The Morning Musume Risk Paradox

Earlier I saw a new post on Intl Wota about Morning Musume and popularity. Now, this question has been discussed over and over again. I remember this being asked back when I first found Morning Musume, back in early 2008, and I know this discussion of what Morning Musume is doing right/wrong has been going on for a while. However, something in Cat’s post HERE has made me think about this question a bit more, and apply a little something I’ve learned in my Mass Media and Popular Culture course at my university. This I will henceforth call the Morning Musume Risk Paradox.

One of the issues that Cat brings up why Morning Musume doesn’t get on TV shows anymore and why they’ve been in a downward spiral of promotions. While she astutely says that Morning Musume is less popular now than they used to be, this is I think only part of the issue. Yes, Morning Musume is less popular, but I do think a big part of that is because of their less frequent television appearances.

Why doesn’t Morning Musume appear on TV more? The answer lies in the concept of Risk. No, not the board game, but the idea if something is risky, or dangerous. Now you might be wondering “what’s risky about having Morning Musume on TV?” The reason that risk comes up in talking about television and media is because the one thing that companies (including media related) try to do above all else is to minimize risk, especially when it involves losing money. Television shows cost a lot to film and produce, and so it only stands to reason that a TV show is going to focus on what makes up that money and minimize risk in doing so. Same for things like film/drama opportunities.

However, this really just reminded me of a recent complaint I saw, and that was that groups with lesser sales and various KPop groups got TV shows, but not Morning Musume. However, this is still in effect minimizing risk. KPop is booming right now, so it makes sense they’d get on the various music programs. Now, in the case of the groups with lesser sales, let’s compare with a hypothetical. Suppose you had two music shows in front of you. One show had a new, up and coming artist that you may have heard of, but the group’s in a genre you enjoy and you’ve been thinking of giving them a shot. Conversely, there’s another show with a group that you used to like but haven’t followed for years, doesn’t have any of the same members you liked, and will perform their most famous song again. Now, I’m sure some of you are going “I’d choose the second one!” since you realized that’s Morning Musume (and the song is Love Machine). However, would a TV show rather be the show that discovered and helped a group to fame (basically what could be said for the MM/Utaban relationship) or the show that iddn’t know when to let a group die.

It’s tough, and I know it does suck, especially  if you want to see your favorite group succeed. However, television is a business, and the media industry is all about minimizing risk factors, and I doubt that we’ll see a huge surge in Morning Musume in television promotions unless for some reason they become really popular.

However, don’t think that Morning Musume is immune to the whole minimizing risk aspect. That’s why it’s a paradox. Have you noticed that sometimes H!P releases sound alike? They have all the same front girls for years? The PVs will consist of a dance shot with some close ups and some other miscellaneous shots? Morning Musume is minimizing its risk too, focusing a lot on trying to please the demographic that it has right now. The group is dropping in sales after every single release, and that’s got to be scary for management. At this point, H!P is pretty set in its ways, to try and make sure that sales don’t drop any lower, by appealing to Morning Musume wota.

This is also shown in things like concert setlists, the DVDs/shows H!P produces, and the PVs. There is hardly any change from H!P product to product, and most of the change is superficial (i.e. the new Morning Musume PVs have new graphics, but use them to make a pretty standard PV in terms of story/editing).

That’s where the paradox is. Television shows won’t put Morning Musume on the shows because they’re not popular enough, but Morning Musume needs these shows to be popular. Television shows are minimizing risk by not having Morning Musume on, but by minimizing risk it’s doubtful that Morning Musume will gain new fans. It’s a tough situation, and I don’t know if there’s anything that UFA/H!P could do to make this situation better, but Morning Musume is indeed stuck in a conundrum.

Thoughts on Aibon

I’m sure this is old news to anyone who reads this blog, but this morning of September 11th 2011, Kago Ai attempted to commit suicide.

When I saw the news online today, I can say that I was in shock. Granted, Kago Ai isn’t the idol I’d be most surprised to see doing something like this, but it’s still a hard thing to see. Ai has never been one of my favorite idols. Perhaps it’s because I became a H!P fan after her initial scandals, but she’s not one of the girls I like best. However, I do hold 4th generation Morning Musume in a special place, partially because of it being Rika’s generation, but also because I think they were monumental in MM history.

