|A Youtube idol in its natural habitat.|
I'm going to leave a little warning before you read any further: this topic is going to get a little... touchy. I say that because I know there are a good deal of bloggers (and maybe even readers) who do things like cover idol songs and dances. Considering what this post is about... I'd recommend skipping out on this one and reading something else. Yes, I've finally managed to muster up enough
When I say "Youtube idol" I don't mean the groups that cover idol songs at cons and the places of that nature and just happen to post them on Youtube. Actually, I think performing and covering idol music for foreign audiences is a great way to introduce some really cool artists to other people in countries outside of Japan. It also seems like a good outlet to show a fan's love for idol music and to bring other fans together! But these aren't the kind of idols I'm here to talk about. I'm talking about the adolescent Western girl with a video camera and some idol music, dancing and/or singing idol songs from groups like AKB48, Hello! Project, even Perfume with the hopes that doing so will get her a foot in the Japanese music market and transform herself into an idol in the same magical way Usagi transforms into Sailor Moon. For the past two years that I've been into idol music, I would say I've done a pretty good job of distancing myself from this species of fans.
When I first got into idol music, I knew of them and I just decided to ignore them. I thought "What the hell? My version of fun is blogging about idol music and their version of fun is dancing to it. No big deal!" But as time has gone by and I've immersed myself further and further into the wotasphere, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to ignore them, especially now that I rely on websites such as Arama and Tokyo Hive for news to blog about. Every once in a while one of these Youtube idols pops up and like the idiot I am, I click the link and browse through comments and the video itself with this weird... bile fascination. My first initial reaction is "Why the hell am I watching this?" then after a few minutes it's "Why the hell did [Youtube idol here] post this?" and by the time the video is over it's "Did [Youtube idol here] think this was good?" For a long time, this phenomenon has been such an enigma to me and I feel like I can't just ignore it anymore. If I'm going to fully enter the wotasphere, I need to understand both the brighter and... weirder sides of such a diverse fandom. And I think the best place to start is at the root of this trend.
So then I found out she had released music. I listened to a few songs and... yeah, I can't sugarcoat my opinion, it's bad. Just... really, really bad. Like "I never want to hear this again" bad. And apparently a lot of other people thought so too! Now I don't know what runs through Cruel's mind any more than she knows what runs through mine so I have no idea if she's doing this because she genuinely still believes despite all the backlash against her that she can still make it in Japan or if she has ulterior motives. Who knows? Maybe she's hoping to get money off the earnings of these singles to pay for college! She is still in high school, right? I know if I were told I'd receive a shitload of money in exchange for doing something ridiculous and stupid that would cause the hatred of the Internet to pour down on me, I'd do it! I'd also wear a wig and sunglasses and a trench coat but that's not the point! Aside from dancing and singing (or trying to...), Cruel also appears to do some hair/makeup tutorials that I could care less about. So what have I learned from this? Well... Beckii Cruel is a walking talking embodiment of every single idol cliche you see in Japan. And that I could have spent those minutes watching her videos doing something more productive like cancer research.
Yet I can't bring myself to hate this girl even if I most likely won't touch anything she's released with a burnt-out glowstick. If anything, she comes off to me as rather naive and oblivious to both her own flaws and the criticism she receives. And I can see why; that's what happens when you get a bunch of fame all at once. Let me explain; at a young age, Cruel dabbled in dance covers and hit huge success. People loved her, old guys especially, and the attention she received was most likely more than she had ever been given in her short life and that was the key point in defining her outlook on her career and the people of the Internet who voice hatred towards her. When you have people build you up to such a high level of recognition and adoration, anyone who attempts to defy that opinion no matter how critical or narrow-minded their points may be, you'll most likely dismiss them as jealous "haters." After all, you have Internet fame and a horde of loyal fans; in your eyes, that person has nothing so they obviously must be trying to tear you down to bring satisfaction to themselves.
