Monday 11 February 2013

Twitter My Arse

Or: Seriously Guys, You’re Not Helping Yourselves Here

You’ll recognize this photo, I’m sure. If not, if this whole sorry episode has somehow passed you by, then I can only offer my sincere apologies for causing it to intrude upon your previously prelapsarian state of guileless innocence. Still, too late now. May as well join the rest of us proles down here in the gutter.

1.    Cherry Picking

On occasion, as part of my role as spokesperson for the rest of the world, Japanese people of my acquaintance will ask me what people abroad think about Japan. The answer varies depending on how well I know the specific person asking, and whether I’m have a bad day or not, but generally I’ll take the easy option and stick to the Four S’s: Sushi and Sumo, Samurai and Sakura. They’re safe enough and have the added bonus of being at least partially correct. As ever though, the whole truth is both more complicated and less complimentary.

It generally breaks down according to age. My grandparents’ generation’s views on Japan are, understandably, coloured very heavily by WWII so revolve principally around kamikaze pilots, comfort women, and appalling mistreatment of POWs such as the Death Railway. These are obviously things with very negative connotations.

These views bleed into those of my parent’s peers. They’ll generally see Japan in a more modern light, focusing less on military than economic power: the 80’s, the bubble, and the concurrent Japanese supremacy in the consumer technology market. For many of them, Japan is very much The Future (still), though this is all tempered somewhat by thinly disguised Yellow Peril fears predicated on corporate power and aggression. Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker. 

My (our?) generation marks the beginning of the end for Japan’s economic influence on the Western popular imagination, and the start of the rise of ‘soft power,’ specifically the pop-cultural cachet attached to manga and anime. The bootleg VHS copy of Akira got passed around our school almost as much as the copy of Basic Instinct, and benefited from not having crappy picture quality from excessive pause/rewind combinations around certain key scenes. Nintendo and Sega, Mario and Sonic; Japan was where the fun came from, even if was fun of a brutal, humiliating kind as depicted through excerpts of Endurance shown on various ‘Let’s Laugh at the Funny Foreigners’ TV clip shows. And of course we were also increasingly environmentally aware, in the self-righteously blinkered way only teenagers can be, so the continual slaughter of easily anthropomorphized sea creatures tainted the picture somewhat.

Finally we come to today’s yoot, and their hyper-connected world of chat-rooms, message-boards, and other social media. Anime is now a respectable artistic medium that you can study at post-graduate level, and why not? But as that becomes less exotic something else has to move in to fill the gap, so for many people in the English speaking world Japan has become the ultimate source of the crazy, the weird, and the fucked up. “Japan is weird” gets you over 100 million hits on Google, which is almost twice as many as “Japan is cool” but on a par with “Japan is evil.” Your average internet denizen’s concept of Japan seemingly revolves around childishly proportioned cartoon characters, cosplay, and tentacle porn, or various combinations of the three.

So it comes as no surprise that Miss Minegishi’s weeping penance has received widespread attention overseas. “She shaved her head in apology! Those kuraaaeeezy Japanese!” I’m now going to abuse Google again, and I’ll tell you how long it takes me to find an article making a spurious connection from that to the Japanese Sense of Honour or some such nonsense. Ready? Go.

And boom! We have a winner. 0.40 seconds.

It fits almost too perfectly into that Japan=Fucked Up trope which is so popular right now. I mean it is fucked up, but this really is the least of it. And this incident in particular is something we’re on very shaky ground with if we choose to laugh at it for reasons of supposed cultural superiority, because in actuality it represents something of a return to the Glory Days. Now, as once before, Japan is giving us a glimpse of where we are all heading. Now, as before, Japan is The Future.

2.    Fruit Loops

-       Why did she shave her head?
-       She’s apologizing for going on a date with her boyfriend.
-       That seems a little extreme. Was he someone else’s boyfriend too?
-       No. But you’re not far off.
-       Huh? What was it then? Kinky sex? Nazi-dwarf orgies? He’s her brother? She snorted coke off his turgid cock while laughing at a fat hermaphrodite taking a shit on a picture of the emperor?
-       No, just a date. It’s a betrayal though. A betrayal of her fans.
-       Her fans? They would feel betrayed by a date? And they take that seriously, do they?
-       Oh, yeah…

The genius of AKB48 is that it achieves an almost medicinally pure distillation of all that is wrong within its specific field of human endeavour. It’s a malevolent, carcinogenic type of genius though, to be sure. The Westboro Baptist Church of bubblegum pop; it masturbates disdainfully over the cowed, supine form of Poe’s Law before blowing its load in its face and wiping its dick on the curtains. You’ll let it reductio your ad absurdum and you’ll damn well enjoy it like the cheap whore you know you are.

