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Ditto: A Deep Dive into Parasocial Relationships



Whether you agree with it or not, Ditto season has begun.


Ditto is a K-Pop song by the girl group NewJeans that was released on December 19th, 2022, in two parts (Side-A and Side-B). Now, you’re probably wondering why I said it’s Ditto season in the fall when the videos came out during the beginning of winter. However, if you watch the music video, you’ll realize that the vibe of it is more like a story told from the start of autumn.


Because it’s Ditto season (can you tell that I’m in love with this song?) and recently World Mental Health Day, I felt it was most appropriate to make my post for this month about the song as it delves into mental issues that are incredibly relevant in real life. Although the music video and the lyrics make it seem like the song is about school life, love, and friendship portrayed in the 90s under a nostalgic filter, the actual meaning of the song has many interpretations that fans have come up with which neither the group nor the company has denied. In fact, the members said in an interview for Teen Vogue that they enjoy reading the different theories and understand where fans are coming from with many of them.


The music video features the five members of NewJeans, another girl in their group named Ban Heesoo, and an unnamed male lead type of character. Side A is focused on Heesoo filming the members goofing around and dancing in school, and a very subtle love story seems to be developing between Heesoo and the male lead.


At the end of this first part, Heesoo falls asleep after the girls spend time with her, and when she wakes up, all of the scenes with them from earlier in the music video are shown again. This time, however, the NewJeans members do not exist. Instead, Heesoo is filming no one, and everyone around her seems very concerned, which creates the mysterious theme that made fans worldwide speculate what the meaning of the song really was.


One of the theories, more obvious than the rest, is the idea that Heesoo and the members were involved in a car accident in which she was the sole survivor. This is because of the scene where she is wearing a cast right before sleeping and after she wakes up. Moreover, she keeps seeing a deer that could have been the cause of the accident. According to this theory, the rest of the story, which is continued in the B-Side of the music video, is supposed to be the grief she faces after their loss.


Hence, the video shows her stuck in a world where she thinks her friends still exist. In this case, it would be like the male lead is a reminder to her that she needs to move on from their death. The deer I mentioned before, which she sees again at the end, could symbolize her trying to start a new beginning according to Korean culture.


However, the theory that I’d like to dig into, in honor of mental health awareness, is about the parasocial relationship between fans and their K-pop idols (or just any celebrity). According to findapsychologist.org, parasocial relationships are defined as “one-sided relationships, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other party, the persona, is completely unaware of the other’s existence.”


NewJeans' fandom name is the Bunnies. Now let’s think about the female lead of the music video’s name. Ban Heesoo. Say it fast enough, and it sounds like the word "bunnies" plus an extra “ooh”. This one detail made fans think that the music video could actually be about the relationship between NewJeans and their fandom, Bunnies. Although, I will say this wasn’t the only detail that made me realize this theory may be the most accurate one.


When you watch the music video with the lens of a fan interacting with idols the parasocial situation makes sense. Ban Heesoo is recording NewJeans with a camera which represents fans watching their idols through a screen. She never puts herself on the other side of the camera showing that idols don’t get to know fans the way fans know them. This leads to the unhealthy obsession people develop over time for their idols.


You put in effort and time when you support your favorite artist, but you don’t realize that they will never know who you are. The Ditto music video does an amazing job of capturing this. Even the lyrics say “Stay in the middle, like you a little, don’t want no riddle. Malhaejwo (say it), say it back, oh, say it ditto,” displaying the irrational thought fans have of wanting their idol to like them back at a personal level. The two sides of the song also present the growth that these fans go through. Side A shows a teenager, Heesoo, being obsessed with her favorite idol group, NewJeans, to the point that it hurts her own mental health. At first, she spends time with them as an escape from her own issues, but seeing the male lead makes her realize that she needs to leave the fictional world that she’s created in her head where celebrities are her only priority.


In Side B, we start seeing her acting out more and fully processing the fact that she’s gone too deep into the rabbit hole of being a devoted fan. She resorts to breaking the camera and running away from NewJeans as a way to help herself from being absorbed by a world that she doesn’t exist in. Later on, she’s shown again as an adult putting in the record tapes from her camera reminiscing the memories she made with NewJeans because, despite those memories being one of the lowest times in her life, they were also one of the happiest times.


At the end of the day, the moral of the music video, according to this theory, isn’t nearly as complicated as the theories themselves. There is nothing wrong with being a fan and being obsessed with celebrities. However, putting people who don’t even know who you are before yourself should never be the case. I can totally understand movies, shows, and music, and the actors and musicians in them, being a source of stress relief and comfort when the reality of living hits too hard. But that doesn’t mean avoiding life at all costs will solve any of those problems.


So I end my blog post here today in the hope of sending out this one message: always make yourself your first priority. The idea of parasocial relationships doesn’t only exist in the Korean entertainment world. It’s a phenomenon that we have all experienced when we end up getting too involved in what’s happening with any famous person who knows nothing of us. Don't invest all of your time into something you know is only going to send you down a dark spiral. Keep enjoying the work of your favorite music artist or actor, but never make their existence larger than yours in your own life.


Here are the links to both sides of the music video if you’re interested in watching!


Sources:





  • Deerga Ramu, Centerton, 10th, @deerga_r


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