We’re taking notes from our K-idols on how we want our relationships to be
Though my glory days as a hardcore K-pop stan are behind me, the parasocial relationships I formed during that phase of my life influenced me in many ways. Contrary to what most people think about Hallyu culture and its idols, K-pop isn’t shallow, silly entertainment. It isn’t something that only teenage girls involve themselves in. It’s a passion that is formative.
As someone who was still reeling from her high school heartbreak back then, I found myself sucked into K-pop (BTS, specifically). Perhaps it’s akin to a rebound relationship, except it was parasocial…and with more than one person. The dopamine it gave helped me mask what I was going through, and the vastness of the fandom gave me endless distractions that eventually turned into genuine fascination.
At the time, I was stubbornly single, and I say this as there are multiple stages in singlehood. One stage is when you’re content being single but open to a relationship (should it come to you). Another is being so lonely and so disgusted with being single that you can’t stand being alone; you can’t help but notice all the couples around you. There’s also the joy of being single, enjoying the independence that comes with being alone and dating around—sans the commitment of an *actual* relationship. Being stubbornly single is absolutely refusing to date your preferred gender, and in my case it was men. I was in my men-are-trash, burn-the-patriarchy state of mind.
RELATED: Has K-Pop Made Me Undateable?
Perhaps it was K-pop that raised my standards of men at the time. While fans like me would never know what the real person behind the other side of a parasocial relationship is like, what we were exposed to online still seemed far better than the men available in our dating pools.
On a different tangent, Hallyu culture does push parasocial relationships by putting a romantic lens on these idols. Fortunately, it’s not the only way these fans view their idols, but it’ll always be one of them. On stan Twitter, idols—both male and female—are deemed boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife material, probably (and hopefully) within good reason.
We asked our fellow fans about the moments and people in K-pop that set the standard for relationships, and here’s what they said:
“When Seokjin and Yoongi cook for Bangtan…domesticated love is the best type of love.” —Shanel
YOONJIN COOKING BUDDY pic.twitter.com/1af1C4cKnH
— hourly yoonjin (@hourlyoonjin) October 22, 2021
Keywords: Caring, reliable
MAYBE the bar IS low, but men??? Who know how to cook??? And clean??? There’s no room for weaponized incompetence with Seokjin (Jin) and Yoongi (Suga) of BTS. At the end of the day, we all just want to be taken care of. As the two eldest members of their group, they’re well-versed in taking care of their dongsaengs. Ask any ARMY about their weakness, and their answer would probably be In the Soop and Bon Voyage YoonJin going grocery shopping and cooking for their boys. It’s my weakness, at least.
“Jackson Wang being a gentleman in general because he always covers girls’ skirts and is respectful towards them.” —Anna
Jackson Wang being a gentleman, a touching thread ❤🍓
*credits to the owners of media shared*#JacksonWang #TEAMWANG pic.twitter.com/bxKjhbM56C
— sushi 👹majimas pillow (@nightjiaer) July 15, 2021
Keywords: Respectful, courteous
Ah, Jackson Wang. Feminist king of K-pop 😔✊Protector of women 😩🤺 Ahgases and Non-Aghasaes agree: Jackson Wang is THE standard for being the gentle-est of men. Whether it’s a fellow K-idol or a fan, Jackson Wang treats everyone with the same golden principle. We owe so much to his parents for raising such a well-mannered man and hope that we can be with someone as precious as him.
“How Joon always finds the time to reply on Weverse posts and gives words of comfort.” —Erica
namjoon’s comforting and healing words to make you feel safe and loved ; a thread 🌳 pic.twitter.com/gg7U55n1eB
— 🎨 (@babybearvm) September 11, 2020
Keywords: Emotionally mature, gentle
No one screams “man written by a woman” more than Namjoon (RM) of BTS. He’s someone who isn’t afraid to embrace the romance and fragility of life. We’ve all had our Y/N moments with his Instagram posts featuring his bike rides and museum visits. It’s his presence through words and music that comforts us, whether through concert moments, albums or even Weverse live broadcasts.
RELATED: Living Creatively, Passionately and Honestly: Unpacking RM’s “Indigo”
PS. As for me, Yoongi from BTS and Soobin from TXT will always be my parasocial TOTGAs. ~Maybe~ there’s another version of us together in another universe…LOL (but I’m definitely happy in this one!).
Perhaps K-pop idols set my standards a little too high back then, but they also helped me form an image of what I wanted in a partner. It’s been nearly four years since my first foray into K-pop, and I’m now in a relationship. While I never traded one for the other, I still have to thank my years as a hardcore stan for making my singlehood less lonely.
Words Gwyneth King
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver