It’s a big week for South Korean group BTS. Their newest album, Map of the Soul: Persona is dropping on Friday, and promising teasers for the video of the lead single, “Boy With Luv” featuring Halsey, have gotten ARMY teeming with excitement. But the truly historical moment ahead is BTS’ upcoming performance on Saturday Night Live (a first for a Korean act), in which they’re likely to perform their new music for the first time. But the promo for Saturday’s episode, however well-meaning, not only reinforces tired stereotypes about female fans, but also once again gets the diverse makeup of BTS fans completely wrong.
The clip features the show's host, Emma Stone (a noted K-pop fan), having a "sleepover" on stage with female members of the SNL cast. As they sit on blankets, wearing BTS T-shirts and surrounded by posters of the septet, they gush about their love for the band and their excitement over their performance. But because of their mockable "valley-girl" voices and juvenile "no boys allowed" proclamation to fellow cast member Beck Bennett, the clip only seems to highlight the tone-deaf perception that many people have when it comes to BTS fans.
ARMY is diverse, in age, gender identity, race, and geography. This comes from having a global fandom and music with universal themes that appeals to a wide range of people, including many who may not even speak the language. And minimizing the intelligence of a fandom that has raised millions for charity, expertly unraveled song lyrics that deal with theories of psychology and mythology, translated content into dozens of languages, and organized around the globe to promote the music they love is, well, the opposite of funny.
And ARMY will be the first to admit they can take a joke, especially since it's practically a rite of passage these days to be imitated by the SNL cast. BTS themselves even like to poke fun at ARMY — their song "Pied Piper" from their album Love Yourself: Her teases fans who are so devoted to them that they forget everything else. But ARMY also has receipts, and will let you know that SNL's portrayal doesn't paint a whole picture of their kaleidoscopic makeup.
This is really cute! But I really hope people look up BTS beyond just cute teenage girls fangirling over then - their fan demographic is actually quite diverse and represents a wide age spread as well as gender!— M ?✨ (@PercievdOrder) April 10, 2019
girls, boys, nonbinarys, noncis persons, old, young, middle aged everyone and anyone can be @BTS_twt 's fan, bcz music doesn't only transcend countries, languages but also ages and genders. music is universal language of love and @BTS_twt teaches us that everyday ?— ??️? ???? ??? (@saangbangtan) April 10, 2019
Historically, when it comes to boy bands (dating all the way back to The Beatles), it's taken a while for critics and the industry to catch on that their music is worth taking seriously, and that their fans aren't just "rabid teenage girls," but tastemakers in their own right. But even those teen girl fans deserve respect. In the words of Harry Styles: "How can you say young girls don't get it? They're our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going."
This promo seems to suggest that there's still progress to be made, but with a BBMA nomination for their music under their belt and this upcoming performance on the world's stage, they seem to be nonetheless turning heads and changing minds. Now if only SNL could stop punching down.