Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Joanne: I think to be a fan of something just means to like whatever it is that you’re consuming. You obviously don’t have to like every part of it, but if you like something of it, I think you’re well within your right to say that you’re a fan of it.
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
I have been part of many a fan community. In all my years I think I’ve been in various different types, whether it’s music, TV, movies, books—anything, really. I’ve been a part of lots, and I’ve been a part of them in varying degrees. When I was younger, I think I was probably… I wouldn’t say more involved, just in a different way. I grew up on the Panic! At The Disco forums. That was my first real real fan community, and because it was a forum, it was a very one-topic-based discussion. It’s also where I started writing fanfiction for the very first time, and from there I moved to The Maine’s fandom. Being part of that fandom was more based around a chatroom community, so talking to different fans in that way. Then, through tag-based Tumblr communities, I was consuming content of different TV shows, music, etc. And then, now it’s more of a Twitter-based fandom community, where we all share information through Twitter. I’ve dabbled a little bit in fanart, but not a lot in an official official way. Just like a “sometimes I draw, sometimes I don’t” kind of thing.
That progression of social media—forums to Tumblr to Twitter, etc. Is that kind of a natural progression? Because I’ve definitely seen it before.
I think so. I think it was just the way—I don’t know—the progression of social media. When I was on the Panic! At the Disco forums, things like Tumblr and Twitter just didn’t exist, period. And it was more like you were either forum-based or you were blog-based. So you were either on Blogger or Wordpress or Xanga… and talking about your faves—which I did a little bit—or you were on a forum, and that was how people talked to each other about the things that they liked. That was the way that you found your communities. Right now we find them on Twitter through hashtags or whatnot, but back then, there was a dedicated space for the thing that you liked. And you had to go just there, and you had a separate one if you were into something else. And then, as social media grew and we had more sites that were like blogs, like writing communities, it shifted that way to, like, a Tumblr base, where everyone was putting out this content through Tumblr. And that’s not to say that Twitter fandoms didn’t exist, it was just that the communities that were on Twitter were different, and it took a little bit for the communities I’m a part of to expand to Twitter. That was just a weirdly natural progression. I know some fandoms exist through Instagram… which I’ve never been a part of and never understood, but I think that’s just because, for me, at my age, learning how an Instagram… For some reason, I just draw the line at learning how to use Instagram in that way. It’s just not for me (laughs).
I’ve seen some fandoms on Instagram, and I’m like, “This is a whole separate breed (laughs).”
Yes! They exist, somehow, totally separately from the other communities. The Twitter fandom is definitely very different from the Tumblr fandom… It definitely has to do with the type of person you are, because the people who use certain social medias—it says a lot about your kind of person.
[For a discussion of YouTube fandom, see Interview Extras & Bloopers.]
There’s a very specific type of demographic that exists on Tumblr, and there’s a very specific type of demographic that exists on what we like to call Stan Twt [aka Stan Twitter], and then there’s a very specific breed of people who exist on Facebook for fandom, or who exist on Instagram, or people who are on Reddit… People use Discord now for fandoms, which is a new thing that I don’t…?
I know the Tablo Podcast has a Discord and I’m like, “What do you mean?”
Yes, yes, yes! They have a Discord. I know, for [the K-Pop girl group Cosmic Girls aka] WJSN, there’s also a Discord now, and I’m like, “What?” I think that’s the thing about fandom that’s a trend, platforms—apart from forums, really—that were built for something very different, fandoms just used to connect with each other. Twitter was not meant to be used to post a fancam as a reply to someone’s problematic Tweet. That was not what Twitter was thinking of when creating this platform, and like, Tumblr was not created to be that kind of space for that many people. I think that’s where the term “social justice warrior,” or a very radicalized version of [one], was born—on Tumblr. And they took Tumblr and created this “safe space” for them and rejected anyone who was outside of that. But they also heralded themselves as being the most inclusive at the same time, which was a weird thing. That was about the time that I moved from Tumblr to Twitter, I was just like, “I’m done with this.” It got a bit too serious on Tumblr, and then people moved on to the next thing.
It’s like a mass migration.