Too much fame at once is like too much cocaine; once you've had it, you just want more and more until you've become this attention-obsessed person who strikes down anyone attempting to criticize you as someone trying to steal the little bit of fame you've been cradling. You know how Smeagol found the One Ring in the events preceding the Lord of the Rings trilogy and that corrupted him into the creature of Gollum, a being dependent and addicted to the power of the Ring? Well... in this situation, 2009 Cruel is Smeagol, her fame and its influence on her are the One Ring, and 2012 Cruel is Gollum. And I honestly don't think she realizes that but I wouldn't expect her to because once again, that ego that was caressed and pampered so much is probably clouding her vision. Hell, if she comes across this post, she'll most likely call me out for being another jealous hater who happens to be a Perfume fangirl. I won't be surprised if she does; maybe we can have a nice little chat, girl-to-girl.
So why do I bring this up now? Well, a few months ago, Cruel started another idol endeavor titled Oishii Project or "Delicious" Project. Now contrary to the title, this is not one of the many group-dubbing cover channels that are so abundant on Youtube and it also isn't a revival of her other project. The best way I can describe it is it's Hello! Project: Youtube Idol Edition. The project consists of hopeful teenage girls from all around the world singing in front of their video cameras with the intent "to create a group of Net Idols from all over the world who have a passion for Singing, Dancing and Japanese Culture. Oishii!Project strives to create happy and energetic music and performances for everybody to enjoy." And they're trying to go to Japan. Everyone had quite the field day over this news back when it was announced, with accusations of being weeaboos bouncing right and left.
So what is a weeaboo anyways? Well... it's a little hard to describe since the term is incredibly subject. The nicest definition I could find on Urban dictionary is, "A non-Japanese person that either considers themselves Japanese, or wishes they were. Often confused with the word otaku which in Japanese is usually referring to a geek, while in English it usually means someone is obsessed with anime, unlike a weeaboo, who is not only obsessed with anime, but the whole entire culture. They are known to use Japanese words in the middle of English sentences, and they are hated by society." It's basically someone infatuated with Japanese culture, only focusing on certain parts of it (like idols and anime in lieu of Japanese politics and their economic situation), who wishes that they were Japanese despite having an ignorant view of the country itself. A few days ago, this Oishii Project released a music video for the debut single, titled Gametime. When I look at these videos and go off these definitions, all these girls come off as weeaboos to me and a majority of the fandom has the same consensus. They use poor Japanese, they pull out every cute gimmick they can think of, they embody every stereotype of the Moe concept that is so popular in Japanese anime, if I had a litmus test for weeaboos, these girls would all pass it with flying colors.
"But Nia!" hypothetical-you cries out, "How could you bash these poor, innocent girls when you don't even KNOW them!? You soulless harpy!" You're right; I know nothing about these girls but you know what I am right about? No one else knows them either. The only thing we have to go by is the image these girls are projecting of themselves and when the image is that of a weeaboo, then that is how they're going to be perceived by the people of the Internet. What can I say? We're all horrible people on the Internet, myself included, who won't hesitate to rip someone apart if they set themselves up for it and weeaboos are pretty much the lowest of low in the idol fandom. Ironic, isn't it? When I was younger, my parents told me that it didn't matter how I looked on the outside; it was what was inside that counted. Well, on the Internet the opposite is true: outside is the only thing that matters. Anything you say, anything you broadcast will be scrutinized. Hell, my writing on this very blog attributes to how people see me. I don't think a majority of these girls realize that, seeing the criticism in the same way that Cruel does by shooting it down and going back to prancing around their bedrooms in school uniforms and remaining oblivious.
Granted, I'm certain a portion of the vocal hate they receive is just hate but there are probably people who have tried their best to give constructive criticism only to have it swept under the rug as "You're just a jealous hater!" So why do these girls latch on to this weebish and narrow-minded view that only represents part of the multi-faceted country of Japan anyways? Well... okay, say I wanna go to France; I'm a complete and total francophile. I think France is the greatest thing ever with its cute little berets, Eiffel Tower, infinite wineries, haute couture, you get the point. Hell, I don't want to just go to France, I want to be French. However, the only thing I can say in the French language is "Je m'appelle Nia!" and I know little to nothing about the state of their economy, their extensive history, life in France, customs, anything, just the parts I like about France. I think these Youtube idols see the country of Japan through rose-tinted shades, focusing on the parts they like (anime and idols) and ignoring all the nastier parts of the country (enjo kosai, Yakuza dominance, alarmingly high teenage suicide rate). This skewed outlook makes them incredibly ignorant about the country and their attempts to display knowledge of the Japanese culture are met with disapproval and cries of being an inaccurate and annoying weeaboo from netizens.
