Back in October, a profile written about BTS in The Hollywood Reporter sparked outcry with BTS fans and journalists. The journalist and article were slammed as xenophobic. Recently, the argument was reopened when the journalist engaged about the article on Twitter. When the journalist referenced BTS as a “virtual mystery” to the general population, people jumped to BTS’s defense.
The journalist admitted to being unprepared for the BTS interview
To recap, The Hollywood Reporter journalist admitted that they did not know much about BTS before the interview.
“Forty-eight hours earlier, I’m on an Asiana Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Seoul, the only 47-year-old man on the plane with a pile of BTS books on his lap,” reads the article. “I’d seen them on Saturday Night Live last April… and sampled their music videos on YouTube…”
The article continued, “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…”
Journalists criticized the lack of preparation for the article at the time of publication. Days after the BTS profile in The Hollywood Reporter, a journalist for Vogue admitted they were unprepared for an interview with Rihanna. Combined with the interview for BTS, this brought into question the way the media treats artists of color.
Writers clapped back when the journalist called BTS a ‘virtual mystery’
On Twitter, the journalist from The Hollywood Reporter defended their piece to critics.
“BTS is a virtual MYSTERY to 99.99% of the population. Introducing them to a general population is not XENOPHOBIA. Jesus CHRIST,” they tweeted.
This tweet created more outcry. Thousands of BTS fans flooded the tweet’s replies and writers came to the defense of BTS.
“BTS has been covered by almost every major media outlet, and they are arguably the most popular band in the world right now. The fact that you think they are a mystery to most is simply rooted in your own false belief that whiteness is the center of culture. #BTS #BTSARMY,” tweeted author Frederick Joseph.
“No, but going into a major cover article completely unprepared because you’re treating one of the biggest bands in the world as an exotic novelty act* is unprofessional at best and racist-adjacent at least *because they’re Asian and you’ve never heard of them,” Jeff Yang of CNN tweeted.
Adam Liaw tweeted, “If you think the biggest band in the world is known to only 0.01% of the general population, the problem is with your characterisation of ‘general population’. That’s the xenophobia.”
“you work for a trade publication for the entertainment industry (which definitely knows about BTS) and i doubt the general population will trust the guy who read about his profile subject on the plane,” wrote Jules Darmanin on Twitter.
BTS is still rising in popularity
Realistically, BTS is still gaining traction and proving they are more than a foreign fad. The group does not receive mainstream radio play in the U.S. and is just beginning to scratch the surface at western award shows. However, the group is anything but unknown.
In 2019, BTS performed on Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They opened the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series and sold out Wembley Stadium two nights in a row. The group presented at the Grammy Awards and won two Billboard Music Awards. BTS also became the first group since The Beatles to have three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than a year.
BTS’s EP Map of the Soul: Persona is currently the best-selling album of 2019. It was also the first album to sell 4 million copies worldwide this year. BTS accomplished this without bundles, meaning all of the sales were organic. In May 2019, BTS had the No.1 grossing tour in the U.S. after selling out six stadium shows.
Since their 2013 debut, BTS has reached worldwide popularity in spite of industry gatekeepers. According to BTS and Bang Si-Hyuk, this rise resulted from the group’s sincerity, talent, and luck. To say BTS is a “virtual mystery” to the world and take sole credit for introducing them is a negligent exaggeration that undercuts everything BTS has been able to accomplish.