It really is! And there’s really no definitive catalyst for it. It’s like, one day, everyone on Tumblr was on Stan Twitter (laughs). Somehow we all hit the peak at the same time and all moved over, but somehow, we all moved to exactly the same platform. We all somehow knew. We didn’t signal to anyone that we were like, “Guys, it’s a little whack in here. Meet me on Twitter.” It was that everyone just left and went to Twitter and didn’t tell anyone else. We all share a single brain cell. It’s a hivemind. It’s the fandom hivemind, which is a real thing. I feel like fandoms have such community hivemind where they all really do share the same brain cell. I’m sure it has to be [a thing], because the thought about it would be you are all interested in the same thing, and if you come together as a community, it’s natural that your thoughts and your opinions will begin to meld. It happens a lot on Twitter now, and it even happened on Tumblr as well. No one is siloed, of course, to one thing that they like, [where] that’s the only fandom space that [they’re] a part of. Whether it’s actual fandom or regular hobbies, you’re not like, “Oh, I like cycling, and I only like cycling.” Normally, you’re like, “I like cycling, and also I like reading books, and also I like doing this other thing.” And so, within you, those things mesh, and then when you talk about them, the things that you like, in dedicated spaces [for one interest], you’ll talk about the other things that you like, so then you expose other people to it. On Twitter, for example, you can meet people in the K-Pop fandom and then all of a sudden, you see one person on your timeline who’s watching MDZS [aka the Chinese series Mo Dao Zu Shi/Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation/The Untamed]. And then, because they like that thing, they’ll find the MDZS portion of Twitter and start talking about it on their own personal Twitter and retweeting things from that, so the people who followed them for K-Pop start seeing all this content around the gay Chinese drama, or anime, or manga, or audio book—whatever you [are into]. And then, they’re like, “Oh my god, that thing looks cool,” and then they start watching it, so then everyone on your timeline is both talking about the original K-Pop and then also about this new MDZS thing, so through seeing the same opinions and thoughts and interests, you kind of meld into one… sort of thing. You find like-minded people, and that’s why lots of fandoms have clusters that are like, “This is the big, group mindset.” It’s so many people who have the same views that just create their own—what we love to call in communication—filter bubble, which is basically where you filter out anything that doesn’t pertain to what you want to hear. So, off topic, but it’s why people who are radically right don’t believe the existence of the other things that they deem as fake news, [meaning] they don’t see things outside of their own point of view. They’re siloed into [it], and then the other points don’t show up. So if all of the hivemind has one point of view and you’re not exposed to outside points of view, that’s how everyone gets this one idea, one brain cell, hivemind. (laughs) Shared brain cell. I think your original question was about the progression of social media, but I think it’s just like, the way we all grow up and mature. Not just from childhood to adulthood, but as adults. You change how you are. Or, spaces change, as well. People I know now on my timeline will be like, “This sounds like 2012 Tumblr,” so they’re almost about to jump ship but they’re like, “I’m this close to leaving stan Twitter, I just don’t know where to go. I need to stay here because this is where I get all my information.” It is just a progression of, “I’m done with this space. This space is not what I need it to be,” so you find a new one. The landscape’s just changed too much where you’re like, “This isn’t aligned with how I want to enjoy fandom.” That’s why lots of people left Tumblr, of the people that I know. Tumblr was too serious, [there were] too many people fighting or talking about blah blah blah, and they’re like, “I came here just for the pretty pictures, so I guess this has become”—what we love to call—“‘a toxic space,’” and so they leave and find “clean, unpolluted” space, and for lots of people on Tumblr, that was Twitter. And look at Twitter now. But there’s no other social media that we’d rather be on, and so I think we need to figure out how to curate… I feel like that’s such a bad thing to do, though.
I think we’ve reached the end of the line, and now we have to fix our shit (laughs) instead of running away.
We either have to fix our shit, or I feel like the other option is to create our own… to close off ourselves [from] the crazies, but even that’s not a good thing. [Then you get landscape like on Tumblr] where you’re all too single-minded or there’s too much tension within the one group. It’s a mess.
