EDIT (15 November, 2020): This post has now been made into a video (yay!). Two actually. If that’s more your cuppa tea then please enjoy:
I say reflection because as I watched the BLACKPINK Netflix documentary, it gave me a lot of thinking to do. First and foremost, I’ll preface by saying that I don’t consider myself a stan of BLACKPINK and I honestly probably don’t know much about the girls outside of the usual facts and news about them that casual listeners of them know. This is advantageous in the fact that I don’t have a biased emotional connection to the girls so I can somewhat objectively “review” the documentary and the girls. On the other hand, I’m at a disadvantage because I realise that since I’m not too too familiar with the girls outside of MVs and scandals as opposed to consuming extra content like interviews, lives they do, variety shows, etc. my perception of them is limited in scope.
With all that said, I really liked the documentary. My only other K-pop documentary movie experience is BTS’s Bring the Soul which was far more emotionally taxing with scenes that left me quite uncomfortable and alienated at some parts (but that’s another story for another day…technically). In comparison, the BLACKPINK doc provided more feel-good vibes that left me not minding a rewatch again if the opportunity arose. It’s a bit weird to say as I’m a bit surprised that the emotional theme of the documentary wasn’t in the same vein as BigHit’s considering this is still YG we’re taking about, but whatever – I’m not complaining.
Also, table of contents if you’re just interested on my thoughts on a specific section or person.
The documentary begins showcasing the debut of BLACKPINK in 2016 before transitioning 3 years later to 2019 showing them at the current height of their fame as the girls walk to a public fansign accosted by paparazzi and journalists along the way.
I was happy to see that Rosé was wearing an outfit I was inspired to recreate on her sim. Bonus points for that.
The documentary wastes no time in really hyping up and establishing BLACKPINK as THE K-pop girl group who shattered records and became history makers. At the same time, it sets up the chemistry between the girls in a way that you couldn’t really imagine BLACKPINK being anyone else but Lisa, Rosé, Jennie, and Jisoo. They just click.
Of course, I know it’s probably good filmmaking and they could totally be scraping with each other off camera but some of the moments seem genuine enough. Or am I just gullible?
As someone that considers herself new to BLACKPINK, I would say this is a good documentary for those who know little to nothing about BLACKPINK. It introduces some central figures in BLACKPINK’s life including the infamous Teddy Park and Jisoo’s make up artist because why not? The documentary also focuses on each girl as they provide a concise condensed back story of their life predebut until the present. This will help structure this post better, so let’s begin with the central figure that brought us the BLACKPINK we know and love – the CEO, Yang Hyun-suk~!
Sorry, sources are telling me that this man is no longer the CEO of YG and thus had no mention whatsoever in the BP documentary. My bad. My fault. We shall not discuss this man further nor what he’s done because that’s not what we’re here for.
So instead, let us turn to another man in BLACKPINK’s lives who has greatly influenced their sound and image – Teddy Park.
I don’t know much about Teddy besides that he has a big hand on how BLACKPINK sounds. I’ve heard a lot of fans complain how repetitive he is and how he doesn’t know how to create anything new with BLACKPINK. I personally, have no opinion of Teddy, at least not a strong enough one to warrant writing about. The girls seem to like him enough but I suppose they have to considering he is such an important figure over the music they have to dance and sing about to millions of people.
Out of the “secondary” characters, Teddy, of course, had a bit more screen time and basically went over his role as their producer/songwriter and gave his thoughts on the girls, and K-pop.
In my notes, I wrote that he described Jisoo as the “unnie of the group” with “a professional poker face.” He also mentioned he has only seen her cry once.
Lisa was described as having a “cool calm smile” but when it came to music she had a “executioner killer instinct.”
And finally Jennie, he said was a “perfectionist.”
For some reason, I didn’t really put down what he said for Rosé, but he basically said that she is the type to be at the studio until 6 in the morning, so clearly a girl who loves her music.
I found it interesting how he described them as a cultural melting pot and that the K in K-pop just stood for Korean pop as in pop sung in Korea. That’s it. Nothing else besides that. This sort of connects with what Jennie says later in the doc when she describes what makes K-pop Kpop is the trainee process. The two opinions of what makes K-pop are sort of juxtaposed with each other in differing ways as one can argue that having a true authentic trainee process would be in South Korea and no where else considering how rigid and controlled the whole thing is. Still, I understand where Teddy is trying to come from but I do believe that there are plenty of elements that make K-pop K-pop that it is not so simple as breaking it down into one sentence or even one sentiment but alas, that is again another story for another day.
