Mini Note #4: An ode to Jaeminbun

And all the cute, chaotic stuffies out there inspiring fans around the world

An ode to Jaeminbun.

I do not own a Jaeminbun.

I wish I did but I have never bought a K-pop doll.

I would buy the whole stock of it.

I think it's brilliant.

A little cartoonish stuffie rendition of the chaos of a K-pop star.

What’s not to love?

A poet, I am not!

But I was tipsy last night when I emailed this to myself after talking to friends about how this random viral turtle devil emoji picture reminded me of the soft chaos of Jaeminbun. (I saw it first mentioned in the always excellent Music Journalism Insider since I’m off Xitter atm).

If you’re not familiar with Jaeminbun, inspired by NCT Dream’s Na Jaemin, I feel like I should put a trigger warning or something because it’s honestly both the best and most ferocious stuffed animal rendition of a K-pop starI think you’ll ever see, even though it’s essentially just a bunny with a harmless expression.

jaemin is aware of jaeminbun...... - K-Pop Music, News, and Culture -

Except that expression somehow is not harmless, and has become so memed it’s now more normal than not to see Jaeminbun holding a threatening silver knife. There’s even a crochet how-to video to create a Jaeminbun with his handy dandy killing tool. I just started knitting and am trying out crocheting so I don’t think I’m on this level yet, but I have 100% saved this video on my to-do someday playlist.

K-pop stars represented by cartoonish characters, both officially made and fanmade, have been around for ages now, mostly prominently probably BTS’s BT21 and Stray Kids’ SKZOO counterparts. The fanmade dolls, either ones that look like the stars themselves or animal renditions of them, are created and sold directly by and to fans, and it’s a whole ecosystem of fluffy connectivity via K-pop idolls. Jaeminbun is one such stuffed doll, and I feel like even if you’re not familiar with Jaemin’s personality, just by seeing this doll, you probably can get a good feeling as to what he’s like on-screen: chaos incarnate mixed with sweet charm and sharp wit.

The creative nature of K-pop fans is one of the most impactful, but I feel often unsung hero, of K-pop’s success. Where would we be if not for reaction videos, or fan cut videos? Fan cams and fan art have changed the world on multiple occasions. But things like fanfiction and fandols are still a bit more niche, not necessarily talked about as serious, professionally beneficial fan creations, but as an outside observer of these smaller circles of fan creativity I often feel these sort of intimate creative fan homages are some of the strongest at building bonds between fans, connecting over the things they love, both their favorite stars and their creative outpouring.

In 2020, I picked AnElderlyMeme’s animated, hand drawn renditions of K-pop moments for Teen Vogue’s end of year list, partially because the artist’s take on things truly did bring me and many other people so much joy. But I also subtly wanted to emphasize it because it was a show of the creative power of fans that brings people together in unexpected ways.

I feel the same way about Jaeminbun, and all the fan creations around it. I’m particularly in love with one fan’s stopmotion creations featuring Jaeminbun’s arrival into the less intense (sometimes) world of his Cheetahlee counterpart, inspired by fellow NCT-er Mark Lee.

The fact that a person can inspire a stuffed animal that can inspire memes that can inspire stop motion… The cycle just keeps going on and on and on when it comes to K-pop fan creativity, and I think that’s something worthy of applauding. My poetry, less so, but again, blame the booze and the thrall Jaeminbun has cast over me ever since I first laid eyes on this most chaotic of stuffed beasts.