How often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
So, I’ve… It’s such a hard question. I’ve been a fan of things since I was really little. My fandom communities when I was really little weren’t necessarily an online community—it was the people around me who I always talked about those things with, before we really had the internet. I was a huge fan of things back then. I grew up—I had to have been 3 or 4 the first time I saw Sailor Moon. So I grew up watching the Japanese Sailor Moon, and I talked to my best friend and my cousin who showed it to me—we would always talk about different Sailor Moon things. My best friend used to make our own Sailor Moon “fanfictions” when we would be playing with dolls. So it’s really been fandom since I was born. Like I was born into fandom, which would mean that I’ve been in fandom for 25 years. For how long I’m in fandoms, it depends on the fandom. Certain fandoms are everlasting, like I’m still a really big fan of Sailor Moon. I guess I was never really part of the community surrounding Sailor Moon. So as far as communities go… Let’s see, I was on the Panic! At The Disco forums (laughs) in 2007 to about 2009-ish, and then that forum died out. It was kind of on the older side—apart from me, who was a baby—everyone else on that forum was on the older side, whether they were graduating high school or graduating college and entering the workforce. They sort of grew out of fandom and so left to go deal with real world things. And so, [I] kind of left that. Still a huge fan of P!atD, but that just doesn’t exist anymore because—listen, my friend who I met through that community texted last year or the year before and was like, “They did it. They finally did it. They just deleted the P!ATD forum.” You can’t find it anymore, which both of us are very happy about, purely because we were like, “Man, the things I’ve written on that forum.” Specifically fanfiction-wise. We were always like, “Man, if anyone found that shit… I would die if anyone found any of that stuff.” I don’t want anyone to have to search my name or my email and have that come up as connected to it, especially employers. So we were like, “I’m so glad they finally killed that thing.” But other fandoms… I don’t know, I feel like it lasts… I hate this about myself, that I “change fandoms” so often, but it’s really like a couple years where I’m part of that community specifically, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I stop liking the thing. In some cases, it does mean that I stop liking the thing. For example, [the KPOP boy group] MADTOWN. I think I was just blinded by—I don’t know what—I think being that close to [them]. It was something that was like instant gratification, because you could be so close to them.
Could you explain that please?
Yeah. So I was part of a fandom for a rookie idol group that debuted while I was living in Korea. [They] were introduced to me by one of my friends who was living there with me, and their first song was pretty good—I think I only liked it because [Korean music producer and solo artist] Dean wrote it. I didn’t know it was Dean at the time because it was when he was still just a producer and not an actual artist, but I think that’s the reason I like that song so much—it was a song made by Dean and Dean makes good music. Their other singles were kind of “whatever, I don’t care,” but I think it was a peer pressure sort of thing, or a Stockholm Syndrome sort of situation or something where, because I was so close to them, I used to go to their music shows, I used to go to fan signs [aka autograph signings/meet & greets]. It wasn’t like there was this barrier of countries or only enjoying it digitally. I was close to them in a way where you could have personal conversations with them, even if, again, you don’t really know your idols. You’re that close to it, and it’s easy access because their fan signs were really easy to get into—nobody else liked them (laughs). But also, it was like every weekend, all my friends were going, because it was just the thing to do. If I didn’t go, then I’d just be sitting around twiddling my thumbs, alone and sad (laughs), while all my friends were doing this thing. So I kind of went because I wanted to hang out with my friends and that was what we did to hang out. Looking back on it, I was like, “That shit was not it.” They weren’t that great… Most of the members (laughs)—most of the members—were really nice kids. I just… no. Looking back on it, no. It was a good experience, having been fortunate to be a part of someone’s promotions, and it helps give you a different perspective, I guess, on… It’s like 3 things: (1) How to be a Korean fan—I’m not Korean, but the way we were fans of them was closer to the way Koreans were fans of them—(2) how to be a foreigner in Korea who’s part of fandom, and (3) how to be a foreigner outside of Korea who’s part of fandom. There’s like 3 separate levels to it, I think, and I think that experience gave me a lot of insight into all 3 of those levels. It was a weird time, but that was a fandom that I left and no longer like the thing that I was a part of, whereas things like P!ATD, I left the forums, but I still love their music. I don’t consume content the same way that I did when I was “part of the fandom community,” but I still think they make bangin’ music. I still enjoy their content. You just either grow out of a certain community or shift your interests to something else and never go back to the other thing.
