Maybe the only time I have ever been interested in a fidget spinner
If you haven’t yet, read Part 1 first.
First off, the aforementioned idol who was sued for 10 million yen. Her name was never released and it was mentioned that her six member unit had to break up as a result. Even though I don’t know who the anonymous idol is, I know that she would never be picked up by another agency after the lawsuit, so her career is over.
Maybe the most famous example in recent years is Minami Minegishi, former AKB48 member. In 2013 she was caught by a tabloid magazine leaving her boyfriends house. The reason this one is so memorable is that she decided to try and make amends in a very traditional Japanese way, she shaved her head.
It’s basically impossible to find the actual video she posted on youtube where you can watch someone break down as she is basically going to lose her job because she had a boyfriend, but there are still videos of people reporting on it.
It’s incredibly hard to watch just because she hasn’t actually done anything wrong. Becky was another television celebrity who was banished from the small screen because she was caught dating a married man. Sure, it looked like his relationship was already over, but he wasn’t free yet. She couldn’t be allowed to be seen by Japanese society.
The guy, on the other hand, Enon Kawatani who is a relatively famous musician, not a problem. There we start to see the inherent bias in the business come to light. Women are far more drastically punished than men for these public embarrassments.
Jin Akanishi tried to make a solo career after leaving KAT-TUN, and surprised everyone by suddenly getting married to Meisa Kuroki. It was a bit of a shotgun wedding as Kuroki was already two months pregnant. That’s bad, but the part the company saw as being more of a betrayal was that they hadn’t given approval for the marriage before the paperwork was submitted. He worked for a company called Johnny’s which handles all the biggest boy bands in Japan, so they did what any reasonable company would do. They froze his work schedule leaving him without an income and a newly pregnant wife.
Unsurprisingly, when his contract was up with Johnny’s, he decided not to renew.
SMAP, the biggest and longest running boy band in Japan went through a series of contract issues as most of the members wanted to leave Johnny’s after their long time manager departed. This resulted in the band breaking up, most of their television shows coming to an end, public apologies and lies about how everything was OK and the thing most people don’t realize, hundreds of people losing their jobs.
For the massive stars you know that if they have their finances even slightly in order they will be all right. The younger up and comers often have to pay back “training fees” to the agency which basically makes them indentured servants. All those dance lessons, singing lessons and anything else the company puts into you comes out of future paychecks. This means you have to become a massive star to even start to break even. It put them in the terrible position of owing money to the company if they fail or worse, get caught up in a scandal.
Rino Sashihara is an interesting exception. She was involved in a similar secret boyfriend scandal and transferred from the main AKB48 group to the sub HKT48 group. This led to a very public panic attack as she started hyperventilating on stage.
Her move was essentially a demotion. Yet she persevered and with some talent started managing and producing for her group. She has managed to turn her career back on an upward path and recently took the lead position at the AKB48 election for the third time in a row.
The worst part of all this, is the fans strange sense of entitlement and ownership over the idols. To the point where it’s straight up dangerous. The very public events put the idols right in front of people. Handshaking events are a standard practice with idols all over Asia. You buy a CD, it comes with a ticket, you come to the event, you get to shake the member’s hands and say something before you are pushed along.
The definition of creepy is the full grown adult males who clearly have lost sight of reality. The faces in the following image attest to how wrong things are.
This was a handshaking event for AKB48 and apparently the fans involved were making salacious statements as they did the handshaking. If that’s not enough, in 2014 a member was attacked at an event with a saw.
Most recently (June 27) at a handshaking event in Chiba for Keyakizaka46 a man set off a flare in the line. He was later arrested and in his bag was a knife. He admitted he wanted to stab and kill one of the girls.
Perhaps the most terrifying thing I saw when looking up scandals was the following video from Korea, where the idols suffer from every problem listed above as well, as a fan walks onto the stage and tries to just walk off with one of the singers.
This is mid-performance. The confusion I feel is how did he think this was going to work out and where the hell was security?
Lots of people want to get famous and become idols and singers, but at the moment the agencies are making unrealistic oppressive contracts that fail to take into account what it means to be a living human being with a life and then not putting any real effort into actually protecting the lives of the people they are making their money from.
In the most basic way these idols need basic protections, but the problem is it seems like they need protection from both the companies they work for and the fans who come out to see them.
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.