Screaming, obsessive teenage girls-that is the connotation society has associated with boyband fans. That stereotype hangs well over the heads of South Korean boy group BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan)'s fans-Army (or BTS Army). Since Bangtan's debut in 2013, they have captured the attention of people across the globe, granting them the largest fan base in the world today. The influence BTS has on their fans will be observed through this project as I engage in the unorthodox dynamic of Army. There is a lifestyle adopted by the community that stems from observing and being impacted by the BTS members. Following that, the behavior and culture of Army has surpassed traditional fans and has developed more characteristic mannerisms that resembles a religious movement. This particular movement carries its own mythology which observes the band members as exemplary moral figures (to which fans model their lifestyles and philosophies), demonstrates organized routine practices that provoke ecstatic experiences resembling those of charismatic religious involvement, and establishes a global community sharing set values. Those within the Army community have developed a ritual cycle focused on birthdays, accomplishments, and milestones of the band members. Even the emotions the members share with the fans are received and reciprocated to a similar or greater extent-whether it be sadness, happiness, anger. Understanding what causes an individual to move beyond the line of "fan" to a devoted follower is simple, but when an entire group of people surpass that line it raises some questions. Through observing the Army community, my ethnographic research will highlight the relationship, conflict, and development of stan (an overzealous fan) behavior in connection to religious affiliation. This study also seeks to encourage anthropology students and researchers to apply theory outside of their normal investigative routes.
University / Institution: Utah Valley University
Format: In Person
Area of Research: Humanities
Faculty Mentor: John Dulin
Location: Union Building, ROOM 312 (3:50pm)