Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the new single by the female idol collective HKT48. The column discusses media charges of sexism against the song and its writer-producer, Yasushi Akimoto, but another topic that has come to the fore in the talk about “Einstein yori Dianna Agron” is that old complaint about how idols are not allowed to have love lives because it would dilute their appeal and thus damage the brand. In the Shukan Asahi column I cited in the piece, Minori Kitahara talked about a male acquaintance who is obsessed with girl idols, in particular the AKB48 type. He’s in his 40s and married with a daughter in elementary school. In fact, he agrees that he is probably the typical “fan” of groups like AKB48. Kitahara asked him bluntly if he is sexually attracted to girls who are the same age as his daughter, and he answered that the attraction isn’t easy to explain, but gives an interesting example of how it is manifested. He told her that if an idol he admires writes on her blog that she went to Disneyland, he and others like him will wonder if she went there on a date with a man. He was quick to add that it isn’t as if he wants to go on a date with the idol himself, but he is nevertheless jealous if another man is going with her. The idea of there being a “shadow of a boyfriend” behind an idol disturbs him.
Kitahara explains that this feeling represents a kind of contract, which is why when girl idols are caught out on dates by the tabloid press, they have to apologize to their fans, who may feel betrayed. However, when Akimoto was asked about this aspect of the idol dynamic in the Aera interview, he said something slightly different: “I never said they couldn’t have [romantic] relationships. Once that happens, you can’t stop it. But if you’re playing high school baseball and have a girlfriend, it’s hard to do two things at once.” In other words, just as high school baseball players and other amateur athletes are told by their coaches that lovers will distract them from what’s really important–helping the team win–idols won’t put their all into entertaining their fans if they’re mooning over a boyfriend. Though it sounds like a different justification than the one Kitahara described, it comes down to the same thing: idols aren’t idols unless they ostensibly dedicate their souls to their fans and their fans only.