The piece reads as a smug, condescending view of Korean culture through a patently white, Western lens.
This morning, The Hollywood Reporter released their much-hyped BTS feature story written by Seth Abramovitch, a senior writer who flew out to South Korea to interview the band.
Trigger Warning: Su*c*de
But while an in-person profile on the world's most popular musical group sounds like a surefire hit, upon reading the article I couldn't help but feel that THR pushed a highly problematic, xenophobic view of South Korea and the K-POP industry as a whole.
Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment
Now, upfront, I want to give Abramovitch the benefit of the doubt. I don't think he set out to write anything intentionally malicious. But at the same time, his article bleeds Western superiority and invokes a sense of "otherness" in discussing Korea that struck me as ridiculously misguided. The fact that those sentiments were likely subconscious makes them all the more worthy of discussion.
Throughout his piece, Abramovitch alternates between being an ill-prepared outsider ("I admit to being a little fuzzy on some of the finer points of BTS history, like where they came from, why they are so appealing to so many millions or even what BTS stands for") and a biting social critic ("Since its origins in the 1990s, K-pop has been part Motown, part Hunger Games.") The resulting piece reads as a smug, condescending view of Korean culture through a patently white, Western lens.
This is the first line of the BTS article: "The restaurant is called Dotgogi, which means either Sesame Meat or Aged Pork, depending on which online translator I consult." In a profile piece, the first sentence sets the mood. Here, Abramovitch opens with the "otherness" of a Korean word and the possibility of two different translations. This feels like lazy shorthand to convey an implicitly xenophobic sentiment about being in a strange land unlike his own (his being the Western world, where everything is "normal").
Abramovitch goes on to introduce BTS as "the first group since The Beatles...to score three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than a year," before tacking on, "a feat that's all the more astounding considering their songs are mostly in Korean." Again, this strikes me as off-putting. We live in a global society where most people have access to media from all around the world. Nobody bats an eye when a song with Spanish lyrics tops the charts or a LatinX performer enters the public eye. What exactly makes it so much more astounding when the group in question is Asian?
Abramovitch continues to paint the BTS boys as simultaneously affable and fake. He suggests that everyone is carefree and open ("You'd think they were just seven college buddies catching up over a meal") but only up until he starts asking pressing questions about politics. "Indeed, whenever the conversation turns to anything controversial — or just slightly provocative — their answers have all the spontaneity of a Disney animatronic figure," writes Abramovitch. "For instance, when asked if they have any reservations about resuming their tour in America during such a politically fraught period, a switch seems to flip in RM's brain."
This language, again, seems to draw upon racist, xenophobic sentiments about Asians as robots, when, in fact, a lot of Western artists would likely answer politically fraught questions in the same way. That's not being dishonest, and it's not because they live "in a bubble," as Abramovitch writes. It's because many artists with wide global appeal like BTS see their primary job as bringing joy to fans, and alienating any of them, even the ones they may personally disagree with, is not in line with their ethos as performers.
Once again, my goal here isn't to nitpick the writing, but rather to point out how these biases, while probably subconscious, negatively inform the piece as a whole. Throughout the piece, Abramovitch's goal seems less about understanding BTS and their feelings on any particular topic and more about placing them within the context of a Korean industry that Abramovitch sees as problematic.
In fairness, there are a number of issues in the K-POP industry, especially in regards to the way that some companies treat their performers. But at the same time, plenty of Western music labels mistreat their performers, too, and it feels weird to see a white, Western writer paint it as a distinctly Korean issue. The abuse of artists by major companies is an issue well-worth discussing, but the conversation should always include the context of capitalist structures everywhere that seem to incentivize said abuse.
Moreover, in his attempt to explain the evils of the K-POP industry, Abramovitch passively dredges up the death of Jonghyun, a beloved K-POP star from the group SHINee who lost his battle with depression in 2017. Here, Abramovitch writes especially tactlessly, not even referring to Jonghyun by name. "In 2017, the industry drew intense scrutiny after a member of SHINee...took his own life," he writes before excerpting Jonghyun's final note. This feels incredibly disrespectful, especially in light of how the media tends to treat beloved Western artists who've lost similar battles to depression. It would be unimaginable to read an article that referenced beloved comedy icon Robin Williams, who brought joy to so many lives, only as "a movie actor who took his own life." Why, then, is it okay to treat a beloved K-POP star like Jonghyun that way?
