Here we go again. Oh boy! Another year, more scandals. And this particular scandal may be the biggest one to hit AKB48 since the poster debacle from 3-4 years ago. Of course, the English-speaking fanbase has no shortage of opinions when it comes to idols and dating. I have enjoyed stalking the various forums to see what everyone has to say on the matter. Surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with what a lot of people have to say.
That doesn’t usually happen! Normally I find myself thinking quite a few of the various inhabitants of Stage48, Ebi48, Nihongogo and elsewhere are a bunch of nimrods. But like many others, I think the idea of idols and dating (people other than ourselves) causes much conflict between our hearts and minds. So let’s break this down, shall we?
I will start by revisiting my own history. When I first started liking this idol stuff, it wasn’t because I heard a song I really liked. In fact, music had very little to do with it. I was a “Hard Rock” kinda guy. Metalhead, Longhair. You know the type. So no, it wasn’t about the music. It was about “who are these adorable girls I am seeing on YouTube? I wanna watch more of the cute singing girls.”
Well…maybe I didn’t say it quite like that. I am not mentally challenged…
The point is that my initial attraction to idols had to do with the presentation of the product. If someone had handed me an idol CD, I may or may not have found the music listenable, and I would have moved on. What I was attracted to was the idol image. I thought the girls were adorable, and I wanted to see more. I wanted to learn everything about them. Of course I did find quite a few songs I truly enjoyed as well. So I bought in. I believe that it is this image that truly makes the idol industry what it is. Far more than the music itself. Idols are created for us to listen to, be entertained by, root for, and fall in love with. Everybody involved is keenly aware of this, and the entire idol industry is marketed based on it.
So falling in love with idols…this is where it gets tricky. Because many of us are guilty of “falling in love” with the idols we follow. Now does that mean we really think that our love is going to be reciprocated, and that we are going to eventually have a personal, romantic, or sexual relationship with these girls? For most of us, we know the truth. We are aware that in reality our relationship is simply “idol to idol fan” and nothing more. But we have bought into the idol fantasy world. And to be honest, it’s a fun world to inhabit. We love to be a part of their success. We love being there to support them. We will gladly fork over boatloads of ducats for another piece of our favorite idols. We know it will make them happy, so in a way it is how the idol fan shows his/her love. By helping the girls achieve their dreams and contributing to their financial success.
Anyway, the reason I point all of this out is because I don’t think I am alone in feeling this way. In fact, I think most idol fans have similar thoughts and feelings. We know conceptually what we have invested ourselves into, even if our hearts love living in the fantasy.
I am as guilty of it as anybody. I want Wasamin to become more popular so she can be a success. And on one hand, I am happy when I see more fans noticing her. I want her to win, and I know that she wants to be loved by many fans. But I must admit when I go to handshake events there is a part of me thinking “Who are all of these assholes invading MY Wasamin line??? Don’t they know that she is MY oshimen???” Sure I feel silly when these thoughts creep into my mind. But the thoughts are there.
So when an idol gets into trouble for not acting idol-like, it isn’t because what they did was so scandalous. C’mon…Hanging out with boys? Teen romance? Sexual experimentation? Even underage smoking and drinking. This is what young people do. I did it, and I am guessing most of you did it (or currently do it) too. The problem is that idols are part of a fantasy industry. And when their cover is blown it destroys that fantasy…period! It doesn’t make the girl a slut, or a yankii, or a troublemaker, or even a bad person. But the girl’s image in our mind is changed forever.
It is interesting that I say all this when among my favorite idols are Ohori Megumi, Tanaka Reina and Yazawa Erika. The irony is that they are all idols that walk a very fine line when it comes to their sexuality. However, as close to that line that they may be, they have NEVER crossed it. At least not in the public eye. So as much as I know that Meetan is an experienced sexual being, she has always held back enough to keep the fantasy going. It is one thing for her to act perverted and tease us with her blog posts. It would be another thing if she posted about her romantic dinner with her new boyfriend, and “yada yada yada” how tired she was the next morning. (hehe)
Or what if Wasamin blogged about some cute guy in her class who took her to the movies on Saturday night? Is that the type of info I want to hear from my fantasy idol? Honestly it would sting a bit to hear that, even if I know conceptually that an idol’s personal life is really none of my business. In the case of AKB48, I don’t think their “idols you can meet” concept would be possible without these kinds of rules. Even if it did, there is no way their popularity could reach the level of insanity it currently enjoys.
BTW, it’s not like this image is universal either. There are plenty of performing artists that don’t prescribe to it. Some of them even idols. I’m sure you have heard of Ebisu Muscats. SDN48 even alluded to their sexuality. Then there’s that other group, OFA21. Aren’t they idols you can……
But then you have to wonder how popular an idol act could become without this fantasy intact. There is no way these groups would be followed so religiously by their hardcore fans. Loyalty between idol and fan, as artificial as it may be, is a two-way street.
Anyhow, back to Yonechan and Nacchan, who are the reason this post is being written. At the end of the day really just feel sad for them. I believe they have made a big mistake. And I believe there should be ramifications for their actions. Do I think an idol “death penalty” is warranted? Not necessarily. But I get why maintaining the idol image is so important in the industry, and how breaking it is such a serious matter. I am sure at this moment they both feel absolutely horrible, and I am sure many tears have been shed. That makes me sad. For so long they have been great idols, and this unceremonious firing errr…”retirement” doesn’t seem like a fitting end for all great things they have done for the last few years. They deserve better, even if they broke the cardinal rule of being an idol.
But that doesn’t mean that I disagree with the rules. I completely understand why the policies are in place, and cannot imagine the idol world without them. In fact when it comes to AKB48, it seems to be the only way to get rid of these girls! AKB was supposed to be a stepping stone, not a destination. But the girls are having far too much fun, and nobody wants to leave the AkiParty! So if this is the way we make room for the trainees to advance, oh well.
CK in California