[OWLS] The Vision of Suga’s Shadow?
Welcome back to my first OWLS post of the year. Actually, I’m a little late in posting but don’t tell anyone, although you guys probably know that since Fred mentioned I’d be posting on the 25th COUGH. But if you’re new to OWLS, then I highly recommend checking out all the stops for this month’s OWLS “Vision” tour. They have been amazing so far!
Yes, this month’s theme for OWLS is “Vision”. What does that mean?
Happy New Year! Since it is a new year, it’s a new you! This month we will be talking about various pop culture mediums that focus on envisioning “the future.” What type of future do we want for ourselves, our communities, and the world? Also, we will be sharing our goals and plans for the new year. Once again, happy new year!
Even though I knew I would be signing up for this tour, the content of my post took me a while to figure out. I really wanted to talk about a book but being a slow reader, I hadn’t amassed an army of literature to pick from yet. Then I thought, maybe I’ll pick an anime, and “visions” instantly made me think about The Vision of Escaflowne. I was set on this idea for a while, up until I realized rewatching it wouldn’t be possible (I need to have something fresh in my head in order to properly write about it). I dropped it and I’m glad I did because Fred’s post was a nice look at the series
So then, what would I talk about?
If you follow me on Twitter, chances are you’ve come to realize I became a fan of BTS and the more I thought about their music, the more I went, yeah, I can do a post on them for OWLS! January has been pretty hectic for the BTS fan, what with the Interlude: Shadow video release, the Black Swan single release, and now the sales for their Map of the Soul World Tour, but instead of talking about BTS as “a whole” (discography), I only want to talk about their video Interlude: Shadow. This is going to be a long descriptive post so please bear with me
When I first saw this video, I was on my phone and couldn’t use the closed caption function to see the lyrics, but I didn’t feel like I had to. Actually, to this day I haven’t looked at the lyrics and I probably would have kept postponing it until forever if I didn’t have to write the latter half of this post
I just felt like the video spoke for itself
The First 50 Seconds
The video begins with us looking at this interior space with a central hallway and many doors leading into rooms with red lighting. At every door is a figure clad all in black, even their faces are covered, and they are standing facing the closed doors. All of the figures seem to be about the same height and body shape
At the end of the hallway, we see Suga who is also clad all in black but his face is visible to the viewer. The door he is leaning against is the only one that is facing forward. Throughout the space, we see a red mold-like substance decorating the walls, the edges of the hallway doors, and to a more concentrated degree, Suga’s door. Going off by the tone of the video so far, this substance gives off the impression of infestation, but is it going into the rooms or is it seeping into the hallway?
The lights are dim, there are two exit signs hanging from the ceiling, one right where we “enter” and the second to Suga’s right. Everything seems to be symmetrical, apart from a few technical items found in the area like the exit signs, the smoke detector, and an electrical outlet to our right. A calm, almost soft tune is playing. As we move towards Suga, some of the figures and landscape begin to almost fade, then come back into corporeal form, mimicking the ethereal moments in the music
Some of the figures have their foreheads against the doors they are standing in front of, some of them look more casual in their stance (almost like they’re waiting), and some are standing rigidly (almost soldier-like). It makes you wonder if this is just how each figure normally presents themselves or if there really is something that they should be bracing themselves for (and why some of the figures don’t seem perturbed)
Without warning, space begins to shift
Suga, along with his door “disperse” into the air, or so it might seem at first. Before we completely zoom into his person, there is something on the floor, almost like a shadow. We can’t really see what it is but once he “disappears” we come to realize that at his feet were broken pieces of glass. From these shards, a door-sized shattered piece of glass is formed and a distorted continuation of the hallway appears, giving off an Into The Looking Glass vibe. We continue into this space where there are no black-clad figures. The hallway is still infested with the red mold and we once more see the door at the end of the hall. Suga is there again, but unlike his predecessor, he is dressed differently. He’s no longer wearing black. He wears creme colored clothes, almost the complete opposite of black, and he isn’t against the door
Instead, he is gesturing towards the viewer
He begins to rap in English:
I wanna be a rap star
I wanna be the top
I wanna be a rockstar
I want it all mine
I wanna be rich
I wanna be the king
I wanna go win
I wanna be …
While he raps, we get clips of Suga in another space, a “floor” of lights where the viewer looks down at his lying form. His arms and one leg are outstretched and there is a halo of light surrounding him for a moment, continuing the mood visually of something otherworldly
The next clip is from the same location but now we are closing in on his space and black text surrounds him. As we zoom in closer, some of the text becomes red and even engulfs him, turning him into a shadow of red, almost cartoon-like and intangible, similar to the shadows at the start of the video
