MM in the MSM

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

The journey of the meme has been completed: from a search engine to a blog to the general blogosphere to fringe mass media and finally to the mainstream media itself. It’s like watching salmon swim upstream, there’s a natural progression and simplification that is obvious to anybody who keeps an eye on popular culture.

To sum up: the Morning Musume porkchop-baiting lizard clip made its way to Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC. I actually watch that show sometimes and like Keith as a news personality – I even wrote up about his interview with Mary Carey back in June. Anyway, here’s the transcript to the Thursday night broadcast, look all the way at the bottom to find the discussion on Morning Musume.

Neither Morning Musume nor its fans come across in a positive light, and some simple factual points are given a slightly sinister bent. Maybe I should be upset about the not-so-subtle jabs about older male fans drooling over these "virginal" teenage idols… That said, just last night I was writing about the pleasures of watching Hinoi Asuka shaking her ass. So taking umbrage at this characterization would be a case of "thou doth protest too much," eh? If anything, Keith’s dread as these details about Morning Musume were discussed made me chuckle and hum "Welcome to My World".

I still like Keith and have no problem with his turning some of his well-honed snark against something near and dear to my heart. It’s not like I haven’t seen such generalizations before: back when I was a rabid comic book enthusiast, I was a lot more protective of the stereotypes made against fanboys… that is, until I grew up and grew a sense of humor.

Here’s the best part of the transcript, I think:

NOVOTNY: Everyone that I spoke to, all these experts in Japanese culture today say they get a kick out of this in Japan, that they love to humiliate their celebrities. And for some reasons the celebrities are willing to do it.

As if that’s a bad thing. As if celebrities are supposed to be revered and praised. Not even America does that – "real" celebrities are trashed by gossip and tabloids (and in Tom Cruise’s case, his own bizarre behavior) while reality television creates a new breed of celebrities who’ll do anything for their fifteen seconds of fame. Japan is just more straightforward and unironic in its invocation of classic carnival role reversal, of bringing down the high and mighty for the sake of making the masses feel superior.

At any rate, what still pisses me off most is just how fucking old the clip is. Over half the members in that clip are no longer in Morning Musume! Show something recent, be more on the ball! There are other clips shown – all from the internet, it looks like, including a Minimoni Kago fitting herself into a locker on Utaban – but the lizard clip is the centerpiece. What’s acceptable in the blogosphere fringes and even on a satiric show like Stephen Colbert’s simply shouldn’t be the standard for "real" news shows. What next? Discussions of Speed’s break-up? The fad of Japanese pop duo Wink? The arrival of Pink Lady on American TV with some guy named Jeff? If they really want to discuss the nature of Japanese celebrity, why not have more recent clips – at least something less than a year old?

I mean, what the fuck? Novotny even describes Morning Musume as one of the most popular groups in Japan – in the present tense! I wish it was so, but the numbers don’t verify this by any means… They’ve been on the decline since the timeof the lizard clip, actually, and comparisons to Menudo and the Mickey Mouse Club only make the report seem that much creakier and out-of-step.

At any rate, I hope this is all played out now. Maybe the clip will pop up as a joke on Family Guy or South Park but I really just want it to finally lose its novelty. Most of America isn’t ready for Morning Musume and probably never will be; to mainstream America, please find something new to laugh at and circulate via e-mails and please stop offending the sensibilities of us fans. Even those of us who think this is not a big deal are getting tired of the overkill.


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10 Responses to “MM in the MSM”
  1. niji says:

    On the bright side, Shine wasn’t a member of MM as of the time of this clip, so the taint spilled on her is a phantom minimum.

    Seriously though, I have to agree with you. The publicity was quite welcome at first — almost flattering in a way — but over a week of coverage for a thirty-second clip taken during Methuselah’s prime is just too Battle Royale 2 for my taste. More importantly, American media shouldn’t shadow-silhouette foreign entertainment culture so much; after all, the American entertainment industry has its own substantial share of burned diary pages. Heh… XD

  2. Japonaliya says:

    Great story, except for the references to Mickey and the Spice Girls (Why do they always do that?) All in all, the jokes on MM could have been worse !

