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Minami
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warthoginrome writes:

I don't know if you had the chance to run into this news, so I wanted to point it out, because the topic is common to the entire asian pop scene.

The story is about Minami Minegishi (20 y.o.), member of the japanese group AKB48. A tabloid published some photographs of her leaving the apartment of her boyfriend, Alan Shirahama (19 y.o.), member of the boy band Generations.

As you may guess, Minami is bound to a "contract" which prohibits any kind of relationships. After the bomb exploded, she decided (spontaneously?) to cut her hair and record a public apology. In the video she apologizes to colleagues, family, and fans, reproaching herself for having been "thoughtless and immature," and specifying that "I don't believe just doing this means I can be forgiven for what I did, but the first thing I thought was that I don't want to quit AKB48." In the meantime, the agency demoted her from the "senior" to the "trainee" rank, for "for causing a nuisance to the fans."

I don't really know why, but as soon as I saw the video, the T-ARA controversy came to my mind, because I find it hard to tolerate the unlimited power of the so called netizens (better, customers). This is really too much. I know that, after all, Minami is more fortunate than many boys and girls of her age living in much tougher conditions around the globe, but I feel bad for her anyway.
Checking this out myself, I see that American news outlets have been all over this story, reporting that the incident has provoked pushback and even outrage in Japan, people calling the treatment of Minami unfair and saying it amounts to bullying (many people assuming she had little choice in the matter of close-cropping her hair).

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Some American (I assume) commentators at The Young Turks provided their own perspective, and my crap detector says that they didn't actually research the culture, that they're making guesses as to the attitudes behind the no-dating rule. ("You're no good unless you're virginal, you're no good unless you're pure, you're no good unless I actually have a shot at sleeping with you sometime in the future.") But then, I haven't researched it either. And just because they're guessing doesn't mean they're wrong.

Minami's in a better position than T-ara was as far as garnering sympathy, since the Netizens who were bullying T-ara were portraying T-ara as bullies themselves, which meant that attempts to defend T-ara (and to understand and accept T-ara and their overmatched CEO as humans who get to screw up) could be cast as attempts to defend bullying. On the other hand, T-ara are full-scale stars with a fanbase that's not going to completely abandon them, whereas Minegishi is one replaceable member of a vast enterprise. On the third hand, I know little more than zilch about J-pop and Japan and AKB48, and I don't assume Japan is Korea, and I don't assume there's a homogenous thing called "Japanese attitudes" and "Korean attitudes" anyway, any more than there's a homogenous thing called "American attitudes": there are always arrays of behavior and ongoing tensions and arguments over gender and sex issues (there wouldn't have been an injunction against adultery in Moses' day if people weren't committing adultery (as well as worshiping false gods and failing to honor mommy and daddy)).

Readers who understand K-pop and J-pop more than I do should comment. In the T-ara affair, fans and Netizens didn't hold just one view, and I think in general agencies and performers are far too timid in giving way to what they imagine are fan desires. (Not that all agencies impose such restrictions in the first place.) But also, performers like HyunA, for instance, are able to get energy from the limits that some fans and censors try to impose on them, since part of HyunA'a act is to cross the border into what she's supposedly not allowed to do. I wouldn't imagine it would ruin her image or devastate her fanbase if she were found to have spent the night with a guy. But I don't know. I assume (though I've not researched this) that Brown Eyed Girls are expected to have affairs and dates etc., and are even willing to stoke the rumors that they're sleeping with each other. And one of the Wonder Girls just got married.

By the way, I didn't attend much to G-Dragon's marijuana scandal in 2011, but my impression at the time was that it wasn't that big a deal, nor was it that potentially damaging (his hair follicles tested weakly positive for marijuana, and he explained this away by saying that he imagined it happened 'cause of a time he'd gotten massively drunk and someone offered him a cigarette, which he assumed was tobacco, and he felt he'd have been rude to refuse; this doesn't seem like the most convincing or contrite explanation). If you're going to be a bad boy, you gotta do something bad every now and then.

Something I'm curious about is whether, in Korea and Japan, rock and hip-hop stars (as opposed to pop stars) are expected to hew to limits in the same fashion. By "hew to limits" I don't mean "are subject to the same behavioral injunctions," since I assume they're not (I assume they are allowed to date and that rock and hip-hop guys are supposed to seem sexually active), but rather the idea that you don't want to offend or challenge your fans or appear genuinely arrogant rather than grateful to them for your success. I'd think, in contrast, that you'd lose cred if you seemed too compliant, too full of gratitude. But that's me looking at things from my perspective, here in America.

One thing about Netizen behavior: although it may not be absolutely pure self-expression — you have to have Internet access, you have to have time (both of which require money), and anyway the messages that have money backing them up become the ones sloshing around the culture and are therefore more likely to be the ones that spontaneously come out of people's mouths, even poor people's — it still, as expression goes, is more bottom-up than most. And though minority opinions can be drowned out, they can't simply be shut up. Anyway, I recently read this excerpt from Tom Slee's No One Makes You Shop At Wal-Mart, which is on a different subject — how free consumer choice can sometimes have results that no one wants. I don't make a direct connection in my mind between his thesis, on the one hand, and, on the other, the combination of paparazzi and fan selfishness that afflicts Minami. But when something seems not to be working, it's good to think why, and what could be done. Can a mass of people teach themselves how to think, how to plan? Is there a structure that could help us think and plan better?

At a minimum, what if some record company or agency announced that it would never make disciplinary decisions for any reason without first waiting two weeks?

I've seen my share of disagreeable things but coming across those pictures and the video for the first time still felt like a punch in the gut.

I've voiced my complaints about the AKB48 empire (like many other things) and earlier on I even stayed away from their products because I didn't like their brand of sex appeal, the voyeur creepy nature of their girl next door stylings (which was ickier/more controversial before).

I realized after a while I was a bit hypocritical about taking such a strong stance here since I disagree with a lot of other institutions and artists whose works I consume and sometimes enjoy, and in the past year or two I've openly loved some of the singles put out by them. 2012's "Gingham Check" makes great use of some formulaic elements of their sound and those jpop chords I so desperately want a clear English analysis of to create feelings of nostalgia and melancholy and youthful glow, with a great title that seals the deal, and I've of course also been influenced by smart fans like arbitrary_greay who writes well about jpop idols and music, even if she says, if I recall correctly, she's not really into AKB48 because of the latter.

Now I feel back to square one again. I knew several members had been fired for having relationships exposed to the public or even for flimsier reasons such as having _previous_ relationships exposed, pictures with a boy revealed, etc. But my conclusion here was they're better off outside the group anyway.

This is different because it's public bullying for slutty behavior. Whether she cut her hair in an emotional frenzy trying to make it all alright or not doesn't matter, the company uploaded the video and then, after a lot of bad press, took it down because in their words 'the fans understood her apology was heartfelt'. Fuck off fuck off fuck off, that goes for the label and the dumb fans and the misogynist, archaic ideals of purity they reinforce with stunts like this.

I feel better about it now than when it happened because the backlash has been strong, and despite some defense by fans who say 'you don't get the culture' the response is negative in mainstream Japan (and Korea) as well: http://www.asianjunkie.com/2013/02/minegishi-minami-supported-by-fellow-akb48-members-japanesekorean-netizen-thoughts/

Except by the fans who want this thing strongly enforced, of course.

