SDB on idols

June 8th, 2012 by Author


Haruka’s Fan Number One.

There was a unduly nasty attack on Idolm@ster at Chizumatic recently, with the kinds of smear-by-association rhetoric that I would not even use on feminists. Leaving that aside, however, it was also misguided and wrong-headed in its thesis, which I think merits addressing.

The girls are used for a few years, and then discarded like yesterday’s newspaper so that an entirely new batch of girls can be cycled through.

[. . .]

These girls are having their childhood’s stolen from them.

The anti-pipeline theme is extremely popular among critics of idols, but is it sound? It is a matter of nature that humans develop, reach peak performance, then grow old and die. Accordingly, at certain point they cannot do what they used to do anymore. That point varies with the circumstances. Michael Schumacher may be able to drive a Formula 1 car for little longer, but Ralf Schumacher is over. Ralf is 10 years younger than Michael. Was he discarded like (insert your own insulting comparison here)?

It’s not just athletes, but common occupations, too. Once an engineer gets dementia, he’s finished. But at least that happens gradually. Airline pilots have to pass a strict medical examination every 6 months. They know that one day it will be over, just like that. At that day, some of them may be “discarded”, some given desk jobs, like the one Kotori Otonashi is given (and performs quite well).

Is anyone being hurt by the nature? Only if he or she allows it. Once my blood pressure reaches 160, an area’s Aviation Medical Examiner will “discard” me. Once I cannot write computer programs, my company will “discard” me. And I do not have a problem with that.

The above is a projection, but I happen to know a couple of former (Japanese) idols also. I do not receive a feeling that they consider themselves robbed of their best years. On the contrary, it was their time to enjoy, and now cherish.

When it becomes clear that nobody is more pimped than an engineering prodigy by his wise manager, the final defence of idol haters is the wailing about “the children”. The likes of Azusa Miura are conveniently excluded by the following fallacy: if one child is “exploited”, then all idols are no good. Unfortunately, I was not a childhood friend of the idols that I mentioned above, and I cannot vouch for them. But in the other walks of life, children may be told to do things, and then they may like it, or not. My mother made me play piano. In a couple of years, I traded it for an art school, and even completed it. I do not think that my childhood would be any more stolen if I were enrolled into a Russian equivalent of Project Juptier. I reject the notion utterly.

In the final arc of Idolm@ster itself, Haruka (Amami) deals with the same problem: what is it, being an idol? Is it fun? Is it meaningful? Fortunately, she is not poisoned with a complex that forbids women from performing in a commercial framework, so finds a good answer. Anime as we know it cannot exist without a massive expenditure; it is a fundamentally industrial art. But so are idols, too. The Idolm@ster anime gives us a surprisingly good look behind the scenes of it. And if anyone is repulsed by it, what can I say? Only this: you don’t know what you lose, and I don’t want to share your inferior system of beliefs.

UPDATE: Omo commented:

I think that is a problem any child entertainers have, but having your child work as an entertainer is relatively light work when all considered; most would think it’s a privilege or an opportunity rather than some kind of abuse.

I think Author is being too romantic about it (see his header pic) but it’s generally right. Child idols have nothing on, say, what Olympic gymnasts do, and those start at like, 3 years old. “Taking away childhood” sounds like the kind of straw-man old people who have forgotten what being a child was like, and has way too thick rose-colored lenses on.

Maybe I should have been more explicit about the issue of choice above. At age of 10, I wanted to quit piano, but my mom would not hear it. I suppose that I could tell her stuff it even then, but I was a nice boy. In the end, I was able to trade it for art. I don’t see why anyone in Idolm@ster would not be able to quit either, even Yayoi. On the other hand, I get a feeling that Steven did not read closely before replying anyway, so spelling it all out was no use.