QODES: Queerbaiting in KPOP

Tuesday, February 16

By Sophie Baird-Parker

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge KPOP fan. I could talk about Loona for days, and don’t even get me started on Blackpink. However, I’m not blind to the fact that there is a lot of ignorance in the industry, particularly when it comes to cultural appropriation and racism. As a white person, it isn’t my place to talk and have an opinion about these issues, but you can read about some of them here.

Yesterday an article was brought to my attention, with the headline: ‘Rookie Girl Group QODES’s New MV Has A ‘Queer-Coded’ LGBTQ+ Concept, Says Agency’.

As a lesbian, I felt like I had to speak up about this.

At first glance, this may seem fantastic - finally some LGBTQ+ representation in KPOP! But once you take a closer look, there are quite a lot of things wrong with this ‘concept’.

The word ‘concept’ suggests that this girl group don’t actually identify as LGBTQ+, they’re simply using it as an aesthetic. Queerbaiting is where people, particularly in TV shows and movies, make you believe that there is an LGBTQ+ character or relationship, simply for them to turn out cishet, usually done to gain views and interest from the LGBTQ+ community, as they know that representation is sparse and so we will be drawn to anything that features an LGBTQ+ character. It seems that this is exactly what QODES’s company: EJ Music Entertainment have intended to do, and it appears to have worked.

The music video for the song, ‘LALALA’ hasn’t been released yet, however there are two teasers. I watched them both, and the first one was okay - nothing suggestive of an LGBTQ+ ‘theme’, however, in the second one, two of the, who i’m assuming to be, members, are seen going in to kiss each other at the end. I then took a look through the comments, where there are many mixed reviews. Some appear to have fallen for the bait, with comments such as: ‘GO QODES, GO LESBIANS AND BISEXUALS, GO GG’ and ‘This makes me so happy!! Can’t wait’, while many of the other comments read along the lines of: ‘I would’ve been happy if they didn’t use being part of the LGBT as a concept :(’.

Another reason why this queerbaiting is a huge issue is because same-sex marriage isn’t even legalised in South Korea yet, and there is still a lot of homophobia in the country. If an idol were to actually come out and say they were LGBTQ+, they would risk being fired from their company. Take Holland, for example, a Korean idol who is openly LGBTQ+. Because of this, he is forced to be an independent artist with no backing from any company because nobody will take him on. Despite all of this, he has managed to do amazingly, racking up a massive worldwide fanbase, who sent him donations to be able to produce and release his 2019 self-titled mini album.

Since the music video hasn’t been released yet, there’s nothing else I can really say about it for now. It’s being released on February 17th though, and I will be checking it out to see what the deal truly is with this ‘LGBTQ+ Concept’. 

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