Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the latest development in the coverage of Princess Mako’s and Kei Komuro’s bumpy road to everlasting happiness. “Coverage” is the operative word here since it’s not clear how much of what the media says about this fraught love affair is rooted in reality. Even the way the press pounced on the cited Shukan Asahi survey that found 97 percent of respondents “disapproved” of Mako and Komuro marrying showed how much the publications with a stake in such stories (tabloids, weeklies, and women’s magazines, mainly) want to think the worst of Komuro. But, in fact, if you look at the results of the survey more carefully you find that while 52 percent of the respondents said Komuro needs to explain the money issue, 48 percent said it wasn’t necessary. The media harps on the money that Komuro’s widowed mother supposedly owes her former lover, funds she claims were given to her son to help with his education and with no strings attached, and thus the reason for the public’s enmity toward Komuro is assumed to be this money. That’s why Komuro said last week that he is keen to pay it all back, regardless of the ex-lover’s original intentions, but that there is still some sort of failure to communicate with the man, or at least with the people representing him.
What needs to be remembered is that it was this ex-lover who originally brought the story to a weekly magazine several years ago, and who has effectively, not to mention anonymously, controlled the narrative ever since. Komuro and his mother, for the most part, have tried to keep quiet in order to save Mako and her family as much embarrassment as possible, so in the end the whole scandal is something that was brewed up between the ex-lover and whichever media outlets he has talked to; which isn’t to say Komuro and his mother are off the hook, but the story plays into established prejudices about single mothers and the men they take up with, presumably for financial reasons. Based on what small amount of real information is available (as opposed to the rank speculation fueling most media reports), Komuro should actually be commended for defending his mother, who may have made a bad choice of a romantic partner, but then why does the media take that romantic partner at his word in everything he says?
Of course, nothing of this story would matter if the imperial family weren’t somehow involved, but it says something about the media’s priorities that they can provoke negative public opinion so easily with the dangerous cliche that single parents, especially those whose deceased spouses committed suicide, are, by definition, not good parents at all.