SOPE SZN: Connecting through literature and a good dose of Otsukare | Titas of BTS

Celebrating the birthday of a member of BTS is part of ARMY culture — for which the fandom never runs out of creative ideas.

From baking a special themed cake to planting a tree; raising funds for a charity event to making art and music, ARMYs express their love and support for the BTS member on his special day.

The birthday boy, in return, would host a VLive to the fandom’s delight. Such occasions are equally meaningful because of the camaraderie and care that transpire among groups of ARMYs.

Titas of BTS (TOB), an online community of Filipino ARMY has recently celebrated the birthdays of BTS members, Jung Hoseok and Min Yoongi last February 18 and March 9 respectively.

Now on its second year, TOB admins and moderators organized and facilitated activities for this year’s SOPE SZN 2022 highlighting the personalities of SOPE (the subunit name and portmanteau of Hoseok’s stage name Jhope and Yoongi’s Suga).

Hobi inspires joy and resilience while Suga’s quiet fortitude motivates many ARMYs to rise above challenges.

For six weeks covering the period of JHope’s and Yoongi’s birth dates, TOBbies participated in journaling and letter writing, joined the Otsukare dance challenge, took part in TOB appreciation posts, and contributed to book discussions through the TOB Book Club Sonyeondan.

SOPE SZN 2022 ended last March 20 with the announcement of winners who will soon receive tokens and prizes from generous sponsors.   

Contrary to what people outside the fandom hurl at ARMY being screaming 15-year-old girls, TOB is a group of empowered women — and a few men, too — who support BTS beyond their stunning visuals and good looks.

We learn from the Tannies as we learn from one another. Take for example the book discussions we had at the recent SOPE SZN event.

TOB Book Club Sonyeondan: The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas

For this season of the TOB Book Club Sonyeondan, we talked about truths — ours and that of others through the book Almond (Won Pyung Sohn) and the short story The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas (Ursula LeGuin).

The former is a book that Min Yoongi and Kim Namjoon read during their stay in In the Soop season 1, while the latter was referenced in one of BTS’ moving and enduring song/MV of all time, “Spring Day” (You Never Walk Alone, 2017). 

Here are selected reviews and responses by TOBbies on Omelas, Le Guin’s short story about personal choice and social justice.

For the greater good (?) This is the lingering thought I had after reading ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’.

Does the happiness of a thousand enough to justify the suffering of one? What would you do if you knew someone is in misery in exchange for your own happiness? Would you also walk away from Omelas?

This short story would make you reflect on your morals.

~ Chellay Acedillo, Titas of BTS member
A scene from “Spring Day” music video

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas may be short, but it is something that will linger in your thoughts for a long time. In fact, once you read this, every time you’d experience pleasure, you’d always think, “who suffered for me to have this?” I love that the author allowed the readers to create their own Utopian Society, making discussions more flexible.

In the end though, I had more questions, which I still reflect on, days after I read the story: Is there no such thing as 100% happiness? Do we always have to sacrifice something or will sacrifices have to be made in order to get what we want? Is walking out the best thing to do instead of breaking the chains, instead of thinking of a solution that will benefit everyone?

And last question… why did BTS named the motel “Omelas?” Is it because it is a place where we experience so much pleasures but we are bound to leave it in time?

Read the story, if you can. It might confuse you, but the thoughts you will form after reading the story makes everything worth it.

~ Jenny Jayne, Titas of BTS member

The ones who walked away from Omelas is a story about finding your inner self. For me, Omelas is a safe space that I created inside me. The story is about self-discovery, a quest for ‘true’ happiness and finding ‘yourself’ amidst the chaos.

It made me realize that the child in the basement is also me – my old self. My innocence, my past dreams, my hopes, my desires that I’ve kept in the darkest crevices of my so called – SELF. Guarded by a map (the symbol of the community), I am expected to do what is acceptable with the norms in our society. We are bound by our moral obligations to be civilized and follow our tradition.

The ones who walked away from Omelas during the darkest hours are the enlightened ones. They freed themselves from the expectations. They do not fear being judged anymore for they have found what truly matters to them. They are the brave souls who came to terms to accept their faults, flaws and the reality that change should start within you. In accordance with that, they have learned to love themselves as they are. They did not come back to the town because they finally found what they were looking for beyond the mountains – free will. At the end of the day, you are responsible for creating your own happiness and owning it.

~ Grace R, Titas of BTS member

Indeed, the reader is left with many thoughts and questions to ponder and ruminate on.

The lingering effect of Omelas is so compelling that its themes of identity and societal expectations are seamlessly integrated into the themes of loss and longing in Spring Day.

On the other hand, Omelas is referenced in the music video of Spring Day with such careful craftsmanship that the reader or viewer would be curious to know more about the metaphorical Omelas in the external world and internal selves of each BTS member.

This is intertextuality at its most powerful. 

Bangtan makes use of literature to layer themes in their songs and music videos thereby expanding its multisensorial appeal. It is a novel strategy to elevate an album concept a notch higher from its commercial value.

In a way, they are paying homage to poets, storytellers and artists who have gone before them. This technique in the creative process is not new but Bangtan pulled an old trick from the classics and made it their own.

When was the last time we discovered a boy band or a Kpop group that enjoys their craft but also invites the audience to think, feel, and soar with them? 

*Part 2 of this article will feature Almond and reviews by TOBbies.

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