This is long overdue, but I just started this blog a few days ago, so bare with me as a few posts will be kind of outdated. But I had the chance and time to go watch the new BTS movie, Bring the Soul, which hit theatres starting on August 8th in my area. I naively thought that I didn’t have to reserve tickets since I believed there were probably not enough ARMY or BTS fans in my area. But I was a fool.
See, I underestimated the extensive reach of BTS’s fandom even to the ends of Nowheresville, USA, and so I found that the first theatre I went to was sold out for each and every showing that day. My fault entirely since this theatre was in a mall and though I knew they would be enough fans to make the theatre going experience more interesting, I didn’t think they would sell out each showing, including a 10:45pm one! Granted, it was still summer vacation so goes to show how stupid I am.
Well, Plan B then. Because I was determined to watch it that day since my mind was already set and I was already experiencing doubts in seeing this movie, I made myself go to a smaller and more local theatre but not without reserving a seat first. Turns out, however, that was completely unneeded as the final turn out was only me along with 5 other people: two friends, one girl who came solo, and another girl who came with her dad. The poor man.
To be honest, I was a bit conflicted to go watch Bring the Soul. I do like BTS, don’t get me wrong, but do I like the company behind the artist? Not necessarily. This seems to be a point of contention amongst the more passionate fans of BTS who either seem to shit on the company or praise the company and/or the CEO Bang Shi-hyuk like they’re some sort of gods. But focusing on the movie, does it exploit the emotional distress and misadventures of the boys in order to manipulate their fans into deepening their connection with the boys? Or, is the movie reminding us that though these idols appear to be perfect at everything from looks, charms to choreography and musicality, we have to remember they are still human, too who appear to be at the top of the world when in fact, they are also vulnerable to their emotions and pressure of the public and their fandom. Well, the short answer is both with the latter being the fuel that creates this carefully crafted affinity with the boys in question…y’know, unless you’re a robot or emotionless.
This is my personal conclusion and I agree that anyone reading this may have a different perception. One may cry that it can’t be both, but I say of course it can. Though everyone has different opinions which I’ll respect. But let me delve into my initial thoughts of the movie to explain my reasoning of the verdict above.
Firstly, after I got over the initial embarrassment of buying an over-priced movie ticket on an already broke budget, the movie overall was not as bad as I thought it would be. It wasn’t too cringey, it wasn’t too chock-full of emotionally manipulative scenes though I thank the boys themselves for that one, and it wasn’t too overdramatic at times. Which is kind of a feat since this was a Korean movie after all, so I was prepared for some melodramatic scenes swelling with emotionally moving music, but the cinematography itself was pretty chill, I suppose. Then again, it’s supposed to have a documentary feel.
However, taking to Twitter before I went into the movie provided me with a couple of things to look out for. One was an incident where the youngest member of BTS, Jungkook, injures himself by accidentally lacerating his heel causing him to stress over if and how is he going to perform that night at their first concert in Europe. This also places a burden on the other members who have to quickly adjust the set list to manage only 6 members who can do the choreography. It was eventually decided that Jungkook would go on stage instead of resting or going to the hospital (although, a doctor did check him on site), but he had to be rolled out on a chair since he could at least sing.
Another instance I looked out for was from V, coincidentally the second youngest of the group, who seemed to become distressed as well at some point in the movie though the little clip I saw on Twitter didn’t provide me with details. As it later turned out, V couldn’t sing at a concert in Paris as his voice was too hoarse due to a cold to reach the higher notes in their songs.
Particularly for me, for whatever reason, seeing V stand helplessly mute on the platform as the other vocalists in the group sang, “The Truth Untold” did make me feel incredibly bad for him.
On the other hand, it was quite stirring when the audience at the concert sang out V’s solo parts in the song as a sign of solidarity–a signal from fan to idol that they still loved him and that they were here for him regardless of rather or not he could sing. Still, this did not stop V from apologizing to the fans during BTS’s ending speech and promising to come back with a better image and performance next time. As BTS turned to bow their farewells, it was clear that V had started to break down crying and even more evident once the boys returned to their dressing room. The other boys did their best to comfort V, but because they have to take a group photo, they urged V to smile and prep for the picture which he does as best as he can, but he still clearly looks distressed.
It’s moments like these that make me not only wonder just how BTS’s agency, BigHit, is using BTS’s lives as idols to break boundaries and inch ever closer to showing the fans the good, the bad, and the ugly to a debatable extent but it also made me wonder about the mental state of BTS themselves first and foremost. I understand the need for BTS to open themselves up to their fans and movies like this do help in that regard since after you walk out of the theatre, you may feel closer to the boys more than ever, but one should take a step back and think about the boys for a moment.
