Fake Love is the first BTS song I ever listened to, way after I heard so many wonderful things about the group and how they swept every music chart and news media across the world. In the back of my head I told myself I will never go back to being a teenager fangirling over boy bands, and because of my cocky prejudice I never bothered to check out their music until much later…but I am so glad I eventually did! I stumbled upon Fake Love during the lowest phase in my life when I felt like I was stuck in never-ending uncertainty, powerless, and struggling to find self-worth. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of emotions contained in this song and how much it resonated with me. Fake Love has inspired me a great deal to introspect and learn about myself and the world around me. In this post, I will be documenting my thoughts based on the song as well as my own research.
For those who don’t know BTS, here’s a wikipedia link to the band: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BTS_(band)]
And a link to the Fake Love music video I will be talking about in this post (please please please be sure to turn on English subtitles 😉): [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C2z4GqqS5E]
The concept of love as expressed through lyrics and symbolism in the video
In an interview, BTS have talked about the meaning behind Fake Love that is reiterated throughout the entire song:
“We’re saying that if you’re not true to yourself, your love won’t last forever. This love could be person to person, it could be between me and myself.”
We all live in this world wearing different forms of disguise. Sometimes we may be compelled by many reasons (fear, self-doubt, greed etc.) to behave in ways that we would like to be seen or that we think people want us to behave. The struggle to balance between staying true to oneself and conforming to one’s environment induces confusion and self conflict. Over the course of years, we may feel as if we internalize things even if they were meant to be a form of disguise in the first place, and eventually they become a part of our qualities. But how to tell what’s true and what’s not? What if there comes a day when we will no longer recognize who we truly are as individuals because we’ve been unknowingly living under false pretense? This idea is represented by masked figures at the end of the music video (and more so in the extended version of the music video):
The point of speaking to ourselves is to ask what we can do to escape from being consumed by false identities. Some people may choose to be content with their current state out of resignation, some may not realize that they’ve been instinctively living under a mask, and some fight to reach resolution with self. In the music video, we see Jungkook constantly running away as if trying to escape from something, while the other boys are standing still as if they’ve come to acceptance (they’re all wonderful but I’m too lazy to include shots of everyone’s individual scenes and will only be sharing ones that come off the most strongly to me):
Jungkook running away as if something is coming after him
RM looking at a different version of himself in the mirror, and walking through to become one with his reflection
Jhope being drowned in childhood trauma and unable to save himself
I believe the solo scenes could be the inner state depictions of different individuals, or they could represent the many different facets of one person.
Let’s go back to the message of love BTS is trying to convey to us. If you’re not true to yourself, it’s like living in a dream you have built to protect yourself from harm. It’s fake and easily shattered by outer forces. In the beginning of Fake Love, this idea was introduced to us through my personal favorite lines:
🎵 “I wish love was as perfect as love itself
I wish all my weaknesses could be hidden
I grew a flower that can’t be bloomed in a dream that won’t come true.” 🎵
In other words, even if we try to plant the seed of love in a dream, it will never blossom because the dream is groundless and will never come true. As perfect as the idea of love may seem, true love is built upon genuine realization and acceptance of self, even though the process of which may be accompanied by a great deal of suffering. We may feel pained due to many forms of inner struggle, such as idealism vs. realism, submission vs. defiance, or association vs. isolation. However, we learn and become emotionally stronger from the process. We must learn to love ourselves before we can love others.
The choreography and how it ties to the theme
Before I start writing a whole paper on the choreography of this song, let’s take a look at this image in the opening of this song:
This image perfectly conveys the theme of Fake Love and strikes me as oppressing, turbulent, and ominous. As I said before, the art of introspection is accompanied by great suffering. We can see the hands but not the people being engulfed by this swirl of unknown force. Later we will see that the hands on the wall are representative of a vital part of their choreography where the boys cover their eyes, ears, and mouth respectively:
In an interview, BTS has told us that the Fake Love choreography was inspired by the ancient Japanese icon Three Wise Monkeys:
"There's an old saying 'See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil' and we put that in the main part of our choreography..."
