Professor Candace Epps-Robertson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill described BTS fans as an army of librarians. Their methods, she writes in the diary Rhetoric Review, “include tracking and documentation of Twitter hashtags, a crowdsourced archive of research and teaching-related materials, blogs to archive song translations, and an emerging archive of fans recounting their personal experiences of survival and growth. .” Epps-Robertson has her own growing-up story: In 2019, she started caring for her mother, who was dying of ALS “I started playing BTS when I got home because I couldn’t stand it. being in silence with the many emotions that I felt”, she wrote in a blog post. She is particularly attached to “Mikrokosmos” (no relation to the Bartók), a synthesized and rhythmic piece which affirms the “light stars” in every soul.
In July, Epps-Robertson, whose Twitter name includes a superscript “7” as a tribute to the group, will fly to Seoul to attend BTS’s third meeting: a global interdisciplinary conference. (One of the keynote speakers is New Age novelist Paulo Coelho.) His teenage daughter, Phoenix, the original ARMY of the family, will accompany him. Before BTS, neither mother nor daughter had much interest in Asia. Now, Epps-Robertson told me, Phoenix attends a Korean language school one evening a week, plus two hours of private lessons. “I was so impressed that she got up early to watch Korean news, to research Korean history,” she said. “I was, like, how can I capture this in my own classes – this excitement, this desire to know more?”
The show I attended in Las Vegas in April was the finale of the band’s “Permission to Dance” tour. After two years of the pandemic, fans were desperate to see the group live, and uncertainty remained over whether and when the older members should perform mandatory performances. eighteen month stays in the South Korean military added to the frenzy. Still, none of us imagined that the tour might be BTS’s last, at least for a while. A ARMY from New York, who had flown to Los Angeles for one of the shows, advised me to “get dressed up.” At the concert in LA, she said, many fans wore clothes inspired by the slick and sexist outfits of the members in the music videos and had their hair dyed in homage to BTS’ multicolored headpieces. The fan, whose own hair is shaded a pleasant soft pink, laughed at the memory of a viewer who came dressed as a mandarin orange, a reference to SUGA’s love of the fruit.
Before Las Vegas, I didn’t know BTS had a favorite color. But maybe V, who coined the phrase “Borahae,” a compound of “purple” and “I love you” in Korean, was smiling at me. I happened to bring along purple sunglasses, a purplish-pink fanny pack, a purple handkerchief, and a silver babydoll that I would discover the lavender glow of under the desert sun. When I landed at Las Vegas airport, ARMYs revealed themselves through BTS keychains, luggage tags, and T-shirts that read “TAEHYUNG” or “JIMIN.”
That morning, in the lobby of my hotel, I met a young woman named MK Jourdain, who was carrying an armful of BTS merch and looked out of breath. A Haitian American who wore her hair in braided pigtails and a headband adorned with two plush SHOOKY trinkets, she had come from Florida, where she attends college and works in a bank. (SHOOKY is the cartoon character that represents her bias, SUGA, in the universe of BT21, a line of BTS merchandise.) She had joined a queue outside Allegiant Stadium at half past five this morning- there, hoping to get his pick of BTS memorabilia. But, by the time she reached the front of the line, the Permission to Dance blankets and t-shirts were sold out. She did, however, manage to grab photo cards and a plastic fan decorated with the members’ faces. Jourdain had been drawn to K-pop after entering Japanese anime, whose fandom overlaps that of BTS. ARMY and shares similar customs of language learning and translation. Jourdain studied Korean and explained that what drew her to BTS, aside from SUGA’s “cute and lovely” rapping and dancing, were the values the group projected. “I feel Korean and Haitian culture more. It’s very together. There is a lot of heat,” she said. In the United States, on the other hand, “It’s, like, OK, I’m just on my own. No one will really care.