You touched on this a little, but please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces.
I think, these days, [on Twitter, though Tumblr was a little bit the same way,] a lot of it is—for me, I talk to my friends who I know in real life, and it so happens that we’re a part of the same fandom community. I’ll send things to [different particular group chats] on Twitter, or we’ll all retweet things, or tweet things not specifically to anyone—it’s like you talk into the void and someone either picks it up or doesn’t pick it up. For big accounts, there’s more people who interact with it, but otherwise it’s just you and your 3 moots [aka mutuals/mutual followers] on the tline [aka timeline] who are like “Yes!!! Go off!!!” So a typical interaction is either I send a tweet that I see to someone else who I know will enjoy that tweet, or we’ll have side commentary on it. A normal interaction is either, if you’re okay backing your opinion on the tline, you can go ahead and say it on the tline, otherwise, there’s certain opinions that I just keep within spaces that I can either comfortably debate that opinion with whoever I’m talking to—you’re gonna have a civilized conversation about whatever it is—or we both agree that we think whatever-it-is is whack and we’ll be like, “Imma mind my own business.”
I’ve noticed that there’s a sentiment throughout fans where the content is great, but the fandom… not so much. Thoughts?
Yeah, I think that’s a thing. I feel that fandom can be so good. It’s really nice to have a community of people who can all come together liking this thing, but within that community, sometimes fandom’s just really bad. The thing can be so good—I feel like my biggest example is BTS. With BTS, I can acknowledge that they’re great musicians, the dudes themselves [are] great from what I know-ish about them, their music [is] not personally my style, but I can understand that they make good music. Their fans are just not it. Their fandom just creates a space that makes you not want to associate yourself with the community itself. I wish, for all my friends who are ARMYs, I wish they could find a way to be able to enjoy The Thing separate from that mess, because it just sucks.
Lately I’ve just been blocking people. Under a problematic tweet, I’ll just find all the people who are like, “Yeah!” and I’m like, block… block… block… But then that’s creating that bubble.
It is. That’s the thing—the filter bubble is so dangerous because it’s so dangerous to only be exposed to your own opinion. It’s so bad, and I know it is, but at the same time, there’s people outside that bubble who aren’t willing to accept other people’s opinions. I’m, to a certain degree, willing to accept people’s different opinions, but there’s other people who are just so radically, vehemently the one side that I’m like, “I could do without you.”
Describe your ‘history’ with a fandom. What made you join? What made you stay?
I’ll pick Monsta X, because that’s the most recent one. What made me join the fandom has a lot to unpack behind it. One, it was that so many of our friends really like Monsta X. I’m of the mindset that I don’t necessarily need to like all the things that my friends like, but I’ll support whatever they like. I’m very supportive of people liking things, because we all went through that whole big phase where somehow everyone was shamed for actually having interests. People were made fun of for liking things. I think it’s cool to like things. It’s nice to have things that you like. With Monsta X, all y’all really liked them, and I was like, “That’s cool. That’s nice.” And then, around November of last year, I was minding my own business just watching stuff on YouTube. I was watching, specifically, videos about my other faves, WJSN, my little daughters, and in the related videos, I saw Monsta X’s comeback table video for Shootout, and I was so deep down a YouTube hole, I ended up watching it. It was like an “I don’t know why I’m here, but I kind of like it” sort of thing, and it was all downhill from there. But I will say, it aligned perfectly. At the time, I was going through a really depressive episode, so seeing Monsta X—for some reason, I found that whenever I consumed their content, watched their videos or listened to their music, I found myself smiling or feeling happy, and I was like, “Wow, a burst of serotonin after a drought.” And so, that was kind of what made me stay. It was just a nice feeling of happiness. I’ve only been here for a year, but it’s great times—kind of, most times… Not recently. There was a little dip recently, but otherwise, great times. I think [the Monsta X members are] so supportive of each other that it’s nice. The fandom used to be okay—now sucks these days. There’s a lot of bad opinions, mainly linked back to the thing I mentioned before ((See Interview Extras & Bloopers)) about how people are like, “You have to stream to support them,” and I’m like, “You can support them in other ways. That’s cool.” You don’t have to stream. If you can’t afford the albums, then you can’t afford the albums, you don’t have to kill yourself to do it. Or, if you can’t travel to see them, you don’t have to. There’s no penalty for doing that. It’s just nice to be a part of [the fandom]. I feel like Monsta X have a level of familiarity [with the fandom], which I’m also very cautious of for the parasocial relationship thing, and understanding there’s a line of how much you know them. But they feel like nice friends who I don’t know too much about. In a way, they’re comforting. I mean, the whole Wonho thing was not comforting in any way, though. But yeah, their music’s pretty good. Their title tracks have been a little lame. "Follow" slaps, though. "Alligator" and "Shootout" were… good live, bad elsewhere. I will say (laughs), I acknowledge that Shootout era was whack, but also I needed to interact because that’s when I started stanning them, so it was all I had (laughs). You know what that means? That means I’m truly gonna be with them through thick and thin if I was with them through Shootout.
