Well, it certainly seems that the Western press has caught wind of this story.
People are certainly entitled to their opinion. My American Democratic values tell me that this is completely within the rights of all people. But, the opinions of all are not meant to hold equal influence. Yes, most of the harsh opinions I read are from people who do not understand the very nature of AKB48 because there is no Western equivalent of AKB48.
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” -Thomas Jefferson
I’m frankly tired of reading opinions from people who assume that AKB48 is just a group of girls who sing. It is this and far more. These girls (and for the most part they are all girls- not women) are held to a moralistic standard. This isn’t different than girls anywhere else in the world. If a teenager was caught making the walk of shame in my part of the world, there would be an scandal of smaller magnitude.
I think this is where the world of idols gets in trouble. Demanding that teenage girls live a life free from boys or romance isn’t really that big of a deal. Any boarding school, religious or otherwise, will have a moral standard. Hell, all of my girl cousins lived with the exact same boyfriend ban!
What we are currently seeing with idols are idols who are well past their teenage years. There are reasons for this, of course. I won’t judge anyone harshly for wanting to stay part of the AKB cash cow. These women make a choice to stay in a system meant for young girls. And, they pay dearly for it! It is ridiculous to expect a woman to live free of romantic attachment. Even if she is not the village bicycle, women in search or Mr. or Mrs. Right is normal. Because the idol system was never meant for women, they are putting themselves in a situation that pits their pocketbook against their hormones.
Although the idol concept has not evolved beyond young girls, idol entertainment has evolved. The hyper-sexualization of idols is a relatively new phenomenon. The overt sexuality of many groups seems like old hat now, but this is the result of a few years of envelope pushing. The new idols who stick around into their young adult lives are now the perfect vehicle for this kind of titillating entertainment. We encourage our idols to “sex-it-up”, yet we also demand that they live like little girls.
All of this puts the entire system in a delicate place.
I reiterate my point: there is nothing wrong with Minegishi, or any other idol, leaving the business to pursue love, life, or fame. What I don’t want are people asking me to be compassionate towards someone who chooses to stay in the idol system, yet cannot abide by the contract. Minegishi can be an idol, or she can be a woman. She, or any idol for that matter, cannot be both. Like real life, Minegishi, and all idols, must make a choice and live by the consequences.