The VMAs and Its Blatant Xenophobia

By Monique Boateng & Semhal Negussie

On July 23rd, nominees for this year’s Video Music Awards were released. Granted, fans were upset with their favorite artists being snubbed. But this year, the VMAs shocked fans with the way they chose to recognize the emerging popularity of K-pop.

K-pop, or Korean pop, can be traced back to the early nineties, but its global breakthrough was launched with PSY’s 2012 hit Gangnam Style. Fast forward to 2019 and the genre has made a huge mark on western culture. The Kpop group BTS has played a major role in paving the way for other Korean acts. The South Korean boyband continuously breaks Youtube records and has amassed more views for their video “Boy with Luv” (which had more than 74.6 million views within the first 24 hours and was released in April this year) than their fellow nominees. The Jonas Brothers, nominated for video of the year, only managed to receive seventeen million views within the first 24 hours. BTS proving to be more successful than western artists have fans wondering why they can’t compete in the same space as them. They are the biggest boy band in the world yet are alienated from categories made for the biggest artists; how come?

“If this was any other basic American group they would have gotten a big nomination,” says Keab Yilma, a junior at B-CC who strongly believes the VMAs are xenophobic. According to Yilma, the foreign status of BTS encouraged the VMAs to create a separate category for them, essentially robbing them from awards they deserve and would win in the main categories. Although Yilma finds the VMAs to be xenophobic, she doesn’t think they’re racist. “Rather than racist, I think they’re scared of racist audiences. I feel like they’re worried about Americans complaining or that they would stop supporting the VMAs if a non-American group was to win so many awards."

Even though they’ve broken many records, they fall short on award nominations. Many believe K-pop as a whole is being overlooked by western award shows because of the fear of Korean acts taking over. To dismiss a group proper recognition for their success and to honor those who have done far less than them doesn’t make any sense. Is it xenophobia or are fans overreacting?

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