Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Miss A: I think to be a fan of something is when you become curious about a certain thing, whether it’s a group or a cartoon or anything really. Then that transforms from curiosity, to interest, to liking, and then continuing to like that thing. I think that’s how you become a fan of something.
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
I have. Loosely… I’ve been a loose fan of anime, manga… Maybe I wouldn’t say loose, because when I was younger I would collect a lot of different manga. I’m maybe not as well-versed in anime as a whole, but I am a fan of certain anime and… to say “be a part of a fan community,” I mean, I share these interests with my friends, but I’ve never been a part of Facebook groups or Twitter groups. I’ve never done that in terms of anime, but I have been in the fan community for K-Pop. Not only do my friends talk about it, but I have joined Facebooks groups about it. Twitter is a huge part of it for me, so I would like to say that I am a part of a fan community for K-Pop in general.
How often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
All day, every day—no, I’m just kidding (laughs).
(laughs) You joke, but—
(laughs) Well, obviously, for K-Pop—it is a huge part of my life. Pfff… all day… every day… I mean, to be honest, K-Pop as a whole is a big majority of my life because not only am i so immersed in the music, but when it comes to fanart, fanfiction, talking to other friends, other fans, befriending the fans—just having that community of… just shooting the shit with each other regarding fandoms and things like that. I think… it is like an all day every day kind of thing. For—I feel like I keep categorizing between K-Pop and anime—but, with anime, it’s not as big a chunk of me as K-Pop, but I do talk to my friends about it, I do interact with it in terms of content. I do digest the content on Twitter, obviously the shows themselves, and I won’t say it’s like my day-to-day, but I’m pretty active in the community.
Please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces. Could be positive or negative or both!
Keyboard smash, keyboard smash, keyboard smash (laughs). A typical interaction… Let’s see… Obviously, I talk to my friends about it. So, sometimes, in full honesty hour, fanfic—not only do I talk to friends about fanfics that have been released, but [I create] AUs, what-ifs, and imagines. So that’s also a big part because (laughs) I say I’m a writer. Creating AUs, things like that—it does run through my brain a lot. There’s also fashion—the fashion of these [K-Pop] idols—and even the content that they push out and how I react to it to my friends. I feel like that type of interaction is very conversation-heavy, (laughs) very keyboard smash-heavy… Then, in terms of anime, also talking to friends, but also cosplaying, interaction with/seeing other cosplayers online, who are amazing at what they do… Fanartists… Just kind of soaking it in like a sponge and marveling at everything. Those are usually my interactions. I usually interact with the content itself and I kind of interact with the people I know about these things.
Do you ever interact with people you don’t know?
Yes. Y’know, Twitter—very big world on its own. Sometimes I’ll tweet something, I’ll quote retweet something… and there’s a reaction, big or small, and some of them are with strangers. But those are usually the extent of me speaking to strangers. But there’ll be friends of friends, who are technically strangers, but because I’ve met these mutual friends they’re not exactly strangers. But in terms of straight up strangers, it’s mostly online obviously. I mean, sometimes when you’re on line at K-Pop concerts, or you’re at the conventions and someone’s like, “I like your cosplay!” or like, “Oh my god! Do you listen to this group, too?” There’s those little passing things, but usually it’s with people I’m familiar with.
You kind of did do this already, but describe your ‘history’ with a fandom or fandoms. What made you join? What made you stay?
Well, with anime and manga, it’s always been there. I watched cartoons as a kid and thanks to Cartoon Network, Code Lyoko, Yu-Gi-Oh—they were always playing… it was always on TV. So it was never something I had to search for. It was always there and it really resonated with me as opposed to other animated shows. That was something that always drew me in. I didn’t really have a lot of friends who knew [about] it, but I was able to introduce my childhood best friend to it. (laughs) Even up to this day, I got her into anime, manga, and then I got her into K-Pop somehow, some way.
That’s, like, the natural progression, I’ve found (laughs).
