This is another wonderfully written, deeply thoughtful piece from our newest IW curator, Serenyty. Taking things from the perspective of a fan, it does a nice job of complementing AimxAim’s essay about the Hey! Say! Jump suspension and the nature of idol scandals, which took a rather blunt look at the issue in terms of the idol’s career and popularity.
Serenyty lays out the history of the recent NMB scandals from her own point of view, setting it up so that we feel her shock when the scandals impact one of her favorite idols and that young lady’s career. Serenyty then goes on to ask about loyalty and how wota make decisions on whether or not to remain true to an idol once he or she is under the shadow of questionable allegations.
I found it surprising that this is the first time Serenyty’s had a favorite idol caught in a scandal – or at least, we assume such. The way it’s being handled in NMB48 is vague enough that maybe somebody just had a bad lunch and decided to switch the senbatsu girls around. That said, we’re going with the walks-like-a-duck quacks-like-a-duck conjecture that this IS because of a potential scandal, since there’s no other way to reasonably read these events given what’s been happening.
This question of supporting an idol under scandal is tricky, and as Serenyty points out, is perhaps best left for each individual fan to decide. That said, there are a wide range of factors to consider that help mold the reactions of fans: whether or not the idol is seen as culpable for their wrongdoing or a hapless victim; whether or not remorse is shown; and yes, as AimxAim argued, whether or not the idol has a strong enough following to weather bad press and whatever commercial fallout results.
Myself, I was more than willing to “forgive” Murakami Megumi for having a boyfriend – I didn’t think it was my business, really – and simply wanted her to stay with C-ute and H!P. On a broader level, talentos shotgun weddings were getting so common, it didn’t even seem like a big deal after a while.
And then there was Kago. Oh God, I really hadn’t thought about it much, but Kago placed me and many other fans through the wringer for a protracted amount of time. Fans already knew about the Orange Range rumors from her younger days, so good judgment was never seen as a strong suit for her. And then the smoking scandal hit, and it hit with a ton of bricks, and we all waited for her to come back from suspension, worried about Nono and where her career was going… And then scandal hit Kago again, as she was said to be involved with a married restaurateur. By that point I just felt fatigue, and said my goodbyes to this idol. Not everyone did, mind you, there were those who stayed loyal throughout. Since then, there’ve been other scandals that plagued Kago, including the recent one about mob allegations. Some fans remain tried and true with their Aibon; I get to watch with detachment and feel like I dodged a bullet by not caring as much as I used to.
As for the price fans pay with scandals… Well, I know there are fans of the TsujiKago duo who wish they could get their hands on the now-legendary third W album. Personally, I wonder just how much Megukami could have soared if she had remained in Hello! Project. Clearly, the fallout from a major scandal can spread far and wide and impact everyone who cares about the idol caught under a cloud.
On a related note, I do have to take issue with Serenyty’s contention that most fans don’t care if certain rules are broken by idols. From what I can gather, domestic wota are much more likely to be outraged by behavior that overseas wota are more willing to forgive. I think part of it is the proximity to the idols – the domestic wota are the main audience, not overseas wota – as well as a strong cultural emphasis on duty and restraiint, with a fair amount of idealization of idols thrown into the mix.
If we’re to believe certain scuttlebutt (as passed along by Cat of Aitakatta!, as well as others), it was Shimada Rena initially escaping unscathed from her “scandal” that drove wota digging up MORE dirt on OTHER AKB idols in something that can only be described as vigilante justice. In other words, these fans were willing to damage the AKB franchises rather than let bygones be bygones. Or to use some ancient history, Natsumi Abe’s suspension because of plagiarism kept her from attending Iida Kaori’s graduation concert in person, which overseas wota felt was too strict but there was no indication that an exception was even considered for the occasion by H!P’s powers that be. I think that there’s always a need to take scandals seriously, lest management be accused of encouraging delinquency and bad morals. Look at how Hey! Say! Jump grovelled for forgiveness at press conferences even after Morimoto was suspended and out of the picture. Again, the fallout of a major scandal runs far and wide and deep.
And indeed, the NMB scandal seems to have taken on the same resonances for their fans as the Kago scandal had taken on for hers. Instead of being spread out for more than a year with one mega-idol, it’s been a bunch of small-bore idols over a much shorter amount of time. The result is the same, though: the relentless drip drip drip of sad revelations and unfortunate conjectures leads to fatigue, a desire to see it all finished, a fear that yet another shoe will drop on what’s quickly becoming an octopus-footed event.
So for Serenyty’s sake and so many others, I do hope we’ve seen the last of the NMB48 scandals and whatever repercussions there are. And at least it gave us a chance to contemplate what it means to be a fan, and how far we would go for our idols.