Now I’m not an AKB48 fan, but recently this “sex scandal” and public apologies seems to really be making J-pop news. For those of you that don’t know, AKB48 is a very popular girl band, which originally started of with 48 members (as the name suggests) but has grown to an astounding 88 members! Definitely the biggest girl band ever. All the girls in the band are aged between the ages of 14 and early 20s. As you can see, all the band members are kawaii and must maintain that image under all circumstances for their loyal fan base, which consists of mainly men (otaku’s to be more specific). In fact, part of their contract stipulates that they can not have a boyfriend or engage in any sexual relationship while in the band. Which is funny, because although they may be branded as kawaii, pure and innocent, there is still an underlying tone of sexuality and fantasy in this playful cosplay filled act.
Now unfortunately, Minami Minegishi, one of the band members, was spotted leaving a man’s house early in the morning. And that picture is now in all the tabloids. As a result she has lost her current status within the band and been demoted. Then came the video of apologies, which features her with a shaved head. In Japan, shaving your head signifies repentance and a desire to start anew.
Of course, from a “non-fan” point of view, what is so wrong about spending the night with your boyfriend?! She’s only 20, she’s young, and maybe in love, who knows. But at the end of the day, Minegishi signed a contract knowing full well the terms and conditions, and what she did was essentially a breach.
And here’s where I think this story becomes slightly disturbing and sad. If she broke one of the rules, should that not just be between her, her manager and record company? Why should she have to be publicly humiliated? What do you think of this idea of 責任 (せきにん) – duty/responsibility – that is so engrained in Japanese society? A sense of responsibility and duty you must honor at all costs. It most definitely has it’s good sides, but in this case, is it not a little to extreme? A few interesting comments I found in this article mentions how “shame is a primary agent of social control”. What do you think?
(Feature image source)