.

But I’ll argue that we are all fans of something — the only difference is that some of our passions are more socially acceptable than others… Say, isn’t the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy tomorrow?

I believe that as long as these fans do not harm others, there is no need to invalidate or denigrate these fandoms.

Even if you are not interested, or do not understand, be respectful to one another’s interests and do not use it as a weapon to belittle them or to tear them down.

Fandom and cancel culture

Stop Cancel Culture
Image source: Shutterstock/Sergei Shimanovich

There are also times when fans within the same fandom turn against each other. Differing opinions can lead to heated debates and unpleasantness, not just for those arguing but everyone watching the drama too.

If there’s conflict, say, someone does not agree with the content put out by another fan, let’s engage in a proper conversation and not pull each other down.

When arguments boil over from chat rooms and fansites into more public bust-ups, it harms everyone, and adds to the negative stereotypes.

Fans have cancelled celebrities over entertainment scandals, and when these salacious rumours prove untrue, brush off their attempt to cancel.

People should remember that celebrities are people and they have feelings too. Yes, we should hold our idols accountable for their actions, but we should not jump on a bandwagon of negativity, just because “everyone is saying it”.

Always make sure to look at the facts. And if there is insufficient evidence, give the benefit of the doubt. Of course, if celebrities do behave badly, then it is justifiable to call for them to be held accountable (not cancelled, please).

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The #1 rule of being a fan

“If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”

We should all be respectful towards each other and what we enjoy.

This is not to say that we can’t make jokes or poke fun at each other and at other fans. But we should always check ourselves that we aren’t doing it out of spite. Similarly, when calling out behaviour or attitudes, we should be able to have a proper discussion and not resort to harsh remarks and name-calling.

At the end of the day, we should be able to separate our feelings from what we love and how we deal with the community of people who love the same things we do.

Let’s allow safe spaces for us to enjoy what we are passionate about — now that is an idea that I believe we can all be fans of.

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Top Image: Chloe Nacario