Extra: Idol groups in Japan

IdolPop idol groups. Pretty much all industrialized nations have them. But how they work can vary greatly. Here in the US, idol groups are usually boy or girl groups that have a catchy, but overall bland, sound and often get hired by Disney at some point in their careers (they sometimes also do a song for the US release of a new Pokemon movie right before disbanding, but that’s another story). Japan’s idol groups are a bit… different.

In Japan, idol groups are very closely linked to their fanbase, which is often female and ranging in the preteen through the teen years. So linked, in fact, that the members often have to keep to very strict rules of conduct. Scandals are simply not tolerated. Of course, this also has to do with how the Japanese think of their jobs. In Japan, your job is part of your identity. A company is thus not only the place you work at, but also like a secondary family unit. When outside of that unit, you represent it. This means that companies apply great amounts of pressure to their employees to represent them well. If the lead singer in a popular girl group in Japan is seen, say, walking around with a far older man who isn’t family, it’s considered as a slight not just to her image, but to the company that employs her.

Now you might be thinking, “Alright, so some political stuff goes down. Doesn’t sound too different from Disney to me.” Maybe not. But considering that such a system covers pretty much all idols groups in Japan, the influence seems to reach farther. In any case, if you ever notice a lead singer/dancer suddenly change positions with another member and no longer being “center” (the leader) anymore, do a bit of digging. I’ll guarantee that some scandal occurred and, in order to quiet things down, the spotlight was shifted away from the “offending party.”

Which is really quiet sad. While making a spectacle of oneself isn’t classy at all, many of the “scandals” these idols go through aren’t really scandals at all. Sometimes it’s something as simple as having a boyfriend, aka having a life. Meaning that often times becoming an idol in Japan means signing away your right to make mistakes, fall in love and, ultimately, live.
Complaining super stars in the US could take a few rounds in those shoes. They’d find that the scrutiny here can be rather tame in comparison.