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This week’s featured article

PHILIP BRASOR, THE JAPAN TIMES

Last week the media obsessed over the story about the 17-year-old girl who was sued by a talent agency for violating the terms of her contract, which stipulated that while she worked for them as a member of an idol singing group, she could not be involved in any romantic relationships.

When she was 15 it became known to the agency that she spent a night in a hotel with a male fan. The group subsequently disbanded and the agency sued the girl. The judge who heard the case sided with the company, saying that this is the way show business works: Devotees of certain figures will withhold their support and, by extension, money if those figures are deemed unapproachable as objects of desire. The girl’s actions harmed the agency’s profitability.

Over on the other side of that line called “success” was a similar story that received different treatment from the tabloid press. Taichi Kokubun is a 41-year-old man and member of Tokio, one of the biggest idol groups in Japan, and his announcement earlier this month that he had married a 38-year-old former television director brought up similar questions about how he was affecting the earning power of Johnny and Associates, the agency that made him a star.

Kokubun isn’t the first Johnny’s idol to get married. Another Johnny’s idol, Yoshihiko Inohara of the boy band V6, held a joint press conference with actress Asaka Seto when they broke the news about their marriage in 2007. In 2010, Inohara landed a hosting job with NHK’s morning information series “Asaichi,” whose ratings improved after he came on board. The feeling is that Inohara’s new status as a family man boosted his image among housewives, the target audience for “Asaichi.”

As one TV producer said, some years ago Johnny’s had to own up to the fact that many of its most popular charges, all males who joined the agency when they were pre-teens, were entering middle age. The idea was to groom some of them to become TV hosts before reaching their “expiration dates” as idols.

First published in The Japan Times on Sunday on Sept. 27.

Warm up

One-minute chat about “idols.”

Game

Collect words related to love, e.g., marriage, date, boyfriend.

New words

1) stipulate: state; e.g., “My daily schedule is not stipulated in the contract.”

2) subsequently: after that; e.g., “There was a fire, and they subsequently changed their attitude toward safety.”

3) devotee: follower; e.g., “The singer has many devotees.”

4) figure: person; e.g., “He always seemed like a lonely figure.”

Guess the headline

Working the politics of an i_ _ _ m_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Questions

1) What was written in the contract between the girl in the article and her agency?

2) According to the judge in the case in the article, how does show business work?

3) What could be the result of Inohara’s marriage?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you think idols should avoid having romantic relationships?

2) In what kind of case does a marriage improve an idol’s image?

3) What would you do if you were an idol and fell in love with someone?

Reference

恋愛や結婚と言ったプライベートな出来事はほとんどの人たちにとって仕事と切り分けられたことですが、公の場でそのプライベートを紹介する機会の多い芸能人にとって仕事と恋愛を切り分けることは難しそうです。

芸能人の恋愛スキャンダルはいつの時代もどの国でもタブロイド紙を賑わわせてきました。自分を好きになってくれるファンを増やすことが仕事であるアイドル達も、誰かを好きになることはあるでしょう。しかし、恋愛禁止令を破ったがために所属事務所から裁判を引き起こされるとなれば当人たちにとって恋愛は相当な覚悟が必要な賭けのように感じられます。

仕事もプライベートも充実させたい、とは職業に関わらず多くの人が望むことですが、アイドルはその実現にあたって頭をひねる必要があるのかもしれません。

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