Deli Wisdom Item #27: Why the AKB48 “No Dating” rule is maybe not such a bad thing.
There is always a line isn’t there? That is OK, let me tell you about some of my thoughts on this while we wait for our sandwiches. Been thinking about this one for a long time …
I am a fan of the Japanese Idol genre in general, and specifically I love AKB48 and their sister groups. My waiting-in-line rant today is NOT about “Why I like the Japanese Idol genre” … that will have to be the touchy subject of another lunch.
When I scan Internet blogs, including the WordPress tags under Jpop and the like, I have found that most of the time when AKB48 is referenced it is because the blogger has a negative opinion. Usually a poorly researched opinion to boot. (The “Big Butts” as I have said before.) One item almost always criticized is the “No Dating” rule common to many Japanese idol groups.
I am also NOT going to re-hash the various “SCANDALS” regarding those members who broke the rules. Those have already been discussed on other fan sites.
Many (American) foreigners do not understand or like the rule. Furthermore, it is usually non-fans of the genre who most disagree with the rule. True, some dedicated AKB48 fans support the idea that girls should be free to pursue romantic relationships while under contract, but I want to make the case here that this rule – is not such a bad thing, and in fact may help the girls creatively.
The point must be made that Japanese Idol culture is a different culture from anything in America. People should be allowed to have a different way of doing things in their own country. I will admit that you could never have an organization with such a rule in the USA. It would never work in America, and maybe couldn’t.
The most common explanation of the policy is that it fuels male fans fantasies about the members. The femi-nazis will say that it appeases insecure, delusional, misogynistic fantasies … but they are just jealous because they are not cute. (cough) … Ahem … For example, if I were a Japanese high school or college student I might fantasize that I will someday meet and marry Yuki Kashiwagi (or Haruka Kodama, Sayaka Yamamoto, etc.) Ahem … you see …
… Denny going into a young man’s reverie: … yes, when I earn my degree, I will land that big job, get that big promotion, sell that new game design, make that critically acclaimed film, write that big hit song, etc.
It is important that Yuki does not date a series of goofy looking Japanese rock-star jerk guys while she is a member of AKB48. She’s a “good girl” anyway.
What if Yuki were a typical American actress/singer? By her mid-twenties she would be too skanky with the stink of a series of celebrity boyfriends. Hey you Jerkwads — hands off Yuki!!! … Yuki’s karma is pure. In fact, her name means “snow”!
She is so incredibly sweet, I love her face and her personality. We will meet someday … Yuki will still be a virgin … we will meet … and since she would have recently graduated AKB, (I’m not sure what year this fantasy is) she will now be free to pursue romance – with me. And the best thing? She has never had a boyfriend before.
Still a virgin, at her age, with that BODY she has,– that is just built for lovin’ … Jesus H. Christ … er … I mean, Siddhartha B. Gautama! … I will be her one and only. Mine, all mine …
There is something special about that.
Me, the young, newly famous inventor/singer/film actor/director will marry Yukirin … and we will be happy ever after!
OF COURSE IT IS STUPID!!! What mashugana goyim thinks that way?
Fueling this unspoken fantasy is good for marketing however. Male fans might care less, and thus spend less — if Idols were just regular singers with regular lives. Those would be some foolish fantasies for a guy to have.
But ask yourself: Aren’t your own unspoken, everyday fleeting fantasies also just a little bit foolish? Ask around.
Still, this is NOT my argument in favor of the rule however. I will get to my reasons later.
I think that you can also read the male fantasy factor as a male fan jealousy factor. A lot of guys would be disappointed if their favorite idol started dating the Japanese version of Justin Bieber. Also, since the girls cannot date, they only have each other to turn to. (cough) You know what I mean. This fuels the OTHER male fantasy. Look, I did not make the world, but it is just the way it is. Guys like the yuri idea.
A good number of the “No Dating” critics are American, most often lady writers coming from the “sophomore political science major” school of thought. Nothing against them, I have known many in college, but they are not exactly the open-minded type. They are “liberal” but only if you agree with them. I may have fallen asleep in my beer a few times. To them, the “No Dating” rule is another example of the “patriarchal society” that Japan has, and “the women are being exploited by this”, wanka, wanka, wanka, etc.
Actually, these writers should wake up to the fact that in this case it is the young Idols who are in the power position. The late American comic Richard Pryor used to tell a story of growing up in his old neighborhood where the girls had the attitude (Pryor using his sing-songy voice): “I’ve got the pussy, and you can’t have any …”. Similarly, the Idol has the upper hand in this fan hierarchy. The no-dating rule puts the Idol in control, not the fan. Odd that so many cannot see that.
My central argument however is that the “No Dating” rule helps the girls by making them focus on career development. Remember your Star Wars studies: Jedi Knights were not allowed to get married. Well, one did … and look what happened to him! As Yoda said, “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment.” Idols to need commit completely for a few short years.
It is not like they are taking a vow that will last forever. It is at best for a few years in the teen and early twenties at most. Keeping busy might not allow for a lot of time to pursue relationships. They will have fewer worries, they can focus on developing their talents.
