Unpacking K-pop in America: The Subversive Potential of Male K-pop Idols’ Soft Masculinity

Jeehyun Jenny Lee, Rachel Kar Yee Lee, Ji Hoon Park


Through an in-depth analysis of American fans of K-pop boy bands, this study explores the racial implication of the popularity of male K-pop idols whose performance of masculinity is different from hegemonic masculinity in the United States. Although American fans are appreciative of K-pop male idols and their music, our findings indicate that K-pop fans are not entirely free from the dominant perspective in the United States that relegates K-pop and K-pop male idol masculinity in the hierarchy of culture and race. In addition, the respondents’ reception of K-pop male idol’s soft masculinity as culturally and racially bounded in Korean culture and Korean men, runs the risk of essentializing the effeminate features of Asian men, and limits K-pop’s burgeoning subversive potential to challenge racialized masculinity in the United States.


K-pop, BTS; hegemonic masculinity, racialized masculinity

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