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ATEEZ and the Power of Community

I lost my community for the first time during my first year of high school. Like many people in high school, my community was built around circumstance more so than actual connection.

8 makes 1 team

I was part of many communities, and they all pulled me in different directions: there was the community I’d gone to middle school with; there was my church community; there were the honors students I had classes with; and there were the cheerleaders who I spent the afternoons with. And because they all wanted and expected different things from me, I flitted from group to group, never really feeling fully connected to any of them.

It was a common theme actually; I was a person who was different depending on who I was with. And I spent most of my first year of high school feeling like I was trying on different identities.

And the truth was that none of them fit quite right, and I think somewhere deep down, I must’ve known or sensed that, because I still remember the day when I made a friend who fit perfectly.

I am by no means an extrovert, so looking back on it, that it happened in the way that it happened is surprising to even me. But I’d seen this girl around school who seemed to have a similar sensibility as me, and importantly for me at the time, we were both into Harry Potter, and we both had at least loose connections to the punk boys (who I’d decided were my chosen group). And one day after school, I just walked up to her–I think I maybe even hooked her arm with mine–and was like ‘hey, you like Harry Potter, right?’

It seems so ridiculous, but that one simple question changed the course of my whole high school experience, and probably by extension my life.

There have been many moments in my life like that. A growing restlessness with the status quo and an abrupt decision to put myself out there and accept a new community. It happened ten years later with my current friend group at the age of 24; and it arguably happened with BobbyJ on Reddit, which led us ultimately here, to this blog, but also to a place where we could use ATEEZ and their music as a lens to look at the broader world.

ateez in a frame

One of the most fundamental human questions is ‘where do we belong’ or ‘how do we fit,’ and community is one of the ways in which I think we can answer that question. It’s certainly one of the ways I have answered the question for myself. Who are the people who make me feel connected to this world? What are the things that give my life meaning? And who is involved with those things?

It sounds silly, but it’s not wrong to say that at this point in my life, ATEEZ is a fundamental part of my community. No, they don’t personally know me, and it’s true that they likely never will. But, just like how I built a community out of the foundation of Harry Potter in high school, I have built myself a community out of the foundation of ATEEZ.

And it makes sense because the more time I spend with ATEEZ’s music and storyline, the more I feel like the ATEEZ storyline is a treatise on what it means to find and be in a community.

baby 8 makes 1 team

In the Part 1 Diary, there is a ‘lost boys’ vibe to the story, as we see these 8 guys struggle with finding the place where they belong, eventually creating that home for themselves in the warehouse with each other. For Hongjoong, he expresses this desire to become a star so that he can be noticed by his family. It’s what he thinks he wants, but it’s not what he needs–he needs a place to belong and be connected–he just thinks that place is with his biological family.

And for Jongho, we see him lose his community when he loses his ability to play basketball, a fundamental experience for him that haunts his character as the story progresses. He never expresses a sadness of losing basketball, but of losing the community he had as a basketball player, and we see the evidence of this memory in the way he reacts to Mingi leaving.

Even for Yunho, at the start of the story, he attempts to hold on to the connection he had with his brother in a way that holds him back, and we see him start to come to terms with that when he helps Left Eye process the death of his daughter.

All of these boys are struggling with finding their place in this world, and their lore–while filled with dystopian futures and time travel and maybe robots–ultimately comes down to their journey of finding each other, and of finding strength within the team.

ateez in fireworks

We recently re-watched some of the Fever music videos taking a critical eye to them, and the thing that came across so clearly in Inception is the way every member is framed alone. Outside of their choreo, all of the members are shot by themselves, and their scenes have no connection to each other. The isolation of each member is even highlighted in the wide and lonely shots.

But by the time we get to music videos of The World series, this is no longer true. The members have scenes as partners, or they have solo scenes that establish they are working together. They are a team now, a community that has been brought together by circumstance, but also by the choice to continue to be together and to continue to make art with each other, which they make multiple times over during The Fever series.

In Turbulence, we see this longing for community in the actual lyrics:

At the end of this road, where should we be?

What should we become, in what form?

I'm already overwhelmed

To be myself barely

Is anyone listening

Can someone just embrace me?

Where should we be, in what form

What should we become, and I?

I want to be where you at

I want to be where you at–what should we become. There is still a longing and a struggle there, but there is also the knowledge that they will be with each other, and so Turbulence has an underlying strength to it. They will continue to be together. They will choose each other, ultimately.

And we see that growth in the lyrics of Guerrilla:

This is how we fight, now we’re gonna ride

Wake up the world, we are, woah

They are strong now because they are fighting together.

Guerrilla ATEEZ

As I’m writing this, ATEEZ has just had to perform several of their concerts without Jongho due to Jongho being injured, and it’s been pretty sad and terrible, but through all of these moments, we’ve also seen their connection to each other even when physical distance has kept them apart. We’ve seen Seonghwa and San talk about calling Jongho, we’ve seen Hongjoong mention Jongho at their concerts, we’ve seen atinys singing Jongho’s parts, and we’ve heard about Jongho coming to visit them in the dance practice room.

They’ve all said multiple times that they want to be ATEEZ for the next 50 years–in the next life they’d choose to be ATEEZ all over again. They have found their community in each other–their connection to the world–because 8 really does make 1 team. And part of this connection is their shared desire to express themselves through their music and their art, just like the ATEEZ of the diary books.

So while the diary is just a story, it is a story that is so tied up with reality that it’s hard to separate the two from each other. And I think the same thing can be said about the group and my own–and many other people’s–communities. Yes, they are just a group of people I don’t, and likely will never, know, but their existence is tied up in my own story and my own community. I can’t think about one without thinking about the other.

And there’s something very beautiful to me that their own connection and community has a trickle down effect. Because of their community, I’ve discovered my own community. No, not every atiny is part of my community, but that’s not what it’s about. The point isn’t for the community to be big. It’s for it to be real and for it to be special. Just like hate breeds hate and love breeds love, maybe community breeds community.

All it takes is that one spark.

8 makes 1 team


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