Friday, 18 January 2013

Idols and Boyfriends

This is a post that I wanted to write for a while, however my motivation to write it has been spurred on by a topic created by Ray on Idolminded. As always, please do not take offence at my opinion; take it with a grain of salt, rice... whatever you want to take it with, and let it broaden your views on things. Do not take my word for everything I say; I only want to share my opinion with you all and let you know what I think about this subject. Thank you.

In a recent Idol Thought For the Day on Idolminded, Ray touched on the subject of changing the public's perceptions of Idols to make their careers easier. One of the topics he brought up was Idols and Boyfriends, a topic which is a bit taboo in the Japanese Idol society that we all know about. Of course Ray has said that this is not likely to happen but I wanted to share some of my own opinion and insight on the subject.

It is safe to say that the Idol industry in Japan is different to any other; if an Idol, especially one who is from a highly acclaimed group, is found dating despite what the guidelines say, then she will either be kicked out of the group or withdraw because she has 'done something unforgivable to her fans'. Either way an Idol dating will most likely result in her departure from the group unless she is very popular and can get away with it or another Sashihara Rino case shows up.

But is it right? I don't think it is, but I'm a Westerner, and as one commenter on the Idol Thoughts post said, we Westerners don't understand, or at least (to me) we don't understand it as much as the Japanese do. In Japan the system is a bit more strict, and for an idol - a female Idol especially - to date is risky business. Even having an ex-boyfriend can be risky, because it ultimately destroys that 'pure image' that has been created for the Idol who has dated, ultimately destroying the hopes of their fans who think that they have a chance with the Idol.
 I would like to note that this system does tend to lax a little when it comes to male Idols though, with the males generally getting away with dating, but I do put this down to how Japan views certain things; after all, Japan is still quite a male dominated society, or at least it seems that way, hence why it may seem easier for a male idol to get away with certain things like dating. But this is just my view, so don't take my word for it.

Again, the system is strict - but it isn't completely different to the system in America or Britain, either. Most singers or Idols now in the Western entertainment industry are free to date who they like, but that doesn't mean that their agencies don't try to stop them. The 'no-dating' rule, or a rule that they were not to get caught, was a little more prominent in the 90's when boy bands were big. Why? So that the fans could feel like they had a chance with a member of the band that they liked. It's the same with Idols in Japan now - it's that sense of availability and the 'chance' that the Idol might like the fan that fantasises about them one day. Of course when that Idol does eventually date, it ultimately breaks that fantasy and brings you back into reality, making you realise that you may not have a chance with the Idol or singer you have adored for so long.

This is the reason why many of the younger singers in America or Britain don't date in the early points of their career; it's to create the illusion that they are there for everyone, and that they are available to their fans and only their fans, giving their hearts and souls to the girls and boys who support them adoringly.

The first and last time you will ever see Bieber on my blog, I hope
I want to use Justin Bieber as an example here of a modern day Western Idol. Why Idol? Because whilst he is technically a singer, he also sells more so on his looks and merchandise than anything else and what used to be that 'everyday boy next-door' image that everyone absolutely adored. It's also interesting to note that for the first two years of his career he was single. Why? To create the image of being available to his fans and only his fans of course. If he had begun his career with a girlfriend on his arm, I doubt it would have helped him as much as being single did because his tween fans adored him and liked the fact that they could think they one day had a chance with him.

Of course upon getting a girlfriend his popularity didn't waver at all, but there was a clear backlash; Selena Gomez, despite being pretty popular herself thanks to her Disney contract, received a good amount of abuse from female fans of Justin over the internet because she was his girlfriend. It doesn't sound right, but it happens still, and it's because Justin Bieber broke the fantasy of his availability for his own fans.

Not to say that all fans are like this, because not all of them are. There are actually a few British boy band groups out there now who have girlfriends and are readily accepted by their fans despite this, but for someone as big as Justin Bieber is in today's society, his availability played a huge part in how he was seen by his fans; he was a single young boy who all the girls could pretend would one day become theirs and no one else's. Once that fantasy was broken, the girls went to the internet to abuse Justin's girlfriend because they felt that she had done something unforgivable and probably thought that she had corrupted him in a way.

It may just be me who thinks this way, but I do see similarities between all societies and cultures in how we view our Idols and the ideals we have for them; Idols and singers are there for us to not just enjoy, but to also fantasise about and pretend that we have a chance with all of these Idols. Yes, the Western culture is a little more laid back in how we view things and we certainly don't kick out our Idols or singers for coming out and dating - if we did, then singers like Taylor Swift would probably be in debt by now - but there are similarities with how we like to see our Idols available and there for only us and staying pure for the sake of the fans.