Quite a few things caught my attention as I watched. Namely, that BTS seem to be stuck in this self-critical echo chamber which can become detrimental for their mental health. Take Jungkook’s heel injury for instance. As he was being checked out by the health professionals, RM, the leader and one of the main rappers of BTS, watched on and commented that he was more worried about Jungkook’s mental health since the youngest one genuinely loves to perform and not being able to could be mentally crushing for him.
Now, as someone who hasn’t kept up with BTS for a whiiile because I’ve been jailed by college, I’ve only been catching up on their content this past summer. I remembered that I had watched a particular video of Jungkook’s around the time of his injury on Naver’s V live website, a place where K-pop idols upload videos or stream live to communicate with fans from across the world. The video, simply called, “JK 🐰” is probably by far the most popular video viewership-wise on BTS’s V live channel as of this day, though as to why that is, I can only speculate.
But anyways, in this video, Jungkook spends a good 20 minutes or around about explaining his feelings and state of mind over his injury (which at the time the video was posted was still healing). What struck me was how self-critical and repentant he was as similar to V as if he had committed some kind of unforgivable sin. It is clarified here that he got the injury while he was practicing for the concert and felt remorseful of “practicing too hard” and he will “wear shoes next time” to avoid injury. I mean, it’s good that he aims to be more cautious but it’s coming from an already strained mental state that the issue appears to go deeper than just being careful over practicing a few dance moves.
Case in point, he mentions at least a couple of times, that he’s hungry yet refuses to eat despite having two perfectly good cup ramen cups resting right in front of him (granted, that’s not the most nutritious thing to eat, but it’s something). He explains that if he had danced well and hard at the concert then he’d probably eat the ramen, but since he didn’t, he refrained. I saw this as a sort of self-punishment he’s giving himself for an accidental injury. He may not be fully aware of what he’s doing, but to deny oneself of food due to an injury one mistakenly caused doesn’t seem quite healthy to me. I understand from an idol standpoint, he may not also want to eat because of the fear of gaining some weight since it’s ramen of all things, but the boy apparently eats quite a lot anyway and manages to work it off. And it’s only one or two cups of ramen, it won’t kill him in the long run.
It’s a small example, but this is the type of mentality that not just him, but lots of idols appear to have due to the environment they are put in as well as the perceived expectations from the general public, but mostly fans in general. One mess up such as this leads to such sharp and acerbic self-criticism that isn’t okay for the psyche at the end of the day, but then again, these idols have been conditioned to feel and act this way as if it was normal and to point out to them otherwise even if you could, would prove to be futile.
Honestly, I could go on and on about this particular V live and the movie, but I’m most likely boring the one reader I have (read: me), so I will wrap up by adding a few extra thoughts over my impressions of the movie. I understand the movie was supposed to bring you to feel closer to the BTS members as you got a closer look at their concert tours and what happened behind the scenes but to me, it just felt very alienating. They really felt as if they were in their own little world of idoldom. Parts of the movie reminded me of those “They’re Just Like US!” sections in celebrity gossip magazines that showcase celebrities doing stupidly relatable things that we plebs do.
Wowee! Celebs tie their shoes and ride bicycles too??! What an earth shattering fact!
Like okay? And? That’s nice, but they’re still celebrities that you will never personally know nor completely understand what they go through on a daily basis. Bring the Soul is basically doing this same schtick except doing it quite well given how likable the boys are.
And yes, before I’m completely hated on, I resonated with some of what they said and did. Believe me, despite scrutinizing Jungkook’s mentality earlier in his V live, I do relate to an extent especially with the whole self-punishing part and the need to improve myself because let’s be real, I suck as a person as my writing here can attest to that. But then, I find some inspiration from the movie, no less, to write or be the best person I can be because it, or really the boys, still move me enough to have such emotions.
Though this…this didn’t age well. This right here should be our main concern–Jungkook’s music taste. Someone help this poor boy.
And that’s exactly what I mean about how easy it is to feel close to these boys. I actually interviewed the ARMY friends I mentioned earlier and one thing one of them said stood out. She mentioned how she was familiar with BTS for a while before she really got into them because she thought they were overrated. Then, she started to consume more of their content and had a change of heart. She thought they were pretty cool and didn’t act like most celebrities. They were human. Which reminded yours truly of my own initial feelings towards BTS that’s now been shattered by the reality of how manufactured their situation and the boys are despite not seeming that way.
Given the personas that they must put on on a daily basis, I wonder if BTS even know exactly who they are outside of their group or their stage name? Or do they just know the personas they’ve grown to become? Does it even really matter when their fans accept them as they are and will only continue to grow and support them no matter what? In the end, the fact stands that BTS are the biggest boy group in K-pop right now and will continue to be so due to their natural yet carefully crafted personas that have millions falling in love with them.