Welcome to my first ‘Idiot’s Guide’ post. For this post we will look at a long ongoing issue, but one that has reared its head again this week. In fact for the past few months you have not been able to go long without some more to this story unfolding.
Now EXO fans probably are pretty au fait with what has been going on, but if you aren’t an EXO fan you could be forgiven by being confused by all the information out there, especially as the story has been rather emotional for fans and hasn’t been all that conducive to clear streams of consciousness.
Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll have had enough of an overview to understand what is going on when you see those threads pop up.
So how did it all begin? Episode 1 – Phantom Kris
So right from the off we are at a question that isn’t all that easy to answer. Arguably, long before all this drama started, EXO were a troubled group. The generally accepted start to all the drama though was way back in May 2014 when EXO were promoting their new song Overdose. This was the point where Kris (or Wu Yi Fan), a member of EXO’s EXO-M Chinese sub-unit, left the group. Kris had already had a spotty past, having previously disappeared home in 2013 and being delayed back, apparently due to visa issues (though many doubted this at the time). It was later admitted that his trip back home was unplanned.
Overdose was released with two versions – one for EXO-K (or EXO-M) but, much to fans excitement, the two groups were due to perform as all members together as part of the promotions for this song. At this point, each subunit was 6 members, so there would be 12 members. This is where you get the OT12 (One True 12) that you may be used to seeing.
Unfortunately, shortly after promotions kicked off, Kris went AWOL. Cue much radio silence on all sides, accusations of Kris leaving paired with SM Entertainment’s denials they know anything of the kind. Then it was alleged that Kris was seen with the same lawyers who had been involved with the earlier Super Junior M Han Geng case. The internet was divided with those who believed this and those who thought someone was just trying to stoke the flames.
Then the unthinkable (to fans) happened. It was confirmed that Kris would be engaging in legal action against SM. It was a good time to be the sort of person who likes to communicate with reaction GIFs. Kris cited a number of the usual reasons for his contract termination: slave-ish contracts, unfavourable treatment and health concerns. The health concerns earned perhaps the most validity amongst fans, as rumours surfaced he suffered from a heart condition that can result in ‘sudden death’.
A month later and Kris was accepting acting roles in China and the deal seemed done. His ties to EXO pretty much all cut and some harsh words were thrown at him from him his ex-groupmates who seemed understandably annoyed. Some speculated that perhaps SM was pulling the SNS strings in fact, but either way the words exchanged made it clear… Kris was not returning. Of special note were those from Tao (a Fellow EXO-M member) who seemed especially hurt and particularly angry that Kris had waited until the song was released to do this. (This becomes relevant later if you want to understand the fan reactions to it lol).
The fandom seemed pretty divided over how to feel about Kris’ departure, with some feeling no ill will towards him and others taking his actions very much to heart.
How did it continue? Episode 2: Attack of the Clone-like-way-of-leaving
Yeah so that pun was a stretch. Sorry.
So the EXO drama seemed to die down a little once Overdose promotions slowed up. Now, however, EXO faced constant scrutiny of SNS, interviews and appearances for any signs of unsettlement. This scrutiny was even stronger against the Chinese members of EXO-M and EXO-K.
Sure enough, October 2014 rolls around and these fears prove to be at least partially founded. Luhan (a Chinese EXO-M member) is granted some leave for illness/injury, is spotted meeting with the same lawyers and he, too, does not return to EXO. Luhan’s primary reason for leaving was preferential treatment of Korean members over Chinese members by SM.
Luhan’s leaving, whilst still emotional, seemed to garner a lot less extreme feelings. This may be because people were looking for and expecting cracks in EXO now or possibly just that Luhan picked a less fan-impacting time to leave. Luhan, like Kris, is engaging in solo acting and singing activities in China.
Where are we now? Episode 3: Revenge of the Tao
Remember what I said earlier about Tao being super-especially-angry at the timing of Kris’ departure? Got that in your head? Good.
So, at this stage, EXO have now dropped the EXO-K/EXO-M thing and are performing just as EXO as a whole, but still releasing songs in Chinese too.
EXO prepare to release their first track post the EXOdus (teehee) of members and fans are all ready to move on (mostly). Call Me Baby is launched and things look good. Tao has a fair bit o’ screen time now and there are rumours he will be getting his own studio soon.
Sorry, not going to be that simple. Promotions for Call Me Baby begin and Tao is injured. Understandably, people have begun to equate being injured to leaving now, but there are denials from Tao and SM. Then we hear from Tao’s dad, who basically said he has had enough and Tao is leaving EXO. Cue silence while SM try to verify this and Tao, understandably, doesn’t have a significant amount to add. Since then, Tao has, technically, yet to officially follow any legal proceedings and although recently he and the other members unfollowed each other on Instagram it is looking possible some kind of agreement might still be met to keep him involved with SM, possibly in a solo capacity although nothing has been confirmed yet. (He is dropping a solo mixtape any day now though!)
Tao seems to have been getting a bit of a bum deal on the reactions from fans, with a lot of people not liking the way he handled this after the speeches he gave at Kris’ departure. Some people found the dad getting involved a little odd and others…Well others are just plain mean and childish because they ‘didn’t like Tao that much anyway’. That being said, like the other two, he does still have his supporters as well as those who while they may not support him don’t wish any ill of him either.
What about all the other stuff? Bonus Disk: The Outtakes!
So that’s the barebones of it really, so what are all these other posts to do with?
Here are some of the bigger stories that branched off from this and how they are connected!
Kris and the Lady Director
Remember when I said Kris was filming not long after he filed the suit? Well these rumours were that he was sleeping with the director. Who doesn’t love a ‘casting couch’ rumour right?
Lay is another Chinese member of EXO-M and as such isn’t likely to stop being scrutinised any time soon amongst all this. The stories about his studio relate to an announcement made in April this year stating he would be getting his own studio in China to work co-operatively with SM.
Kris and One of the Jenners
The sole connection here is that it is something Kris is doing. Kris posed on a vogue cover with one of the Jenner sisters (he was also papped as well-dressed at the Met Gala) and of course supporters of him are over the moon about any success that comes his way, whereas some don’t think he deserves it.
SM and EX-O members suck at mediation
So the court has ordered SM, Kris and Luhan to do everything possible to resolve this through mediation. Unfortunately, no one seems to be backing down and fans fall into different camps as to who, if anyone, they think should concede some ground.
OMG IS VICTORIA LEAVING!!!!
Victoria is Chinese. Victoria is in SM. Victoria must be leaving. These rumours haven’t been helped by her recent absence due to illness, despite her and SM’s denials that she is leaving. Of course, to be fair, we have heard those denials before…
UPDATE: SM have lost all 3 lawsuits in China, Proceedings for settlement between Tao and SM continue in Korea.