    I am attempting to ask the show for a video copy, but if anyone out there taped or TIVoed the show a vhs or dvdr copy would be muxh appreciated. Of course I will compansate by trade or $$ Arigatou..

  3. Rikku says:

    i like your story! i watch Keith O. too, just not for the past couple of months. to be honest it’s the first time i’ve ever read a topic of yours where you’ve cussed so passionately. very moving ^-^

  4. Chris H~ says:

    Hungover. Lost in love… some kind of love (perhaps the wrong kind?)…
    great article! (as always)
    I actually watched the South Park episode that makes fun of Japanese pop culture (and Japan) the other day, and I found it hilarious (I’m talking about the episode that makes fun of Pok√©mon and small penises).

    Sometimes I really dislike the internet (or, the mentality of internet).
    Internet is basically 99% useless.

    ok, this is getting really spinning and messy.
    Spin spin spin

    I think the appreciation/stir of this clip in the US really shows that US is much more crazy than Japan (but we already knew that, didn’t we?).
    Ie, for one thing japanophiles are becoming a new type of wiggers…
    only in America!

    I’d really like to live in Hawaii though, can’t get enough of that fresh fruit!

  5. niji says:

    CHris H~: What’s a “wigger”? This particular Japanophile wants to know.

  6. Mr. Dictionary says:

    A wigger is a white person who tries to act like he’s black. You can figure out the etymology.

  7. Chris H~ says:

    (this post is very offtopic… perhaps my previous post was also, 99%, but this is a reply to niji)

    wigger (according to Urban Dictionary:)

    “A white person who trys to talk and act like a black.”

    That’s a deterministic way of saying it, but I guess you understand what the person is expressing.

    from another UD-post:

    “Generally, this is brought on by the fact that the youth are ridiculously spoiled and become so bored with their surroundings, so they must take on another identity to feel “different””

    Actually… there is (I just discovered) a better word for what I mean than “Japanophile”; “Wapanese”!
    I didn’t know the word existed… and basically Wapanese is a variant of Wigger, so it’s more correct to use it.


    I had written a long post here, discussing the similarities, etc, and explaining why people find wiggers/japanophiles funny. But since what I am really talking about is wapanese; there is less need for that text, so I removed it.

    A (atleast semi-)wapanese person in action: (from the good old IMDB boards, there are quite a lot of laughs there):

    quote: “Oh, and “kodack”, please don’t use your, I’m sure, extremely limited knowledge of Japanese in an attempt to look cool, or for whatever reason it is that people like you do that. You just come off as a tool.”

    (ok now I am continiueing with just some general comments, not directed to anyone, … but perhaps myself)

    Basically, the thing is it’s not a necessity to become more “japanese” to enjoy japanese pop culture (nor is it a necessity to dissociate oneself from ones original culture). (nor is it beneficial to look down on ones own culture because one worships another)…
    People should be allowed to be what they want to be, but (this kind of) pretenciousness will often come across as silly (or even annoying).
    Of course it can also be fun.
    But most often just plain silly [and thus laughing stock].

    This is a quite interesting topic… people living in a completely different world (and so they want to), ie the value of the shared physical world has lowered (thanks to communication)…
    And thanks to more abstract/advanced communication (ie the internet) it has lowered even more…

  8. Chris H~ says:

    just a note: that imdb-quote was to show how Wapanese persons ofhten come across as, to other people.

  9. Chris H~ says:

    note 2: it may not have been pointed out enough;
    when I wrote deterministic, I was talking about cultural determinism; like racism (ie it’s not really about “white” people wanting to be “black”, it’s not about skin color; it’s about culture; e.g. rich suburban kids wanting to act ghetto).

    Also, I am not sure what the official explanation for wigger saids… but the W (in wigger/wapanese) can both be said to be short for “white”, or the more correct (and less racist – since the term can be applied to not just white people) term “wannabe”…

    now I think that’s all…
    sorry for making a mess/ranting about off-topic things on COP, Ray.

  10. Chris H~ says:

    oh, ok one more note: I was writing that 5:28 pm-comment for quite a while, so I missed out on (ie didn’t notice) Mr Dictionary’s comment.
    Hah. I tend to complicate things.