Ideally I wouldn’t make another “me talking about the industry” post so soon after the last one but the BBC has been doing the typical western news outlet thing of stereotyping weird fans of weird idol culture recently so instead of snarky captions about idols here is another “thoughts” post. I apologise for any disappointment. I will return you to the usual programming shortly.
Under the BBC Western Accounts of Neighbouring Cultures (WANC) act of 2007 it became illegal for any BBC journalist to ever mention Japanese popular culture without mentioning AKB in a derogatory way. This by extension also involves insulting the wider idol industry and all fans of other idol groups. Take this recent BBC News article on “Western Myths about Japan” http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34005681.
Under myth 33 “Japanese Women are Submissive” we get this…”Yes, 48 young girls (in the original line-up, though the group has since expanded), forbidden from having boyfriends and content instead to smile and dance around in bikinis or mock military uniforms or really whatever a paying public of – critics would argue – socially inadequate young and middle-aged men want to see.
All in all, this particular myth about Japan is simply worth too much to too many people – Western men mourning the passing of the patriarchy, Western feminists looking for sisters to save in Asia, corporate Japan chasing the under-deodorised male dollar (or Yen) – for it to be revised any time soon. It’s the perfect example of how diverse interests come together over time to create misrepresentations with a surprisingly long shelf life.”
“Socially inadequate, sexist and under deodorised.” That’s how the BBC describe a fanbase? I can’t imagine them stereotyping and insulting fans of western entertainment like that. But it’s okay to do it to Japanese entertainment because it’s Japan and as we all know Japan is kinky and perverted and absolutely everything is to do with sex (in the country whose population is getting older on average as young people just aren’t err…creating enough babies). I really like the BBC. I really like BBC News. Without it we’d get most of our news from Chairman Murdoch. I love having a corporation that is always hated by whoever is in government. Every single Conservative government of the past 30 years has claimed the BBC are lefty and biased against them. But then again the Labour Party also complained they were biased against them when they were in power. Which just shows that the BBC do things well. They ask the tough questions rather than doing what Sky does and just cosying up to whoever is in power because it’s good for Chairman Maodoch and his business interests. So yes I love the BBC. It also gives us some great tv programmes. And yet this sort of lazy journalism just seems so pointless and disappointing. Also “Socially inadequate, sexist and under deodorised” could just as easily describe BBC management who often sack female newsreaders for being over 40. Okay that’s a cheap shot. 😛
It’s annoying that fans of idols are seen so negatively even as, in Japan and around the world, more and more female fans are waking up to the idol fandom. Why is that? And why are there so many young girls wanting to be idols if it’s so bad? It’s especially odd when you actually look at the idol culture. I see personalities as being really important in it. An idol’s personality grabs fans, gets them supporting the individual. You go on a journey with the idols as they grow and improve. You support them in their careers and share their happiness or disappointments. Isn’t it great that the individuals personality is a big part of the culture? And that the personality is usually hard working, happy, funny, positive and full of determination and optimism? There are tomboy types, cutesy types, really determined ambitious types (hello Riho), shy types and everything else besides. It’s great marketing of course as there’s someone for everyone but it’s also great that in the industry you don’t have to be this or that. You don’t have to be great looking or even a great singer. You can be you and if you have a good attitude you can still have a successful career. It’s great for young fans too that the underlying message is that a person doesn’t have to be any specific type of personality and doesn’t have to look a certain way. The message is that if you are positive and committed in what you do you can succeed anyway whoever you are. This is great. It sends out a really positive message to everyone. But no. Idols = dirty fans just interested in subservient sex objects. Did you know that the idol who works so hard to improve her singing and dancing, who devotes so much time to her career, who works hard at improving her talents and at polishing her persona, who travels around the country and maybe further afield performing in concerts, who does so many recording sessions for songs and filming for PVs, who appears on tv shows, who performs in musicals or in films, who devotes so many hours every day over so many years to her career is apparently just a sex object? That’s what the critics of idol culture suggest. It’s so insulting to the fans but also to the idols themselves. It’s basically saying “all your efforts, your determination and even your personality is totally irrelevant. You are just an object”. That’s more insulting than any fan could ever be.
Actually an industry that puts worth on the personality is a great thing and for the idol it means she has a chance to shine outside the confines of the group. She can become a name in her own right. This in turn can lead to a long-lasting career. Look at Momusu. Yuko, Kaori and Nacchi are first generation members but they still turn up on tv. These are women who started in the 90’s. So it’s hardly a culture that is just about young girls until they are about 20 then goodbye. Second gen? Yaguchi is a popular tv presenter and Kei does musicals. Fourth gen has Rika, Yossie and Tsuji all of whom are still regular fixtures in the entertainment industry. Fifth gen has Konkon presenting things and Ai-chan doing musicals and tv appearances. Risa too is still active. Sixth gen has Reina with her group. Look at Berryz. Five of the seven members are still in the industry in some way even if two are working behind the scenes. The other two would probably still be in the industry if they wanted to be and could easily comeback in a year or two. This suggests to me that it’s not an industry based on objectification of young girls. It’s about great music and great personalities. The personalities are diverse and they don’t generally have to cup their naked breasts on the front of “lads mags” as soon as they are 18. Unlike say, ooh…pretty much every young female singer in the west. Look at what Charlotte Church said last year about how management treated her during her pop career. Trying to make her into a sex object.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some creepy fans. Of course there are but then there are creepy people absolutely everywhere. It’s not a Japanese thing it’s a human thing. Also of course there are negative and less savoury sides to working in the industry but this too is true of the entertainment industry worldwide. But I find it weird that an industry that gives young people a chance to build long-lasting careers gets so much criticism. They aren’t seen as objects. They are loved as human beings with their own unique personalities, strengths, weaknesses and talents. So could the BBC and other media outlets stop stereotyping all the time? It’s insulting to the idols, the fans and the intelligence of the readers. Try understanding people instead of just jumping to lazy conclusions based on a few tidbits of knowledge. I’m sure the BBC wouldn’t like it if Japanese news outlets did a piece on British culture and stereotyped all fans of Eastenders as depressed suicide cases or something.