It’s really hard to see Kago hurting like this, and I’m honestly somewhat at a loss of words for this. It’s easy to blame her, to be upset at her or to find one aspect of her life that she should change. Anyone who writes this sort of thing isn’t necessarily wrong. Kago is obviously in a tough place in her lie and something has to give. However, suicide isn’t a light decision, and depression is a complicated disease to deal with.

The one thing I think about all of this is that above all Kago needs help. She needs to talk to someone and get things straightened out, which is beyond dumping her boyfriend or quitting her showbiz career.

The thing that I think she needs more than anything are people in her life who care about her enough to urge her to get help or to be there for her, which I don’t know if she has. She has a public enough life for us to know that her family life has been dysfunctional from the start.

I’m keeping Kago Ai in my thoughts and I really do hope that she can get the help that she needs. One thing I want the online idol community to get is that depression and suicide are serious things. If you feel depressed or like you want to commit suicide, please go find help or call a hotline. What you’re going through is rough, but please seek the help that you need.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

 1-800-273-TALK

 

Scandals. Hoo boy.

First off, thank you so much to anyone who wished me well. I really do appreciate well wishes for this time.

Secondly, when I was thinking of what to do after my last post, I was thinking I’d do something happier. The thought was to finally finish my epic PV post or review the new Morning Musume PVs (which I will do, because I have a lot to say). I wanted to do something that would be a bit happier than my other post.

Then scandals happened.

In case you haven’t heard, there has been a recent wave of scandals hitting AKB48 and its associated groups. Some girls in AKB got suspended (or rather, say they suspended themselves, but really, let’s not believe that PR BS), but they weren’t girls I knew that well. Oba Mina’s scandal was pretty interesting, given the accusations of Enjo Kousai. I mean, that was the least proven of all her scandal things, from what I can tell, but if you didn’t think of Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru you are not an AKB48 wota.

Acchan and Takamina are judging you pretty hard right now, Minarun.

I thought the whole affair was a bit funny and brushed it off, though I did feel bad for other girls that were dragged into it, especially if any dating happened before they joined AKB48. Regardless of how you feel about dating rules/restrictions, it is part of what it takes to be an idol and breaking those rules is breaking contract.

When the first NMB48 scandals hit, I felt a bit odd. I mean, I didn’t follow Matsuda Shiori that much, but I really liked Yoshida Akari, so their suspension was a bit rough. I saw what they allegedly did (saying that because nothing is confirmed) and while I felt that what they did was a bad judgment call, it wasn’t the end of the world. It was really dumb, but since no photos or anything appeared I didn’t think it was necessarily too awful.

All in all, through these scandals I maintained a calm about them, and wasn’t do disturbed by them. I hadn’t been too upset by scandals in the past, why be upset now?

Then that all changed when Kondo Rina and Watanabe Miyuki were cut from NMB48’s second single. And I was furious. I wondered why for only a brief moment, but realized that this is the first time that any idols I’m particularly close to have dealt with a scandal like this.

If you’ve seen my latest top 10 idol list, you know that I adore Watanabe Miyuki. She’s everything I want from a front girl and more and I’m a huge fan of hers. What you didn’t see was the fact that Kondo Rina is actually my second favorite NMB48 girl, with her adorable smile and her non-reactions on NMB’s show Naniwa Nadeshiko.

I’ve heard of scandals in the past, and I’ve seen them. I’m amused, but it goes without saying that when they affect you, they really do sting.

I haven’t seen this so much with this scandal, but one thing that I’ve always thought about when it comes to idol scandals is the concept of supporting them. Would I keep supporting an idol after a big scandal if I liked them? If I had been a big Kago Ai fan and then realized that she was dating older men and smoking underage, would I still be her fan?

It’s an interesting question, one that I think that ultimately people have to decide for themselves. Idol fans who have idols in the midst of scandals really just have to decide if what the idol did was wrong and if that is a reason to stop following an idol or to support them less. Dealing with idol scandals is kind of a personal thing, and while it might sound sappy it’s what fans need to do. The decisions might be easy, might be hard, but they must be made.