If you knew then what you know now as a fan in this community, would your fan experience be different? Would you join it again?
Yes… Yes, I think because I’ve been a part of enough fandoms that I know [and] understand what the problems are and how to disconnect myself. Just because within the fandom there are problematic people, doesn’t mean I have to—again, about the filter bubble, that’s very dangerous—it doesn’t mean I have to interact with them. In the case of a filter bubble, this one doesn’t really matter, because this just means that I can continue to enjoy the thing that I enjoy. Instead of seeing all these people fighting each other about like, “What are the theories?” or “Oh, Wonho’s definitely coming back. I’m gonna boycott this—” I know how to separate myself from those things, and that the way they enjoy fandom doesn’t have to be the way that I enjoy fandom. So, I think yes… Maybe a little hesitant, to be like, “So you’re gonna get really attached to this group. There’s 7 of them, they’re literally found family, and then also one of them is going to be violently ripped from your grubby hands in the middle of the night. You will have the floor ripped out from underneath you. So if you’d like to still join that fandom, go for it. Go ahead. Be my guest.” So, kind of… Maybe… (laughs) I have to think if it’s worth it. I mean, yes, I guess. I’m super proud of them. I think it sucks what happened to Wonho, but he’s a grown man. He’ll bounce back. So, despite the immense pain, ignoring the immense pain, if I just had to think about how annoying the fandom is now, I would still do it, because I think I know how to enjoy The Thing without necessarily connecting it to the fandom. BTS is a weird combination where both their music really isn’t for me—but, again, I acknowledge that they make great music—[and] their fandom just really ain’t it. On a whole, just not it. Hypocrites, bullying everybody… Just not it, in general.
You touched on this, but if you want to expand on it: How important are your fandoms to you? Why are they important?
I think definitely certain fandoms mean different things to me. The P!ATD fandom, that forum, was there for me in a really dark time in my life. I think that’s the general theme throughout it—fandom has been there for me, at least, in times that were really hard to talk about and deal with in real life. I turned to a lot of fandoms to help cope with those things. So, I guess fandoms mean something to me in that sense, in that they were comfort to me when I couldn’t really find it in my real real life. But there’s other fandoms that are just casual fandoms that you’re part of. So I think there’s a scale, you know?
Has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so?
Oh, absolutely. I feel like (laughs) I separate myself, because even just being part of fandom, period, we all share the same sort of traits with each other. Stan Twt in general doesn’t mean just one group you’re a part of. It can be anything—anime Stan Twt, K-Pop Stan Twt, whatever Stan Twt. But we all still share the same kind of foundation, the same memes and stuff like that. We still all talk the same. There’s things that I know through fandom that “locals” would not know—locals as in people who aren’t part of fandom spaces online. Lots of my coworkers—there’s a very specific brand of humor, I think, that people like you and me have cultivated through being part of online spaces and online fandoms, that doesn’t translate to everyday people because they don’t have to deal with the same things or come in contact with the same things that we do. So certain jokes—our humor is very different from local humor—so sometimes I say things to my coworkers and they’re like, “What?” or “Where do you come up with these things?” But it’s things that are so generic and everyday in fandom culture that you’re just like, “Y’know, whatever.” (laughs) For example, me telling my coworkers that I’m an existential nihilist isn’t something that any of my coworkers would’ve ever had to think about, but for some reason it’s something that I think lots of people think about or is almost normal to know about yourself if you’re part of fandom. Knowing those kinds of… I don’t even know what to call them. Your moral alignments? (laughs) Your philosophical alignments? No one else thinks about that outside of, I think, certain fandom spaces. Unless you’re actually in philosophy, everyday people don’t think about their philosophical beliefs. That’s not necessarily tied to a certain fandom, I think that was just growing up…
I feel like a lot of people in fandom seem like they take the content they consume and feel introspective about it.