Kara's Goo Hara didn't shave her hair when her relationship with a guy in a top tier boy band was revealed, and they're still together, and Kara just did a show in the Tokyo Dome. But then you hear interviews with k-pop groups who say they don't/can't date or if they do will keep it a secret, and that always annoys me as well even if it's just a quick remark.

I knew about these stupid rules being enforced before, but it's the power of these images and the ugly signals they openly proudly send that tipped the scale.

This week a sister group of AKB48 topped the Oricon chart with over 500 000 physical singles sold so it's doubtful this is a danger to the franchise alone. But since then another OG important member has said she's leaving the group this year after a lot of those announcements recently, and I see some people talking about their peak days coming to an end. Sales-wise not much suggests that yet so I wouldn't be so sure. I don't know a lot about historic precedence, or this industry in general, or this group at all (but I've watched a few things of theirs that are not music videos, among them a 'day in the life' thing with the former #1 most popular member (now left) which was pretty candid and didn't try to hide her feelings like these rules are supposed to do*), but AG does so you'll probably get a better rundown.




I'm hoping that AG shows up soon.

I remember* Jiyeon being reported to have said in an interview or on TV that the women in T-ara were allowed to date but that there's no way they could find the time. (Then again, her workload probably way surpasses the others'.) My guess is that in K-pop where there is a prohibition against relationships it's owing to potential fan jealousy, and isn't about — or isn't so much about — so-called sexual purity. But I don't know, and I have a feeling that the groups and agencies are walking a line. I just Googled up this brief and more-intriguing-than-informative allkpop.com article about a 4minute TV interview in which 4minute said they were never forbidden to date, but it has this not contextually clear quote from Jiyoon: "We never had such restrictions. I think the agency knew that we wouldn't be able to have boyfriends." (I'm assuming that she means they wouldn't have the time or opportunity, but maybe she means that the agency knew that the women in 4minute would know better. I hope not.)

Of course it would be utterly, completely insane to say that 4minute's image is virginal and pure. Maybe I'm underestimating the naïvité of the K-pop fanbase (a fanbase that is broad anyway and contains all types, including me), but I'd assume that T-ara, while cute, are also recognized as being fairly provocative. Now, there's no inherent conflict between being sexually provocative and being a virgin, and in the old days saying in effect, "This is what I've got but if you want it you need to marry it" would be standard; but modern-day uses of "virginal" and "pure" seem to have lost or at least muddied up that particular nuance.

Remember when Zico and the rest of them in Block B shaved their heads? I think that was a clear case of mob stupidity and bullying, with Block B caving in and apologizing for something they hadn't done. They were said to have been rude to Thais when doing an interview in Thailand, insensitive to Thai suffering in the floods, when actually from what I could tell from the interview (assuming the Eng Subs are right), they were just goofing on the idea that they — and by implication pop stars in general — were exceptionally generous; in other words they were self-aware and trying not to be hypocrites. At one point allkpop.com actually admitted to being at fault for passing along bad reporting regarding the incident, though allkpop was too lame to simply say, "Look, the whole thing was trumped-up bullshit, and even though we live off such stuff, we crossed the line here."

The Block B and T-ara incidents are more interesting to me than this one in that the bullying there was mixed in with concern for the unfortunate, with most of the mob not essentially being bullies or antis, many of the commenters just being credulous and not that bright. While here, from what I can tell, the corporation and Minami were trying to pre-empt mob action that hadn't yet taken place (though the whole setup seems based on the possibility, if not of mob action, at least of consumer disaffection). From the little I've read, if there's any mob action it's on the other side, the groundswell of people being upset by what was done to Minami. And I must say, even while the groundswell seems to be right, and I share the emotional impulse behind it, the impulse is not different in emotional kind from the Netizen impulse to get all upset on behalf of poor Hwayoung and to let loose and beat up on T-ara in response, and to feel good about oneself for beating on them.

(By the way, while there is a lot of babyishness in Netizen behavior, I'd hardly restrict that to fans of K-pop and J-pop. The Internet is where people of all stripes go to act infantile. As I said to subdee recently, a lot that goes on in my friends' Tumblrverse is a more complex and educated version of the same childishness and unhappiness.)

*Yes, I know that's not good sourcing.

Edited at 2013-02-07 03:49 pm (UTC)

By the way, just now clicking on that Asian junkie link, I see that IU had a scandal that I know nothing about! Hey, stars! If you're having scandals you need to drop me a note and inform me.

(Okay, I don't haunt allkpop.)

Don't have time to check further today. Am I right in assuming that IU survived her scandal fine, whatever it was?

Well she had and still has a weekly job as a host of Inkigayo and has done other activities, on TV and promotional and live since, and has gained new sponsor deals, so her career never seemed directly affected by it. But now netizens make jokes about that thing on every IU news story, so in terms of public perception it's not necessarily quickly forgotten.

My impression of following some core people at LOEN's music-producing division is that they have some very smart, sympathetic, good people working there. I only recently found out that director Cho and Kim Eeana, the lyricist/creative director/etc. are married. They've commented sensibly and straightforward on other issues in K-pop and the industry. But someone in Loen, maybe it was somewhere else in the company I don't know, made a mistake when they released a statement saying IU and the guy were friends and he was just visiting her when she was sick, because _that_ has now become the punchline to every netizen joke about it and other 'scandals' - that the guy is just on a sick visit (shirtless, in bed, etc.)

She's releasing a new JP single very soon and a new KR album this spring. Premiered some self-composed tracks recently. One track was revealed at the concert last year, 'Bad Day' http://youtu.be/et9Bd8e4gN0

The icky thing about this story isn't how it effects her career, because I don't think it will make any difference on it or her sales, it's the use of the nickname/image 'the nation's little sister', which now supposedly is 'ruined'. That does tie into the ideals of a pure and innocent idol for the masses. Everything she's said in interviews indicates she wants none of that nickname and has caused even me to speculate in conspiracy theories that she uploaded it knowingly. Maybe not, but she's always been spontaneous and rebellous, like when she's gone to guest on radio shows without telling her agency, or when she previewed some of those tracks saying "LOEN told me not to but I'm really angry at them today so I will", and probably doesn't feel bad about whatever new perception of her is now established.

It's hard to assess how people feel about her image/the nickname, because most critical voices (among netizens) have said something like "they can't sell the innocent schtick now", which is true I guess, but then they really couldn't before either, if anyone cared to listen to what she said. (But they did sell the cutesy with her earlier stuff like 'marshmallow', maybe that's what people remember). In any case it's not something you can criticise her for.

Incidentally the three BFFs IU, Jiyeon and Suzy all had this pristine image, deserved or not, before tearing it down through accidental scandals or their own determination. Jiyeon's story we know. Before this 'scandal' happened IU was on some shows talking about dating recently, about trying out life's pleasures (drinking, watching smut) and saying she was not a goodie-two-shoes like people thought she was ("I'm going to disappoint you soon" literally a week before this incident). Suzy said she was a horrible student who slept through class ('and seemed proud of it' in the words of commentators) and has recently said that now she's an adult she wants to shock people and be more provocative.

Edited at 2013-02-08 01:32 am (UTC)

But someone in Loen, maybe it was somewhere else in the company I don't know, made a mistake when they released a statement saying IU and the guy were friends and he was just visiting her when she was sick

My respect for human stupidity increases every day.

Btw, according to Wikip, the guy is Super Junior's Eunhyuk. I don't know much about him except that I love him for his fanboy dancing to "I Am The Best" at the 2011 MAMA.

Yes, the fact that the guy is one of the most famous members from the boy band with the biggest fan group in Korea makes a difference, and it came out of the blue.

