British Newspaper The Guardian Reports on the Becky / Kawatani Enon Affair as an Example of Japanese Sexism

By now, everyone who reads this site knows about the drama surrounding Kawatani Enon and Becky. Esteemed British newspaper The Guardian picked up the story today. The Guardian gave readers who aren’t familiar with the scandal the background. They then focused on how Becky’s career has basically died, while Enon’s has carried on. They used this as a means of pointing out sexism in the Japanese entertainment industry, saying that Becky’s biggest crime was that she broke “the steadfast rule that requires young female celebrities in Japan not only to entertain, but to remain morally unimpeachable.”

The Guardian interviewed Philip Brasor, a commentator on Japanese media and culture. He said that Becky is like many of the tarentos that appear on Japanese variety shows. “Her whole reason for being as a TV talent is her image as a cheerful, agreeable, proper young woman, and once that image is spoiled she has no value to the people who use her. Most of these people have no conventional entertainment skills. Their worth to their agencies is all tied into how much the public likes them as people, which means their private lives are the property of the agencies, too.”

Management companies spend time and money developing potential celebrities. They are creating a brand that leaves no room for indecency. Brasor also pointed out that Becky has been accused of adultery, so she will receive little public sympathy. When a TV channel used footage of Becky that was record pre-scandal after the story came out, the network received over 1000 complaints in less than 10 minutes.

The Guardian then reported on the 17 year old idol who was sued by her management company for breaking their no-dating rule. The company won. They also reported on a similar case where a 23 year old former idol was cleared of wrongdoing. This segment was ended with the scandal of AKB48’s Minami Minegishi.

All of these things “reveal the lengths to which Japan’s talent agencies will go to indulge the fantasies – and secure the commercial loyalty – of girl bands’ largely male fan base.” According to Mark Schreiber, a writer about Japan’s entertainment industry, “A woman’s value as a commodity is at risk of evaporating as soon as she appears ‘unobtainable’ to her male fans. The talent agencies get kids when they’re pretty young, so they don’t want them to get caught up in anything controversial or illegal. But the no-dating clause should expire when they reach 20 [and are legally considered adults].”

Schreiber doubts that the ruling in favor of the idol will weaken the determination of management companies to keep young women “morally schackled.” “These people are brands owned by entertainment cartels,” he said, “and they don’t want anything to threaten that brand.”