So why do this? Why take the risk of making yourself look like an ignorant fool? Why even bother taking on such a convoluted idea of becoming a Japanese idol via the Internet? That really baffled me when I first started looking into these girls but now that I've I thought about it, I've got a few possible theories. I can't be certain because once again, I don't know these girls, but I'm coming from the viewpoint of a very Western teenage girl myself. Now I've never had the desire to become a Japanese idol via the Internet but I've had other hopes and dreams that were sadistically crushed by reality! Like when I was eleven years old I auditioned for my first play ever: The Bad Seed. I was so convinced I was going to be cast in it that I had little fantasies about rehearsing and performing it in a crowd of one thousand people. I didn't get cast because, big shocker here, I wasn't good at all but no one told me that. I had to find that out for myself and then I had to try my hardest to grow and improve as an actress. I think the biggest factor in a girl deciding she wants to be a Youtube idol is idealism; that was what so foolishly convinced eleven-year old me that I had the acting ability of Meryl Streep.
Idealism is a cruel thing really; it wraps itself around your thoughts and clouds your vision with idealistic pursuits that are fantastically unlikely. This is what drives a Youtube idol: the hope that she just might be one of the small handful of foreigners to be remotely famous in Japan. And I can see why foreign girls would be so convinced that they could make it in Japan. Most likely, they think that because they're from a different country, they can use that to their advantage. They can be the "shiny Western toy" to put it roughly that the Japanese can fawn over with fascination and adoration. The reality is Japan doesn't want Western artists but the possibility, that narrow possibility, lights up the eyes of these girls who try so hard to break into Japan with little to no acceptance from the country itself.
Personally, I think being a Youtube idol is fine if it's just a hobby. I love hobbies, they're awesome; writing on this blog is one of my many hobbies. They help keep people stimulated and stable-minded. I think if a girl is just doing it because she genuinely likes to dance to idol music and doesn't have some crazy motive of going to Japan and becoming the real life version of Hatsune Miku, then let her have her fun. She'll grow out of it in her own time if she wants to. These Youtube idols need to stop acting like it's a profession they're going to use when they take their pilgrimage to glorious land of Nihon and become the next super idol. They're not; most of them won't even make it past a couple views on Youtube. What these Youtube idols need to understand is they're a 99.9999999% chance that they're never going to break into the Japanese market let alone become a Japanese idol. If you're a Youtube idol still reading by this point with the hopes of traveling to Japan, sorry to be the one to crush your dreams but it's true. Even mixed races such as Crystal Kay and May J. have a hard time in the Japanese market; a 100% non-Asian person with little to no grasp of the Japanese language, pronunciation, culture, etc. has a slim chance of making it.
The best thing these Youtube idols can do for themselves is stop taking this so seriously and realize/accept the fact that it's nothing more than an addition to the millions of covers on Youtube. For instance, I write fanfiction but it's not like I expect it to be published as a sequel to The Hunger Games and read by millions; it's only a hobby and something I enjoy doing for the fun of it. So I really can't emphasize that these girls should just have fun and stop getting all spun up over becoming a Japanese idol; that takes all the fun out of having a hobby! If you know and accept that you're not going to be taken seriously and just post dance covers for the fun of it, then good for you! I think it's great you have a hobby you're so passionate about and you're not wasting time trying to break into a market that will never open its doors for you!
So... anyone still there? You've actually reached the end of this post! Yay! Sorry about the blocks and blocks of text but I just have a lot to say on this subject and now that I've gotten this out, I feel much better! If you're reading this and happen to be one of those Youtube idols I spent paragraphs just talking about, then the only thing I can say to you is this: if you love it, do it. Just be wary that posting it on a networking website with millions of visitors each day has its consequences. If you feel like you can take those consequences and look at them objectively with a calm head, then have fun doing what you love. I'll continue doing what I love (writing about idol music) and you can continue dancing/singing to said music and we can keep going our separate ways. Peace out or as a Youtube idol would say "バイバイ~"