The amount of crap and simplification written all around this thing is amazing. But trying to argue is an automatic TL;DR. Let’s try.

Japanese idols, comedians, actors, etc. work for talent agencies. Agencies get them jobs, collect what they earn and pay them some. If you are popular, and you have staying power, what you earn and the risks you can have with your career can be bigger (Takeshi Kitano has his own), but if you are at the bottom maybe you don’t even get paid. In that sense, when you get a contract with a jimusho, that company is investing their money in yourself getting yourself jobs on TV, radio, magazines, etc. So they don’t want scandals because, most likely, you’ll have a very hard time coming back or you’ll be blacklisted. Is not only that they lose their money, is that they get in troubles with the people that contracted you. But also, let’s remember that this is Japan and that agencies are kind of a big family, so respect and authority are things that couldn’t be out of the picture. If you shame yourself (acting like Chris Brown), you are also shaming the people that take “care” of you and all that.

Then there is the no-love rule. This rule is for men and women. In this case the guy haven’t been punished, but I’m not sure why (EXILE management is all about that group and they come from R&B, but I don’t follow them). Allegedly, or so the argument goes, if fans discover that their fantasies are fake they wouldn’t buy anything more. This is not an idol exclusive thing, members from visual-kei bands also do that (their audience is mostly female). I think that this argument is overrated. Audiences are not passive, they are quite active in the creation and generation of the attachments, feelings and life styles they pursue.

About Minami’s scandal things have been quite distorted. The tabloid that published those pictures have been for months doing these exclusives for months (Sashihara, not sure if they are also were on the NMB thing, Amina, Yuka, this week is Yuki (a sort of welcome present for her first solo single). So it doesn’t come from zero, and fans weren’t precisely surprised or outraged about nothing (at least the ones I see interacting usually). And many, many of that people were shocked about the video. Almost nobody has a problem with the demotion, because if you are an idol, you don’t have “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. You are trying to follow your dreams, but you are not doing that on yourself, starting from scratch. You ask for agencies and fans to invest their time, money and energy on your project. And not being engaged in what you are doing is very problematic. Many thought that her actions were too much, and then, after all this, some people think that she should be punished for how her actions has thrown so many shit over the group’s image.

Then there are more things. Idol culture is an otaku thing. Otakus are very active in defining the conversation about subcultures. Mainly because they are people that present themselves as the TRUE fans (casual fans or other people that doesn’t act their way are dismissed (and as journalists, sociologists and ethnographers are quite lazy, they take their words as a matter of fact and then you get things like there are only men following these groups and other ridicule things that pass as deep thought). Otakus are almost performance artists, they are always acting for the attention of their audience. Some critic said that they like to act deviant. If they could look as degenerate people, they would act that way to get all the attention. And that almost explain everything most people understand about “weird” Japanese things.

(...)

Then you have the role of 2chan: one of the main forums, and (at least that was true until not so long ago, but I’m not sure now) millions of anonymous users. So trolling and acting for your audience is part of the game. So one of the boards that thrown more shit to AKB was Hello! Project, and things like that. Everybody seems to have an agency. Then, after 2chan (a forum that is a total mess) there are news aggregators, sites that post news that are less or more resumes from threads over there (so they post the most outrageous responses (so again people acting for their audience, people “learning” how they should act for being “heard”, etc.) or directly, they invent those responses). These news aggregators could have millions of visits in one day and they are main actors shaping the conversation (their main goal is getting revenue through ads and web traffic). Then sensationalistic media (like Cyzo) pick those rumours (people working for The Japan Times seems to get their revelations from here, so go figure) and if they generate enough buzz they can jump to “serious” media.
But maybe I’m making things too black and white. AKB dynamics get a good explanation on this:

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/cool_japan/culture/AJ201301110064

And really, this last year I think the fandom is going through some paranoid phase. I have my own explanation about that (the group is too dynamic in a capitalist sense and they trash the foundations where fans built their engagements, so they get into simple explanations or narratives to cope with those dynamics (they are in it only for the money, etc.) But what I mean with this paragraph is that many “fans” are the first ones searching to discover “scandals”. But whatever.

anhh

Hey, anhh, it's good to have you back. I'd wondered where you'd disappeared to.

I don't have time to write anything right now, except to say that my reaction to this story was much like that of warthoginrome and askbask, which is that there's something going wrong in fandom here — not that this is news. In fact, in regard to K-pop not J-pop, on my very first comment thread on the subject, both you and petronia were quite prescient, at least as far as the T-ara uproar: petronia said: "K-pop has the most insane and deeply frightening fanclub culture ever, and I say this as someone with a full-blown otaku background. It's as much crazy hate of "rivals" as crazy love of the idols in question, said rivalries seem as random in provenance (from an outside perspective at least) as hip-hop beefs, and are sometimes as damaging — people have poisoned the water bottles of and thrown acid at pop stars they dislike." And you said: "the mechanics that one appreciates in forums and blogs is that people are very obsessive and gossipy (usually to such a high degree that pisses you off) about the groups they love... and kind of work as haters for the rest (or at least of the ones that can work as competence)"

But one thing I keep in mind is that, with all its restrictions and attitudes that I can't get with, K-pop makes vastly better music than people off in indie America with whom I share attitudes and ways of doing things.

I heard about this and was too disheartened/shocked to even bloviate about it on Tumblr, frankly.

Of course it's the original assumption -- that fans need to buy into the fantasy of their idols' romantic availability -- that's deeply flawed. Like so much that is harmful, things are done this way now solely because it's always been done this way, which allows entrenched interests (in this case, the agencies) to retain their power. I've heard the argument that it would be a nightmare for agencies if the 200 girls they had in groups and in training were all allowed to date, because they would rotate in and out of tabloids and netizens would be engaged in stalking them full time -- which is just putting the onus on the victim not to be victimized by others' bad behaviour. And frankly, not to be a stereotypical leftist about it, but when you see those in positions of power making arguments that amount to "the masses just aren't ready to cope with this level of freedom," it's time to be skeptical about whether the issue really lies with the masses. If the no-dating policy disappeared across the board one day, I suspect a few fans will write strongly-worded Internet comments, one or two otaku will make deranged gestures (not like they don't do that now), and 99.9% of the rest will get with the program without sounding the industry's death knell.

Then again, it's sort of like mass shootings in America -- to me the solution is simply to remove as many guns as possible from circulation, and it stuns me that there are actually people out there arguing the opposite: that all kindergarten teachers should be armed in their classrooms. But even those people agree with me, so to speak, that the status quo is problematic.

Maybe the backlash to this will act as a wake-up call -- who knows. It might take a KimuTaku or someone like that to piggyback on it and start a petition movement or some such, but that's unlikely... I remember, back in the 1990s, reading a very famous (and rather lurid) girls' manga called Zetsuai: in one episode, the bad boy rock star protagonist intentionally seduces a teen idol with a "pure" image and leaks it to the papers, in order to create a scandal as a distraction (from a gay love affair, of course... I did say it was lurid teen lit). Her reputation is ruined, and his is basically unaffected. But I guess exposure of the gay love affair would have done something.

If the no-dating policy disappeared across the board one day, I suspect a few fans will write strongly-worded Internet comments, one or two otaku will make deranged gestures (not like they don't do that now), and 99.9% of the rest will get with the program without sounding the industry's death knell.