(laughs) That’s how it usually goes. So for anime, it was always just there, always in the background of my childhood, and with K-Pop… I was very in my high school emo screamo band phase, and I think I was trying to search up a song, and then I saw this—it was like the song was on top of this music video for Super Junior, and I was just like… “Who the fuck are these Asian boys?” Like, me, being Asian myself, “Who the fuck are these Asian boys? What the fuck is this?” and then I searched them up and I just… kept… going.
Yeah, and here we are (laughs).
Yeah (laughs), it’s kinda like going into the dark side of YouTube, but K-Pop edition (laughs). I just fell into it and never stopped, and it’s been… since maybe, oh god, like 2009? Yeah, it’s been a lot, it’s been a minute. But yeah, that was my… a lot of these things—me becoming a part of a fandom or a fan of something—I never usually sought them out. For K-Pop, it was accidental. For anime, it was kind of just always there. So I feel like those are kind of like the blessings of—
They came to you.
Yeah, yeah. Which I am thankful for. It was never like, “[gasp] Everyone’s talking about it, lemme try.” Though, I do admit, some anime nowadays… Everywhere. And I’m like, “Ugh, okay, maybe. Maybe I’ll check it out.”
Was that Demon Slayer for you?
No, it’s okay. I mean, granted, I did watch it in 24 hours. But yeah, for the most part, it’s never been something where I’m like, “Oh, everyone is doing it, so I should watch it.” And it’s hard. It’s kind of hard sometimes, especially when you’re at that age when you’re in junior high/high school and you start to find something and people are kind of like, “What is that? Eww.” Y’know? Nowadays, it’s like, “Ugh (peace sign), I’m a weirdo” (laughs). But before, it was like, “Anime. What is that?” Thankfully, the friends that I have made and the people I have met who are still in my life today—they were very understanding of that.
Is there a stigma for interests like these?
Oh heck yeah. In my day (laughs)—in my day—I would say definitely. Maybe it’s not as prominent nowadays. So, like, anime—yes, it was always there, but it was never something that was addressed. Then there was a certain time where it was like, “Anime? What is that? Ugh, losers, ugh, nerds. You just wanna go to Japan.”
I’ve gotten “Do you want to be Japanese?”
I mean, I’ll admit, it helped because I’m Asian (laughs). But I’ve never actually had anyone outright say “Anime, ew, what is that?” but I have come across people who don’t get it, and… not a cool feeling… but compared to what some other people have experienced, it’s not as bad. So, I am thankful for that. But, with K-Pop, I wouldn’t say—I mean, there is a stigma against it, and it’s more in the public eye now, but that doesn’t mean that it’s positive, because… BTS, yes, they’re very in the public eye, but while some people do get it, do get behind it, do support it, some others are like, “Well, I know of BTS, but what are they, just dancing Asian boys?” So, it’s there. The stigma is definitely there. I don’t think… I don’t know if it’ll get any better. I don’t think the stigma will ever completely disappear. There are people out there who do receive it with open arms, but then there are also people who are like, “Well, I know this one thing, and this one thing is good enough for me,” or they think, “Well, this is BTS, and everything else [in K-Pop] doesn’t make sense, so whatever,” or, “This is BTS, they set the standard. What are all these other groups?” So you might not have a stigma against BTS, but you still have stigma against K-Pop. And I kind of feel like that’s how it is with anime, as well, and the cosplay community, of course. There are so many amazing cosplayers, so many hardworking people, and there’s still a stigma against dark-skinned cosplayers. What, because they’re not Japanese? Because they’re not white? I feel like there’s always two sides to every coin. There’s always a good and a bad, and the bad is obviously that stigma. Some of us have experienced it more than others, but for me, I’d say I only receive a very bare minimum of it, which I am thankful for.
Not enough to affect your opinion of it?
Yeah, because I’ve had people who are like… Even my mom. My mom is very like, “You’re spending all this money for these Korean boys!” but I still pay money. I still pay my hard-earned money to go see them for that one night because it’s something that I love and it’s music that I love. Even anime conventions. It’s something that I like and want to experience. I was scared cosplaying for the first time, but like hell I wasn’t gonna cosplay and go and have a really fun time. So, it sucks, yeah, but for me, it could’ve been worse.
