In which the Japanese entertainment industry is a science experiment. …Not.
Bear with me, I’m slowly getting back into the swing of blogging after being on that extended hiatus. It’s certainly not as though I have a shortage of topics (Oh, Arashi/AAA. You and your releases.), but more of a question of how to reallocate the time I once set for blogging again. Ah, but this post isn’t supposed to be about bloggging as a topic in itself, so that’s one hell of a tangent I’ve gone on right there.
Since I’ve had so much free time – what with not blogging and all – I’ve mostly been spending it watching variety shows. (Translation: I’ve been sucked nearly completely into Johnny’s fandom. I’ve even developed a slight appreciation for the pedophilia that is Hey!Say!JUMP. The only ones left are KAT-TUN… but that’s a whole different post.) Mostly of the Johnny’s sort, of course – whether it’s one of Arashi’s crazy stockpile, V6’s Gakkou e Ikou! (MAX), KinKi Kids’ Domoto Kyoudai (and Tsuyoshi’s Shoujiki Shindoi), SMAPxSMAP (no prizes for guessing who hosts that one), any Johnny’s appearance on a show like Utaban or HEY!x3, much older shows like Ya-ya-yah!, or even those two episodes of CARTOON KAT-TUN that somehow slipped into my viewing playlist. Perhaps someday I’ll slip in that Berryz show or Haromoni or something. A very distant someday.
But I’ve managed to come to a distinct realization. Obvious, really, but hindsight is 20/20 and the best hiding places are always in plain sight. (Trust me on this – I’m a champion at losing stuff in plain sight.)
We of the Western and/or overseas blogosphere have done this outcry far too often in response to Japanese celebrity scandals. “Punishing them for that is stupid.” Especially in the case of Hello! Project – in fact, I’m sick of H!P-scandals, and I’m not in the fandom to look it up as much as everyone else seems to. Miyabi of Berryz is dating someone? Great for her. STOP SHOVING IT IN MY FACE, PLEASE. Oh, and of course, Johnny’s – “OMG _______ and _______ went drinking in Harajuku with a whole bunch of girls.” “Aibu Saki’s got a new Johnny’s of the week?” That’s great for them. It’s a world away from me, and frankly I care more about the image they show in the variety shows and live performances than the candid camera view the paparazzi bring to us. That’s what I’m paying for, after all.
Unfortunately, it’s there. Japanese leap on scandals of their celebrities with as much ferocity as half the people in this nation leap on news of Britney Spears’ latest panty flash. Why? Because it’s unnecessary.
Part of the equation for an idol is to have some lacking characteristic. Whether you’re scared of something like fish, or a bit antisocial, or maybe your teeth is absolutely horrible… it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re not 100% perfect. The Japanese have ideals, and idols embody those ideals, but if they were too perfect you’d begin to hate them. That’s why perfection only (and rarely) exists in anime and manga.
Variety shows exist to show negative characteristics, or heighten positive ones in negative situations. For example, in Tunnels no Minasan Okage Deshita (probably most famous for the Human Tetris clip running wild on YouTube), there’s a segment where two geinou are to eat four dishes, and one of them will be one they hate (obviously, there is much lying and poker facing). The opponent has to figure out which dish is the badone based on reactions and body language. And every so often, Tunnels (or rather, Taka-san as Nori-san sits back amusedly) will assign punishment. When you succeed in a game that promotes lying and mind-trickery, it’s not the best image to add. Or, of course, you could look like a complete fool like Eiji Wentz did in that Human Tetris game. You also have Nakai, who becomes quite cartoon-ishly angry when it comes to his kouhai Ohno on Utaban; or all the various silliness that goes on in Shikatte, Blond-sensei!, where you have blond women (not always gaijin) waving mallets at the poor male guests and regulars as they get schooled in English after being pranked into a situation where they can only use English. When Sho, Jun, Jin, and the ilk show their temper in their respective shows, or Inohara starts bullying regulars and schoolgirls on Gakkou e Ikou!, it’s not as though that’s a good thing. What about that infamous clip of the Morning Musume girls freaking out at having their head stuck in a case with a rampaging lizard? Natural human actions and reactions in a given situation. (I’m fairly certain that for all that the Nakai-Ohno fights are scripted, Ohno’s really cowering in fear and reacting annoyedly when Nakai continues to provoke him.)
The bonus of this is that it’s all in a controlled environment. If anything too negative shows up, the TV crews can cut it. No one will be any wiser except for the studio audience (who are under a contract to not speak about the events of the show) and the geinou present – and celebrities are apparently gossipmongers anyways. With the paparazzi, all of that goes flying out the window.
In America, we don’t have anything of the sort. (It’s proven just by how marketers think the sheer novelty of a Japanese game show is worth starting a series about – I Survived A Japanese Game Show – and I swear I kid you not.) The closest we get is celebrity reality shows like Celebrity Mole* or Dancing with the Stars, but for the most part these are B-list people who we care much less about. Celebrity-centered shows like The Simple Life or whatever series was based on Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey and the Carter brothers aren’t much better, usually crashing because of the stars’ stupidity. The reality shows have become a way to catapult people into the role of the ones we love to hate (case in point: The Hills), but that’s a far cry from the… well, sanitized sanity of a Japanese show meant to endear the celebrity to us.
Because of that, Americans leap on drug charges, DUIs, and the stupidest spats with glee. And as much as Japan’s everyday citizens (especially schoolgirls and housewives) might deny it, they’ll leap on dating idols, slips of the tongue, and the stupidest old news with glee. Underage drinking/smoking? Fine. Against the law. But dating? Honestly now. Humans are very jealous creatures. I don’t deny that I’m jealous of Koizumi Kyoko/Nagasawa Masami/Ohno Satoshi/whoever Nino’s bedtime companion is now, but because I don’t care about getting into that sort of thing with anyone, I care significantly less about his romantic rumors. In the same way, there’s many a blogger and amateur singer (which seems to be my main two internet communities of late) who would all but kill to get into the shoes and job of their same favorite idols.
But while American management could seemingly care less (Britney Spears seems to be the exception), the Japanese companies are far from happy when such a thing pops up. Little wonder, considering they’ve already gone to lengths to show off the worser qualities of their products (yes, products) in a manner that can only help boost sales. These additional scandals and candid images, out of their control, are as bad as summer mosquitos in Florida. And I don’t doubt that’s what gets drilled into Johnny’s juniors, especially with the somewhat infamous “no extraneous photographs” rule.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. What, would you start an online petition asking them to ease up on the girls and boys in the spotlight? It’s just another factor of the Japanese entertainment industry that we find ourselves enthralled with, and basically I’d really like it if you’d all stop complaining about it now.
*By the way, I would kill to see The Mole starring Japanese music idols. Whether it’s H!P or Johnny’s or PONY CANYON or avex’s empire, I don’t care. It would just be one of the most amusing things ever.
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