Yeah, or that we’re all the same sort of people who talk about these things. But even within fandom, not everyone on Stan Twt knows, but there’s a very specific sector of people who were part of online spaces that curated that kind of personal information that you would need to know about yourself. I think it’s like, being part of fandoms that were surrounded by TV, or things that are tied closely to writing… I don’t know, I guess coming up with theories about things, you think a lot and have those conversations where you figure out those things about yourself.
If you’re into D&D, that kind of ends up lending itself to that (laughs). You’ll describe such-and-such as “neutral good,” “chaotic evil,” etc.
(laughs) Yeah, yeah, your moral alignments! Even earlier when I looked at that one guy [aka Settsu Banri from the mobile game A3!], and I was like, “He’s got some real bastard vibes,” (laughs) which means something very specific [in Stan Twt terms]. I think fandom does create a certain identity, because it is its own culture within itself, so it will have some sort of impact on who you are. That’s the culture that you’re a part of, and it changes, of course, depending on who interacts with it.
I feel like if I was talking to some of my “local” friends and described something as “having bastard energy,” they’d be like, “What the hell? That’s really mean.” (laughs)
Yeah, if I said that to someone at work, they’d be like, “What?!” I think the one that comes up most often with Me vs. The Locals is, at work, if I give inanimate objects human personifiers or human pronouns. So I’ll be like, “Ooh, she looks great,” or “She could use a little work. She’s a little rough around the edges,” and they’re like, “‘She’? This is a poster. What?” I remember the first time—now they’re pretty used to me saying, but the first time (laughs) people heard me say that they were like, “‘She’?” And I was like, “Yeah, it’s she. You know…” I just personify everything as ‘she’, or I’ll be like, “Ah, himb [aka emphasized 'him'].” (laughs) You know what I mean? There’s certain language things that are created in fandom that are just specific to that culture.
In a linguistics class, I almost did a project analyzing “stan twt language,” like intentionally spelled wrong for emphasis, and it’s so...
Yeah! I will say, though, that a lot of Stan Twt language I know has origins from black culture—people taking black culture and putting it into [their own speech]… But it’s also from black people on Stan Twitter using their own vernacular and then Stan Twt being like, “Yeah, that!”
Which translates to… every other aspect of society.
Yeah. Which I feel like a weird trickle-down thing is that there are lots of language things that start in black culture, and then transition to stan Twitter, and then somehow just trickle down to the locals. I don’t know how it gets to the locals. I’m like, “Who told you that?” But it’s always way late. So much later.
Like a meme showing up on a commercial.
Yeah, but it’s always a year later and you’re like, “What…?” I think now with more locals being on Twitter—not necessarily fandom Twitter, but Twitter in general—the shift of [the memes and linguistic trends] is a bit shorter, like they’re a little bit more in the know of different slang things, which is weird. That’s a different topic, more of a communication thing.
Do you create content as a fan? Please describe.
I do. I started out writing fanfiction. Not good fanfiction. Haven’t completed any of them. I don’t write a lot anymore, especially those that I share. Sometimes I write things but don’t share them with other people. Just like, for me, to enjoy my own little personal worlds. I feel like that way, for me, I’m more inclined to finish it, in a way, because I don’t have the pressure of other people.
I read an article that said, “Don’t tell people about your big projects,” for that very reason. I will find it and link it. ((Uh. Coming soon.))
