Although many attempt to explain BTS’ surge in global popularity by pointing to their social media use, grassroots fandom, and performance skill, there is a clear lack of focus on the importance of the storytelling found in BTS’ work, as well as the underlying influences from literature and psychology. If we are to truly understand BTS and their significance within pop culture and the global music scene, it is necessary to examine BTS’ narrative and its effects more deeply.
Throughout BTS’ conceptual journey from 2013 to the present, trials and anxieties are brought to the surface, contemplated, and resolved. Within their lyrics, music videos, and fictional Bangtan Universe, universal themes of wandering youth, school, temptation, love, and self-development are amplified by related themes seen in works of literature and psychology. These influences help BTS tap into a form of bibliotherapy, a creative art therapy that uses literature to promote healing. A close examination of BTS’ work reveals how BTS engages its fanbase with a cohesive cross-platform narrative that effectively helps fans explore their own anxieties and learn to heal.
This presentation, originally given at the BTS Global Interdisciplinary Conference at Kingston University in January 2020, interprets BTS’ conceptual narratives and themes within the context of works by Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, and Erich Fromm. I also apply the theory of bibliotherapy to explain how BTS’ narrative succeeds in helping fans cope with anxieties and pain. To illustrate impacts on the fandom, I include data from a global fandom survey I conducted for this project.
The research survey used for this presentation has been opened for a second round. If you’d like to participate, please go here: https://rebrand.ly/btsandhealing
The survey is completely anonymous, and you can participate even if you participated in the first round! The data are being kept separately.
Additionally, if you’re interested in a more in-depth fandom survey that covers a wide range of topics, please visit: https://rebrand.ly/btsgeneralsurvey
Both surveys will be used to inform my future projects. Thank you for your participation!
About the Author
Courtney Lazore is a writer/editor with special interests in BTS, Korean culture and history, language, gaming, and fan studies. She received her BA in History with a focus on East Asia and her MA in English before completing a four-year Korean language program. She currently serves as an editor for Revolutionaries Press and is a team member of @BangtanScholars. You can find her on her website, TheBTSEffect.com, where she posts writings and projects related to BTS and guides to the Bangtan Universe and HYYH Notes, as well as on Twitter @writer_court.