When the commenter for Ray's post said that we Westerners don't understand that if AKB48 Idols date then they won't sell, I do think that they were wrong. To a certain degree we do understand; we're just a little more laid back about it and accept what comes, however we also use a different method of backlash if we are the sort of fan who takes our obsessive love to the next level; we threaten and rant about the person that our Idol is dating, not the Idol themselves dating. Unlike Japan, we Westerners tend to either take it out on the person who is dating our beloved singer or we sit back and don't care - it all depends on our maturity and/or obsessive levels, really.

We all know that the dating rule for Idols in Japan won't end any time soon, but it doesn't stop us from dreaming that it will go, does it? Maybe it's because of how laid back Westerners are that we wish the rule was gone, because whilst the rule itself applies to our own Idols it is applied very loosely and only stays around for a few years or so.

And I love my Idols, but I do think that the way Japan see's things can be a little sexist at times - especially where it concerns female Idols and their purity - and with a vast amount of the fans being made up of middle-aged male wota, the no-dating rule is currently impregnable. Will it ever go away? Possibly, but not until Japan becomes more aware of the fact that their Idols also need love and care from people outside of their fanbase. You really can't expect these girls to stay virgins forever, and you can't expect them to stay true to a persona they created for the sake of society. Girls can only act like dolls for so long, really.

Until then though, the no-dating rule still applies. Of course this is only what I think; take my opinions with a grain of salt, and think about what the no-dating rule in Japan's Idol society means to you. Would you keep it or not?


  1. [cue long-ass response]

    There is a general rule that Idols over the age of 24 or 25 should be allowed to date, so, more male idols get away with it because more of them are adults than the female idols. Also, yeah, as well as the perception of women, it's to do with the fact that the idols are presented as what the fans want. The fanboys want pure innocence and the fangirls want experience and romance. I mean, a lot of fangirls don't mind if their idol HAS dated but god forbid they are currently dating! Some freak!

    But, that being said, let's just consider what happens with male idols. Akanishi Jin gets married, all of a sudden, allegedly breaking JE rules by not telling anyone beforehand, and, whilst Meisa gets trouble for a while before eventually getting back into people's good boots, Jin remains, having broken the fantasies of many fans, be it fantasies of them being with him or Kame being him (bloody Akame fans, some of them are psychopaths!), out of the spitlight entirely. We've heard VERY little from Jin since the marriage announcement, aside from the birth of his kid. His whole tour was cancelled JUST because he got married. I mean, marriage is more serious than dating, but, it's hard on male idols, too. Well, actually, no, it's more that Johnny Kitagawa is a mad old man who hates everyone who doesn't bring in TONS of cash. And, well...most idols are JE XD

    That being said, I DO hate the idea that all girls have to be pure and innocent and, I don't care what they do on variety shows, AKB enforce this like god-knows-what. It's one of the main reasons I've never really been able to get into them.

    1. Phobos, hello to you and your long comment! 8D

      To be honest, as you can probably tell, I'm aiming this post at female Idols mostly - I know (and you know) that I don't follow female idols a whole lot (a crime really), but when it came to this post I actually thought about Jin. His punishment is one of the worst, all for getting married. However, because I don't follow male Idols from Japan OR understand their appeal (thanks for telling me by the way!) I didn't add anything in about it.

      I have a feeing that for older female Idols it is easier to marry in a sense; they graduated as an Idol and made it clear that they would one day marry. I think men, once a woman has come to a certain age, accept that this is the way to go. As women, we don't - we're a bit more clingy? However sexist that makes me sound, I do think it is true!

      Purity~ PURETTY

    2. I know, imagine that, getting married. The bastard.

      The thing is, though, that the girls have to graduate from being idols while men are still idols when they're married, kinda. I wouldn't say SMAP were idols as such, but being married didn't change anything. They were idols once but they're not considered as such anymore but nothing else changed.

      Well, obviously, there are exceptions, but, on the whole women are more emotionally-motivated. Though, that's probably to do with upbringing and society's enforced views on how people should act but that's a much grander issue and it'd probably be pointless to go into it. But, yeah. And, besides, in Japan, it's basically the done-thing to assume that a woman will one day have children. Of course, this is slowly become less true but idols are somewhat of an extension of the perfect Japanese woman; something more modern than a Yamato Nadeshiko but not hugely far off from it. But, again, family is hugely tied into Japanese culture to the extent that men are expected to become great fathers, as much as women are expected to be great mothers. Obviously, women have it worse, in a sense, in terms of enforced views, but, becoming a great parent applies to both genders in Japan, I guess. So rather than women just being there to pop out babies, the men are also expected to support the women on an emotional level, I think. But, I'm not an expert on Japanese tradition, so, what do I know? xD

    3. I guess girls can graduate from it because, eventually, women are 'expected' to become wives and serve their husbands and eventually have kids.

      As you said, Idols are somewhat an extension of this.

