Reflection, BTS and the Map of the Soul

I made a big juicy YouTube video on the topic, so here’s the obligatory companion-piece blogpost. Unlike my piece on accessibility, this video got pretty philosophical and it’s definitely not as tangible a topic to cover but I hope I managed to convey my ideas well. I have to be honest, Jung’s thoughts on the Self take some time to digest. I’ve been taking my time with it, so it’s tricky to try convey some of those ideas (and my own thoughts) concisely in 14 minutes!

My main ideas focused on three prime concepts BTS borrow from Jung, the Shadow, Ego and Persona, paired with three different types of reflection paradigms that I call the unreliable mirror, inverted mirror, and the window.

You can watch the whole video here (don’t forget to click like and subscribe on youtube and leave a wee comment with your thoughts!)

What makes the concept of this video tricky is the fact that these mirrors and these elements of the Self do not directly correlate. Sometimes BTS use the Window to reference the Person, sometimes we could interpret it as referencing the Ego. If I could say “This mirror relates to this element of the Self” it would be a considerably easier discussion, but BTS navigate mirrors and identity in very esoteric ways. Just when you think you have them figured out, they rip the rug out from under you. (I could go on a tirade about the Smeraldo Books poll on twitter but that’s a whole other ordeal we’ll come back to in the future!)

In my video I explored a few examples of the mirrors and the Self, rather quickly. When trying to illustrate my examples, I didn’t get to spend a very long time discussing how I conceptualised these mirrors as I thought the medium of video would benefit from highlighting visual examples from the source material. So I’m going to try concisely define the mirrors here, then mention my examples, consider this blog post a supporting document to my video if you will. I’d certainly love to develop this “mirror theory” further but I’ll spare my viewers an avalanche of mirror videos if it isn’t their cup of tea (meanwhile, I’ll compile a stack of scrawled notebooks full of all sorts of odd notions!). So, let’s discuss my concepts!!!

THE UNRELIABLE MIRROR

The key defining trait of the unreliable mirror is that it distorts what it reflects, it changes the reflection in a way that mimics what we expect from a mirror in some ways but … it isn’t quite right. The unreliable mirror is, like its namesake, unreliable, the reflection is suspect, suspicious.

I use the examples Blood, Sweat and Tears, Black Swan and Awake (though BTS definitely use this technique elsewhere). In Blood, Sweat and Tears the reflection changes the object reflected back to the viewer, in the mirror we see a bundle of celosia flowers but the vase is in front of the mirror is actually full of lilies. Although these are both flowers, they’re entirely different genus. If the flowers were to change from calla lilies to tiger lilies, we would see two different versions of lilies, but … that isn’t the case in BS&T. Imagine if we replace celosia flowers and lilies with a cat and an elephant, these two reflections are different species and very distinct from one another. These two different flowers are obviously not as far removed from each other as a cat and an elephant, but visually and symbolically, these two flowers are separate entities. They share common features, stem, petals, leaves, but … cats and elephants both share four legs, two ears and a tail but they are also far removed from one another despite these shared traits.

In Black Swan, Jin turns away from the mirrors but his reflections are locked in place, they behave more like portraits or photographs, they no longer appear reflection-like. So once again, the reflection is playing visual tricks albeit in a different way from the previous example in Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Finally in Awake, the mirror itself is made from a liquid-like material and ripples when touched. While the mirror image appears as we would expect, the mirror itself is suspicious in its behaviour.

In all of these examples, the mirror ceases to behave like a conventional mirror, it changes one entity into something different, it doesn’t follow the expected “directions” of the reflected subject or in some cases, it isn’t even made out of the expected materials!

What this means & what it represents (Shadow, Ego or Persona) falls largely into the context it appears in.

THE INVERTED MIRROR

This is less of a mirror and more of a storytelling lens I think, though we see a mirror-centric approach adopted in Fake Love when a full length mirror reflects two different versions of Namjoon. Unlike the flower example from BS&T we see two Namjoon’s but they wear different clothing, even though they mirror an identical action. I use the example of a negative film and developed photograph to explain this in my video, likewise, the inverted mirror depicts the same subject but the reflection reveals a different side of that subject unlike the unreliable one which reflects a different subject.

Yoongi applies the inverted mirror technique most often, as he plays two different characters. He relies on visual symmetry rather than literal mirror images, so his two characters will be distinct but the framing and story is purposefully symmetrical. In Shadow, the inverted reflection is Yoongi’s own Shadow, I find it very striking that the MV purposefully avoids showing Yoongi looking at his reflection (although there are several scenes with mirrors) and also avoids putting two “versions” of Yoongi facing each other. The Shadow is subconscious and often unseen so how it is explored in the MV of the same name is really compelling!

Yoongi also plays two characters in Daechwita, though this time they do face one another directly. Like in Shadow, the two side are negative reflections, bright and dark, old and new, Shadow and Persona etc etc. They deliberately contrast one another but are also intrinsically linked throughout the stories and symbols we see in these MV’s.

THE WINDOW

Finally, the window, less of a reflection and more of a looking glass, the Window is what I think of when I imagine looking through the mirror, seeing through the reflections, or at least attempting to. We see this in the Map of the Soul: Persona photoshoot but it’s incredibly subtle and rather cryptic, the more I think of it the more intrigued I become. I also discussed Singularity which kind of asks the question “what do we do when we can’t find our reflection? What happens when we cannot find ourselves?” The window, like a conventional window, can be a reflective surface but it can also be something we see through and BTS use this dual-function to play with various ideas ranging from an inability to see ones-self and, in contrast with this idea, voyeurism.

I really enjoyed making the video and hope you enjoy watching it and picking your brains like I did considering these new angles to the MV’s!!! I’d love to do more analysis like this in the future!

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