Music | April 30, 2021 3:11 pm

Why Can’t the “Plus-Sized Boy Band” Taking China by Storm Just Be a Boy Band?

Produce Pandas were hand-picked from more than 300 applicant by entertainment management company DMDF

Produce Pandas
"Plus-sized" Chinese boy band Produce Pandas.
Produce Pandas

We typically think of boy band members as being the embodiment of unattainable physical perfection; they’re generally young, handsome and in possession of impressive abs. But a new group in China called Produce Pandas is proudly defying that tradition, dubbing themselves “the first plus-sized boy band in China.”

We’re all for more representation of all body types in pop culture, but it’s tough to look at photos of Produce Pandas members DING, Cass, Husky, Otter and Mr. 17 and not question whether or not they’re actually “plus-sized.” (Size and beauty standards vary from country to country, of course, but from an American perspective, the five members all look to be pretty average-sized.) The group claims to weigh “an average of 220 pounds,” but again, that’s hard to buy based on first glance, and it seems telling that they have elected to share their average weight instead of their individual weights.

“The five of us may not have the standard look and shape of a boy band but we hope to use the term ‘plus-sized band’ to break the aesthetic stereotypes,” Cass told the Associated Press. But by leaning in hard to the label, aren’t they in fact reinforcing those stereotypes by implying that any man who isn’t sporting a six-pack is somehow “plus-sized”? Wouldn’t it be more impactful if they didn’t even have to address their weight and could just let their talent speak for itself?

The Associated Press reports that “The five were solicited from over 300 hopefuls by Beijing-based DMDF Entertainment, which wanted to build a band that would be rotund and approachable as well as inspiring.” Of course, most boy bands are assembled by producers or management companies who are more concerned with image and marketability than they are singing ability, so we shouldn’t single out Produce Pandas for that, but it’s easy to be cynical about DMDF’s motivations for bringing them together. Was it really about sending an inspiring message, or was it about maximizing profits by carving out a niche and cashing in on the de rigueur body positivity movement? (DING reportedly quit his former career as a plus-sized model in order to audition for the group, saying, “I feel this is probably the closest I can get to being on a magazine cover.”)

Still, however they got here, ultimately it’s refreshing to see some pop stars of average or chubby builds find their way into the spotlight. Here’s hoping we can one day reach a point where they won’t have to describe themselves as “plus-sized” (or even address their weight at all, for that matter!). “I hope people will feel encouraged when watching our performance,” Otter told the Associated Press. “They can think, ‘If Produce Pandas can make a breakthrough and perform on a bigger stage, then why can’t I?’”