Growing up with a traditional Asian grandfather is an experience that's hard to put into words. It's a delightful mix of life lessons, valuable wisdom, hearty meals, and conversations that will have you laughing one minute and pondering the next. Imagine, then, bringing into this mix a modern obsession — my love for the South Korean boy band, BTS.
While my grandpa has always been supportive, his understanding of my interests is sometimes colored by his own experiences growing up in a different time and culture. When it came to BTS, his befuddlement reached new heights, and the questions he had were as endearing as they were hilarious.
For those who might be as clueless as my grandpa was, BTS is a seven-member South Korean boy band that has taken the world by storm. The group's name, BTS, stands for the Korean expression Bangtan Sonyeondan, literally meaning "Bulletproof Boy Scouts". They've made history in the music industry and amassed a devoted fanbase (like me!) known as the ARMY.
So, here are the ten questions my grandpa had about my fandom over BTS, interspersed with some laugh-out-loud moments we've shared on this K-pop journey.
“Who's this B, T, and S that you keep talking about?”
My grandpa's first question had me chuckling. He was under the impression that B, T, and S were three individual people I was obsessed with. I explained to him that BTS was actually a group of seven incredibly talented artists: RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. I showed him some of their music videos, and his eyes widened at their synchronized choreography and vibrant visuals.
“Why are you listening to music in a language you don't understand?”
It's a fair question. How could I enjoy music in a language I didn't speak? I explained that while understanding the lyrics is important, music transcends language barriers. I enjoy the melodies, the rhythm, the emotion in their voices, and, yes, I look up translations of the lyrics. Besides, I added, BTS often includes English phrases in their songs.
“Why are they wearing makeup? Are they all actors?”
Ah, the cultural differences. My grandpa was surprised to see men wearing makeup. I explained that in South Korea, it's common for male idols to wear makeup. It's part of their stage presence and overall aesthetic, which is different from Western norms. His response? "Well, they do look clean and sharp. Carry on."
“Do you want to marry one of them?”
I laughed out loud at this one. I had to explain that while many fans do harbor crushes on the members, the ARMY fandom is more about supporting and respecting the band, rather than personally romantic aspirations. He seemed relieved, although I suspect he'd already been planning how to handle the language barrier with his new grandsons-in-law.
“Can they even sing, or is it all computers?”
As someone who grew up listening to live music, my grandpa was skeptical about modern music production techniques. I reassured him that yes, they can indeed sing—and dance, and rap. They've trained for years and often perform live. To prove my point, I played him some acoustic versions and live performances. He seemed genuinely impressed by their talent and dedication.
“Why are they always together? Don't they get tired of each other?”
This question made me smile. I explained to him that in South Korea, trainees typically live together as they prepare to debut, forming bonds like a family. After debut, band members often continue to live together, sharing their successes and struggles. This camaraderie and teamwork are part of what makes BTS so special.
“Why do you keep watching those 'music shows'? Don't you get bored?”
I had to explain the concept of South Korean music shows, where artists perform their latest songs and compete for awards. For fans, it's about more than just the music; it's about seeing the artists' personalities, their interactions, their hard work, and their growth. Plus, the performances often feature unique stages and outfits that add another layer of excitement.
“What's with all the screaming girls?”
Oh, the fandom. I explained to him that passionate fans are common in music, and K-pop is no exception. The “screaming girls” (and boys, and non-binary individuals) he saw are part of a global community that finds joy, comfort, and connection through their love for BTS. I told him about fan projects, charity work, and the sense of belonging that the ARMY provides. He seemed touched by this and confessed he wouldn't mind being part of such a "club."
“Do you understand what they're saying in those 'V Live' videos?”
V Live, for the uninitiated, is a South Korean live video streaming service where BTS often interacts with fans. When I watch these, I usually have subtitles on, but I confessed to my grandpa that I've started learning Korean to understand BTS and their culture better. He looked both amused and proud, noting that it was a "roundabout, but effective" way to learn a new language.
“Doesn't this distract you from your studies/work?”
This was a genuine concern for him. I reassured my grandpa that while I'm a big fan, I know my limits. I've learned to balance my fandom activities with my responsibilities. I also told him how BTS promotes messages of self-love, hard work, and resilience through their music, which has been motivating. He seemed satisfied with this and encouraged me to "keep having fun, but remember your duties."
Explaining my fandom over BTS to my grandfather was a journey filled with laughter, surprises, and valuable understanding. It bridged the gap between our generations and cultures, proving once again that music is a universal language that connects hearts, regardless of age or background.
To all fellow fans navigating similar conversations, remember to enjoy the ride. You might just find that your grandpa, while initially clueless about your beloved band, could end up humming "Blood Sweat & Tears" while he's watering the garden.