Our first protagonist is Jennie. Boy, oh boy, she is the one I’ve heard the most about in BLACKPINK and not for all the right reasons unfortunately. I believe she is also perhaps the member that receives the most hate (Lisa is real close though). She has been described as “YG’s Princess,” “Lazy Jennie,” and other more unflattering titles I’d rather not type down. Jennie is also the first member to date to be involved with a dating scandal and we all know how fun that is.
Overall, she’s definitely had it the toughest in the public eye regardless of what you may think of her. I will say I’m biased to think better of her only because I really try to see the good in a person especially an idol who is thrown into very unusual and straining circumstances as someone in the public perception 24/7 who has to appear perfect and composed all the time every time. So there’s some benefit of the doubt working in there.
Anyways, her section starts with her saying that she always avoids interviews or questions about herself because she dislikes talking about herself and honestly – that’s a mood. I would’ve found that strange if it wasn’t for some clips I’ve seen here and there of her looking somewhat awkward or uncomfortable when being interviewed and realising that while these idols like being celebs, it doesn’t mean all like having the limelight all the time. The video below is a good example of what I mean by her awkwardness.
The first comment I saw stated this video gave him or her “creepy mental patient documentary vibes.” To be fair, the way it was filmed along with the lifeless coloration of the video could have added to that vibe. The way the interviewer was asking the questions remind me of Vogue’s 73 question videos and perhaps that was the vibe they were going for here. However, it is definitely different from the bright warmth though scripted atmosphere present in those videos. But again, to be fair, those Vogue videos kind of have an awkward vibe to them as well or is it just me?
Really, God only knows what’s going on with Jennie. She is either the damsel in distress or the evil witch. Either A sweet shy girl or a bitch. Either YG’s privileged princess or YG’s victim. To be honest, as I watched her section, I kind of just felt sad for her. She seems lonely to me for the most part.
I believe most of the hate towards Jennie started when that video showing a compilation of her lazy dancing went viral and the backlash I suppose was immense enough that for the first time, the company, YG, actually deleted the video.
That was a bit of a shock in itself but it seemed to only make the situation worse. Not to mention that this was back in 2018 and the lazy dancing video came out soon after Jennie made her solo debut with her single appropriately named, “Solo.” Many BLINKS, BLACKPINK’s fans, found themselves angry with the apparent favoritism towards Jennie and attacked her, YG, and other BLINKS and other K-pop fans who defended Jennie. I believe YG finally came out with a statement towards the scandal explaining Jennie’s health issues, but I’m not sure how much that quelled the already unrestless masses.
Even two years on, the documentary still felt the need to address the issue of the “Jennie Lazy” scandal though without specifically mentioning it.
Jennie is apparently also aware that people drag her for having a “resting bitch face” or basically looking angry and done all the time.
She’s definitely a pretty complex character, I’ll give her that. Personally, I take the stance of you don’t really know what’s going on for sure in this industry with these idols until some irrefutable evidence comes out that gives some leverage to justify this or that. Plus, I feel like K-pop fans in general overspeculate things waaaay too much so it can be hard to find some unbiased information. Why can’t we all just vibe with each other? The world would be a better place.
So remember when I said that Lisa is the one that gets the most hate after Jennie? Well, I’m not sure where the hate for Lisa stems from but if I must, I would point out to one factor being the fact that she is Thai. I do understand that Southeast and South Asians are more looked down upon in South Korea for their darker skin and perceptions that those places are third world to some Korean people so being from Thailand could be a disadvantage.
Which is all hooey in my opinion because hearing Lisa speak Thai on and off during her section was fantastic and music to my language lover ears. I would love to learn Thai if I wasn’t already struggling with Korean and Japanese (French also likes to rear it’s head in my direction from time to time).
I do wish people would give her a break. I really think it’s admirable for her to make her way to a different country at the age of 14 by herself without knowing a lick of Korean outside of “annyeonghaseyo” and take her chance at becoming an idol. If people have time to drag her for that than that is truly sad indeed.