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?
I don’t regret becoming a fan of K-Pop or anime. I don’t. Both—more towards K-Pop—communities have helped me through a lot of things in my life, and I feel like if I didn’t find these things, or if I didn’t stumble upon them, my life would be so much different, and I can’t promise that… I don’t think it would be a good ‘different.’ What K-Pop and anime has done for me is that I have found a certain understanding of myself, I found a certain group of people that I feel like get me and support me in all these things, which is one of the greatest feelings to have. Also, some of the things that I have encountered over the years—it sucks (laughs), but I don’t think I would want the bad things that I’ve experienced to dictate [and make me] not give it a try. If I were to speak to my younger self right now, I’d be like, “Hey, dude. There’ll be some bullshit along the way, but I think it’s worth it, and I think you should just keep doing it if you still like it. Because obviously you’ve come all this way and you’re still in it, so obviously something keeps pulling you back [to it].” It comes with anything, really, but I don’t think I would give it up if I did it over again. I think I’d still be into it.
How important are your fandoms to you? Why are they important? You did touch on this, but if you want to expand on it…
Obviously K-Pop is important to me, not only the music, or… I feel like these K-Pop groups—yes, there’s a certain level of camera-readiness, that camera consciousness, that coincides with it, because they’re celebrities, I get it, and they wanna appeal to their audience. And I get it, sometimes you gotta fake it in front of the camera, but there are other times where I’m like… I think they know what I’m going through… I think these people feel what I—they’re human at the end of the day—and maybe they’re standing on a different platform in life than I am, but they’re human, they have emotions, they go through pain and heartache and anger… and I think how they handle it or how they can still continue to be professional or even after so much that is thrown at them and they still try so hard, it makes me wanna try harder, too. It makes me feel like if they can still perform in front of a camera even [with] who knows what they’ve gone through, [who’s] to say that I can’t get up another day? And also, with anime, I feel like it’s just like reading a book. You experience so many new worlds, so many different things. Sometimes you learn about yourself. Sometimes you learn about other things that you didn’t know about. Sometimes you just need some stupid shit to laugh to, and that’s totally fine. And I appreciate that. I appreciate everything that these fandoms have done for me, because if it didn’t help me in a certain way, I wouldn’t be a fan.
You also kind of touched on this a little bit, but has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so?
I wouldn’t say it has shaped me, or that “I’m this person thanks to K-Pop or anime,” but I feel like thanks to K-Pop, thanks to anime, I’ve met many different people in my life, and my interactions with them, based on our common interest, teach me things. It teaches me how to approach people, how to react to other people’s opinions, how to respect said opinions, how to respect myself, how maybe one person’s view about something… how I should take that into consideration or take things with a grain of salt, or how not everyone’s gonna like the same thing as you, not everyone’s gonna react the same as you, not everyone will have the same personality, or same reaction towards this shared interest as you… and that’s okay. So, I wouldn’t say that “It’s made me what I am!” but it has definitely taught me a lot of life lessons, which I definitely appreciate.
Do you create content as a fan? Please describe.
(quickly, suspiciously) No, I don’t. (laughs)
(laughs) Don’t lie to me! Don’t lie to the people!
(laughs) Yes, I do create things. I’ve created AUs, I’ve written fanfic, I coerce my friends into creating AUs, I brainstorm—anything with creating writing content or things regarding fanfics like reading, writing, brainstorming—those I definitely have experience in. I’m not published or anything, but I share my ideas with friends and I’m proud of them sometimes. I wish I could do fanart, but one day at a time. For now, I read and write little things here and there.
Side question, are you still a part of the roleplay community? I didn’t want to force the topic, but I just remember that you were.