There are time constraints. The girls are kept pretty busy. Look at the large volume of media AKB produce. The girls are always performing, modeling, recording, acting, etc. They only get one day off a week anyway. A guy trying to date one of them would always be in the position of “I never get to see you”. There would also be a lot of jealous guys. “Listen you, take your hands from her hair!”
The AKB family is large and difficult enough to manage as it is. Now throw in boyfriends and their problems. If the girls had boyfriends there would be all this infighting and jealousy. The young women may end up stealing each other’s boyfriends, or changing boyfriends. There would be a lot of hurt feelings. Likely, they would be competing for the same Japanese actor/rock star boyfriends.
One of the things that grinds-my-gears is that there all these Japanese actors/singers who STILL ask the AKB girls out on dates, even though they know damn well they can’t do it. Their big egos must think that they will be the exception.
Boyfriends might wreck the group! Even AKB48 leader Minami Takahashi has stated that (quotes) “the world would stop spinning” if the rule were abandoned. The haters know that boyfriends could destroy the group, so they make some stupid arguement, like “it is slavery!” I do believe that the rule will indeed be rescinded or modified sometime, due to pressure from AKB fans who support the change. However, I think that it will mark “the beginning of the end”, and interest in Idol groups as we know them may slowly fade. All trends have their peak, and I predict this is how the Idol genre will end.
Very importantly, the girls AGREE to abstain when they sign on. No one drafted them into an Idol army. They volunteer knowing full well they will have to give up dating for a few years. The young women know what they are getting into. If they do not want to commit themselves to be part of the organization, then they should not audition to become part of the system. The policy clearly violates Japanese labor laws, thus all active members must be in agreement in order for the rule to exist.
Let me give you another example how giving up dating for a few years might help creatively and force them to focus. Did you ever see that episode of Seinfeld where the George character found out that his Girlfriend had infectious mono, and so he would not be able to be intimate with her for several days.
He found that when sex was taken off the table, a large part of his brain function that was formerly only obsessed about sex – actually began to be used. He got smarter and smarter everyday. By being celibate, he was able to think and concentrate, eventually developing his intellect in physics.
Well, the AKB girls can do that to. Don’t worry about it. Develop your skills instead.
(Denny is not making this up): Allow me to digress a little here regarding something in my own experience. When I was a single, mid-twenties aged graduate student I had an opportunity. I was informed that I could do research at the American research station at the South Pole. Yes, Antarctica. I did not apply for it, but it would have meant living for about a year at the South Pole. Now let me ask you this: Had I taken that isolated research position researching oxygen isotopes in Antarctica … would I have been able to date?
OK, you made your little joke, now answer seriously. I would know that I would not be able to date for about a year. I would have to forget about it (you know) completely, bear down, and focus on research. The idea being I would be enriched from the scientific experience. I would also have burned an estimated 8,000 calories a day — which is actually a pretty good selling point for a tour of duty at the South Pole.
There are many people worldwide who — because of circumstance — are not able to date for a time. Idols should not have to worry so much. Sometimes people have to make a sacrifice. There is sometimes a need to let go of something to be able to progress into a better future. True, when you are young, five years seems like a long time.
Some Deli Wisdom: Ladies, take it from me … and your father too … focus on your career, the right one will come along when you graduate. Also, your father and I have agreed that if a guy wants you to break your vows, he is not the one for you. If he really likes you, he will wait : )
I do believe that the rule will indeed be rescinded sometime, due to pressure from AKB fans who do not care or support the change. The funny thing is, when an Idol has a dating scandal, support for that Idol evaporates. Even from fans who will proclaim that they really don’t care.
That some fans would be in favor of lifting the rule is also not hard to understand. Take Haruna Kojima for example. She is one of the world’s sexiest women. She is now in her late twenties. Just look at her. It almost seems A SHAME that the best years of her life are going by without a boyfriend. Yes, you could say “what a waste of fertile volcanic soil.” The only lover she has had has been Yuko Oshima (gulp). Now, I am NOT spreading rumors here. (cough) It is all fairly well documented on YouTube and elsewhere that Yuko-chan was all over KojiHaru.
Yes, we all know that Yuko Oshima will indeed marry a man someday … some rich dude or actor, I guess. It is just that when she had to follow the AKB rules, she maintained this loving relationship with Kojima-san. Um, … I forget ..I’m not sure if I arguing in favor or against the rule right now …
Even though many disagree with management maintaining control of a employee’s private life, I think that in the case of the “love ban” it works to stabilize or “ground” the young idols in reality. Think of all the young artists who rocketed to fame in a short period of time, and then could not handle it. Too many singers, actors, etc burned themselves out quickly, or turned to alcohol, drugs and a series of bad relationships. Idols have to be part of a team, live by the rules, and stay humble. The rule keeps the cocaine and the bad boyfriends off of an idols nose.
Likely, enough fans will eventually not care about the rule, and it will be dropped. However, I think that juncture will also mark “the beginning of the end”. Interest in Idol groups will slowly fade, and the public will not be able to put a finger on why exactly. All trends have their peak, and eventually end. It will not happen all of a sudden. When enough of the fantasy disappears, the intensity of the interest will slowly but surely drop off. I predict that is how the Idol genre will end. Idol music will be just a quaint curiosity. I mean even more than now.
Starlight: Look, it is another culture. I’m just having a corned beef sandwich. You?
I HEAR YOU!