One other specific example I remember of recent is when Lisa went on this Chinese idol trainee program as a dance instructor. She was rebuked by netizens and some fans for her obvious harshness towards the trainees. I think one specific example of this was when Lisa scolded a trainee for not smiling during their dance performance after being told to.
To be honest, I find this quite amusing. The ones complaining about how hard she was to the trainees obviously forgot that once upon a time, Lisa was a trainee as well and went through the same if not harsher standards when it came to training. Sure, she was the dance master of the group who, I learned, had been dancing since she was in kindergarten but she had to learn how to dance YG-style, dance with as a group while learning how to sing and rap in Korean. I guarantee you that Lisa is actually being more softer here than her own instructors were towards her.
The BP documentary actually sets aside some time for the girls to talk about their trainee experience and it is the usual if you’ve heard it before: many restrictions like no drinking, no tattoos, even stricter schedules – the girls had to practice 14 hours per day for a “fortnight” (as Rosé put it) for 13 days than they get one day off before going back to training. They’d receive monthly evaluations and if you were not up to YG’s standards in the subjects you were taught than you’d be cut. Rosé specifically mentions how everything they did was just wrong which is contended by Jennie who tells how she was told she wasn’t good at this or that right to her face. She simply concludes that it was harsh.
As you can probably tell by now, most of the stuff I’ve heard from BLACKPINK ain’t really the best. However, I do feel like that is more of a reflection on certain K-pop fans and antis than on BLACKPINK themselves. I mean, being as big as they are, of course they will accumulate a lot of dissenters and got-their-panties-in-a-twist haters who can’t dedicate more time caring for themselves than tearing down people more successful than them. Look, I hate myself, too, but there’s no reason to spread that kind of energy to other people.
On the other hand, I will acknowledge that BLACKPINK can mess up too and then deserve the criticism that they receive. They shouldn’t be impervious to that, of course.
Regardless, Lisa’s section shouldn’t be overshadowed too much by these “scandals” but I did want to give you one more food for thought before we move onto the next protagonist of this tale of idoldom.
When I saw the two of them performing with each other and saw them as young and bright as they are, I had a thought: “These companies really do erase the soul out of these trainees.” It was a bit of a sobering thought that made me a bit pensive as I continued to watch the documentary. Many people who scratch the surface of K-pop see it as a idol factory where people are molded to be perfect dolls who can sing and dance with perfection and ease almost as if they’re robots. Robots without much personality or character.
As controversial as this may sound, but they’re wrong but right to an extent. K-pop like any industry as certain standards to meet, and if you don’t meet those standards than you can’t be successful no matter how hard you try. The companies, as messed up as they are, understand this and make sure that whoever they debut will reach past nugu status into being somebody, being a star. Yet, during that process, sacrifices have to be made and that may be what we see here in BLACKPINK, a loss of some individuality and skill once possessed that could’ve been honed but had to be pushed to the side and out of sight. I think of Lisa’s dancing when I say this because I’ve heard a lot of people mention how she was such a better dancer around debut compared to now. Which is a shame if true.
Still, I commend Lisa. Even if she isn’t as good of a dancer as she was or if she hadn’t been influenced by YG’s teachings, she still, to me, has a great gung-ho bright personality that is needed in a group like BLACKPINK. She is also aware and self-conscious of her place in the group as in the documentary she does seem to question herself a few times. Case in point, when she went back to her home country in Thailand.
It really is such a heavy burden that they shoulder and I’m wondering how they haven’t gone crazy with all that stress and pressure. My hats off to her, truly.
To be totally honest, I don’t have much on Jisoo. I mean really, even in the documentary I felt like her section was shorter than the others. We follow her into a place owned by a make-up artist friend that she has who she became acquainted with at YG I believe before opening up her own shop at Jisoo’s urging. That’s all nice but I wanted to learn a bit more about Jisoo since all the spotlights seems to be taken up by the other three.
Though Jisoo does explain her backstory explaining she had originally dreamed to be a writer or painter in a family of 5 before going for YG which she confesses she didn’t know much about before the auditioned. And can you believe that her family thought she was ugly and called her a monkey? Jesus. To me she’s like the Korean standard but what do my foreign eyes know about Korean standards of beauty?