No death knell for the industry, but there would be large financial impact. Yes, the 48 franchise can arguably break away from the purity fanatic group and survive, but ALL Jpop girlgroups get started on devoted fans who do everything to try and make their group break through, the ones who buy 10 copies or more even without a handshake incentive. Those are the ones who take a chance on shitty music, ridiculous outfits, and girls with no performance talent because they're feeling the purity. I can't really believe individual "enraged fans burn the merchandise they've bought for a member with a scandal" accounts nowadays because the story is so common that current instances feel tongue-in-cheek, but I don't rule out the existence of the practice, and again, these are the people who are pumping the most money into the indie idol scene, the newcomers, and allowing other groups to take over 10 years to decline before disbanding. The industry will survive, but individual idols, groups, and agencies will not, and so those individuals do everything they can to exploit and prop up the system.

The 99.9% don't have enough stake in idols to empty their wallets every month on them, so they contribute no weight to an opposing force if they were all opposing.

Don't know when I'll have time to read the stuff you linked. Several questions jump out at me: (1) Why do the fanatic fans insist on "purity" in the first place? Why wouldn't some fans become fanatics over an idol precisely because his/her image is opposite to that?* (2) Is it true that a massively successful group can't jettison its "original" fans and "true" fans? It's not obvious why they couldn't. (Think this might be different in collectible-based Japan as opposed to download-crazy Korea, or is there less difference between the two businesses than I've heard?) (3) Are there groups that succeed without the purity image? In Korea, the answer seems to obviously be "Yes," but then I may be misreading Korea (but: Brown Eyed Girls, 4minute, Psy; and presumably someone's banking on GLAM). Are Big Bang/GD&TOP fans, for instance, insistent on a purity and no-dating rule? I actually don't know this, only knowing those performers through their music and videos. But, like, you know, lotsa chicks in vids, and such.

History, which I also don't know about: Did Seo Taiji & Boys have a purity image, and a self-imposed no-dating rule?

*What did the Japanese and Koreans make of the international fame of, e.g., Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Steven Tyler, Stevie Nicks, Donna Summer, Johnny Rotten, Madonna, Axl Rose, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ashlee Simpson, Rihanna, Justin Bieber (plus anyone else who became famous in Anglo-American music in the last 60 years)? What do Koreans make of the ongoing career of Baek Ji Young?

Big Bang's fans are as guilty of insane jealousy as any idol fangroup's. They routinely harass Japanese model Kiko, GD's rumored ex, and basically hound, internet stalk, maybe real-life stalk women who appear in pictures with them.

Today, Big Bang don't have that safe idol image, but at one point in time, they did. Jay Park has a similar problem, even though he was barely an idol and isn't one anymore - check out the comments when he tweeted a picture of Biggie and Tupac recently.

I actually suspect a major condition of Big Bang renewing their contract with YG last year was that they wouldn't have to hide as much of their real personalities as they had previously. I also suspect they are banking on being World stars as a kind of safety net against backlash-fueled loss of popularity in Korea. GD's marijuana scandal was no big deal internationally, but it was a big deal in Korea, even among dedicated Big Bang fans.

The way it was explained to me is that idols in Korea are like politicians in the US - they are made by the public, live and die by public opinion, are held to stricter standards of morality than other people, and serve and belong to the public, not to themselves.

Ask a Korean also wrote something about the division between "artists" - who can be challenging and controversial - and "entertainers" - who are lucky to be able to work in their chosen profession and should be grateful for what they have. There's a class difference implied by the two terms, in some cases.

Big Bang is kind of an interesting case in the artist vs. entertainer divide because GD is one of only a few idol rappers who also have that "artist" label. He and TOP also come from pretty well-off families, IIRC, unlike the other three members of Big Bang, who had been well-off before the IMF crisis, but weren't afterwards. Taeyang and Seungri went into entertainment in part so they could support their families - and they're far from the only ones. Anyway this goes a long way toward explaining the horrible conditions of the idol system, to me.

More on purity in next comment.

Edited at 2013-02-08 08:42 pm (UTC)

Even international fans who "know better" than to expect that the idols they like are really single can get caught up in the dating restriction insanity. I've seen people say that they know the stars they like are probably sexually active, but they don't want to "know" about it, so it's up to the stars to be "discrete" ie to cover it up. But then people - sometimes the same people! - will react badly to "scandals" because they were "lied to" and are insulted by the attempts to cover it up.

The expectation of virginity hurts coming and going, in other words: you are expected to lie to maintain the image, but then you're on the line for "betraying" the fans when the truth comes out. (K-netizens at this point would probably say that the solution is to not be a slut in the first place, but anyway.) Like Sabina said, it's a sick and self-reinforcing system. Idol image control in Korea is pretty thorough and there are plenty of people who believe it. "There's no way I'd have time to date" is honestly just another tactic of image control - no time for a traditional relationship maybe, but there's always time for hookups. And established stars tend to have a bit more time and leeway.

That's all Kpop stuff, though. I'm honestly surprised that a Jpop idol is under the same kind of pressure to be pure... there's a well-established dating culture in Japan, it's a freer society in many ways, in Japanese slang "third base" is sex and "homebase" is pregnancy, famous pop stars have been getting shotgun married for ages without it sinking their careers (although the need to get "shotgun married" is its own kind of restriction), etc etc. Maybe it's what anhhh says above, AK48's otaku core audience being mostly otaku. 2chan is a really conservative message board, there's a lot of nationalistic fervor and anti-Korea, anti-China rhetoric on that board.

As far as why these purity restrictions are so important... people says it's about the importance of maintaining the fantasy of availability, but I really don't think that's the best explanation. Maybe for a minority of truly delusional fans. (Which, to be fair: when lots of delusional fans gather together in one place, like an internet message board, they can reinforce each other's delusions and the delusional way of thinking can become the "new normal" - something that does seem to happen with Kpop and some Jpop groups.) But honestly, I don't think most fans are that delusional, particularly casual fans.

For most fans, purity is more about maintaining a connection with the audience. Teen middle school girls are expected to be too busy studying for high school entrace exams to have time to date. Otaku boys are frustrated because they aren't seeing any action, either. Or sometimes otaku boys are into sublimating their sexual desires because they are deemed inappropriate, and preferring gentler fantasies instead. Good Korean girls aren't supposed to have sex before they are married. The entertainment world is impossibly removed from everyday society, in Korea it's a small international progressive enclave inside a largely conservative society, like Istanbul in Turkey. Dating restrictions on idols make them more relateable , not more available.

But then their are also sexist double standards imposed on male versus female idols, and you can only go back to sexist double-standards in society.

And the companies will do whatever helps sales. SM entertainment is notorious for encouraging stalking - or at least not taking the appropriate steps to prevent it - because the stalkers set a fervent tone for the rest of the fanbase, provide "normal" fans with a yardstick to measure themselves against ("I might be obsessed but at least I'm not as crazy as those people"), and buy tons of merchandise. They're good for business.

I think a lot of this is changing as everyone's standards of living improves and as more talent enters the idol field. You see less "so and so is lucky even to have a job, I have nothing and there are hundreds of pretty faces to replace her" then.

The really crazy thing is that the idol industry has only been around for - what? - 30 years in Japan, 20 years in Korea? Before that it was pretty much expected that "female singer" was barely a step up from "female prostitute" and that all the entertainment companies were run by gangsters (which, of course, many if not most still are).

The really crazy thing is that the idol industry has only been around for - what? - 30 years in Japan, 20 years in Korea?

Actually, Japan had Golden Age of Cinema-style idols since the 50s.

Ah, thanks for that. So there's at least a precedent for the Japanese system... even if it's a precedent from 60 years ago...

