For worse, fan wars have long been a staple in K-pop. Mnet is but one television music channel that has used fan wars as a way to boost views and ratings. Kingdom: Legendary War, a follow-up to Queendom (2019) and Road to Kingdom (2020), is the latest survival competition show Mnet has released to capitalize off of fan wars. However, much like its predecessors, Kingdom: Legendary War is proving to be more than just a cutthroat survival show.

Though there are still weeks left in the competition, the real winner of Kingdom: Legendary War might just be the friendships that were made along the way. As a multistan, this fills my heart with joy. And maybe just maybe, the interactions between the competing groups will wholesomely show why fan wars should be a thing of the past.

BTOB, iKon, The Boyz, SF9, Stray Kids, and ATEEZ might be competing against each other in Kingdom: Legendary War, but that isn’t stopping anyone from showing support to other groups.  In each episode, fanboys, intergroup support systems, and besties are revealed, with the seeds of new acquaintances planted seemingly every non-performance scene.

Ikon’s Chan was shown calling SF9’s Chani for song advice. ATEEZ and iKon were spotted bonding. Stray Kids’ Changbin and ATEEZ’s Wooyoung are the best of friends. Every group is a fan of BTOB, and rightly so. The list goes on, with each interaction exemplifying how fans should be spending their energy: by being supportive.

However, idol friendships haven’t historically been a balm to fan wars. Despite the fact that many idols are actually friends in real life, fandoms aren’t always friendly with each other online. There have been many fandoms who have taken the success of “rival” groups personally, leading them to lash out with hate.

I will not be naming names because I don’t want to stoke any flames. Honestly, the only topic K-pop fans should be passionately discussing with one other is how to eradicate cultural appropriation, bullying, and other toxicity from the industry. Everything else is just not that deep, including Kingdom: Legendary War.

Before the first episode even aired, fans of BTOB, iKon, The Boyz, SF9, Stray Kids, and Ateez were concerned about the outcome of the show. Even beyond the K-pop industry, survival, competition, and reality shows are known for doctoring storylines for drama. These edits do not always show events as they happened, which can fuel fan wars.

Other fans were concerned episode edits would affect the rankings. Each round, peer and expert evaluations, YouTube views, and international and domestic fan votes account for how the groups place. However, rankings are not indicative of a group’s talent. How groups rank is largely based on whose fanbase is the most active online. Thus, rankings undercut the hard work put into each performance and can impact groups’ morale. And who wants to see their fave cry? I don’t!

Performance-based competitions like Kingdom: Legendary War also rely on very specific types of acts to keep viewers engaged. This season’s groups have pulled out all the stops with storylines, sets, props, costumes, backup dancers, and more in order to showcase performances that are bigger and bolder than anything they’ve ever done before.

While each group has its own strengths and everyone has done a fantastic job thus far, I have to agree with Tumblr user ‘exo-saranghaha’ that this need for flashy performances means the group who “creates the biggest legal and safe explosion” most likely will win. And, again, these kinds of acts aren’t always a testimony to the talent of each group.

I’m not knocking Kingdom: Legendary War. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every episode. Shows like Kingdom: Legendary War are cool because we get to see our favorite groups challenge themselves with new styles of performances. It’s also fun to expose ourselves to new groups and their talent. But the competition can put a damper on the show. At the end of the day, each group is phenomenal and it’s hard to watch groups be disappointed when they don’t succeed because of the rankings—and it’s even harder to watch fans get caught up in the rankings rather than celebrate the feat their group just pulled off.

This is why I’m choosing to enjoy each performance and stopping episode streams before the ranking is revealed. I then spend the next week scrolling through social media’s recap of that episode’s idol interactions. And it’s a blissful life.

While the show isn’t Kingdom: Legendary Friendships, it very well could be based on how supportive each group is of the others. I for one hope a majority of fans realize that this is more important than who wins or loses. Because, as the saying goes, friendship is the ship that never sinks—or, in the case of Kingdom: Legendary War, friendships are the ships upon which you cannot lose.

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  • Kayla Webb

    Kayla Webb is a writer with a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. When she's not obsessing over words and sentences, Kayla can be found trying to read too many books at one time, snuggling with her cats, and fangirling over everything pop culture.