Nostalgia for Nostalgia: BTS on American TV

Department: Center for Critical Korean Studies

Date and Time: April 27, 2021 | 4:00 PM-5:30 PM

Event Location: Zoom Webinar

Event Details

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Nostalgia for Nostalgia: BTS on American TV

Tuesday, April 27, 4 PM (PDT)

Michelle Cho
Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto

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This talk focuses on the televised performances of the reigning Korean pop band BTS on American network television during 2020. While the group has had a foothold on American pop charts for several years, their visibility reached a new apex in 2020, with three #1 hit singles, despite their cancelled world tour. Indeed the group has been more visible in American mass media during the Covid-19 pandemic than ever before, to repeatedly make the case for their convincing crossover into the US mainstream pop landscape via coverage in legacy media outfits. For many fans, live, televised performance has been the engine of BTS's crossover, and their television strategy harkens back to earlier eras of American entertainment spectacle pioneered by vaudeville and, later, television variety shows. My talk will connect BTS's transmedia strategy to Cold War discourses of "global TV," to link BTS's aesthetics of twentieth century nostalgia to the pandemic's virtualization of contemporary globalism, the racial histories of the "pop crossover," and the ways in which platform capitalism may be challenging the default whiteness of mainstream American media.

Michelle Cho is Assistant Professor of East Asian Popular Cultures and Graduate Faculty in Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. She's published on Asian cinemas and Korean wave television, video, and pop music in such venues as Cinema Journal, the International Journal of Communication, Asian Video Cultures, and The Korean Popular Culture Reader. Her first monograph analyzes millennial South Korean genre cinemas, and her current project theorizes vicariousness in the convergence of platforms, affect, and the globalization fantasies characteristic of K-pop’s participatory culture. Her writing on K-pop, fandom, and media convergence can also be found online at,, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.