While the general perception of wota is that they are enraged whenever an idol does anything bad and decides to stop following her, I think that in reality most wota are more moderate. I think that there’s a really large population of fans that WANT to support their idols more than anything. Take the Fujimoto Miki wota; after her scandal where she was undoubtedly dating her (now) husband, what did they do? They didn’t bash Miki, they bashed the tabloids, because they wanted Miki to be left alone.

Ultimately, I don’t think that wota are necessarily put off by scandals like dating. Some might, but it’s definitely not most. Some may like idols JUST for the idea of them being surrogate girlfriends, but I think that when you get to be into one idol, you ultimately like them so much that you just want them to be happy. I know this opinion is slightly controversial, especially since idols are seen by many to JUST be surrogate girlfriends, but I think that with genuine affection comes genuine well-wishes for a girl.

So my choice was pretty clear, to keep supporting Watanabe Miyuki (and Kondo Rina) throughout the future. I’m bummed that Milky got cut from the next NMB48 single, yes. I do think this will be a speedbump in her career and she has to be careful to bring herself from it. But when I saw her blog entry about this, I wrote a comment of support, and now there are over 3000 comments on her blog, with pretty much everything I saw being positive towards Milky. So I’m going to remain hopeful, and keep on cheering on my favorite NMB48 idol!

In Memoriam: Idols In Tough Times

First of all, an apology and an explanation. I moved to this new blog on Intlwota and I’ve lately been neglecting it, at least more than I did on my blogspot blog. It didn’t go unmissed, but it wasn’t really something I felt up to this past weekend. The reason being, and I don’t want Happy Disco to get into a sob fest or to get too unhappy, is because this morning my Grandpa passed away. This wasn’t a surprise, because he’s been struggling with Lewy Body Dementia for a while now, and this was inevitable given his disease.

To be honest, I didn’t think I would be blogging about this. I thought I’d take some time off, get happier and be able to move on. Initially, when thinking about this in the nursing home while sitting with my Grandpa, idols weren’t really on my mind. I actually thought about the character of Kate Beckett from the show Castle, who had to deal with the death of her Mother. I told myself to “be strong like Kate” and that did help me through.

However, one song and PV in particular jumped into my head at various intervals. I didn’t try to think of it, and it was tough to think of (I initially started to cry again when I thought of it) but it really fit my situation.

AKB48’s Sakura no Ki ni Narou. Now the lyrics seem to be a bit more ambiguous, but the PV’s definitely not. The PV features Jurina as the friend of the front girls who has died, but is still there with them. Some people might be all “Jurina’s a ghost!” (even though I haven’t seen that reaction) but I tend to think it’s more symbolic, to show how the people you love are always there with you, even if you’ve lost them. In the wide group shot, the presence of an empty chair is in my opinion one of the most poignant things I’ve seen in an idol PV. It really shows that when it comes to people you love, when they leave that absence really cannot be filled in your life.

It’s a beautiful PV that came to mind, and while I can’t say it made me feel better, necessarily, it made me feel a bit of comfort in that how I feel now has been felt before.

Last night, when I came back from the nursing home after sitting with my Grandpa, that’s when idols came to my aid and comfort. I was depressed, knowing that things weren’t going well with my Grandpa, but there was nothing I can do. The one thing that made me feel better was idol music, listening to things like Sekai Ichi Happy na Onna no Ko and Wagamama Collection and watching Oota Aika’s confession scene from AKB48 1/48 Idol to Koishitara.

I’ve seen people get not necessarily upset but criticize idol music and idols in general for being escapist, for idol fans to use idols as a way of escaping their drab lives. I’ve seen this most as people criticizing idols for being “fake girlfriends” or something like that. I’ve even seen this said by AKB48 fans, wishing that AKB would go back to edgier songs like Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou and Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru. And yes, I’d say that idols can be escapism. But you know what, I say “So what?” If giving me a few moments reprieve from grief, then I accept the escapism with open arms.

Idols are chiefly about happiness, at least that’s what I would say. That’s part of why I love idols and why I named this blog Happy Disco. Like Aoi Usa said in her post I covered for IW, idols can be friends when you need them. And when I needed some happiness yesterday, I was able to turn to idols.

So thank you, AKB48, C-ute, Momoiro Clover, Morning Musume, and all the other idols I hold dear. I appreciate it.