The text that surrounds him – O!RU82? – is the title of the BTS album O!RUL8,2? (Oh! Are you late, too?) that was released in 2013, which focused on finding happiness before it’s too late. The contrast is very sharp. The only thing that has sounded anywhere near happy so far in this video are the lyrics that Suga started with. They are hopeful with the things that Suga wants in his life
After these cuts, we return to the hallway where Suga finally leans on the door for a second. He continues to rap:
I wanna be a rap star
I wanna be the top
I wanna be a rockstar
I want it all mine
I wanna be rich
I wanna be the king
I wanna be me
I want a big thing
Oh boy let me see
I got a big dream yeah
He has a determined look on his face. He begins to walk down the hallway and then runs headfirst. The perspective switches and we see that the “end of the hallway” (where Suga is running towards) is the exact copy of where he was originally standing. The “glass door” that we passed through has now turned into a mirror, making us wonder where exactly Suga will end up. Will he appear in the hallway with the shadowed figures and the black clad Suga, or will he be transported into a completely different location? How exactly is this mirror/glass functioning? This transformation and illogical landscape further visually exemplifies the sense of “another world” that we can hear in the tune
There are a few frames, about 3-4 seconds long, where our perspective is from the side. We see Suga running past. We are in one of the rooms, the door is gone, the red “mold” has been replaced by white molding decorations, and unlike the rooms from the first hallway, the lighting inside here isn’t red. It’s actually the opposite. The room is dim and the walls are painted blue, giving off a calm feeling if we think about this space outside of the context; however, in the context of the video (red, danger, dim, confusion, otherworldly), the inside of the room gives off an uncomfortable feeling
We also begin to wonder, what happened to the door? It was clearly not there as Suga was running – otherwise it would do that annoying things doors do of creaking back into place only to find itself in the middle ground and turning into a hazard for the running Suga – but the door is also not there as we stand inside the room. There are no hinges in sight so a door wasn’t installed…except we did see one when we entered the hallway. More questions, Why are we inside the room? Do all the rooms look like this one? What about the rooms from the “original” hallway? If they do, does that mean that the “mold” is coming into the rooms?
When Suga “emerges” from the hallway, he has once more transformed. He stands on a stage with hundreds of silhouetted figures watching him. They are all dressed in black and covered in darkness. We can clearly identify the scenery as a concert. Suga is no longer dressed in creme colored clothing. While he is wearing black once more, there is something different from this Suga compared to the first Suga we saw. The first Suga had worn black but had looked casual and to a degree “plain” in his hoodie. This Suga has a glow to his person (literally) and his clothes are clearly high end and fashionable
As he stands there, he seems confused, as if not sure how he got there or what is going on
Text and lines of color appear on the screen, once more reminding us of the O!RU82? album. The only lights are coming from the stage (which looks like the platform Suga had been lying on earlier), Suga who is shining in a blue-black tone, and the phones that the figures are holding up towards Suga
This is where the song seems to truly begin. The lyrics switch back to Korean and we get to see a variety of stage and creme colored Suga performing
Who Are the Shadows?
The name of this video is Shadow (Interlude: Shadow) and perhaps that’s one of the reasons that we focus on the black-clad figures the most. Another is that they really are a central part of the message that I feel Suga (and BTS) is trying to tell
One of the more obvious answers to the question is the “fans”. At the minute mark of the video, we learn that right behind the ominous doors lay even more cloaked figures. They bang against the doors, just the one at first and then multiple and continue to do so until the doors finally fly open. Suga recoils from this and instantly they all run out into the hallway, some of them falling as they go. They run towards the end of the hallway where the viewer first entered, which also happens to be where Suga is standing, not even looking at the mob of unknown figures about to grab him (and the many more still inside the red-lit rooms, which we see silhouetted against the windows)
We also see them as they try to get to Suga through the stage platform and when the shadows finally see him in the crowd during the performance
However, the shadows aren’t just the fans that are trying to get to Suga
At the start of the video, the first shadows we see are seven figures standing in front of the doors. The fan shadows so far have always sought out Suga but these seven shadows had stood in the same room as Suga and done nothing. Instead, they were facing the doors with the fan shadows inside. It was almost like they were preparing to walk into the madness of being a celebrity. They were about to enter the same world that Suga ended up entering when he decided he wanted to “be the king”. The world that this video is attempting to portray
But fans aren’t the only ones who chase after celebrities. The shadows all seem to overlap, but thinking about the entertainment industry, we can also say that the shadows are the paparazzi, the hosts of gossip channels, and “the haters” who invest too much time trying to put others down. Really the answer to these shadows’ identity can be infinite!