No, no, no, it’s okay! I haven’t been part of a roleplay community in… oof… 2-3 years or so? But, I will roleplay with [one of my friends]. So I still do it, I’m just not part of a big group because those are toxic as fuck. The K-RP [short for K-Pop Roleplay] Tumblr roleplay community is pretty damn toxic. There’s a lot of cliques and so much cattiness and pettiness, but the friends that I have made from that community, I appreciate. Like, you have to kind of…
Sift through the bullshit?
Yeah, to find the really good people. And I’ve found some pretty good people. Thanks to the roleplay community, I was able to reconnect with my college classmate. We went to the same college together and fell out of contact for three years, and then we found each other—reconnected through roleplay. It was weird, but I appreciate it.
Could you give a brief overview of roleplay?
Okay, so I’ve only been in Tumblr roleplays, and what it is is there’s usually the main Tumblr which explains what the universe is, the backstory—like, for example, Harry Potter. “This is a Harry Potter AU Roleplay.” On that main page, it talks about what characters there are, what house they’re under, the rules of the roleplay, the regulations. It could be literate, semi-literate, illiterate. Literate roleplay is that you can only reply to each roleplay in paragraph style.
So a Round Robin kind of thing?
To practice writing a story, someone would write one part and then you’d switch to the next person and they’d write a section, etc.
Yeah, it’s like that, but back and forth. It’s usually two people. Sometimes it can be three, sometimes it can be a group. And you just interact with each person if you want. Semi-literate is like, sometimes you can reply in paragraph form, sometimes you can reply in script form. Like, “He walks here,” or [play format]. And illiterate is basically just free-for-all. You can do GIFs, you can do one-liners, script, paragraph—whatever. And then, you apply—and when you apply you have an application—you apply for your character [like], “I want my face claim to be…”
Yeah. So you roleplay, but you use the face of a K-Pop idol. So it’s like… for example, I’ll be Jin from BTS and he’s going to be… 8th year Slytherin… and here’s his backstory. He was born here, he does this, his family does this, blah blah blah, whatever.
It's like a D&D kinda thing.
I guess so? So with this application, you write about yourself too—“My name is so-and-so, this is my timezone, these are my pronouns… I don’t have any other existing characters.” But the main part of the application is that character, because that’s how you shape them because that’s how the ad-mod team can see how well you write, get to know your character, and then they either accept it or deny it. And then after you’re accepted, that’s when you’d create your own profile. And then, say if I’m Slytherin Jin, my handle is the handle that the main page wants, so I’ll be like, “HPJin” or “SlytherinJin,” and then my page will consist of, basically, my character’s profile/RPs. So that’s kind of what it is! It’s not that hard, but it does get tedious because some applications are a lot more in general than others, and then you have to create your own profile, and you can create relationship slots of, “Who wants to be my enemy/friend/lover?” It’s really cool and I was really into it for a long time because of that writing process and that brainstorming process. It’s honestly… It’s a really cool process, but once again, that community can be toxic, so I haven’t been in it for a very long time, but I do appreciate it.
Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your experiences as a fan?
Well, when I was at my first job—I was an associate content producer—I would create these units, kind of like multi-slided stories or quizzes for clients, and a few of our clients happened to be K-Pop sites or pertained to K-Pop. Because of that, they put me in charge of making these units pertaining to K-Pop, which I thought was really awesome. I basically had free reign over it. I could write whatever I want, do whatever I want… That was the extent of it, but it was really fun. It’s definitely grown, K-Pop in journalism and articles. I hope one day that I can be a part of it. But I’ve also transcribed interviews for my [journalist] friend, so there’s that. Given the chance, I would love to be published with an article for K-Pop, or makeup, or K-beauty trends. I just love K-Pop and lifestyle and things like that, and I hope, one day, I can mesh it together. It’d be cool. But, who knows what’ll happen?
Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences?
New interests… Not gonna lie, when I was watching Yuri!! On Ice, I really got into… what’s his name… The Japanese—
I know who you’re talking about. Yuzuru Hanyu?
Yes. I got really into him at one point.
