By Nadine Kam I
It was another history-making moment for BTS at the Billboard Music Awards 2019 on May 1, when they took home their first music prize in the United States, as Top Group, finally breaking that barrier as the first Korean group to do so. As expected, they also took home the Top Social Artist Award for the third year in a row, besting Ariana Grande, Louis Tomlinson, and fellow K-pop rivals EXO and GOT7.
In the music category, they beat Dan + Shay and such heavy hitters as Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, and Panic! At The Disco. I had seen oddsmakers predict Imagine Dragons to win before the event took place so didn’t want to get my hopes up too high for BTS’s first shot at a music award in this country.
Naturally fans were thrilled, but beyond the two awards, the most talked about moment took place on the red carpet when actor Sofia Carson inserted herself into a photo of BTS. Carson is obviusly too unschooled in the world of K-pop to know she was playing with fire when she grabbed her moment in the spotlight, winning herself a flood of commentary from a livid Army who started to fill Twitter and her IG feed with angry messages. In the two languages I could understand, English and Spanish, the words that came up ran along the likes of describing her behavior as “gross,” “rude” and “disgusting,” with a lot accusing her of “clout chasing,” which doesn’t sit well with Army.
Here’s a link to a story and the video on Koreaboo: https://www.koreaboo.com/news/sofia-carson-gets-backlash-taking-picture-bts/
As it went down, she was ahead of them on the red carpet, and said something along the lines of, “Hi guys, I’m gonna join your guys photo,” and jumped in without waiting for a response. They did say hello, but it was because she had already attached herself to J-Hope.
There were people, including other Armys, who criticized those jumped on Carson, saying what she did was harmless and perfectly fine … that is, if you’re among those who can’t even recognize a lack of manners anymore.
Here’s why it was wrong of her to do so.
There’s a right way and wrong way to pursue a photograph at an event like this. People are accusing Army of being immature and jealous, but the reality is that a lot of female entertainers had their photographs taken with BTS that day with no incident. Her behavior stood out because it was perceived as rude, aggressive and disrespectful. Army is sensitive about the specter of people using BTS as “clout” to further their own careers, whether through photo ops or collaborations, even guest appearances on TV shows because their fanbase is larger than any of their collaborators thus far.
1. The red carpet was their moment, not hers, and she treated them like props, not people. If she had been sincere, she would have waited until they got off the red carpet and properly introduced herself and asked for a photo.
2. She wasted everyone’s time. From my journalist perspective, when this happens on a red carpet it is a waste of time because photographers have to wait for the nobody to leave before they can get their shot, or crop her out of the photo later. The way she placed her hands over Hobi made her impossible to crop out, so that was a wasted shot.
When this has happened at red carpet events I have photographed, I have yelled at people, “Get out of the picture.” Photographers who did take that photo likely didn’t know who she was, so would have left it for editors to weed out a usable photo. Of course no serious media outlet picked it up because people want to see the red carpet shot of BTS, not BTS plus one nobody with no affiliation with the group. If she were a star of greater or equal caliber, it might have been different. BTS with Madonna? Yes. BTS with Taylor Swift? Yes. The story was picked up by Korean and gossip media who made note of the backlash against her behavior, probably not the kind of attention she wanted.
Army had no problem with Becky G, Halsey and Madonna who got their photos the respectful way:
3. In her defense, some have said, BTS is in America, not Korea, and they didn’t seem to mind.
Since when doesbeing in America become an excuse for not having basic manners and common decency observed in countries around the globe? Oh, I forgot, we are living in the era of Trump rudeness and indecency.
BTS and every other K-pop band is trained to be ambassadors for South Korea. They are raised at home to be polite, show class and manners, which is reinforced by their companies as they travel the world, often to places more conservative than South Korea. So of course that meant going along with her intrusion to avoid causing a scene.
It is true that the “manner hands” — that is, avoiding touching women out of respect — they employ in South Korea go out the window when they are in this country, they still have conservative values and it showed in V, Suga, Rapmon and Hoseok’s expressions of distaste over her stealing their moment because they do know what is appropriate and what is not.
4. It was not as “innocent” as her defenders are making it out to be. She was not trying to get a personal selfie with her own phone. She knew she was leaving that image behind in hope that media would pick up when they ran photos of BTS on the red carpet. But of course no one bit in a legit context because she is a nobody in context of BTS making history at the BBMAs. Again, only Korean outlets and gossip columns ran with the story of the hate she was getting because Army saw the livestream video. She only succeeded at becoming known as that stereotypical Ugly American around the globe.