  2. I have to say that I agree with most if not all the things you said in this post. I think you're right to say that this dating ban helps create an innocent image. I however do think that there's another important side to this ban that most Jpop idols don't seem to realize (I say Jpop since in Kpop I have seen several people talk about it.) Besides the clashing with the innocence of an idol there is another possible downside of their having a boyfriend that the agencies would like to avoid: Them being distracted. Many Kpop idol groups have a dating ban for the first several years after their debut so that they are able to spend all their attention on working for their group without being distracted by significant others. Then, once the group has become 'settled' and it's clear that the idols will be able to maintain a responsible attitude they release the ban. I think this is also a reason about the dating ban with japanese idols, though since they start out younger and finish younger, lifting the ban doesn't really apply.

    1. Oh my gosh good point! It's pretty similar to all Idols really! I've even heard it about Idols in the UK or America from my Media classes, but I must have forgotten it.

      Sarah is so smart~

    2. >////< I'm not smart~ I've just been googling every Kpop related term that I didn't understand and 'dating-ban' was one~ I saw people talking about when their's would be lifted in a talk show so I had to find out how it differed from what I'm familiar with through H!P :P

  3. I want to say I agree with you 100% on this topic. How feel about the no-dating rule itself can be strict but that is how their culture goes about it. I just feel that the Eastern standards needs an upgraded but I guess when this has been in basic from the older to younger generations that will be hard to reteach them new ways. You also hit the nail on the head their about how our world (Western world) goes about things. We are very laid back. For us I feel its the problem on both sides. (For the Bieber illustration you mention) is a grand example. I know of course he was younger and wasn't thinking about how it would effect his fans. But I feel that his management or himself could have done something for the fans. Like write a respectful message to them. As of fans some of them obsession levels were pretty high and when that pure image is instore into their minds for so long they go into those extremes. I feel like some of them need to learn that people won't be young forever and that they will grow up soon. But teenagers don't think about that at times (just some of them lol)

    1. Thank you Asupon ^^ I wanted to try and compare their culture with ours to see the similarities, but yeah, we are the laid back ones XD We do have the crazies somewhere, though!

  4. I agree with the person above who said that male idols also receive a backlash. But they do still exist in the idol world, for females who are in scandals it's rarer to see them.

    I also think the whole no-boyfriend thing is a way to tell women they aren't worth anything if their virginity is gone...

    1. o-o that's a darker way of viewing it, though possibly true, too...

  5. Nice article! I'll have to search up the Sashihara Rino case later. Lately the fan base of Western singers seems to be similar to the Japanese fanbase in terms of dating. Especially with that guy Harry Styles and Taylor Swift previously, I can imagine the comments she got because of the breakup. Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and One Direction will be examples of fandoms with terrible behaviour towards dating and other things in the future.

    While in Japan it makes them lose their image and even their image in a group, in the West I find that it boosts awareness and popularity of the artist or idol and they are usually referred to dating their significant other for a long time.

    I do believe Japan is sexist towards this situation but I believe it happens around the world where a woman is in a relationship, they are immediately regarded for abuse or slut-shamed.

    1. I don't think Nicki Minaj has too crazy a fanbase when it comes to dating. It all seems to depend on whether or not you badmouth Nicki. That's when the Barbs and Kens start getting nasty ;P
      But, this is also just an outside observation.
      Unless, you're talking about break-ups. Then. Oops.

      Japan is sexist in a different way, I'd suggest. Japan insist that the girl stay innocent but that's about it. And I do not like that view. But, then, the Western world make it clear that not dating someone is weird and gross and makes you a total sad-case but, if you do date someone and it doesn't go well, you're a dirty slut anyway and no-one will ever love you. All the slag Taylor Swift gets, though, is because of other things, such as her being overly clingy to an almost worrying extent. Or so the media would have us believe. Obviously, I don't know Taylor Swift, so, I don't know.

    2. Thanks NyNy! :) As Phob said in her comment, Nicki Minaj doesn't have too crazy a fanbase, and also, she's a grown woman; I doubt she would let her fans stop what she wanted to do or even listen to them if they complained.

      I think that the reason why it's so 'good' to breakup here (for the awareness and popularity boost you exampled) is because we go by the philosophy of 'All news is publicity' or 'all news is good news' - we have an approach which is lenient and also garners interest from the public. I barely listen to Taylor Swift but I know that she is notorious for being with multiple men thanks to the amount it's talked about.

      'I do believe Japan is sexist towards this situation but I believe it happens around the world where a woman is in a relationship, they are immediately regarded for abuse or slut-shamed. ' <--- THIS

    3. TBH I do prefer Japan's system when it comes to dating - I'm seen as weird by plenty of people because I very rarely date.

      Taylor just has a lot of boyfriends from what I know. I don't bother to care otherwise - if she wants her men by her side then she can have as many men as she wants!