This is where we’re heading, people. The brave new world of social media and celebrity-fan interaction. This is what we have to look forward to. We’re constantly being told how Twitter and the like are breaking down barriers between the famous and their admirers; making them more approachable, making them more accountable. AKB have roughly 400,000 members and perform hourly in their Akihabara formicarium so that they can at all times maintain the illusion that they are accessible; a perpetual clone-army cock-tease of substandard choreography and feigned availability.

Balls to that. I want the politicians I elect to be accountable. I want my doctor to be easily accessible. You know what quality I value most in my favourite singer? SINGING. I want my favourite actors to act, my favourite writers to write, and my favourite sportsmen to sports-do (go with it). As long as they’re not murdering children, or anyone else, I really don’t care what they get up to the rest of the time. I do not need to feel a sense of ownership or investment in their success or otherwise because I have more than enough on my plate trying to achieve my own.

And yet this is apparently what is expected: we must engage, we must ‘form a relationship.’ Vote for your favourite to come back next week and avoid the dance-off. Tweet your views on their most recent performance to them #liketheycouldgiveafuck. 462 of your friends Like the same brand of intimate sanitary product they endorse, you can too! I can friend McDonald’s on Facebook now.

No. I will not be expected to make an emotional investment in order to eat my fucking lunch. Make me a burger then kindly fuck off.


Credit where it's due.


  1. I was going to write a post about the head shaving then I realised how little I cared. Bottom line, she's a bit over the hill now and needs the attention.

    I think Japanese stars have had it good for a long time, with the kind of protection from negative press that Hollywood stars got back in the day. The Man can control the press but he can't control everyone with a camera phone and a twitter.

    1. Over the hill? She's what, twenty?

      And the sad part is, you're not even wrong.

      It's interesting, I was appalled by the wider implications of this, but my wife was far less impressed by her attention seeking. Dunno quite what to read into that.

  2. When people here ask me what I think of Japan, I say "What the Japanese do better than anyone else in the world is take shit. You people are sooo good at taking shit it's like an art form with you. I don't believe in the stories told in the Bible, but if they're true, Job was certainly a Japanese man. I mean, just look at his name, the one thing Japanese men value above all else in life..."

    1. I wasn't going to comment on 'kamo's' post, because there was nothing for me to add. I think you made the perfect comment:

      "Job was certainly a Japanese man."

      I am well over my teenage Nietzsche phase, but come on!

      "The essence of slave morality is utility: the good is what is most useful for the whole community, not the strong."

    2. Billy, Ant -
      "The essence of slave morality is utility: the good is what is most useful for the whole community, not the strong."

      You know what, I really feel like revisiting and amping up my Thomas the Tank Engine post when I read this. No wonder it's so popular over here.

      And talking of Japanese men taking shit, you've got to wonder exactly how her (presumably now ex-)boyfriend feels about all this. Can't imagine he's too impressed. Still, gaman and all that.

  3. I just wrote a very long and erudite comment. Possibly the longest and eruditest comment I've ever written and Google just ate it. So here's a crap summary of that based on my faulty memory:

    1. Great post.
    2. Yes, I couldn't give a shit either.
    3. Despite my best efforts, I seem to be turning into a humourless Marxist.
    4. I think this is also known as middle age.

    But as I say, the first comment was much better than this.

    1. Thanks for the comment, even if it is the second attempt. Let's say my original reply was equally witty and incisive ;)

      I thought we were meant to get more right-wing as we got older, not more lefty? I for one think that the problem with all those yankee kinds loitering outside the neighbourhood conbini is nothing a good sound thrashing with the birch wouldn't cure. Layabouts.

  4. "the "make illegal looking young girls attractive and appealing to old men" niche"

    It's not just Japan, that happens everywhere. Britney and what have you. Two glorious examples from the British media, sadly -

    Daily Star
    Daily Mail

    The key difference being, though, that those links are to people calling them out on it. It's not that it only happens here, it's that it only happens here and most people seem to be fine with it, or don't care, which amounts to the same thing.

  5. I actually found about this first reading the Sydney Morning Herald online. Not much to say on it really, except watching her upset confession made me feel really sad and disgusted a little.

    That whole band depresses the absolute shit out of me. The saddest part is seeing little girls trying to dress up and imitate this vacuous cocktease rubbish. How can shit like this be ok when there isn't (correct me if I'm wrong) any sex education in this country?

    I doubt a male boy band would be subjected to such silly rules, but I suppose their 'cherry' has a lot less value.

    I will just go back to ignoring and pretending that this stuff doesn't exist, don't mind me.

    1. For what it's worth, I think the boybands also have the same kind of nonsense going on, at least I'm pretty sure anything associated with the collective nightmare that is Johnny's do.

      "I will just go back to ignoring and pretending that this stuff doesn't exist,"

      This is by far the most sensible way of approaching it. Good luck to you, sir.