Breaking it down even further, Suga portrays himself as a shadow
At about the 2-minute mark, the music takes on a different tone, sharper and for a moment, it feels like a completely different track. The video also begins to feel darker and the lighting, which had been mainly blue, takes on a red hue. Suga loses the blue tint he had when he’d first appeared on stage, reverting to the blackness of the shadow with the red lighting surrounding him. The edits become more frantic and we even come face to face with a Suga with a crack across his face. This Suga is in a different environment filled with mirrors and reflections of himself
When we return to the stage, we see the Suga on stage cockily looking at the Suga in the crowd, who almost seems mesmerized by what he is seeing up there. But is the Suga on stage the shadow or is it the Suga that can easily blend into the crowd of people, ignored and unknown? Which of the two are we idolizing? And is one more real than the other?
This part of the video, for the English speaking viewer, is dominated by the lyrics:
Please don’t let me shine
Don’t let me down
Don’t let me fly
Taking into account the lyrics Suga first sang, this almost feels like a plea. The more Suga shines, the more he will be sucked into this world of shadows constantly chasing him, the more he’ll wonder which of his personas is the shadow and which is the “real” one. But at the same time, he hopes that he won’t be let down. It can be a reference to wanting to continue being at the top but perhaps also a plea to the fans that they won’t betray the trust he has placed in their hands
Or perhaps they’re the different sides of him, the one that wants to continue chasing his dreams and the one who is having trouble reconciling all the baggage that comes with being a celebrity. We can especially see this in the imagery of the microphone constantly breaking glass surfaces, almost as if it had been thrown by the wildly gesturing Suga during those times of frustration
The video ends with the Suga in the crowd, his expression almost a mirror of the Suga from the stage. He directly stares at the viewer right before fading from the crowd. All we are left with are the fans with their phones flashing at the stage and where the Suga in the crowd had disappeared
At this moment, Suga looks complete. It looks like he’s understood what it means to “be the king”, that there will be shadows chasing him if he continues following his dreams, both his own and other people. He’s come to an understanding and is standing firm, not allowing himself to be overtaken
The Vision of the Shadow?
I was planning to write about the lyrics after the video but after I looked at them, I realized I had nothing to add. Like I said, the video is pretty self-explanatory and the beauty of this is that one doesn’t need to understand Korean in order to understand
But how does this relate to the OWLS “vision” tour?
To be honest, I was a bit conflicted about writing this post. I am not knowledgeable about music or celebrities. I don’t read magazines, I don’t watch realities, and I don’t watch gossip shows. In a sense, I am possibly one of the most removed people from anything to do with the rich and famous. I don’t like the atmosphere around the whole industry, how people can be so hungry to be in other peoples’ business and not feel any shame for it. We get upset when people pry too much about certain topics in our lives, but it’s alright for us to pry into the lives of others? I often think that celebrities are brave and have thick skin for being able to thrive in this cutthroat environment
But just as Suga has shown us in this “vision” (yes, I believe the video as a whole is a vision), celebrities are people and they feel just as much as we do, something that we sadly and surprisingly have to learn
A Change with the Fans/Industry
This is probably the biggest message that comes through from the visuals alone. Interlude: Shadow shows us a world that people who want to be famous enter. It’s not a pretty place. Once you reach a certain level of attention, celebrities are bombarded by fans that get too enthusiastic, companies that need to tell the next big story, and people who just have nothing better to do than spread hate. It’s a very hazardous environment to be in and this can cause much mental strain
In our age of technology, this can also translate to a lack of privacy. Recently, I read an article about EXO’s Sehun and Chanyeol’s passport information being leaked when the group was at a Vietnam airport. When I read the article, there was a quote by the airport employee and it read as so nonchalant about the situation, as if it was normal to just take a picture and spread pictures of sensitive documents to others! I thought to myself, isn’t it common sense not to do this? I have no idea who EXO is (aside from being a K-pop group) and I’ve never heard their music, but I was angered by this
Another instance of “fans” imposing on celebrities that comes to mind is the incident with Billie Eilish who (I heard) has refused to sign merchandise for fans because she finds these items are sold online. Instead, she has decided to take pictures with her fans. This ended up causing much hate and (in an IG story I saw) stressed Billie out enough that she had to step away from social media. And I asked myself, why should Billie have to abide by what her “fans” demand? It isn’t as if she’s being rude to them. On the contrary, she’s doing something even more personalized with them (and that other celebrities charge money for!)
