Ian Martin’s Feb. 1 article, “AKB48 member’s ‘penance’ shows flaws in idol culture,” calls attention to Minami Minegishi, a member of the Japanese girl pop band AKB48. She violated the Golden Rule for idols by going out on a date. The video of her making a tearful apology after she had shaved her head went viral. Apparently idols are seen as the objects of “fans’ fragile fantasies,” and the idea of these idols being in love weakens these fantasies. Failure to abide by this code results in exclusion from the pop group or demotion.
In my opinion, when society accepts this no-dating rule, the right to a life outside of work is violated. Although girls may join voluntarily, they are exposed to public scrutiny through a media magnifying glass. Once they are remolded into fans’ ideas of perfection, every aspect of their lives becomes controlled. Girl fans learn from a young age to look up to these revered icons and become like them as much as possible.
As a student attending an international school, my perspective is affected by a variety of cultures. Idols in other countries seem to have freer rein over their personal lives. They are not restricted from dating other celebrities or even fans. This should be the standard for all idols. No matter how famous, everyone should have the right to private moments away from the paparazzi.
Perhaps it is extreme to view shaving the head as “well-deserved punishment” for someone accused of misbehavior. Yet, pop culture’s continuing to ensure that such absurd rules are upheld could be considered cruel in itself.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.