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Contrite AKB48 Pop Star Shaves Head in Shame… for Dating

Posted on the 03 February 2013 by Kzawadzki @kzawadzki

Contrite AKB48 pop star shaves head in shame… for dating

Here’s a piece of news of the bizarre I just saw on BBC’s website. Apparently, in some musical groups, like AKB48 in Japan, dating is a cardinal sin. And should you dare spend a night with your boyfriend, you are to be shamed and shunned.

Unless you come back begging in an online video, apologizing profusely by shaving your head. At least, that’s what Minami Minegishi felt she had to do to remain in the band. And even so, who knows if it’ll work considering she’s already been demoted.

Minegishi is ultimately responsible for her own choices and actions, including spending time with her boyfriend, shaving her head and publishing a tearful video on YouTube. But you have to wonder what kind of culture this production company and this AKB48 band is cultivating that she felt she had to go to such an extreme as shaving her head – which, as the BBC reports, is a traditional way of publicly showing contrition for wrong-doing in Japanese culture.

I’m sorry, but when you’re part of a performing group, I think most fans are smart enough to know that you’re putting on a show. Those who can’t figure that out and separate the performance from the person have bigger problems than a pop icon with a sex life.

At the same time, given that “no dating” is part of the prerequisites for membership in this group, I could definitely see the point that these girls, including Minegishi, knew what they were getting themselves into and could have opted out of joining. Not to sound overly-sappy, but relationships can bloom when you least expect them to, and you can’t predict when that love, affection and romance (or hell, even just a booty call) happens. You also can’t necessarily stop it when it does happen.

Still, if having a private life threatens an act’s popularity or fame, then its true value and longevity must be wafer-thin and in serious jeopardy, anyway. If this AKB48 and “kawaii” image are worth investing any time, money or attention in, they should be able to withstand its members having a normal life off-stage.

Tabloids constantly plow into celebs’ private lives to the point where it’s nauseating. But sometimes, controversy can have justification; there are certain acts that give real reason to shake your head in disgust about. But it takes a lengthy pattern of behaviors for a star’s name to become synonymous with trouble, not talent. Dating should not be considered such an outrageous act and cause for this level of controversy.

For more perspective, according to The Herald Sun, this isn’t the first AKB48 controversy ever. One of these was apparently a TV ad where “the girls seductively passed candy from mouth to mouth,” which was a huge hit even as more conservative sections of society reportedly protested. To me, that sounds a bit more risqué – and public! – than going out on a date.

My heart goes out to Minami Minegishi. I write this piece not to shame her even further, but to offer my support, empty as these words may realistically be for her or anyone else.

Nobody should be shamed for daring to have a life.

It sounds to me like AKB48 and the production group managing it need to revisit these draconian codes of conduct. Stories like these bring out into the light the sad truths of certain forms and aspects of show business: AKB48′s “kawaii” public image of cute innocence belies a harsh regime run like a nunnery cult once the curtain falls.

One user on Twitter, @Shige_Onz, summed it up well, saying:

What’s the point of this public execution show? It’s like something from the war or a totalitarian state.

My thoughts, exactly.

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