To slightly tie this back to BTS, today I read about the scandal with Suga and Suran (a fellow musician I believe) and how she had to explain all of the IG posts she made that “implied” that she was in a relationship with him. And it isn’t just the fact that she had to explain her posts or the hate that she received for this misunderstanding that angers and baffles me, but the fact that idols from Asian countries (I’ve mainly noticed) can’t be in romantic relationships. Some female celebrities have been cut out of the entertainment industry for things like dating or getting married and the pressure they receive sometimes causes dire consequences
And this isn’t even covering how celebrities are always judged over every decision and action they make, publically destroyed for things a “normal” person would never get so much hate for
This entitlement that some people feel towards celebrities is a problem and I see this video calling out to people to be more respectful and humane. Not all people are disrespectful and I don’t feel like a respectful fan or host must apologize for what the entitled and stalkerish do. That said, these people are part of what makes the industry and if we continue to ignore problematic things like this, nothing will ever change
Even a single respectful action can cause greater good but change needs to start somewhere and I believe that Suga (and BTS) are encouraging every viewer to be that change
Don’t Give Up/Follow Your Dreams
On a more personal level, I feel like Shadow is an inspirational video. Even though the video shows many of the negative aspects of the music industry (and being a celebrity), it also highlights that we mustn’t give up on our dreams
Suga began this song by saying he wanted to be a rap star, famous, a king. In his lyrics, he speaks of hurdles he had to overcome once he made it (though nothing specific), things he didn’t expect would bring him down (like himself), but as we see at the end of the video, he didn’t give up, even when running was an option
Woo I wondered everyday how far I’d go
I came to my senses and I find myself here
Yeah, hmm, shadow at my feet
Look down, it’s gotten even bigger
I run but the shadow follows
As dark as the light’s intense
I’m afraid, flying high is terrifying
No one told me
How lonely it is up here
I can leap in the air but also plunge
Now I know running away could be an option too, pause
Now I’m afraid
The moment I face myself brought lowest
It so happens that I’m flying the highest
In my November “Failure” post, I talked about how Komako decided to walk towards love even when she knew it would end in failure. To a certain degree, I see this same message in Interlude: Shadow. Perhaps Suga didn’t know he would feel fear or that he would have such lows when he found himself living his dream, but nowhere in the song does it send a message of regret
Often when we make goals (visions for the future), we don’t think about the journey or what comes after. We just think it would be great to make the dream a reality. But knowing what awaits us shouldn’t deter us from reaching for what we want. On the contrary, we should persevere because no matter what industry we are in (or not in, the message also applies to your everyday person), things will be tough. We should look at the obstacles in the face and push forward. Some obstacles are easier to overcome than others and sometimes it feels like it’s an impossible task to overcome them, but I believe that there’s always a way. Besides, getting lost isn’t always a bad thing
And at the end of it all, if we give up halfway, we end up losing all the wonderful things that come with our dreams
I don’t want to imply anything about BTS, but from the bit I’ve seen, it looks like they genuinely like to interact with their fans, go on tours, work with each other, and work with other industry people. If any of the members had given up, they wouldn’t have been able to experience such lovely things at all or anymore. And we all know that regret is the worst thing we can be left with
BTS is starting the new year with ambitious visions and we should also live our lives passionately and ambitiously
Ok, I have broken the 3,000-word mark and it almost feels like I’m running in circles. I hope I’ve done my first OWLS post justice and that I got my point across (what even was my point?!)! Let me know how you feel in the comments section about anything I wrote or didn’t write. I’m sure I missed something but the post was getting long and I ran out of coffee. Don’t forget to like the BTS video I linked, buy their Black Swan single, stream it on Spotify, and just fall in love with their work, which (from the little I’ve seen) has been amazing so far
Up next on the OWLS tour schedule is Dale, who talks about the series Akira!