I am currently working through my feelings around Junhyung’s (Highlight) involvement in the great and shitty Kpop scandal of 2019 and what it all means for the music left in the wreckage. I mean, I am VERY clear on how I feel about the situation in general and the treatment of women by these – can we even call them men anymore? It is disgusting and abhorrent and dehumanizing for women in general and the victims specifically. I have strong opinions about punishment and consequences and how I am going to personally handle my relationship with the primary instigators. That’s the easy bit. But it’s harder when it’s someone that just received the content, had a crass conversation, and didn’t do anything about it. It’s harder when they owned their mistakes, verbalized how awful it all was without making excuses, and accepted the consequences as gracefully as the situation allowed. It’s REALLY hard when that person was one of your biases…was potentially your ultimate bias.
And I’m not making excuses for him. It sucks, he was douche and he isn’t going to suffer all that much by not being an idol anymore as he is a CEO of his own label and will likely keep producing much of the music we consume after he gets out of the military. His self imposed punishment is just as much a punishment for the rest of Highlight and is potentially the direction he wanted to go anyway. He’s almost 30, he has a strong skill set and lots of cash on hand, and he was already going into the military with an uncertain future for the group. But he very openly owned his mistakes and seems to have reflected on himself and his actions and will hopefully continue to do so.
But how do we handle the ones that laughed and made horrific jokes but didn’t DO the things? How do we react to the ones that were in the chat rooms but didn’t participate in the conversations or share the videos or, more importantly, didn’t alert law enforcement to these crimes? How do we re-integrate music that we love back into our lives once the dust has settled? Do we at all? This is particularly complicated for me as music is so connected to specific emotions or periods in my life and cutting it out would also mean having to either ignore or re-imagine those parts of me and all of those feelings and that’s a lot to tackle. I’m not sure what to do. The songs didn’t commit the crime or do the gross things, but now the sentiments they convey don’t feel genuine at all anymore. Can you really write the most perfect and heartbreaking love song and then make crass jokes about a drugged woman being molested? Ugh.
This whole thing also has me re-evaluating how I make jokes and talk to my friends in private chat groups about idols I…physically admire. I mean, I certainly have lines that I don’t cross and I have always tried to be cognizant of not objectifying people, but it can be a grey area, particularly when I don’t know them personally. I don’t know what they would be comfortable with and I don’t know what I would be comfortable with if someone were to be talking about me in a private chat. I’m an incredibly open person and I make a lot a jokes that will forever be in these chat groups – a lot of them about buying sandwiches for idols or curling up in their perfect dimples for a nap, but some of them aren’t that pg – do I want my co-workers to see that part of me? Do I want my kids to see these chats? I have to give myself a good hard look.
I don’t have any answers right now and I don’t know that I’ll ever have a clear approach on how to handle these types of situations. Because we know damned well that we’ll see it again and that more of our favs will take a tumble as they are exposed as real humans that make mistakes and weren’t taught how to treat people and have access to a million things they don’t know how to handle. What I do have is a huge catalog of music that I’m tiptoeing around, not listening to, or listening to only in private as I stare off into space with a stricken look on my face.
And how do you choose a song to attach to a post like this without somehow insulting the artist you chose if they aren’t involved or highlighting someone that allegedly did something so wrong or even admitted to it? And it’s not just this scandal…there are a bazillion examples in kpop, in western music, and everywhere. Sigh. So today, I’m not including an MV or a song. We’re just going to sit back in silence for about 3 minutes and 43 seconds and reflect on ourselves and what we’re going to do with all of this.