As the world welcomes a new BTS single to their playlists and radio streams, spirits are being lifted as the septet offer a funky new song as the b-side sibling to their single ‘Butter.’ I can’t help but feel like I’m literally on cloud nine. After waking up before 5 AM (from a very disrupted sleep from both excitement and stress of oversleeping), I tuned into the premiere of the ‘Permission To Dance’ music video. It’s BTS, so of course, I was already excited. Then, as I watched with ARMY from all over the world my heart filled with joy as I noticed something a bit different about the choreography. Is that… sign language? Yes, it is! This can’t be a coincidence, surely?
It didn’t take long for other ARMY to notice and it was later confirmed with BigHit themselves, that it was in fact intended for BTS to include different signs for words such as ‘dance,’ ‘fun,’ and ‘peace.’ I’m not part of the deaf or hard of hearing community, but being disabled and seeing some sort of representation made me so happy. This isn’t all too common for us to get representation, especially in music. Of course, in between being a busy bee here at THP HQ, I was also streaming the song and music video, and after I could finally tear my eyes off the Bangtan boys, I was able to notice more of the details of the music video and something caught my eye: signs in the background of one scene read “disABILITY resources.” My breath caught in my chest. Was I imagining things? Low and behold, other fans had started to notice and the Deaf Army Education Twitter had also pointed it out. Tears began to brim in my eyes and I felt so happy. I hadn’t seen representation on this level before.
Let’s take a flashback to early 2020. January to be precise. The Honey POP was a few months old and had already hit one million views from our hard work. But something that’s been happening to me is my immune system seems to shut down a lot in the winter and I get very sick. Something I’m still investigating with my doctors. I’ve already been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and I’m also autistic. I was taking time out from The Honey POP as I tried to recover. I was sleeping for days on end. By the fifth day, I was eventually awake in the early hours of the morning and I logged on to chat with the team because I felt lonely, having not had much contact with literally anyone for so long. Our K-POP team was getting ready to watch The Late Late Show with James Corden and BTS were the guests. I decided to join in as something to do. Let’s just say that was the best decision I had made in quite some time. I fell in love with the boys. Their talent, their charisma, and their happy-go-lucky charm had me hooked. Throughout 2020 during both the pandemic and challenges with my health – including a position change here at The Honey POP in order to prioritize my health, while still being able to be part of this and focus on what I am most passionate about – BTS was the light in my darkness.
18 months on and watching this video, I felt like the love and escapism through BTS was validated by them themselves. And what’s so important about their inclusion is that it wasn’t at all performative. Sign language was used in the choreography, something that BTS is famous for. It’s also something you can do seated (seeing fellow fans nail choreography has me envious and miss when I was able to dance.) The signs of disABLED resources were placed so naturally as part of the set. I felt so seen, heard, and accepted from this. And it wasn’t just me, but other fans, too. And the best bit? July is Disability Pride Month. It could not be more perfectly timed.
Disability is often overlooked, especially in music or fandom. As fans, we don’t always have the same experience as abled fans. Whether it’s because a concert venue is inaccessible, the wheelchair seating is at the back of the venue, or not being able to queue for long hours, there are different reasons for different disabilities and our experiences aren’t always the best, nor are we usually a top priority when it comes to companies planning for their artists. Our experiences are likely never going to live up to those who aren’t disabled. It can often lead to frustration, upset, and in the personal experience of both myself and friends, can lead to resentment towards ourselves.
Yes, the inclusion in the video was small but so rare and so significant, it feels like a huge win. BTS are such a massive group that have the eyes of the world on them right now. People who are also disabled, but aren’t fans, will also see this and may also feel so represented and validated. And with other artists citing the septet as inspiration, it could be the beginning of a domino effect.
We have such a long way to go to give disabled fans not just representation, but inclusion in fandoms. Not only by fans, but by artists and their teams who need to consider our needs in order to give equal experiences. But this is such an amazing thing and with the fact that the hearing aid emoji has been added to the BTS bio, there is a possibility that they could be artists who are taking this into consideration going forward, and that would be such a major turning point and could lead the change we so desperately need.
What did you think of the ‘Permission To Dance’ video? Do you know any ARMY who felt represented? Let us know down in the comments below or by tweeting us @TheHoneyPOP!
Need more BTS in your life? We gotchu!
Featured Image Source: BigHit Music