Why do the fanatic fans insist on "purity" in the first place?
Read the "idol-purity-the-no-boyfriend-rule-talk-thread" link. As I said, it contains some people explaining why they support the system.

Why wouldn't some fans become fanatics over an idol precisely because his/her image is opposite to that?
They do. SDN48 was the sister group that contained older members and were allowed to date, and held only 18+ stages. They had a respectable fanbase, and disbanded because their existence was contingent on a CM contract with AKB that ended. Rising star within the 48 franchise Watanabe Miyuki was a designated face for sister group NMB48, had a scandal, was dropped from one NMB single, and then continued on her merry way, still a face of NMB, consistently part of AKB A-sides, and ranking in at #19 this summer. Her image is pretty much "two-faced girl gets off on manipulating fans with fan service," and everyone's eating it up.

Is it true that a massively successful group can't jettison its "original" fans and "true" fans?
No matter how successful a group is at their peak, they're not going to let go of the "original" fans because those are the ones that will allow them to exist 10+ years past their peak in a slow decline after everyone else has left them.
Before AKB began its true climb in 2009, all of the main faces of Jpop were artists with 10+ years of history, still chugging along with a steady amount of sales per single. All of them are still chugging along, although the idol groups are now experiencing an uptick in sales because they've also adopted the handshake model in addition to riding the idol wave AKB has pioneered.
It's not that group can't, it's that it will ALWAYS be a better decision financially not to. Perfume might be considered not idols anymore, but in the future after they've run their race, the same people who supported their underage-risque Hiroshima products will do their best to keep them afloat out of sentimentality. (Whether or not Perfume themselves will choose to disband instead of ekeing out an existence like that is another matter)

Are there groups that succeed without the purity image?
Depends on what you mean by purity image. There are many subversive idol groups that have overtly sexual or subversive images, and have members whose gimmick is to be "the sexy one"
AKB itself is known for being less "pure" than its mainstream predecessors already, what with the Seifuku Ga Jama wo Suru and Heavy Rotation, and members being as shippy with each other as Brown Eyed Girls. NMB girls have admitted to reading erotica, and one of their faces made masturbation jokes on TV. And J-variety is much less beholden to make idols look good. They make pokes about scandals to the idols' faces all of the time, and the good idols joke back, and the fans don't rage about it like they do in Kpop.
But these groups still technically fall under the purity system in terms of the no-love ban.

I don't know of any groups other than SDN allowed to date, but the indie and gravure scenes have so wide a variety that there are probably other examples out there. But it all comes back down to money, and because of Christmas Cake and other such "settle after marriage" expectations on females, I can't think of any non-actress female artists or idols that have maintained mainstream front-runner popularity after getting into a relationship, even if it doesn't damage their career.

Did Seo Taiji & Boys have a purity image, and a self-imposed no-dating rule?
The Jpop boyband powerhouse that Seo Taiji aped the system of, Johnny's and Associates, technically have a no-dating rule, and they exploit purity just as much as any Jonas Brothers band. It's well-known knowledge that members of popular bands party and sleep around and such, though, and scandals always damage the female party instead.
However, apparently marriage has to be cleared by head honcho Johnny himself, and permission seems to be given only systematically. Akanishi Jin was a frontman of KAT-TUN, broke off to do his own solo career in America that tanked, and then knocked up Kuroki Meisa and had a shotgun wedding. Gossip is that another older Johnny's member from another group is super pissed because Jin's marriage basically stole the slot he was angling for, (and had Johnny's blessing for) and now has to wait a couple of years.

One of the rookie Kpop boybands, either Teen Top or Dalmation, made a point of saying they aren't under a dating ban. Of course, they go on to say that they aren't dating because they're so busy. Yeah, right.

But, like, you know, lotsa chicks in vids, and such.
There is definitely more gender segregation overall in Jpop compared to Kpop. Yet Japan has succeeded where Korea has failed: multi-gender dance group AAA has a sizeable fanbase. (At their prime, probably NKOTB level popularity?) Both hetero and homosexual pairings within the group have been explicitly promoted in official releases.

What did the Japanese and Koreans make of the international fame of, e.g
I feel like Japanese and Koreans treat international stars with different standards than they do their own. Boa, Britney, Westlife, and DBSK in 2004. Bonus points if you spot After School's Gahee. But the contrast between Britney and Boa clearly hasn't affected their popularity with the crowd.
Kpop is also pretty much the house that Michael Jackson built.
Primarily, I feel that they treat international western stars as sources of music over all else, and thus don't pay much attention to anything outside of their careers. The presence of international stars in talk and variety settings is more fodder for the fans of those they interact with. Interviews are centered around the interviewer, who often intentionally making things awkwardly comedic for the sake of entertainment and self-promotion.

It wouldn't take me very long to figure out my own feelings on the purity aspect of idolling. (It's all bullshit.)

However, my feelings on the matter and working my way through the issue to come to the most "right" stance would take way too much time. The last time I tried, I got all fired up applying debate techniques and everything...only to realize that I was getting too wrapped up in self-righteous feelings.

But speculating about people who fuel the purity system will always be problematic. So have a thread with many articulately defending it, or at least explaining why they support it, even as they acknowledge that it's a shitty system: http://forum.nihongogo.com/topic/12961-idol-purity-the-no-boyfriend-rule-talk-thread/
Fans here range from the young to the old, both genders, and a wide range of experiences with J-idolling, from some of the grandfathers of international J-idolling fandom to newbies for whom AKB is their first.

Also of note is Kashiwagi Yuki, who grew up a fan of the spearhead for the last wave of female J-idols, Morning Musume, to where she auditioned for their 8th generation before being accepted into AKB. She maintains her fandom of idols in general, and has stated many times that she strives to be what she has considered to be the perfect idol, strongly rooted in idol traditions. For example, she advocates that true idols should have black hair, no dyeing, to maintain an "ordinary girl" image. She also recently supported the love ban herself: http://aramatheydidnt.livejournal.com/4617065.html
The popular members' own take on a scandal within their ranks last year, albeit a member none of them were friends with, unlike with Minami this time. Contrast their removed reactions here with their much more biased support this time around: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xsj999_documentary-of-akb48-show-must-go-on-3-4_shortfilms&start=1351

(The aformentioned "last time I tried:" I'm Rayle. The "discussion" continues through the end of the topic, but I bowed out after reading the orange text on page eight. The discussion itself is actually two debates: one about the legality of the content published, and the other about your usual slew of purity issues)

And for some content relevant specifically to the Minami situation:

http://forum.nihongogo.com/topic/14546-news-akb48-team-b-minegishi-minami-demoted-to-kenkyuusei/?p=267852

The reaction of the fandom is weird this time because of all of the international non-fandom attention the issue is getting, which is raising some territorial hackles. Compare to the international attention that AKB got last time when they revealed their literal pastiche member Eguchi Aimi: http://youtu.be/uLReYn1AAgY
Even people who hate the purity system are feeling shades of offended by all of the tarring-by-same-brush being done by international coverage.

Well fuck them if they feel they're the ones who should be offended.

^ (anhh talking) A thing I don’t get. You follow Momoiro Clover. If there is a group where “purity” is omnipresent, sure is this one (also Ebichuu and Team Syachihoko). If you don’t think so, think again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRoqAi62GRc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOcW05u805g

Those are two links to something that's not Momoiro Clover. I don't see why it's particularly omnipresent in MomoClo. I don't suspect they'd like to see a member publically dating, but as I said I have been able to overlook elements I don't agree with in an institution, but the public slutshaming pillory -- not so much.