Yes, I saw that! There was also another tweet that was like, for art especially, “Pro-tip: Don’t post works-in-progress or WIPs because you’ll be less inclined to finish the thing. Just post it when it’s done.”
Like, you’re looking for the validation and once you get it, you’re like, “Okay, I’m good now,” and you lose the drive.
Yeah, and you end up not finishing the thing. So just don’t tell people about your projects until you’re done (laughs). I saw that, too. The other thing I do create… I feel like I create a lot of stuff that I just keep to myself... I draw a lot of fanart-ish, but I just keep it to myself. It just exists inside my sketchbook where no one will really see it. [As for writing,] I’ve just given up with it. I used to write a lot. Not just fanfic stuff, but I wrote a lot of poetry for a while. Killed that. Now I just don’t.
Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your fandom experiences?
PFFFFFFFFT. Absolutely. Yeah. I’m a translator and an interpreter because of K-Pop.
Which is valid.
Yes. I am now technically, professionally, a freelance translator and interpreter for K-Pop [journalism]. Originally, it was through a friend of mine, where she had been working for MBC, I think, to translate an online magazine they had, and then I did some of the articles for that through her because she had finals coming up. She paid me to do it, and then she was translating subtitles for [the girl group] GFRIEND’s reality show, when they went to Jeju-do [aka Jeju Island in South Korea]. That was the first time I did audio translation. That was actually very easy, though. They gave me the transcription in Korean and I just translated them out into English. So I did that, then a couple years passed, and then [one of our friends] recommended me to volunteer for Link to translate this academic article about the drug trade and human trafficking in North Korea, which was a wild time. That was something. That was a time. Vaguely bad time, but okay-ish. And then, most recently, through [our journalist friend], I’ve been doing the live interpretation for K-Pop interviews or post-translations of a tape. And then she connected me with some of her other friends, who I’m not actually sure are gonna give me work again because they caught me at a bad time when I translated one thing. I had to put a surcharge on top of it, and I might just be too expensive for them now. Whatever, we’ll see. Also I had to tell one of them that I don’t do live interpretation because I’m scared [since] I’m obviously not a professional interpreter or translator. So for [our journalist friend], I’m pretty okay with it because it’s low risk, it’s [our friend], but the other ones feel too professional, and so I feel like there’s too much more pressure to perform well in those settings… that I just don’t think I’m going to perform well in those settings (laughs). And so, I said no to her for that one time. So yeah, being part of the K-Pop fandom has led to career opportunities (laughs).
Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences?
Yes, I’d never really written before I was part of fandom. I think it also goes back to that thing where you’re into one thing, and so you follow a bunch of people, but then those people start getting into other fandoms. So then you’re like, “Oh, that looks kind of nice,” and then you get into that thing, and then you’re in it. So yeah, I think so. It’s opened my horizons to other things.
Do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
Not actively. If it comes up in conversation, yes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m not running around being like, “It’s me! I’m Monbebe!” I’ll just be like, “Oh, I’m gonna go see Monsta X.” Yeah, I think just if it comes up. If it doesn’t come up, (shrugs) meh. Like if someone asked me what I’m doing over the weekend and I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to the Monsta X concert,” and they’re like, “Who’s Monsta X?” I’m like, “Oh, it’s this Korean group, blah blah blah blah.” Then, yeah. Otherwise, not really. I’m not actively talking to locals about my interests just because I don’t think anyone does. Don’t think anyone’s really out there doing that. But I don’t go out of my way to hide it.
Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
Yeah. I feel like, on Twitter, there’s no way to really hide it if you’re talking about your faves or retweeting stuff. Clearly you’re into that thing. The only way to not tell people within the fandom space, if you’re part of that fandom, is if you just lurk and not interact with anyone’s tweets or post anything about it. That way, that’s how you avoid telling people within it, but I think if you’re in it these days, you kind of have to let somebody know within the fandom. Someone in that fandom knows.
What about in person?
