A little fact about me: I am a communication major, and we are forced to read between the lines like all the time. The world is full of different narratives and all that jazz and something about words and how we communicate. Anyway narratives are fun. There is essentially a narrative to damn near everything. I don’t know how to perfectly explain a narrative, but think of it like this: a story.
When you look back at how something went down, how would you tell it? What would you talk about? Is there anything you think that is more important and needs emphasis. Would you use complete sentences? Shit like this creates a narrative. And in some cases, we can take that very same narrative, and apply it other ones and see common themes, similar language choices, what they chose to highlight, etc.
Now I’m sure for any random person who hits this blog, you know what I am talking about, and are going “pssh this shit ain’t new. Why are you dedicating a post to this and not talking about G.Soul’s debut single You?”
My response: I’m bored and avoiding responsibility. I was also thinking about this for some random reason, and wrote it under an hour (prior to revisions of course).
One narrative in K Pop that I am not talking about right now is SM and losing idols. The usual narrative there is that some idol leaves, usually because “SM sucks”, we see massive division in opinions and blame. If an idol has left the group, it will be the idol vs the group fanwars (which is a fandom thing, and keeps most of the blame off of the actual problem SM). SM gets by mostly unscathed and still making money. The only two that have not taken on that narrative are Sulli (who didn’t completely leave the group), and Jessica who was kicked out and explicitly cited SNSD the group as part of the reason she was kicked out. When you look at these situations, look at what is happening, the language that is used (usually traitor, betrayal, SM is garbage, etc), how either side is being seen, what events are being highlighted most often (usually something that hits emotional triggers). There is so much in these moments, and when we talk about them, we tend to create the narratives.
The rest of this post will focus on one specific narrative that I think happens a lot. It’s nothing bad really, and I am not dragging anyone in this. Also it makes zero sense outside of my head, and I am okay with that. But if you are not, I’m sorry.
So here we are…the Narrative of praise (Or: Praise the Idol-blame the company)
So before we start. I have two scenarios for you. They are about the same faceless idol (insert a name if you want), in the same situation for the most part, with different outcomes however.
Idol A is on the fast track to a great career. After several months on a promo effort on different shows, he gets his first hit, and first award. Fans run to twitter and whatever other form of social media to celebrate. They congratulate him, and all that. He takes a small period off to enjoy his success and the fans love his fun insta pics on vacay. At the end of the year, when talking about how well the year went for Idol A, they talk about his hard work, and his success, and his talent.
Idol A has been trying for so long. After several months on an exhausting promo effort on different shows, he is still going nowhere. Fans take to the internet to pour their sympathy and frustrations. They find blame in the company’s tactics. Why put him on that show, it doesn’t have viewers? Why give him that song, it’s not public friendly? Why didn’t they send him to anything during the promo era. They are working him too hard.
As stated before, these are the same situations with different outcomes and are worded differently. In Scenario 1 we see a positive outcome, which is then focused on the idol itself. All good things happened because of him. Maybe some acknowledgement to the company (not in my story), but mostly it was off his back. In Scenario 2, we see the same idol who did not get so lucky. The hit song didn’t come, so it was someone else’s fault. The fault of the one that gave it to him (the company). He was tired and overworked when going to all those shows. Whose fault is that? The one sending him to these jobs. Why didn’t he do anything to help build some steam? Obviously it’s the company’s fault. Now this is a super basic, very vague and overly simplified version of any situation. There are several factors to which brought about the end results, not all of them explicit or documented (we never know the 100% truth on anything). However when we talk about things like this, when we watch someone win their first award and the fans write Oscar level winning speeches, that is how the narrative goes. It is focused mostly (if not all the way) on the idol his or herself. The hardwork they put in, how much time they invested, what they sacrificed. Shit like that. On the flipside: when everything goes south and fans feel the need to write thesis statements on what went wrong, we suddenly notice that there was backing in that artist. The company fucked up because they ain’t getting them jobs. Or they giving them whack ass songs. The concept was dull. Going tot he wrong places and shit if they are getting jobs. This is all the company’s doing and the idol is just doing their job unfortunately (insert sadface emoji).
Three examples of this: SPICA isn’t a faceless act with little performance personality and overall nothing special to really hold them together other than their voices…it’s the company’s fault for not maintaining an exact image. f(x) is not the most stable of groups who make more money outside of the group than in…it’s simply SM not wanting them to be great. Miss A was not fucked from the start due to having to Foreign members with hardly passable Korean skills, a member who while entertaining isn’t exactly the greatest to come, and only one power money maker…JYP just sucks period.
(Note: I focused on girl groups because I don’t care about boy groups. They are just as, if not more so a part of this as anyone)
These are the narratives that we see. B2M can’t do shit for SPICA a talented group with loads of potential. f(x)’s lack of fame in comparison to their sibling groups is garbage and it’s SM’s fault. JYPE is incompetent and refuses to let Miss A be great. This may not be 100% accurate (And neither are the ones I created), but they are what we have created out of the reality of the situations. They are what people are going to tell over and over again. Because that’s the narratives that were created around these situations.
(Note: These are not the only ones that exist, but pretty much the most popular and work with what I am trying to say)
This also doesn’t mean we don’t praise companies. It happens, but it has little to do with the narrative at hand.
In context of how shit goes…
When looking at the narrative of an idol and their career, we tend to overlook what the company does right and how much they truly invest into all of what is happening. Of course it can be argued that they are supposed to do that and make their idols happen, but it is still funny to see this goes. Everything goes right it’s because of the idol and the talent they bring. Everything goes wrong, it is because the company can’t do their jobs right. Now notice I did not say, that the idol should be blamed when things go wrong, or that the company is being misblamed. This just shows how complicated this actually is. It is the company’s job to make this work, but when it all comes together perfectly, we as the masses will usually attribute said success to the face of it. The idol. Why? Because who has time to thank the various hundreds to thousands of people that made that entire project happen? Who wants to go find the individual editor of that one picture that made Idol A look damn fine, with the perfect lighting and acceptable amount of contrast. Who wants to go find the producers who spent time and resources editing the songs just right so that fans would fall in love. Or the songwriter that made that catchy hook and melody.
(Note: All these names are usually given as well)
I think of it like this: it’s much easier to guide the general success and praise to the face of it all…once again…the idol, then to sit there and thank the thousands of people who did make this happen as well.
BUT…when things go wrong do we want to blame all those people? Once again…no. Small things like bad photoshopping we can go and say that one editor that we know nothing about but probably exist because someone did it…but overall, the blame goes to yet another identifiable face. The company (and in many cases the CEO)
Admit it…you blame YG for everything. JYP. The guy who is not Lee Sooman (and him on occasion).<–This just adds an extra layer, don’t worry about it.
I am not saying that they are not responsible for many of these actions (although I do think that does kind of oversimplify how massive businesses like their’s works), but that the narrative needs someone for you to point blame at. What’s better than a massive organization with several thousands of faceless people? One single face that you can put a name to (And find pics on Google images).
So to wrap this long convoluted post up: Narratives exist, and one of them is the praise idol-blame company story. We praise the idols for various reasons, when things go right. They are an easy face. We connect with them more (Another thing I want to talk about, but not know). We are invested in them. All that crap. When things go wrong however, if we can, we turn that blame toward the higher power, which in turn makes the idol seem more faultless and just an employee to a fucked up tacky plan.
So these are my misguided thoughts on this. For making it all the way to the end, you get the choreography version of GFriend’s Glass Bead. Go support them. Their album is cute.