I don’t think anyone can accuse me of having any anti-KPop bias.
When KPop supergroup Super Junior came around these parts last year, I was right there in the mosh pit with friends, screaming it out with everyone else and taking videos of all the shirtlessness and Korean weirdness happening all over the stage. My phone got stolen though, so no fan videos will be passed down to young faglings.
I also have nothing against Summit Books and its line of chick lit novels, if my review of Tara Sering’s “Between Dinner and the Morning After” is anything to go by. I loved “Between Dinner and the Morning After”.
Seeing that the newest Summit Book was about the KPop fan experience, I thought that nothing could possibly go wrong. At best, I would love Chinggay Labrador’s “Popped”. At worst, I thought I would just be mildly irritated.
“Popped” tells the story of Andie Bautista and her friends, Trixie, Nica, and Cesca. The four of them have been brought together by what the initially call their “secret shame” — a fondness for Korean dramas and KPop.
That secret shame soon blows up into a full blown obsession, as Andie and the guys end up not just collecting any available merchandise on their Korean idols, but going on trips to Tokyo and Korea just to watch them perform and hopefully bump into them and be their friend, in real life.
As I’ve been through some of these things myself — with Hanson, though, and not KPop — I found the first few pages of the book to be really hilarious and engaging. I could relate to the need to know everything about your favorite group and to have everything even peripherally connected to them be in your possession. I couldn’t help but find the giddiness contagious.
However, somewhere around page 28, I started getting a terrible feeling down in the pit of my stomach. At a fictional KPop concert, Andie and the girls encounter someone who they eventually dub “Munchkin Oppa”, who as it turns out is part of a fan club. The girls act all snotty and superior, mostly because “Munchkin Oppa” has “orange-toned, badly-rebonded, chin length hair” and designs crappy fan shirts.
I mostly dismissed this feeling as irrational, but when “Munckin Oppa” reappears again on page 56 and the girls were equally dismissive, I started feeling like I had something stuck in between my teeth and I couldn’t get it out.
This unnecessary meanness continued to grate even more when Andie goes on a trip to Tokyo and is faced with nothing but absolutely model fans who don’t scream and shout and whatnot. And here I was thinking that Japanese fangirls mostly looked like this:
The same goes when Andie and the gang head to Korea to hunt down their KPop dream boyfriends. The foreign fans are such models of great behavior while the Filipino fans are dubbed as either “Orcs from Mordor” or “dementors” because they were noisy and got in the four heroines’ personal space. I just couldn’t let it go.
What made these four girls so much better than the other local fans? What makes them any less crazy? If those “Orc” kids were in line — just like these girls were — what would make them Orcs? Is it because they invaded your personal space and just made your waiting experience uncomfortable? That’s de rigeur for concerts, Andie and co. Maybe you were those girls that were at the Kris Allen concert I went to. I would understand if Munchkin Oppa was a constant thorn in the girls’ side, preventing them from fulfilling their KPop dreams, but the only crime he’s committed is just not being the right kind of fan for Andie and her oh-so-special crew.
And even if we set that aside, I just found it hard to suspend my disbelief in the face of Andie’s international adventures. It might amuse guys to know that Andie is a freelancer who hasn’t taken a job in weeks because her obsession with all things Korean has taken over her life, while Trixie is unemployed. And yet they can afford to splurge on trips to Tokyo and Seoul within the space of a week, coupled with goddess knows how many bags of overpriced fan merchandise! What is this magical world they live in?!?
At around 100 pages in, Andie does this:
“I could tell the four of us were going to lose our voices over the next couple of days. I was just glad that I had the chance to finally get our of my head and talk to people. Another week of traveling all by myself and I would have spontaneously combusted.“
Of course, Andie. How can anything compare to the absolute AGONY of traveling by yourself to Tokyo on a FREELANCER’S BUDGET, buying BAGS OF OVERPRICED FAN MERCHANDISE on a FREELANCER’S BUDGET? MY HEART BLEEDS FOR YOU. I am SO HAPPY that you can now talk to your friends. One of whom is still able to travel INTERNATIONALLY even if she is UNEMPLOYED. I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE NOW IN THE COMPANY OF YOUR FRIENDS. MOTHERFUCKING BITCH.
By page 120+, I was already having a nervous breakdown, as evidenced by my tweets.
It’s not like I can’t handle a book with a Mary Sue in it. For fuck’s sake, I finished Becca Fitzgerald’s “Hush, Hush” and Alexandra Adornetto’s “Halo”. But the unnecessary meanness coupled with the Mary Sue characters was just too much for me to handle. It has none of the charm, the tenderness, and the intelligence of “Between Dinner and the Morning After”. Joseph Gordon-Levitt would definitely disapprove of this book.