Oh, crap. They are in the same management, Ebichuu are the little sisters’ team, and the other one is the Osaka version of the group (like SKE with AKBK). Momoiro Clover turned to Momoiro Clover Z when a member graduated. Mostly because “fans” didn’t liked the way she acted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxOQP7_CY9I

When Momoiro Clover released this video, the conversation that followed was one of the most radicalized things I’ve ever seen: places like Arama saying that they were sluts like AKB, and fans acting like this was a mistake, something that never should be talked about. And people like me that thought it was just another game with popular culture (biker gangs eating ice-cream in a defiantly way) treated as if we were retarded. Then later, not so long ago, when they decided to do one of their routines during a live show (walking over the crowd), somebody touched one of the girls on their genitals in a non-accidental way. Somebody linked to a forum about the group and the reactions I saw were so brainwashed, so inbreeded with their own PR (who could like the members of the group in a different way than the one we do?), it was such a case of “thought police”, of “it is inadmissible to thought about them on a sexual way”, that obviously, what you get is that people really admire that, their purity. If is not an issue, you don’t talk so much about it.

And the thing with idols is that this sort of thought police always appears. Is almost never a “macro” thing, something that is so abject and exploitative that looks self-evident (but check AKBN 0 (non-related) to see a case where that thing is really happening, and there is certainly people that follow them, I hate that group) is mostly the “micro” realm where you can see how things are evolving, how everything is dumbing down, how the new fans are taking as the gospel the worst tendencies in the fandom, etc. And suddenly, the chair where you sat is not there anymore. The things that I hate with AKB for example are fan charts where fans explain which girls are nicer/professional on handshake events, the fixation people have with the oshimen/oshihen thing or when people dismissed one of the girls that recently graduated because she wasn’t enough compromised with the group because she didn’t attend the show that allegedly was “their dream” (the event management has been selling as their big objective for years). Or really, all the micro-machismos.

Is not just with this fandom, I’ve followed other groups from other countries and it is always the same.



The thing is that otaku culture, in some ways is a one-trick pony, say, this is a song by rhymeberry, a sort of hip-hop unit from another group called usa-usa shoujo club (usa is for usagi, bunny). I don’t really know the lyrics, but you can see how it works: the song is called “Hey! Brother” and the girl is in conflict with her brother. Around 3:10, they sing “onii-chan daisuki” (that is, she love her brother).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92fm1HdORYY

Currently, when they sing that part, the audience does a response. Is a sort of “uh”, as if they were blushing by that revelation. Again, around 3:10.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YBum55SwAg

Then you remember, that the old fans sometimes were called “older brothers”, and you remember that the little sister fantasy (sexual but not mature, friendly and close but not unknown as a stranger) is really popular in that community. And somehow, the entire song meaning has changed (again, maybe is implicit in the lyrics). Your choice is to join the chorus or get pissed off.

What I mean, is that doing that, alienating everybody that doesn’t act in their way, they can self-mythologize themselves, be the “real” fans (of course, if everybody else run away), decide in how things should be done*, and mainly, prioritize their narratives over other people (there was a market study about the potential of the otaku consumer, and with a very broad range of things you could be an otaku (I should mention how things that girls or women mostly do, like reading mobile novels weren’t considered for many people to be “real” otaku things) and the potential market was something like 3 or 4 million people. Japan’s population is around 127 million. Boy bands have been monopolizing the charts for decades, but do you get stories about them? Not, you get how this or that AKB fan bought thousands of copies of the same single. So again, those girls are nothing, look what a “real” fan is. Is really monochromatic, and the way they are usually criticized, with moralistic overtones and all that, is part of the same “strange loop”. Otakus are very interested on theory written about them, so they behave in a way, that everything becomes a feedback process. Critique becomes useless and they still are being talked about. Trolling, in other terms.

*There are lots of small groups where the manager or the composer is an otaku. Some of them are quite great. I don’t want to paint a very black or white picture, there are positive outcomes, and lots of things I dislike. For example, T-Palette Records is a record label that only releases idol music. The guy behind is a Hello! Project otaku, and also is, I think, the main guy for Tower Records in Japan. The first group they got was Negicco, a local idol group that has been going around for nearly a decade almost never playing out of their city (promoting onions). The main composer of Negicco, also was a fan of the group that decided to show his (very nice) music to them. And right is when people are starting to become aware of them.

fan charts where fans explain which girls are nicer/professional on handshake events

I actually love those charts. You're assuming that people react the same way to those charts in how they judge the girls, but at the same time there are those who like that Lovetan and Paruru are pretty much terrible at handshakes, so much that they made jokes about Paruru, Milky, and Daasu's manners in that sense during one of the best MCs during this year's Request Hour concert. Just because we make those charts doesn't mean that we take it all seriously.

Oshimen thing, eh. Call me MD.
Dismissing Yuka? It's not all dismissal. Her forgoing Tokyo Dome makes sense for her own career, but it's also a legitimate sign that she's ready to leave this franchise.

The self-performance aspect interests me, because the dynamics associated with Big-Name Fans and how fan communities relate to each other, and the external world, can exist somewhat independently of the subjects of the fandom.

With the advent of geek-chic, there are various romantizations of the nerd/geek/otaku, in different forms. There are old-guard who oppose the mainstreaming of fandom and want to return to more isolated experiences, while self-proclaimed otaku idols reclaim previously derogatory labels like otaku, hentai, lolicon, and hikkikomori, turning them into endearing joke traits. So you get BNFs preening under the attention and deciding to act as epitomies of stereotypical otaku behavior, both the good and the bad. As more "normal" people enter fandom territories and try to draw lines of appropriate behavior, ("we won't be those kind of otaku") they react by shoving the undesirable aspects into the newcomers' faces. Whether new fans succumb to fandom dictates or are driven away because of it, it reinforces the pride of the otaku troll acting out.

Right. Nothing particular about Momoiro Clover, then, so I'm not sure what's so omnipresent about it. What their labelmates do I have no interest in, I confess. Sure there will be always creepy fans who believe in 100% purity. They're an idol group, they're part of the culture for better or worse. I don't think it's weird that people reacted to their kinda funny and clearly parodical ice cream video since they stay relatively clear of that kind of 'fan service' otherwise. I know their history. I don't think not showing up in gravure photo shoots as a side job is a bad thing.

Maybe is just myself, and maybe I’m reading too much into it, but by personal experiences, I try to check the “ideal” of women the discourses surrounding idols try to make of them, what kind of values are embedded on them, how they should behave, portray themselves, etc. Sometimes the problem is on the own concept (Tokyo Cheer2 Party are something like the ideal daughters for salarymen (and other than that, also a nice group)), others is the reception by the fans, and usually mixtures between the two and the press and all that.

Momoiro certainly share a pattern in image terms (even the same songwriters) with groups from that same company (some came before, some are related, some not). A really “clean” image. Maybe the group has transcended those origins, or that image is mediated in a different way, in another context, for another audience. But certainly is there. Maybe they don’t do gravure, but they also appear on those same magazines. Just not doing gravure, just being goofy, or funny, being “themselves”. Even if they are a lot of fun, and people love them because of that, or their energy, or how they act, I think, as women, their public image is very narrow. I mean, Reni this year is 20 years old, Kanako is 19. Do they really have the chance to act in another way? Express themselves in different ways than how they are perceived by the mainstream public or how their fans expect them to behave? In that way is how I think “purity” is omnipresent for the group, as something they can leave behind. Maybe is not on their contract, but certainly there are people that want them to be in that way without changes.

