NewJeans' 1st fansign with middle-aged male fans and 14-year-old idol sparks debate

NewJeans' 1st fansign with middle-aged male fans and 14-year-old idol sparks debate
The Internet debates whether it is appropriate for middle-aged male fans to attend fansigns (@NewJeans_ADOR, @museclubb/Twitter)

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: Being a fan of the rising girl group NewJeans is a rollercoaster. Non-fans were impressed with the way the girls immediately went viral before their debut to the extent that Weverse launched a new edition of their app to fit the group’s aesthetic. On day 2 of their debut, NewJeans was invited by Chanel. NewJeans became the girl group with the highest pre-orders, first-day sales and first-week sales for a debut album. They then got a perfect all-kill as the single ‘Attention’ topped all South Korean music charts. However, their first fansign has the Internet uncomfortable as middle-aged male fans attended.

While it is unfortunate that the K-pop industry has an ageist mindset that shames people above a certain age for becoming an idol or a fan, in NewJeans' case it has gotten a little serious. The creative director Min HeeJin was embroiled in a scandal for adding members between the age of 14 and 18 to NewJeans, sexualising them and taking inspiration from pedophilic pop culture references. The NewJeans members sported tube tops, minis and had suggestive lyrics for their song ‘Cookie’. And for their first fansign, a photo of a middle-aged male fan with 18-year-old Minji went viral.

READ MORE
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Knetz defend middle-aged male fans

Knetizens argued that there was nothing wrong with middle-aged male fans attending NewJeans’ fansign. They pointed out the hypocrisy by sharing no one had a problem with older female fans attending fansigns of young male idols, calling them ‘oppa’ (older brother) or asking them to do ‘aegyo’ (showing off babyish charms). They left comments like, “This is so f**king rude. He went there using his own money. It's not like he barged in to be in that fansign. You would f**king hate it if someone judge your looks, this is a really bad habit,” and “If he was a woman, netizens would defend him, saying you shouldn't shame a non-celebrity…”

Some international fans agreed that when it came to music, age is just a number and there was nothing problematic about liking music made by 14-year-old artists like NewJeans. One user asked, “It’s a weird way from this picture yes. But do we have to blame adults liking their music for instance ? Let’s say you are older in the future and you like a girl group cause you enjoy the music, would you like to see the kind of comments you just wrote ?”

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Another reasoned, “In fact we don't know the guy's intentions and they can be bad, but what about older women? I am a 25 year old woman who loves kpop and supports artists, i would like to convey love, give gifts and chat with them, not unlike other fans just because i'm older, but according to other comments in this tweet i can't go to fansigns cause of my age remembering that I'm from Brazil, so I don't need to buy 1738393 albums to go to fansigns, it's just a ticket.” One user shared, “Yes 14 years old,yes I agree...like I feel weird watching “New Jeans” MV...l can’t watch it...I. Feel like they are being punished to be what they are NOT ready to be...BUT NOT ALL US MEN are child predators...I love KPOP and when people find out that I do I get that LOOK.”

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‘Those men are not after the girls' music’

However, most of the netizens that are against this incident are worried about the predatory aspect. A fansign is like a lottery and most fans have to put in effort and money and purchase multiple albums to get into a fansign. Netizens felt that it was borderline creepy for an older male fan to go to such lengths to meet a 14-year-old. They also added that while no one worried about young male idols having older female fans, it wasn’t normal, “True it’s really sad that people think that this is “normal” when it shouldn’t be. Imagine few years from now you want to recall your childhood but all you can think of is how you worked in the industry and how people exploited and sent you unnecessary hate at such a young age."

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Another fan shared, “Statistically the amount of men who physically harass women are much greater. You have to put this into context. women can also dangerous but if you ask me a woman who I’m scared of most, statistically I’d say men. Don’t be offended if you’re not part of the problem.” One user added, “Totally agree, but I think the whole mistake is from the company for debuting teenagers who are under 18.. they have to put limits for idols ages.. it's just so weird.” Another fan explained, “Do u realize that to go to fanmeets you have to actively BUY ALBUMS AND PAY MONEY ??? be f**king fr rn it’s not just abt ‘liking their music’ why r grown men buying albums with pc of 14 yo??? when i’m older im not gnna be f**king participating in a parasocial relationship w a 14 yo. Be f**king fr.”

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One user was blunt, “People who don't find it weird that adult men are stanning literal 14-year-old girls and going to their fansigns... I admire your pure hearts and innocence. I wish the world was like that too, but those men are not after the girls' music or talent, let me assure you.” Another explained that liking a teen girl’s music wasn’t the problem, “I think being a fan is fine just don’t sexualize them that’s the real problem here having their music come through your earbuds isn’t the problem.”

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This article contains remarks made on the Internet by individual people and organizations. MEAWW cannot confirm them independently and does not support claims or opinions being made online.

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