Japanese pop princess offers shaven headed apology

The video of the once genki, long-haired young woman with a skinhead, contorted face and red eyes apologizing directly into the camera was viewed millions of times, and continues to be. This kind of public media apology in Japan usually comes from company officials, sacrificial scapegoats for their company’s bad practice or illegal activities. But from a 20-year-old woman who had done nothing ilegal, it was a disturbing scene.
Ironically AKB’s success is down to their relations with men. Millions of male fans “relate” to the women onstage or online and through countless videos, photos, and products. These distant fantasy relationships are positively encouraged, just not real relationships. This was  Minami’s true sin that by being with her real boyfriend she was effectively ‘cheating’ on thousands of virtual boyfriends. The only way to make them forgive her and win them and their money back was by this extreme show of contrition.

AKB48 has 88 members to choose from therefore every fan can find and support his own ideal girl in the group.The girls’ popularity is voted on constantly in online polls and by the number of hits for Web page views and goods purchased. These rankings are obsessively tracked, and the group members’ status and, presumably, compensation depend on how much they are “liked,” which means how well they sell.

This is highly profitable business. Some estimates place the income of top members at ¥15 million to ¥20 million a year. According to pop music chart compiler Oricon, AKB48 grossed total sales of about ¥19.1 billion in 2012.

Though Minami’s apology may be read as a sign of women’s low status in society it could equally be seen as just another twist on the usual salaryman apology; a personal sacrifice made for the greater good of a faceless corporate entity. That is pop music Japanese style.

Sourced and inspired by The Japan Times

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