My Poor Little Meow Meow: K-Pop Fans and the Parasocial Abuse of Positive Politeness

Blai Puigmal Burcet, Emma Montilla, Latisha Sumardy, Sophia Wang

Korean popular music (K-pop) started off as a small subculture in the 1990s but began taking off in the West in the mid-2010s and since then has become increasingly popular and mainstream. K-pop fans are known for their borderline obsessive behavior and for finding personal validation through parasocial relationships (Kim & Kim, 2020), fostered by their online communication style. Social media as a mode of communication is unique due to its lack of a second interlocutor and how people take the tactics they use online to real-life interactions. We analyzed language use among English-speaking K-pop fans online, specifically regarding inappropriate usage of positive politeness strategies (PPS) towards celebrities. We hypothesized that tweets directed towards male celebrities will contain more PPS than those directed towards female celebrities. After analyzing replies to BTS and Blackpink, we confirmed our hypothesis as there is 2.6 times as much PPS usage in BTS’s replies versus Blackpink’s replies. The sudden and immense popularity of K-pop, stan culture, and the obsessive tendencies of fans is evident not only in the abuse of PPS online, but also in real life as we begin to see instances of fetishization of Asian American men.

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