I have a very cute daughter. This isn’t my own, biased opinion, but data gathered over time. A lot of people have told me that I should get her into modeling or show business. Yet, what I hear is “You should whore out your daughter for money.” If you choose to do this with your kids I wouldn’t look down on you if you’ve taken some precautions and gone in with your eyes open to the world you are introducing your progeny to, but clearly, this idea is completely off the table for me.
That’s because the lives of famous people in Japan, for the most part, are horrible. Doubly so for women. One of the first shows I started watching regularly when I came to Japan was “Hello Sunday Project”. I wasn’t a massive (creepy) fan of the girls, but as I studied Japanese I was able to understand a lot of what they talked about and the jokes were lame enough for me to get them. It was a good learning tool.
Over time I started to actually find I felt some affection for them, but still, not in a rabid (creepy) fan way. I was never going to spend money on their products or go to a concert. In a very reasonable “they seem like they’re having a good time and that’s nice” kind of way.
The show consisted of members of Morning Musume primarily playing games. They’d do some sketches and sing a song. That was pretty much it. If they messed up lines it didn’t matter, they left all that in because it was funnier. It seemed like a pretty great job, until I started to actually look into it.
The contracts for idols in Japan are insane abuses of human rights that allow management to dictate every aspect of the person’s life. It might not be 100% explicit all the time, but for the things that haven’t been mandated in the contract, some other strategy has been put into place to manage it just the same.
Primarily this is about the idol’s personal life. What they are selling most of all is the idea that someday you might be able to make your favorite idol your girlfriend or boyfriend. That’s what these companies bank on most of all, the illusion of availability. The worst things an idol can do is get a boyfriend or girlfriend and have it go public. The fanbase (the creepy ones) will see this as a personal betrayal.
Off the deep end, right? Well, in 2017 it’s started to become a real legal issue. Last year in Tokyo a talent agency sued a member of a six person idol unit for 10 million yen as she had broken her contract by having a boyfriend. The judge pulled a “fuck that noise” and said that since the woman was 23 and had the “constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness” that the contract was excessive.
This has set a precedent that the talent agencies are not happy about. Thus, their other strategies to keep their talent “pure” enter the fray.
At first these strict contracts were put in place with claims that they were protecting the, usually, underage celebrities as they didn’t want them to end up in a situation that would come across as untoward.
The problem is there is a big difference between protecting a 14 year old and protecting a 28 year old. If it were up to the talent agencies both would be treated exactly the same and this is where you can start to see the facade start to crack. They are trying to keep their commodities viable and part of that is the image of purity and availability.
The contract alone isn’t enough to stop people from falling afoul of their own hormones. This is where the other strategies come into play, things also written into contracts but that seem more innocuous.
Like the fact that the talent agency takes full control over the talents schedule. Then they pack the schedule so full of events that the talent has no free time to meet another person they might end up liking, let alone have time to go out on a date with.
Another technique is to not inform the talent of their schedule until the last minute so they can’t make any other plans. Last minute changes are common and expected, but also strategically set so you have no life outside of work.
From their crazy schedule you can also get the sense that at the end of a day the talent is so exhausted they have no desire to go out and get caught with a boyfriend or girlfriend. They just want to sleep.
All this control is written into the contract. It might seem fine when you are 15 and just starting out, but the most draconian aspect of all this is that these contracts can be as long as 13 years and are stipulated as non-negotiable.
That means the deal you made when you were 15 will still be in effect when you 28. If your fame has increased significantly that deal might not look so good any more, on top of that all all those years your friends were out dating, you missed those.
Obviously these contracts aren’t going to stop people from meeting or hooking up, which is why they lead to such public scandals.
The question then remains, what happens to the idol that dares to have a human relationship.