Anyways, I at the very least know that Jisoo wanted to act and was supposed to be the actress of the group but 4 years on, she has yet to have a major role in any drama or even a web short or something. Thankfully, to all Jisoo stans, news broke out in August that she had finally landed a role in a drama called, “Snowdrop.” It seems the writer and director team for this drama also worked on “SKY Castle” which was a very very popular drama that came out last year. I even watched it to the end and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants some exaggerated, albeit pretty insightful way the education system works in Korea and the immense pressure that comes from it. Those of us that are hoping for Jisoo’s success in the acting world can only hope that she achieves that through this drama that will be hopefully as good if not better than the previously mentioned SKY Castle.
I will leave off with a quote from Jisoo herself from the article linked above because after the last two sections with Jennie and Lisa, I can’t help but agree with her sentiment:
“I think that it’s because of the tough times I endured alone that I was able to become this strong now. Even now, I don’t really like talking about my struggles. When other people think of me, I want them to always be smiling.”Kim Jisoo
Rosé’s intro was quite relaxed and calmer than the others who had bombastic and flashy intros through scenes from their music videos. In contrast, Rosé is shown quietly playing her guitar in the middle of the stage. I wonder as to why there was such a difference but I suppose I would chalk it down to her character and perhaps the documentary creators believed it to be more suitable as she is the final member to be presented and thus a close out for this part of the movie.
Regardless, the only thing I knew about Rosé before watching this documentary was reaffirmed over and over again – her love of music. I recalled that I did watch a interview that BLACKPINK gave on this American radio show and the only thing I can remember from it is Rosé explaining how back in Australia, her home country, she would constantly be playing music through her guitar or singing when her father finally “got fed up” and sent her to Korea to pursue her dreams.
Definitely, I would say that though the other three have a love for music to the point they became idols, Rosé just feels like she fell head over heels with music and entered a sort of sanctimonious ceremony with it as dramatic as that sounds. She mentions at one point that she actually missed her trainee days because music was all around her back then. I’m not sure there are many idols out there that would say they missed being a trainee so she’s quite an anomaly.
You know, Rosé is the one in BLACKPINK that would have, no, still would inspire me when it came to music. If I didn’t have so many personal issues, it would’ve been nice to pursue some form of music but it really seems too late. It’s funny because at one point her father had told her to pursue her dreams because she didn’t want to turn 25 and regret it and I felt that to an uncomfortable degree. I was the type of kid to have plenty of dreams but not act on them. At first it was due to just being a kid and you know how kids are, but eventually it became indecision and indecision became hesitation and self-doubt. It’s the last notions that kept me in a rut that I still haven’t quite escaped from. Now, when I have a bit more confidence and determination, I’m 22 shy of 23 and I feel as if I may as well just die because it’s too late to do anything worthwhile.
The other night when I was watching this documentary and hearing these girls’ stories made me so happy that they made it. Rosé and Lisa are both the same age as me and seeing someone your age can really inspire you in ways, but it is also a malicious recipe for me to again compare myself to them. It’s like, you had the same start in life at the same time, what have YOU done when THEY have done all that?
So while I loved hearing Rosé’s story and relating to it and leaving happy with her and her accomplishments, I’m also left with that sentiment of now that’s a person with worth.
Apologies, no one came to this blog to hear about me. Actually, no one really comes to this blog so I guess it’s okay since I’m talking to myself.
Anyways, I don’t have much else to say about Miss Rosé besides that I wish her the best. She is supposedly going solo soon so let’s cross her fingers that there is some validity in that. I’ve seen people in my Twitter timeline getting antsy about her solo to the point that I’ve become slightly infected and anticipate it fondly as well.
III. Closing – Lovesick Girls indeed
Well, I’ll reiterate by saying that the BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky documentary was alright. I’d recommend it to fans and non-fans of BLACKPINK (as long as they’re not antis, of course) as it provides a basic but interesting introduction to BLACKPINK as a group and to the individual members. Of course, the documentary provides more good vibes than bad as no scandals specific to BLACKPINK are named nor is the drama that has beset YG since early 2019 had any mention but that is to be expected. I also think from a storytelling perspective that it would have detracted from the overall vibe and theme the movie documentary was trying to pull. This movie’s focus was BLACKPINK and their stories and accomplishments. Anything extra is deemed extra fluff.
One defining moment for the girls that was shown towards the end of the movie was their performance at Coachella in the good ole messed up US of A.