As a side commentary, after watching how many minor idols are almost starving to death, or their income is so dismal, I see gravure as any other source of income. Most likely by their choices or the chances they had, they are not going to get good jobs. Having an idol life is sort of the same chain of mini-jobs and exploitation, but having fans, sort of having fun with what you do. That is the reason why I’m very picky about fans acting and behaving with the privilege of consumers and rating their “emotional work” (their emotions, intimacy, bodies,lifes) to use Arlie Russell Hochschild’s terminology as mere disposable products. I think is a complete lack of empathy for the human beings you say you are a fan of. And also, doesn’t make the world a much better place.

What difference would that make anyway? I like a lot of performers without agreeing with everything they do or support. Very few people in the world share all my attitudes and sensibilities.

anhh: askbask has already said above that he's come to terms with enjoying groups under the purity system. It's the way AKB has bloated their reaction to this specific scandal more than usual that goes beyond mere enforcement of contract terms ("You date a guy, you're out") into a promotion of slut-shaming. ("you date a guy, you be sure to air every bit of shame you have to the public and make a show out of grovelling while you're at it. We can't have anyone doubting that our members don't believe in the purity system themselves!")

That said, askbask, let me quote that youtube video with regards to AKB fans feeling offended. It's not about the purity thing.
"I woke up and suddenly one day every single news outlet in the fucking world had something to say about AKB48 ... However, I find the lack of facts about AKB48 to be atrocious. ... Suddenly, this is bringing up the topic of idol culture in mass western media. Even news outlets that I respect to a certain degree, like the Young Turks, are talking about it, and talking about the sexualisation of idols, and talking about how they all look like 12 year olds, and I don't want to hear about it. because that is a whole social monograph that has to be looked into, and delved into, that has to be researched, and not seeing the forest for the trees. Something about it strikes me as this sense of western superiority that's coming out again, and it's one of the only times when this subtle sense of racism can creep into this and become "we're so much better than Japanese people because Americans and Europeans don't lust after girls who look 12."'
Then she goes on to say how the news outlets are happily blowing this wide open with broad "LOL JAPAN" strokes, and by doing so, and with reactions like yours, (Well fuck them if they feel they're the ones who should be offended.) suddenly throw all of the fans, even the ones who are the ones delving into it and doing the research and standing against the complacent, into the same "butthurt otaku" cage. That's what's offensive.

Of course, lots of wrong things will be said and it's frustrating and distracting from the topic at hand. One of the things that's a constant annoyance in this world is that people who are usually held to a higher standard are allowed to write authoritatively on pop music / culture without knowing what they're talking about and straight up lying / misreporting.

I think in this particular case it IS pretty black and white. What was done dumb, damaging, ugly, and the signals sent are very clear. So if they get some facts and circumstances wrong otherwise it's not as important as the fact that yes, this is worth reporting on and condemning.

And if they don't agree with that and think this is more about ideas of 'western superiority' then I don't know what to say. For one thing these places are pretty damn quick to criticise western pop culture as well. If you're a fan who doesn't find this important and reprehensible, and worthy of attention/ systematic criticism then I don't have much sympathy left. Of course that doesn't mean we shouldn't work towards more intelligent, well-researched western coverage of Asian pop culture. It's not in a great state, I agree.

In this case I find it hard to understand a bigger outrage for _that_ than for what happened in the group.

Here's a racist video tho http://youtu.be/vRhkrHxSf6I

So if they get some facts and circumstances wrong otherwise it's not as important as the fact that yes, this is worth reporting on and condemning.

You're right: What was done dumb, damaging, ugly, and the signals sent are very clear.

But the clarity of those signals has gotten all muddled up when the less knowledgeable attempt to extract this particular situation to the purity system overall, and then otaku and idol culture overall. Then their condemnations get off-track.

From the Minami-scandal specific post I linked:

I am somewhat annoyed by the way this is depicted in western media. This isn't a "sex scandal". It is a rule-breaking scandal. There is an enormous difference. I am sure ALL the girls have boyfriends (well, apart from the ones who aren't interested in boys, we all know who those are). Nobody actually believes that they don't have boyfriends. It is all about Honme/Tatemae. Your real feelings vs your duty. When a japanese minimum wage burger joint cashier grovels and offers to commit suicide due to the non-optimal temperature of the burger he just sold you, nobody really expects him to care this much about his products. It is just tatemae, the facade he is expected to show. If he didn't, he would probably be fired on the spot.

Idols work the same way. Nobody was surprised when Nozomi Tsuji went from 'virgin who has never seen a cock' to 'two months pregnant with Ultraman', and her post-musume career has been thriving. Or when Fujimoto Miki suddenly got married to a guy she couldn't possibly have been dating due to the no-dating rule. If they break the news themselves it is A-OK. Compare this to Kago Ai, who was completely ruined by her scandals, since they broke in the tabloids. (She apparently was dating older men when she was a Musume member and 12 years old, according to recent interviews, but this is OK since nobody knew.)


Do I think the purity system is bullshit? Yes.
Do I think it should be completely abolished? This is where issues of consent, and behind that, issues of third-wave feminism. I have no clear answer, and that in and of itself tells me something, even if that something is also unclear and complex.

The reason why it appears that fans are more angry about the shoddy reporting than the scandal itself is because we've watched it happen again and again. If you go to the various forums and blogs, EVERY single time a scandal happens the debate over the purity system rages through each thread. The admins of Nihongogo set up a thread just for the discussion of it because they got tired of the same arguments being repeated in every thread, and the single thread was an attempt to force the discussion to continue beyond the same old initial salvos.
We've all had to deal with the purity system, and have each come to our own conclusions and opinions on it through our experiences with it.

So having these external hubs suddenly acting all high and mighty as if they're the first to ever bring these issues up is annoying. They rarely bring anything new to the table because they aren't doing the research first. And for all of the fans who have gone through the scandal roller coaster multiple times, they're impeding the discussion we could have been progressing until they decided to muscle in, accusing all of us of being supportive of the system just because we're fans of idols.

[to reports with such a belligerent/condescending tone] No, we're not. We've gone so much more in-depth than you could imagine, so we don't want to hear it from you. Fuck off.

Edited at 2013-02-10 05:16 am (UTC)

http://www.asianjunkie.com/2013/01/akb48s-minegishi-minami-demoted-and-shaves-her-head-and-its-fucking-barbaric/

This is an example I'm not bothered by. It's a straightforward condemnation the purity system and the purity system alone. It doesn't try to extrapolate it as something inherent to idol and otaku culture, and targets the things that are truly wrong with the situation.

If it's not inherent to idol culture, what culture is it inherent to?

Asianjunkie's arguments are basically the same as mine. The author finishes off with an attack on wotas and fans, though, so why is it different from the ones you dislike?

Also I don't see why you go after western media for being late to the table. Elitism over the fact that you know it better and have been discussing it better? That you're more eligible to discuss it? That will always be the case going from a niche to the mainstream. You can't truly progress it without it going mainstream. Attack the coverage for its inaccuracies, yes, not for the fact that it comes from a 'noob' perspective and that you've already covered it.

It's impossible not to connect this to the system as a whole and the image of purity it sells. That's obvious.

Edited at 2013-02-10 07:22 am (UTC)

Misogyny culture.

