The Real Housewives of South Korea? Almost, but not quite.
It’s not every day that Korean idols go to a waxing salon and let their fans watch, but that’s exactly what some of FTISLAND’s members did during the first episode of “Coming Out! FTISLAND.” With scenes showing the band arguing and getting drunk, the reality show feels a lot more like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” more than typical Korean idol reality shows.
The five-episode long show began airing on SBS MTV in South Korea on April 7, and became the first reality show dealing with K-pop idols to receive a 19+ rating. The result is something almost entirely foreign to the K-pop world- full disclosure. While this is something new for K-pop fans, elements of “Coming Out! FTISLAND” would make it a perfect show for the American reality-loving audience.
This Is FTISLAND’s Reality as a Band
If you’ve never watched “The Bad Girls Club” or “The Real Housewives” series, consider yourself lucky. But two important elements make those shows enjoyable to watch- the fighting and the partying. That also happens to be some of the elements that many bands are known for (ever hear of Guns N’ Roses or Van Halen?) and helps FTISLAND shirk off the idol-band image they began as. The group doesn’t hide behind the smoke screens of editing, sleeps naked, and doesn’t keep their tempers in check.
In fact, FTISLAND doesn’t really keep anything in check. The group completely disavows its idol-image, showing the nitty gritty of their lives and relationships in a way that idols typically hide behind makeup and perfectly manufactured personalities. In essence, FTISLAND attempts to use the show that it is a band not an idol group.
FTISLAND drinks… A lot. Hongki’s love of alcohol verges on alcoholism and he’s a clear enabler, which he admits. The band’s youngest member, Minhwan, even wakes up one morning still drunk from the night before after Hongki insists on buying vast quantities of alcohol. Drinking games and parties are part of South Korean culture, and FTISLAND lives up to it.
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The other members aren’t as intense as Hongki, who lives up to his status as a Korean rockstar, and there’s nobody tearing out one another’s weave, but “Coming Out! FTISLAND” isn’t just an outlet to showcase FTISLAND’s preparations for their comeback. The members mention multiple times that the show is for their fans, but it’s also a way for FTISLAND to break the mold of K-pop idol and become real people. Well, reality show people.
Take Us As The Humans We Are
FTISLAND doesn’t shy away from their issues, though, and instead broadcasts them freely. All reality television shows, American and Korean, get edited to some degree, but this is the perhaps the first time in K-pop history that an idol group doesn’t claim to be anything but the co-workers that they truly are. What FTISLAND has going for it is the members have worked together for so long that they’re able to freely communicate with one another their thoughts and needs.
The tension between FTISLAND’s members is clear from the first episode. Lead vocalist Lee Hongki is described as an “American rockstar” by the other members of FTISLAND, and shows it by not showing up at practice and instead going drinking with friends. Leader Choi Jonghoon is mostly quiet and sulks, while the three younger members (Lee Jaejin, Choi Minhwan, and Song Seunghyun) play around, mostly carefree. There’s bickering and irritation, and even though K-pop fans want to believe that idols are best friends with one another, it’s clear that there are issues within this band.
Throwing together humans and telling them to be a band is difficult (ie TVXQ, EXO, One Direction.) But “Coming Out! FTISLAND” depicts FTISLAND honestly, allowing the members to be frank about their worries and concerns while making it brutally honest that their relationship is as bandmates and not best friends forever (Minhwan and Jaejin’s waxing date aside…).
“No matter what problems we face, no matter which members fight, I will protect the name FTISLAND and protect my members until the end!” — Lee Hongki
But, even though FTISLAND’s members have issues internally, they still work together. The personalities in the band are different, but they are still connected by what they’ve accomplished as K-pop’s first real band. The second episode was the most tense (Jonghoon got mad with Minhwan and Seunghyun and Hongki showed up hungover to a fan meet) but also features the five men drinking together and talking honestly to one another. Because, at the end of the day, FTISLAND has come so far together that the very suggestion that the thought of their group’s end is something they must protect against.
One of the most newsworthy things about the reality show is that it’s the first time a K-pop act filmed a mature rated reality show. FTISLAND’s clearly trying to break away from the K-pop idols image that helped them debut. And the band is popular enough that it no longer needs young K-pop fans; FTISLAND’s Primadonna fanclub is extremely loyal, and FTISLAND’s prowess as a band is not up for debate (I repeat, listen to their latest album in its entirety.)
But going 19+ is still risky. FTISLAND is still a K-pop band, and idols, no matter what anybody says. The choice to bare all (waxing!) is smart marketing but could only happen with a loyal fanbase. SHINHWA set an example of a K-pop act doing something outrageous to make fans happy and shot a nude photo book in 2001; FTISLAND shot 19+ in 2015. It’s not something that all K-pop idols could do and get away with, but FTISLAND’s outrageous attitudes have brought the band all over the world and made them successful. By “Coming Out!” FTISLAND is declaring its emancipation from manufactured.
“Coming Out! FTISLAND” is a fun reality show that highlights FTISLAND in all its R-rated glory. It’s a nice change from the usual, highly edited and cleaned up K-pop reality shows, and makes FTISLAND more likeable for it.
What do you think of FTISLAND’s coming out as something other than K-pop idols? Should other idols film 19+ shows? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.
[All gifs credit Cross And Change on Tumblr]