Another fact that I knew about BLACKPINK before this documentary is that a lot of fans seemed to agree that their performance at the American festival was their best yet. All the girls, including Jennie, show energy and charismatic stage presence befitting of a world class K-pop group. They definitely showed up to impress.
All the girls seemed to agree that this was when they realised that they really made it, that the moment they’ve been waiting for had happened.
Coachella also was technically the start of their first world tour and traveling to all these different cities in different countries definitely helped reinforce this sentiment.
The end of the movie was just this wind down of seeing their concerts and the girls talking about their experiences and what they took away from it. Personally, one statement from Lisa stood out to me as one that I wish more people, idols and fans included, felt this way.
Ultimately, I would say that after watching to the end of this documentary, I can’t quite say I’m a BLACKPINK stan, but I’m not as neutral towards them as before (despite being on my faux pas bias list). This may come across as extremely sappy but bare with me when I say that one, if not the main central theme surrounding this documentary is love.
It’s basically what I said about Rosé and her love with music, or Lisa and her love for dancing, Jisoo even with her love of acting, yes, but performing as a BP member and Jennie as controversial/misunderstood/complex as she is, with her determination to make it as an idol all comes down not to the love of the performance or even music but to other people. Because what is the point of making and performing music if no one is interested in hearing it? I mean, for the sake of it, yeah, but for these idols, most of them seek an audience to perform in front of for that adoration and adulation. There was quite a number of times the BLACKPINK girls expressed doubts and uncertainty of themselves and their music from Rosé doubting her ideas for songs to Lisa being unsure if she could be a proper role model and idol to the Thai youth. At the end of the day though, it was human connection that helped energize and kept them going.
It’s like when idols say they feel energized while performing and feel empty afterwards (a sentiment that Rosé herself shared at one point). Idols aren’t just giving sappy lip service to fans when they say that their fans give them energy and power. Idols, as seemingly perfect and talented as they are, are human at the end of the day. I believe people can forget this or willing forget that when dragging or badmouthing idols. That, I blame more on the industry than the idols themselves who have little choice but to perpetuate this perfect unblemished image.
Now, I will say that right before I watched the BLACKPINK documentary I had just finished watching this horror show called, “The Haunting of Hill House” (would recommend along with its successor – “The Haunting of Bly Manor”) and the main theme I find in both of those shows is that despite all the scary weird mindfucking moments of ghosts and mystery was that at it’s center both were a love story. Bly Manor especially says this in the last episode when one of the characters says pretty much that.
I am probably affected by these shows as I watched both pretty much back to back by the time I evaluated BLACKPINK’s doc, but I just wished that love played a better part in their lives and wasn’t tainted by all these haters and have-no-life antis. Not because they are BLACKPINK, not because they are idols, not because they are talented or good looking, but because they are human beings in this cold world that no one asked to be in. We all seek that connection, that warmth of love even if it some human beings are complete jerks, there are those that will love you for you. Of course, we don’t know idols and never will like that but it’s enough to try and listen to the gaps in that superficial perfection to hear the humanity that we can all connect with or try to if we wanted to or gave them the chance. I’m not perfect either. Though I say all this, I’ve had my moments of stoic cynicism when it came to idols and the K-pop industry but it’s not a very good mindset to have because I can personally attest that it just leaves you feeling bitter and blindsided.
I know people will disagree with some of these statements or all of them but let the girls love BLACKPINK for their own reasons. I find it nice that many of these fans are unashamed and stand by their idols without caring what others may think which is a sentiment I wish I had in myself for my faves (because let me tell you, I feel incredibly stupid biasing the idols I do despite the fact there’s nothing wrong with them). But of course, always stay self-aware and level-headed when it comes to your faves. This lady right here ain’t condoning blindly worshipping oppar or unnir, got it?
Right, well that’s me done with my love ramble. I really think this last bit was a mess but I’m fairly confident that no one read this far so perhaps I’m safe. At the very least, I hope it made sense but if not, I’ll just use the excuse that I’ve been working on this straight for the past 7-8 hours so my brain is scrambled.
Regardless, you all take care now and love your idols like they’re your own sons and daughters – too weird? Then as friends forever~
But seriously, I hope you are all doing well and enjoy your faves as well as you can. They need more love than you think out in the stomach of that cold savage beast known as the K-pop industry.