Media Mix, Jan. 8, 2012

Aya Ueto, doing what she does best

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the ever-increasing incidence of celebrity marriages precipitated by unplanned pregnancies. These “dekichatta” unions have become so common that whenever a famous person announces he or she is getting married a spokesperson usually has to clarify whether or not the bride in the equation is already with child, since it’s the first thing the show biz press thinks about. Beyond notions of prurience, it’s something that begs discussion, and for several reasons. Though I only touched on the matter, and in a rather flip way, the effect such “happy news” has on society can’t be underestimated, and the general acceptance of dekichatta marriages implies that the people involved aren’t very careful about their sexual activity. While surveys indicate that most people frown upon dekichatta unions and talent agencies don’t really like them either, the media ignore the whole sex education aspect of the phenomenon, probably because, for one, it’s not really in their purview to make such pronouncements (even if the tabloid side always tsk-tsks about it); and, second, any news about having babies must be met with congratulations and good wishes, because that’s just common courtesy. (Footnote: Kumi Koda, the main focus of the column, already proved her lack of gynecological knowledge several years ago when she remarked on a radio show that women had to have babies before they turned 35, at which point their amniotic fluid became “spoiled.”)

Some people will say, “What’s the big deal?” In almost all these cases, the principals are adults and what happens between them is their business. As individual situations, dekichatta marriages are not bad things, but in Japan it is still extremely poor form to have a child out of wedlock. Because of social mores reinforced by the family registration system, illegitimate children are subject to institutional discrimination, which is the main reason why the illegitimacy rate in Japan is only about 1 percent. Some will say that’s a good thing, except, as pointed out near the end of the column, 80 percent of dekichatta teen marriages end in divorce, and 80 percent of all teen marriages are dekichatta. The point is not that couples who are faced with unplanned pregnancies choose to get married–that seems a foregone conclusion in Japan–but that they are so cavalier about the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy. In recent years, we have seen news stories on an almost daily basis involving child abuse and neglect, but the media and the authorities don’t make connections between such tragedies and the dekichatta phenomenon. Child abuse and neglect have been around since time immemorial, and the only reason it’s become so prevalent in the news is because the authorities and the media are paying more attention to it as a problem rather than as a fact of life. Such a development is, in and of itself, a sign of social progress; and so should be the notion that people, whether or not they are in serious relationships, are prepared for the arrival of a child that they will have to raise and love. Fifty years ago, such considerations were out of mind, since having a child was something that just happened; but, then, child abuse and domestic violence were also something that just happened. Society has come a long way.

As a side note, and ancillary to David McNeill’s article about how advertising concerns caused the Japanese press to hold back in its coverage of the Fukushima disaster, some stars seem more careful about dekichatta situations than others. Take Aya Ueto, one of Japan’s most popular young actresses. Over the New Year’s break it was reported that Ueto was engaged to Hiro, the leader of the R&B collective Exile. As it turns out, the story was “scooped” by Nippon Sports, which always runs a big story to greet the new year, whether it’s true or not. In most years it is, but apparently the intelligence that Ueto and Hiro will marry sometime in the spring has not been confirmed by either star or their respective management companies. Nevertheless, the news prompted my own editor to ask me if I’d heard anything about whether or not Ueto is pregnant. There seem to be no such rumors in the tabloids, and for obvious reasons. Were Ueto pregnant, she and Hiro would most likely register their marriage as soon as possible rather than wait for the spring, and that obviously hasn’t happened. But more significant is the fact that Ueto seems to be a very careful young woman. Some of the discussion of the story on the morning wide shows last week centered on the touchy subject of all those companies that use Ueto in their advertising campaigns. This talk of marriage may make them reconsider those contracts, since any change in image could mean a change in ad campaigns. If Ueto were actually pregnant, however, that would be beyond the pale; and it’s very likely that in order to protect these lucrative contracts, Ueto’s management is very concerned about her romantic activities. She’s just too much of an investment to leave to chance. In this regard it’s helpful to note that Ueto’s previous boyfriend was Go Morita of the boy band V6, which belongs to the Johnny’s stable. Johnny’s is notorious for keeping its charges on a short leash, and except for one well-known exception (Tatsuya Yamaguchi of TOKIO), no Johnny’s idol has had a dekichatta marriage. I’m sure those boys learn about condoms at a very early age.

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One Response to Media Mix, Jan. 8, 2012

  1. rontokyo says:

    “. . . since any change in image could mean a change in ad campaigns.”

    Could it be said that most female “talento” who appear in commercials have pretty much the same image, i.e., pure and charming? It’s seemed to me that most of these young women are pretty much interchangeable.

    As a note, I’ve only recently discovered your blogs and Japan Times columns — all of which I find informative reads. Many thanks!

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