By Nadine Kam I
The central idea behind Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Batman trilogy is that the Batman exists as a symbol of hope that allows people to wake up every morning in hope that today will be a little better, a little safer than yesterday. Symbols/ideas are important because they live on beyond an individual’s lifespan and transcend geography.
In the music world, BTS was created by Bang Si-hyuk, also known as “Hitman” Bang or PD Nim, to fulfill that need.
That might sound like hyperbole, but consider that Bang, who got his start within the idol-making machine, wanted to fix what he thought was wrong with K-pop. That is, the industry is built on blank slate talents that can adapt to any music trend, whether they like it or not, to serve the need of their puppet-master producers. The result is “artists” that have no control over the style or message of their music.
Bang worked as a songwriter and producer with one of the Big Three companies, JYP, until 2005. He was disillusioned by the lack of personal expression in the music and set out to establish a different kind of company, one willing to support individuals who could express themselves through their art and storytelling. This was the root of Big Hit Entertainment.
In 2010, he began to assemble a rap group reflecting youthful resilience, that he named Bulletproof Boy Scouts to express toughness needed to navigate modern life, along with strong moral character to be a source of sincerity and goodness lacking in public figures ranging from entertainers to politicians. In interviews, he said he thought of BTS as sympathetic role models or heroes for fans who don’t need someone dogmatically preaching at them from above, but is peer who shares similar trials and anxieties, who can empathize and offer words of support.
As underdogs in an industry that did not receive them well, BTS members did not shy from speaking their minds in songs ranging from “Not Today” to “Dope.” They spoke up for a generation that feels powerless in society, reflecting on a wide range of issues, from job insecurity to prejudice and human rights.
Even so, it was still hard for me to imagine BTS as a significant force for greater good. That is probably the cynical journalist in me, thinking that the world is doomed by a larger population of haters and bigots, who are fearful and close-minded, and don’t hesitate to drown out any voice of reason.
But what changed my mind about social change being possible for the next generation is the online exchange that followed Suga’s (Min Yoon-gi) appearance at a Los Angeles Dodgers game, while he was in town for concerts, to support South Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers posted a series of pictures of Suga at the game, that were picked up by ESPN’s social media channels. Harmless sharing, right?
But some sports fans responded with racist, sexist, xenophobic comments such as “Americans don’t like that crap, except pre teen girls,” and, “JUST Another rich Chinese kid,” which set Army into caption to shut down the haters.
I was heartened that Army, once again, was there to take a stand against the haters accustomed to drowning out other voices by sheer show of force and puffery. Clearly, BTS’s message is getting through to the 94,000 who appeared on ESPN’s Twitter page in defense of Suga, with messages like this one from @taeyeol_bts: “Bts teach to love yourself and accept yourself whatever you are. (Haters) please learn to respect and love yourself first. Then you can love and respect other people! I am Army who loves bts with all my heart. I’m proud of BTS.”
I’m proud of Army fighting hate by spreading BTS’s message of love and acceptance.