In person… depends how crazy the people are (laughs). Depends if they’re crazies are not, and you can judge it a little bit. Sometimes you accidentally tell them, and you’re like, “Oh, fuck, they’re crazy,” so you try and gracefully back out. I will say that most people that I meet in real life who are part of the same fandom that I’m in are generally very nice people. It’s generally pretty sane. There are some people that I’ve met in real life who, later on, I see on the tline that they have several bad opinions, but they’re not bad enough for me to break the mutual, where I’m like, “I’ll deal with your bad opinions for now.” If anything, it’s like, “I don’t see your tweets enough that I care, but if you have too many bad opinions, (clicks tongue), you’re outta here.” But yeah, I think you [gotta] judge in real life if someone’s a little bit crazy, or what type of—especially with K-Pop—like what type of K-Pop stan they are. Because there’s K-Pop stan and K-Pop local, which is a weird distinction to me.
Is it like “active” and “passive” fan?
A little bit. I feel like there are people who are local stans who… I would say if they were part of any online community, they were part of the Instagram fandom. Those types of vibes. That’s when I back away a little bit. “Again, very glad that you like this thing. I’m very supportive of people actively being vocal about liking things. I think we have a difference in style of consuming and interacting with the space… And so, I’m gonna pass.” Or, if you can clearly tell the person’s a Koreaboo, then it’s just canceled from the get-go. I don’t interact if they’re Kboos.
Would you like to explain what a Koreaboo is?
A Kboo or a Koreaboo is someone who appropriates Korean culture in a way that isn’t appreciation or genuinely wanting to learn about the language or culture. They do it because they think it’s cute or kitschy. It’s like people being like, “Ahahaha, can I call you ‘oppa’?” to random people, and it’s just disgusting. Peak cringe culture. Ugh, Koreaboos. So yeah, that’s what Koreaboo is. Beware. Caution. (laughs)
Okay! That’s all the questions that I have. Is there anything you want to circle back to or rant about? Any final shakes-fist-at-clouds kind of thing?
I don’t think so. Pretty much got it out. Just… understand that there’s a separation between your real life and fandom. That fandom is not the end of the world. Actually, one thing I do want to go off on. There’s a lot of—I think this goes back to the hivemind thing, where one person says something and then people just latch onto it whether or not there’s a factual basis behind it. I think, then, that people get so swept up in this thing—I’m thinking about this specifically in terms of Wonho, where people started staying things and it kind of blew up out of proportion. Then, after, people have a bit more clarity about the situation and realize that they overreacted. I think there’s just something about communities that are so similar inciting validation within each other, and it builds on itself very quickly whether it’s a good thing—extreme happiness over someone’s accomplishment—or extreme panic, like in the case of Wonho where people heard one thing and didn’t have backing behind it and blew it up.
Isn’t there a term for that? Mob mentality?
Yeah, it’s really like a mob mentality, where they just blow things out of proportions, and then later on, it’s like all these problems happened because we were too caught up in the moment of this thing. And it’s just like… I think people just need to chill out, take a step back, maybe think about things a little bit logically, and also… maybe don’t speak on things that you have literally no idea about. I see a lot of people talk a lot about the law… None of you are lawyers. There are some people who claim that they’re lawyers—people claiming to be Monbebe— … Clearly not, because… y’all are… no. Just chill out. Let’s all just calm down. Then there’s the other thing: I think a lot of it escalates because people really want clout. Like, people all want to be the big accounts in the fandom—the authorities within the fandom—so people just chase clout, and it’s just not good. That’s the part I hate. It’s because so many of the big accounts have bad opinions, and I think people just follow them because they’re a big account. People are like, “Oh, this person is saying it, so clearly it’s the right opinion,” but I’m like, “Hmm. Or, alternatively, that ain’t it.” So, maybe not. I think that’s the thing. People just need to still keep their individual opinions, be informed by themselves, not rely on the big accounts or what the popular opinion is. Form your own opinion. Don’t just agree because everyone’s agreeing, agree because you actually want to agree with the thing.
Purposeful hivemind. (laughs)
Purposeful hivemind. Not just blindly following the crowd. Being a hivemind because you actually all agree with each other when you really analyze your opinion. You should actually agree with it, not just, “Oh, well, y’know, everyone says blah blah blah…” Have an informed opinion and then follow the hive if that’s where your opinion takes you.
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