A popular belief is that the proverb originates from the Confucian doctrine Analects, quoting 非禮勿視、非禮勿聽、非禮勿言, which literally translates to “Look not at what’s contrary to propriety, Listen not to what’s contrary to propriety, Speak not what’s contrary to propriety” in English. In this saying, the Analects teaches that importance of 禮 (Han character meaning “social rites”), advising people to be prudent with their words, things they observe or hear. By doing so, we can reject evil things in contribution to the overall harmony of society.
Cited from translation of the Analects: [http://wengu.tartarie.com/wg/wengu.php?l=Lunyu&no=294]
In the western world; however, this saying is associated with a somewhat negative
connotation. It often refers to turning a blind eye to evil and feigning ignorance.
Information source: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_wise_monkeys]
So how exactly is this proverb connected to the theme in Fake Love? First of all, I think it’s important to get its original meaning straight. The three wise monkeys maxim is not initially meant to be a symbol for shutting our eyes, ears, and mouth from evil as a form of indifference and cowardice. Instead, the proverb encourages us to earn the wisdom of distinguishing good from evil to preserve our integrity as well as social harmony.
Just as we live under different facets of ourselves, there are both good and evil in this world. We struggle as we stumble and make mistakes. We suffer from blows inflicted upon us by our society. However, the courage to overcome hurdles comes from genuine love and strong inner consciousness. We must not turn a blind eye to our own thoughts and we must let our voices be heard amidst chaos and evil. We must preserve our integrity to prevent outer forces from clouding our judgement, numbing our senses, and controlling our action. These experiences will benefit us in gaining a wise perspective and preserving our ability to love in the midst of evil things that try to pull us away. Rather than feigning ignorance, we practice self love by not internalizing the evil. Furthermore, we must contemplate on how to keep ourselves accountable by not letting the evil spread, such is a way to love ourselves and others.
Referring back to these famous lines from Fake Love:
“Lie is so bad, lie is so bad
Mold a pretty lie for you
Love is so mad, love is so mad
Try to erase myself and make me your doll”
Notice this puppeteer choreography in the video:
To me this is reminiscent of my younger self. I was sensitive, emotional, and eager to please. I had the tendency to exaggerate every feedback, no matter good or bad, from society. At the same time, I was ashamed of my overflowing emotions and felt the need to repress myself in order to be accepted in society. I chose to ignore beautiful blessings and love around me, because I was too preoccupied with my inner conflicts. I wouldn’t elaborate on the struggles I went through, but the most important thing for me was to begin discovering what’s good and appreciating the positive side of things. Instead of seeing my sensitivity as a weakness, I learned to use it as a gift to empathize. I began to contemplate on logic and feelings that could propel a certain behavior and how I would react in a situation. I grew from the process as I found it easier to accept, to forgive, and to bring happiness. By seeing things from different perspectives, I came to accept both the good and flawed sides of my qualities and sought to better understand myself.
If interested, check out this really good article that further explains the story behind the Three Wise Monkeys maxim and its potential link to Socrates’ Triple-Filter Test:
I will end my analysis here for now. It was hard to describe all the emotions I felt in words and I may add to it later if I missed something. I have so much appreciation for everything about this song and thank you BTS for sharing your experiences and wisdom with the world. I do think Fake Love is a self-reflective expression made by BTS to their audience. Artists are often more compelled to do things that would please the public. Imagine how daunting it is to be standing in the center of the world’s spotlight, with all eyes on you waiting for you to put your toe out of line. Instead of concealing yourself under a perfect marble-stoned facet, it takes a great amount of courage to disclose a part of yourself to the world and help those who are lost. Let us all remind ourselves that we are precious and special and we all deserve genuine love. 💛
Photos used in this article are courtesy of ibighit:
[https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3IZKseVpdzPSBaWxBxundA]. Screenshots by author.