Media Mix, Jan. 29, 2012

Seiko Noda

Here is this week’s Media Mix, which is about two recent Fuji TV documentaries. The subject of one of them, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Seiko Noda, has been discussed in this column before, and more than once. Noda is a controversial public figure, but most of the media that “bash” her–basically the weeklies–do so, I think, because she fits their idea of a striving woman. She’s a tireless self-promoter who connects her personal struggles to a larger social purpose, usually in the area of family law and the Civil Code, but the immediate issue illuminated by the TV program “I Wanted to Be a Mother” has no real social-political relevance. Her son, Masaki, was born with multiple serious health problems. As one doctor implies, he should not have survived, and that is the basis of the program’s appeal, if you can call it that. Nevertheless, Noda, who is the real subject of the documentary, not Masaki, insists on justifying everything that led up to Masaki’s conception and arrival in the world. Since Noda has chronicled her decade-long road to motherhood in books and TV specials, those of us who have followed her journey already know why she has put herself through all these difficult, expensive medical procedures to produce an heir. The title of the show makes the case that her most pressing need was maternal, that she always wanted to have a child, “have” being the operative word here. Though she has discussed in the past adoption when it became obvious that her physical situation made it difficult to conceive and give birth under normal circumstances, her reluctance to marry her partner made that option almost impossible since single persons or cohabiting couples can’t adopt in Japan. And, of course, the reason she didn’t want to marry her partner was because she didn’t want to change her surname, and in Japan legally married couples must share the same name. Her previous partner, also a politician, didn’t want to change his name, but her present partner, a restaurateur, eventually agreed to change his, but apparently he did so after the adoption option was already discarded and his sperm was used to fertilize a third-party ovum, which was implanted in Noda’s body. Another piece of information that’s really none of our business is the race of the ovum’s producer. Noda understands the gossipy nature of the weeklies that have followed her saga and so preempts speculation by stating outright in the program that the donor was a white American woman. In fact, Noda seems to have insisted that she not be Asian so that it would make it easier for her to explain to her child later why she did what she did. To Noda, this sort of candor, toward both the public and her child, is an integral part of her responsibility as a public figure on the one hand and as a mother on the other, but as far as the latter goes it seems a huge burden to put on the child. Though she may want us to believe that Masaki will accept this explanation as proof of his mother’s determination to be a mother, the calculation involved would seem to indicate that it had more to do with achieving the goal of passing on her family name, which she received from her paternal grandfather, a powerful political figure in his own right who adopted her as his heir. Thus, Masaki will be expected to pass on the name himself. Hasn’t he gone through enough already?

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2 Responses to Media Mix, Jan. 29, 2012

  1. Miko says:

    Oh, this is distressing. Noda’s fearlessness and candour are admirable in some ways, but her selfishness and naivete (regarding motherhood) are not. She has money, which in this world can cover a lot of shortcomings, and probably a great deal of love for her child, but sometimes the power of money and even the strength of maternal love are just not enough. Poor Masaki.

  2. Angga says:

    Oh, this is distressing. Noda’s freelassness and candour are admirable in some ways, but her selfishness and naivete (regarding motherhood) are not. She has money, which in this world can cover a lot of shortcomings, and probably a great deal of love for her child, but sometimes the power of money and even the strength of maternal love are just not enough. Poor Masaki.

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