Yes! That was also ME.
I was like, “You are the cutest little kid ever.” But, I mean, honestly, I wish I could travel like my K-Pop faves. I can’t even lie to you. I wish I could travel. Sometimes I see where they go, and it’s like, “Wow, maybe one day I can go.” I feel like that’s something. Granted, I’ve always wanted to travel more, but seeing these places through their eyes, as well, it’s like, “Oh, that’s really cool.” Hmm… Bullet journaling! I bullet journal. That’s been a big part of my life for a little while. Granted, I’ve shied away from it for a while, but thanks to K-Pop, I made a K-Pop bullet journal, and I got to play around with hand lettering and crafting. I’ve always been a crafter, but I feel like bullet journaling has definitely been a really big thing for me that I definitely appreciate and I wish I had more time to get back into, so I’m gonna try to do that. It really helps with my creativity and as an outlet and just as a hobby. I’m so glad I found it, thanks to my friend. I guess that’s kind of it. Well, more writing, more brainstorming, more imagining—that’s always been a thing. I’ve been trying to get back into drawing and painting. Honestly, I feel like bullet journaling is the biggest thing that I’ve found.
Do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
No… I don’t really feel like it’s a conversation opener, like, “Hi, my name is so-and-so, I love K-Pop, do you?” To me, it’s never been a thing where I feel like I need to shove it in people’s faces. When I meet people, first impressions can be important, and when you paint yourself a certain way, it can go either way, and I feel like [immediately introducing yourself as a fan like that] sets yourself up for stigma, or how people will see you, and I’d rather them see me for my other traits first. Once again, K-Pop and anime is one part of me, but it’s not all. And I’d rather them see those parts of me before I show them something that I hold to a certain [level of importance].
If it came up in casual conversation, would that be a different story?
I mean, if they were like, “Oh my god, did you see that boy group at New Year’s Eve?” I’d be like, “Oh yeah, that’s BTS. Yeah, they’re from South Korea. They’re pretty big right now.” I won’t shy away from it, but I won’t be like, “Oh my god, okay, this is their current album, this is where this member—” I mean, if they bring it up, I can chime in, but I’m not gonna be like, “Do you want links, do you want horoscopes, do you want hobbies?” Maybe if they reciprocate, then that can lead to a conversation. I’m not gonna force [one].
Counter-question. Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
I feel like… there’s no reason to. If I’m going to a Monsta X concert, obviously I’m a fan of Monsta X. And if you’re going to the Monsta X concert and you see me, obviously you’re a fan of Monsta X. So we’re both fans of Monsta X… so what is there to say? (laughs) I just feel like it’s… ehh… I feel like there’s, in K-Pop, there will always be an overlap. You’re both in that fandom for a reason, so just the fact that you’re both in that fandom, there’s already an understanding of, “Oh.” And usually they’re concerts. K-Pop concerts are not cheap. So the fact that you go to these concerts and you see other people there, it’s obvious that maybe they’re at this concert because they want to see this group that I’m also seeing (laughs). But once again, that goes back to my answer about strangers. I don’t really talk to people outside of my friend group unless [I] already know that they’re in that fandom. There’s never been like a “Are you in this fandom, too? because I’m in this fandom, too,” because it’s already known.
Alright! That’s all the questions that I have. Is there anything that you want to circle back to or continue to rant about or bring up.
If there’s one thing I could put my 2 cents in… To everyone out there in the K-Pop community, you don’t have to shit on other groups to put yours up. You don’t have to put down other people’s likes and dislikes and you don’t have to put down other people’s faves, their beliefs, even if you don’t agree with it. Everyone is human, we all have our own opinions, and if it’s something that you don’t agree with, or it’s something that you think you don’t vibe well with… it is free.99 to mind your business. That’s all I’m saying. And once again, it’s K-Pop. It might be deep for you—because I will admit, K-Pop is deep for me—but it is not that deep enough to be a shitty human being. Nothing is deep enough to make you into a shitty human being. And that’s it, really.