Beloved K-POP star, JonghyunHan Myung-Gu/WireImage
In effect, the THR article ignores Jonghyun's personhood and legacy as a wonderful singer, songwriter, dancer, and human being, instead footnoting a tragedy that deeply affected many people just to fit into an argument that doesn't even necessarily hold up. In fact, while Jonghyun's passing did lead to discussions in South Korea about relieving the pressures of the competitive nature of the K-POP industry, it primarily drew attention to the need for mental health awareness, with Jonghyun's family starting a foundation to help support artists struggling with depression. Many people suffer from depression, and blaming someone's lost battle on any one thing seems, at best, to misunderstand the complexity of mental health issues. More importantly, relegating a human being only to their untimely passing without even mentioning their name seems particularly callous. Jonghyun's family, friends, fans, and loved ones deserve better.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with Abramovitch's article is one of representation. Why would THR send a middle-aged, white writer like Abramovitch, who seems to express something akin to pride in his own lack of understanding of Korean culture, to write about Korean culture? Why did they think anyone needed yet another "middle-aged white guy flounders to understand K-POP" take? That's not even to say they shouldn't have sent a middle-aged white writer, but at least send someone who seems to display an interest in researching the culture beforehand. Instead, at best, this BTS profile reads like a xenophobic "othering" of Korean celebrities. At worst, it's just blatant disrespect.
- The Academy Chooses to Have No Host - Popdust ›
- Musical.ly Star Baby Ariel Signs Sweet Sweet Deal With CAA ... ›
- Pose FX - The Hollywood Reporter stopped by for a #BTS ... ›
- BTS: Jimin's Favorite Fan Interaction Will Seriously Make Your Heart ... ›
- BTS answers questions for 'Fishing for Answers' with 'The Hollywood ... ›
- Fans unhappy with BTS cover interview for The Hollywood Reporter ... ›
- 'Hollywood Reporter' gives fans a sneak peek at their cover shoot ... ›
- BTS: Exclusive Photos of the K-Pop Sensation | Hollywood Reporter ›
- BTS Share Their Favorite Songs, a Message to Halsey, Talk Drake ... ›
- BTS Get Inspiration From Their Fans - Watch | Hollywood Reporter ›
- Hollywood Reporter on Twitter: "Hey @BTS_twt, are you ready for ... ›
- BTS Is Back: Music's Billion-Dollar Boy Band Takes the Next Step ... ›
Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Romeo + Juliet is an ecstasy-infused, colorful retelling of the star-crossed lovers' tale that takes a 425-year-old story and strangely reflects society in 2020.
Pandemics are known for triggering upheaval and societal change.
It's probably no coincidence, then, that Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet around 1595—directly in the middle of the deadly Bubonic plague pandemic that ravaged Europe. Amidst today's pandemic, the most relevant adaptation of this timeless and classic tragedy was made nearly 25 years ago.
Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Romeo + Juliet is an ecstasy-infused, colorful retelling of the star-crossed lovers' tale. Romeo + Juliet made a decent ranking at the box office, but it was heavily overlooked for awards, only receiving one Oscar nomination for best art direction.
Had Luhrmann waited just 10 years to release Romeo + Juliet, there may have been more positive reactions to the film. At one point, Baz himself doubted that the movie would ever be made. During a 2015 interview discussing the film, Baz said: "When we went to Twentieth Century-Fox with it, under the terms of my first-look deal, I think rather than let me go, they sort of said, 'We'll give him $100,000, let him do his little workshop and maybe it'll go away.' Well it did not."
Romeo + Juliet takes a 425-year-old story and strangely reflects society in 2020. Here's why:
Are they real? Who cares?
Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.
But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.
- The SCARIEST HAUNTED HOUSE In The WORLD ( McKamey ... ›
- The best cities to celebrate Halloween - The Journiest - NYC ›
- Hauntworld: Scariest haunted houses in America to visit for Halloween ›
- Scariest haunted house in U.S. requires 40-page waiver ... - Chicago ›
- 7 Abandoned Mansions That Are Definitely Haunted - The ... - NYC ›
- Your Definitive Guide to Halloween in New York City - The Journiest ›
- Haunted House Is So Scary They Offer $20,000 To Anyone Who ... ›
- The scariest haunted house attractions in the US - Insider ›
- The 7 Scariest Haunted Houses Will Scare the S*!# Out of You | The ... ›
- Simulated torture, underwear-only haunted houses: How did the ... ›
- Welcome To Mckamey Manor: The World's Scariest Haunted House ›
- World's scariest and most exclusive haunted house with a 24,000 ... ›
- 'Scariest' haunted house will pay $20K to escape, but you can't run ... ›
- 'Not Much Scares Me.' Then She Entered the Haunted House. - The ... ›