The general attack on wotas and fans is mitigated by the context of Asian Junkie itself, which shows that the writers are idols fans themselves, so their attack on wotas and fans is an attack on a specific group. It doesn't condemn the rest of AKB either.
There are advantages to a no-dating ban, even if the concept is silly. They are the excuses other apologists of the system have listed before, and if those practical reasons were actually the reason it exists, then scandals would only be a rule-breaking problem. But it's not, and the reason why scandals become scandals and not just contract breaches is because of the misogyny of the wota that tout the purity aspect of it. Asian Junkie targets the latter, and especially the slut-shaming aspect, and doesn't go on a rampage about all of the other "problems" with the group that the western outlets are going on about.

It's not just western media being late to the table. It's that they're acting like they're not, acting like they know it all, never acknowledging that others have already done a lot a the research and discussion legwork and hey, maybe those research inaccuracies wouldn't have been a problem if they had consulted those people in the first place? And like I said before, they act like they're bringing the shining truth of feminism and progress to us primitive unknowing complacent barbarians.

It's impossible not to connect this to a larger misogyny problem that should be addressed, sure, but a little bit of purity and idols can mix, as shown by their contemporary western counterparts. Idol and otaku culture do not have to be tied to purity. Hell, the scifi/fantasy geek culture side of things has sometimes been progressive on social issues.


Edited at 2013-02-10 04:15 pm (UTC)

I doubt that there's more than a hair of difference between you and askbask, if even that. I will argue, though, that if the Asian Junkie person/people hadn't been idol fans themselves, what s/he/they were saying would have nonetheless been every bit as valid, just on the basis of being intelligent. S/he/they get their authority in my eyes from what they said, not from being idol fans themselves.

I don't expect the following to be controversial on this particular thread, but who knows:

(1) Asian Junkie is right that "You don't understand the culture" is not in itself an argument, it's a diversionary tactic. I'll add it's not an argument even when it's true. It's simply not an argument.

(2) The internationally ignorant self-righteous may be doing good here by embarrassing the fuck out of the Japanese idol system.

(3) The internationally ignorant self-righteous (a category that at the moment includes me) are themselves a worthy subject — or target — of analysis, not least for what they're doing to and in their own culture.

(4) Citing someone's social category/demographic characteristics is not an argument, because it does not address what they said. Ditto telling them what their motives are (which no one's been doing on this thread, but which is common all through my Internet universe). But noting someone's social characteristics may say something interesting about their context, if you follow up by saying something interesting about their context.

I tend to express plenty of uncertainty in my writing on these subjects, but even if I didn't, if I say smart interesting things, I'm saying smart interesting things, no matter who I am, no matter my level of ignorance or knowledge, no matter my motives, no matter my attitude, even if it's condescending. And even if what I say turns out to be wrong.

Maybe an example here would be useful, especially regarding (3). I don't know if you were paying attention to the anti-Taylor idiots a couple of years back,* who were claiming to be feminists, but the problem with them wasn't that they were outsiders to Taylor fandom, but rather that what they said was out-and-out bigoted and stupid and stereotyped and easily refuted. But even that wasn't the core of the problem. The problem was that they refused to recover from their misreadings. But one of my problems was that I was made so unhappy by the conversation that I didn't stick around to see if any of them did eventually recover. What the anti-Taylor idiots were doing, btw, was to insist that Taylor was singing songs that promoted purity and was promoting purity by her dress and demeanor as well, when actually Taylor was singing and doing no such thing. And my problem wasn't that the anti-Taylor idiots were trying to hurt Taylor, but that, (1) what they were doing was basic bullying, even though it was aimed at a superstar who had no idea they existed, and I don't know how to deal with bullying even just observing, and I haven't figured out how to call out people for bullying without being a bully myself, and (2) the liberal-left, of which I suppose I'm a part, I identify with it anyway, pretty much always cripples and pollutes itself with its own ignorance and bigotry. So I was pissed at what the supposedly leftist feminist anti-Taylor idiots were doing to the Left, though my being pissed was self-defeating, since I know damn well that movements for social justice always attract bullies to the cause, or people who are usually nonbullies and but who use politics to let loose with self-righteousness and stupidity they wouldn't normally allow themselves, and do so in ignorant destructive ways. And knowing this, I ought to figure out a way to say to myself, "This just comes with the territory, and I've got to deal with it or sidestep it." But I brood, and flee, instead.

*Not that they've stopped.

Edited at 2013-02-10 05:32 pm (UTC)

Asian Junkie being fans isn't what validates them. But when Asian Junkie makes a blanket "wota suck" statement, being fans themselves means that they aren't implicating themselves. When an outside media outlet makes that same blanket statement, it does group all idol fans into one category.

(1) Asian Junkie is right that "You don't understand the culture" is not in itself an argument, it's a diversionary tactic. I'll add it's not an argument even when it's true. It's simply not an argument.

(4) Citing someone's social category/demographic characteristics is not an argument, because it does not address what they said. Ditto telling them what their motives are (which no one's been doing on this thread, but which is common all through my Internet universe). But noting someone's social characteristics may say something interesting about their context, if you follow up by saying something interesting about their context.


I agree.

(2) The internationally ignorant self-righteous may be doing good here by embarrassing the fuck out of the Japanese idol system.

I agree. A large movement is necessary to fix the purity system problem, and large movements inevitably can't afford to get it all right, but it's just why the reaction of the fandom to this scandal is different from usual. Like with the Western coverage of Psy and Gangnam Style, I do think it's probably a beneficial thing overall.
Doesn't stop the coverage from annoying me, though, for the reasons stated.

The problem was that they refused to recover from their misreadings.
This is a problem with the purity "discussion" itself, both within the fans and external media now covering it. Everyone makes their initial salvos, no matter their stance, but go beyond that, refusing to acknowledge the possibility of their own misreading, much less try to correct it. So the same opinions are regurgitated at every scandal, no one changes their opinion, and the conversation has about as much direct interaction with each other as any of America's election debates.

I very much respect the way your initial post was written. It made some observations, comparisons, and hypotheses, but without turning them into conclusions, and then listed the unknown topics that might need to be explored before conclusions can be made, and kept the inquiry for information open to beyond those topics, acknowledging that there might be other issues at play that hadn't been considered because of the limits of personal experience/knowledge. The solicitation for potential opposing viewpoints guarantees some measure of direct interaction and self-adjustment of opinions, and the way it's worded somewhat impartially makes it more likely potential opposing viewpoint responders to be open to self-adjustment as well. Progress!

I wish I could remember to hold off on judgement like that more often.

Thank you. I will say that a well-stated misjudgment can sometimes be more useful than a well-modulated set of hypotheses. Lex Macpherson and Chuck Eddy always walk in with their opinions blazing, quick to the draw and off the top of their heads (to totally mush up my metaphors); but not only do they often say interesting things, they listen to what other people say; and even before someone else shows up they reread what they wrote and start modifying their opinions. The Pazz & Jop discussion a couple of months ago was a good example of Chuck saying something provocative yet simplistic and then rethinking what he'd said. I wish there were more like him.

Edited at 2013-02-10 06:28 pm (UTC)

Oh, and I still haven't had time to read your links, and not doing so will continue my ignorance. I understand this, and hope you'll be understanding too. And thank you all for being part of this conversation, which I still feel fundamentally outside of.

Since I'm the classic late adapter and am still on the old lj format (and can't stand the new), we're about four-fifths of the way to where lj's dreaded "Collapsing All Your Nested Threads" policy goes into effect. So, to prevent that, I've started a new Minami thread:

Minami 2

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