On my side of the world, it’s starting to feel like early fall: the sun’s intense grip seems to have weakened as it comes up later and sets earlier, and the stragglers in the monarch butterfly migration are leaving Midwestern milkweeds for warmer climes. The corn’s not ready for harvest yet, but it will be soon; you can see the ears starting to brown at the bottom of the stalks. The cicadas, like me, are in denial about the end of summer, and they buzz from the trees as if to protest the nightly temperature dips below fifty degrees.
I wasn’t ready - none of us were ready - for the tragic season change this week in the world of kpop. Many of us participate in kpop fandom as a sort of escape valve from our daily stressors; when we can’t find it elsewhere, our favorite idols offer inspiration to dream big and work hard in spite of the obstacles we face. For many fans, kpop (even with all its problematic elements and the stress it places on those who work in the industry) provides an emotional summertime, a space for youthful play and small-scale rejuvenation away from our usual grind. But the tragic loss of Ladies’ Code’s members EunBi and RiSe this week has brought the fragility of this perpetual summer into focus. Kpop is real life, and real life includes death - even, sometimes, for those who are far too young, who have worked so hard and have so much potential. When that happens, suddenly everything is different - an unexpected change of seasons.
Unfortunately, I think that many fans have experienced loss in their own lives, and I hope we take our collective grief over EunBi and RiSe as seriously as we take our private grief. In other words, it’s okay to be sad, whether you were a fan or not, and it’s good to recognize that others may be really sad, too. It’s also good to try and figure out what this event means to you, and to all of us. Here are a few especially thoughtful examples:
I’ve also really appreciated seeing the outpouring of sympathy and support from kpop’s sub-fandoms for Lavelies, the Ladies’ Code members, and the families of EunBi and RiSe. So many tweets and posts express admiration for EunBi and RiSe’s contributions to the world as entertainers and as friends to their members. Fans’ gifsets and edits and other creative forms pay homage to EunBi and RiSe’s close friendship. And in tribute to EunBi’s ambitions, Korean netizens made Ladies’ Code’s I’m Fine Thank You top the charts this week. (As for me, I can’t think of a more appropriate occasion to bring this back.) Even as we fervently hope that this kind of tragedy - the loss of a young person - never happens again, we know that it will, whether on a highway near Incheon or on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. And now we know how it feels, and we know how to reach out to members of our communities and support each other in times of loss.
The air is chilly and crisp tonight, a reminder that winter, in its plodding inevitability, isn’t that far off. As the seasons change, I’ll pull a coat around my shoulders and pull my family and friends (both online and offline) a little closer. Just in case I don’t get to say it later, each of you matter to me. EunBi and RiSe matter to us, and they won’t be forgotten. Pass it on.