Strawberries & Grapes: BTS’ Message of Maturity, Love, and Self-Acceptance

Strawberries, grapes, Ingmar Bergman, Carl Jung…and BTS.

While this may initially seem like a strange combination of people and fruit, it turns out these entities have quite a lot in common. BTS recently released concept pictures for their upcoming album, Map Of the Soul: Persona. The trailer, riddled with references to Jungian philosophy, can be viewed here.

Recently, the group released concept pictures (included below) that have since caused quite the stir in the online community (courtesy of BigHit entertainment): 

 

The point of concept pictures is to allude to themes that will be explored in the album. Dissecting the pictures can only provide speculations of what the album may be about, but doing so allows fans to dive deeper into the message that the group is trying to convey. Just like music, these pictures serve as artistic mediums that carry significant meaning – it is likely that all of these pictures were created with some intention, some meaning that the band strongly associates with.

As an ethnomusicology student, I find that exploring these different mediums is essential – music is no longer limited to just the sonic space, rather it is represented through many types of visual mediums. In order to properly understand an artist’s message, all of these mediums must be analyzed.

At first glance, these images are strange compared to the rest of BTS’ concept pictures, and it is impossible to ignore the two types of fruit – grapes and strawberries – that the members are holding. These fruits are not simply placed off to the side or used for aesthetics, but they are the center of attention of each image. BTS wants you to see the fruits and notice the obvious distinction: only two members, J-Hope and Jin, have strawberries while the rest have grapes.

So if the pictures have significant meaning, what is this meaning? What is BTS trying to convey?

PARACELSUS

Upon initial research, it seems as though the strawberries and grapes are inspired by this quote by a Swiss scientist and astrologer, Paracelsus:

“He who knows nothing, loves nothing. He who can do nothing understands nothing. He who understands nothing is worthless. But he who understands also loves, notices, sees…The more knowledge is inherent in a thing, the greater the love…Anyone who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as the strawberries knows nothing about grapes.”

Paracelsus is making a clear distinction here about how strawberries and grapes ripen. And naturally, these fruits grow in very different ways from each other. While strawberries may ripen in a few weeks (or around a month), grapes can take up hundreds of days to even years to ripen fully. Paracelsus is making this analogy to describing the process of loving – finding love, whether that is to love yourself or someone else, takes a different amount of time for each individual. Not everyone can mature as fast as the “strawberries” as some may take longer like the “grapes.” The amount of knowledge you need for loving is never-ending, so we are constantly expanding our knowledge as we continue our journeys towards love.

It is possible that the BTS members are portraying this idea of maturity through their choices of fruit. Those who hold the strawberry, J-Hope and Jin, might be conveying that they have matured quickly due to the pressures of being in the public eye. They may also be saying that they are more comfortable with themselves now than they were before, as they have “ripened” enough to be able to love themselves. The other members, however, hold grapes – through this, they imply that they have not fully matured or are still not comfortable where they are as individuals. Therefore, they need more time to reach their desired stage in life. This quote is no random Paracelsus quote, but it is the opening quote in the book The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm, which is sold on the BigHit shop website along with Map of the Soul by Dr. Murray Stein. BTS have clearly read this book, and it is likely to somehow relate to the themes in the upcoming album.

 

WILD STRAWBERRIES

But another interesting correlation between “Carl Jung” and “strawberries” is connected to legendary Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman. Bergman directed many films inspired by Carl Jung’s theories including the 1957 film titled Wild Strawberries. Wild Strawberries is dense and reflective, dealing with concepts of self-acceptance, identity, and society. In the film, an old man reflects on his life through dream sequences, comes to terms with his past, accepts his eventual death, and ultimately, is content with who he is.

Carl Jung saw dreams as important occurrences than can inform one about their unconscious. (I wrote about this I a previous blog which can be found here.) Dreaming is essentially allowing the unconscious to speak – by recalling your dreams and analyzing them, you are making the unconscious conscious and integrating it into yourself. Jung believed that allowing the unconscious to speak was essential, as ignoring it can have negative effects. If one’s disturbing and troublesome emotions are buried underneath, hidden away in the “Shadow,” then they are bound to consume one’s self and wreak havoc, causing one to act in ways that they would not consciously approve of. 

In Wild Strawberries, the main character is seen as egoistic and unapproachable by society. He is shunned in some ways due to these characteristics, and he himself feels lonely and excluded, afraid of what people make of him. Although his occupation is clearly one of high status, he does not feel truly loved by people. But throughout the film, his dreams provide insight into his “Shadow” and he begins to integrate his unconscious mind with his conscious mind, therefore achieving self-acceptance.

The reason this film was titled Wild Strawberries is because the main character fondly recalls a childhood memory of himself in a strawberry farm he used to spend time at. This one memory holds significant value for him, resurrecting emotions of love, passion, and youth. It allows the main character to revisit a time when he was genuinely happy, and this reflection aids him on his path towards self-acceptance.

From my observations, Jin and J-Hope fit the themes outlined in Wild Strawberry. They are both individuals who have expressed fear of disapproval from society and admit that they have developed and matured over time. But it’s not just their personal journey that relates to the main character in Wild Strawberries, I believe it is also their respective roles in BTS. J-Hope and Jin have always been portrayed as the cheerful, positive members who provide energy to the other members in the group. Just like the wild strawberry farm served as a medium of comfort and happiness for the old man in the film, J-Hope and Jin are sources of happiness for BTS. While there is no way to confirm this, I believe they provide support to the other members of the group and embody an overall sense of familiarity and compassion.

Another reason for this is the fact that for centuries, strawberries have been used in literature as symbols of love. Strawberries are the symbol of the Roman Goddess Venus (Goddess of love) and are attributed to love due to their heart shape. They are also members of the rose family, another symbol of love and affection, also included in BTS’ Version 3 Concept Pictures (courtesy of BigHit Entertainment):

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Bergman developed the idea for Wild Strawberry due to his own experience with childhood memories. He envisioned the concept of opening a door to enter into one’s childhood, and shutting the door to return to another time in existence. As two of the older members, J-hope and Jin might also be reflecting more on their childhood experiences and coming to terms with the fact that they are growing older.  

What can be taken away from these pictures (with a greater sense of certainty) is that J-Hope and Jin identify in ways that are different from the rest of the members, and they are portraying that their roles in the group are somewhat separated from the rest – whether that is because they are the pillars for the group’s energy and happiness is up for interpretation.

PERSONA

Interestingly, Bergman also directed another film in 1966 titled “Persona,” the title of the upcoming BTS album. This film deals with an actress who suffers from psychological disturbances and eventually falls in love with the nurse she receives care from. As mentioned in Dr. Murray Stein’s podcast, actors are familiar with different personas – it is their job to put on masks of differing identities and present these identities convincingly to large audiences. Actors who are so deep into their character’s personas can suffer from severe psychological problems as they continue to present themselves as someone they are not. As a result, finding one’s true self in the spotlight is an enormous challenge.

In the film, both female characters have moments where their personas “line up,” or their identities fit together and become whole. Could each member of BTS represent their own persona, finding ways to align with each other and become one unit? Can they use each other as guidance in understanding their personas, as they all remain together in the public sphere? It is clear that BTS draw inspiration and energy from each other – as artists, BTS might be using Jungian concepts to convey those split-personalities, those masked-selves coming together and creating a unified entity known as BTS. While some of these questions may be answered by the new album, most will remain speculations. A good artist makes audiences question and interpret endlessly, and BTS surely seem to succeed in this.   

 

 

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