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Adipoli (അടിപൊളി, Malayalam word), or the Korean equivalent daebak is a concept that really doesn’t have a good English interpretation. It is an expression we Malayalees use to describe an experience that is wonderful, crazy, surprising, and loving at the same time. It is the adipoli FESTA month and the 10th year of BTS. The sheer amount of content, “Take Two” and everything in between, has been a wonderful gift of love from BTS to ARMY. It seemed like a good idea to write down how I feel about BTS, the group, and ARMY, their fandom.
As any good story needs a beginning. I will start with how I got into BTS. May 2020: A friend showed me the “Blood Sweat & Tears” MV. I had seen V before in “Hwarang,” so I was familiar with one person. I am ashamed to say that I thought V’s character in the drama was annoying (Don’t hate me!). The next person I noticed in the BS&T video was Jin. He was my bias from the start. How I feel about him is a whole other story, but this is about OT7, so back to that. The video was visually stunning and the song was catchy. I was intrigued but not really ready to go down the rabbit hole of a new fandom.
The video that really pushed me down that rabbit hole was “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal.” Here I was, minding my own business, when on June 11, 2020 (my first FESTA), I saw an animated video with the message “We are not seven with you.” In a time of utter isolation and shutdown (thanks COVID!), a group of seven men from another country was telling me that I matter and that I belong to a collective. They found me and my friends when we were all alone in different parts of North America. The love that was apparent in the “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” music video was what made me want to invest in them and their fandom. For a band to dedicate a song to their fandom means that ARMY really were their support system and I was excited to make them mine.
ARMY always says “BTS is more than their music.” I agree. For me, it is the messaging. The 2020 graduation speech is a fine example. Their messages were about taking things at our own pace, loving ourselves, and knowing that someone in Korea was thinking of us. I wasn’t even graduating, but I felt heard and loved. Who can forget RM’s 2018 UN speech, or all the other speeches to follow? The consistent messaging of “Love Yourself, Speak Yourself” truly kept me going during a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
BTS has redefined the word “fandom” for me. I have been a fan of multiple things, but I have never been part of such a rich community of fans like ARMY. ARMY comes from all walks of life: different ages, colors, gender identities, sexual preferences, abilities, and the list goes on. There is also the symbiotic connection between BTS and ARMY. It is very apparent that they put a lot of effort into their interactions with us through Welives, RUN BTS shows, concerts, documentaries, Bon Voyages, and In the SOOP. Their content shows me repeatedly that I as ARMY contribute to their success and they help me with my emotional journey.
Another facet of ARMY is their activism. From COVID relief funds raised in India to Black Lives Matter donations, ARMY has shown me that a fandom can be inclusive of so many facets of life. Something I cannot forget is that ARMY is also very supportive. As a wheelchair user, I was wary of going to concerts. ARMY is what convinced me to take the plunge. The advice from ARMYs with disabilities who attended concerts helped me attend a PTD Las Vegas concert. Every part of my concert experience from standing in the merch line to the concert itself was enhanced by ARMY giving me advice on what to do, how to stay hydrated, how to navigate the stadium parking lot and the stadium itself—the experience still makes me tear up with the joy of belonging. The care, generosity, and love shown by ARMY to all concert goers, both beginners and experts, made me grateful to be part of a caring community that grows with the band. My very first concert and once you have seen a BTS concert, how can you ever do any others?
Picture courtesy of my sister who went to PTD VEGAS with me.
It is true what ARMY says, BTS really does find you when you need them. They helped me get through a global pandemic, ARMY helped me with my first concert, and three years later they are helping me navigate a new job, new place, and new ARMY communities. BTS+ARMY is truly adipoli!
This article is a reflection of what BTS + ARMY mean to me as a mathematician, wheelchair user, and Malayalee ARMY. It encapsulates my journey into the fandom and how I felt a sense of belonging during a global pandemic. It started out as a glimpse into my fandom for others and has evolved into a deeper appreciation of this fandom and what it means to me.
This has been an enlightening and fruitful experience which I am grateful for.
— Sherli Koshy-Chenthittayil
Mathematician and wheelchair user ARMY. (USA)
Illustration By: Anonymous
I acknowledge my ARMY friends for all their discussions that led me to this reflection.
Koshy-Chenthittayil, S. (2023). How Has BTS+ARMY Redefined Fandom for Me? The Rhizomatic Revolution Review , (4). https://ther3journal.com/issue-4/How Has BTS+ARMY Redefined Fandom for Me?
Koshy-Chenthittayil, Sherli. “How Has BTS+ARMY Redefined Fandom for Me?” The Rhizomatic Revolution Review , no. 4, 2023, https://ther3journal.com/issue-4/How Has BTS+ARMY Redefined Fandom for Me?.
How Has BTS+ARMY Redefined Fandom for Me? by Sherli Koshy-Chenthittayil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
@ CC Sherli Koshy-Chenthittayil 2023