TRF As Judge, Jury, and Auditioner

Filed in American Wota 4.0Tags: ,

I dont always get around to talking about my favorite videos, so this section will be devoted to catching up on what I like to watch – past and present – and why that’s the case.

I’m not a huge TRF fan – I haven’t listened to nearly enough of their music, or seen enough of their videos. That said, “We Are All Bloomin'” is among my favorite PVs of all time, making my top ten easily. 

So we begin in an empty theater…

Various dancers are warming up, looking tense. Obviously an audition is taking place.

And the judges for this audition are… 

Japan’s answers to Private Benjamin, Arthur Miller, Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch, and Lilith from Cheers.

So the first auditioners begin their dancing and twirling type stuff…

When the fifth judge arrives. Apparently, Yu-ki is Japan’s answer to Gloria Swanson and she’s being accompanied by Japan’s answer to Run-DMC.

Okay, enough of the “Japan’s answer to” jokes.

I love the idea of TRF being the judges and evaluating performers auditioning for some kind of show. (Perhaps Japan’s answer to Spamalot? Okay, I’ll stop.) 

I also love how each member of TRF imagines the alternate self to be like. I mean, yeah, they all seem bored and a bit touchy – I guess that’s how they think judges are (which is kind of funny in itself). But through their clothing choices, at least, they seem to be engaging in alternate selves – like, “What if TRF never formed but they all worked the other side of the stage?” Which one of these looks are meant to be reflections of their “true” selves, which ones are meant to be parodies? It would help if I knew more about TRF, and yet the speculation seems to be running just fine without getting more involved. If anything, I like it a great deal since it’s just a variation of the identity shell games that happen in the idol world. If I knew more about TRF, I may have a better key for any hidden significance to their judge guises – but then I could also lose track of the bigger issues of identity and criticism.

I especially wonder about Yu-ki’s judge self looking like a spoiled diva… I don’t know. Is this supposed to be an inside joke because she has that kind of reputation, or because she doesn’t resemble that at all in real life? She sure does a good job of convincing me she’s got a silver spoon shoved up her ass here.

You know, this may just confirm the worst suspicions some readers may have about me, but I really really liked watching the younger auditioners in this video.

There’s something adorable about the way they dress. I’m showing my generation gap again, aren’t I? My wide, yawning crevasse of a generation gap, exposed for all the world to see.

Speaking of which…

Ah! The auditioners are a lot of fun in this video, the talent is simply amazing. But the kids are especially fun because they’re trying so hard to look so street and so adult, and their moves are in the same manner. How come the H!P Kids don’t do moves like this? I wanna see Maimai spinning on her head and dressed like a runaway!

This woman’s not too shabby either, though her clothes aren’t ripped enough. And she’s past puberty. Minus points on both counts.

The next person to audition is… a DJ? DJ Koo is the first of the TRF to appear as an auditioner, and this in front of himself as a judge. But I thought this was a dance audition. There aren’t any other DJs auditioning. Was there an open call and he killed off the competition in the wings? Wouldn’t that be deserving of a scene or two in the video?

And is it me, or does the weird shape of the turntable remind anyone else of the furniture in the club scenes of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, except painted red instead of white?

“Doesn’t he know this is a dance audition?”

“Give him a chance,” Judge DJ Huggy Bear Koo cautions, “Or I’ll have you working the street again, doing half-and-halfs for a thousand yen.”

I can’t get over the whole seventies pimp thing that Koo’s got working here. I want to assume it’s meant to be clever in some manner, but that may be giving more credit than is deserved.

On the other hand, Etsu’s tight-wound librarian look is too deeply sexy to me. I know it’s meant to signal being repressed and closed-up – perhaps a statement that it’s dancing which liberates her true self, or perhaps an admission that deep down she’s a very controlling and rigid person. Who knows. I do find the idea of her dancing in that outfit and stripping it off, piece by piece, to be quite enticing…

Wait, didn’t Lilith actually do that in an episode of Cheers?  TV has spoiled my imagination.

“My ability to seamlessly blend camouflage, stripes, a scarf, and a tank top are what make me a great judge!” I don’t know what Chiharu is thinking with this outfit, nor what it says about her. If she’s cold enough to wear a freakin’ scarf, then why all the cleavage?

Anyway, the whole judging thing is also interesting to me because it gestures towards the idea of self-criticism, of being able to look at what one does and figure out what works and what doesn’t. This not only involves looking at one’s own work with a keen eye, but also placing one’s work it in the context of similar works by one’s peers. This isn’t easy, by any means, but it comes natural to some, and is learned by others. And some people simply don’t want to have anything to do with self-criticism – or any kind of criticism, for that matter.

I know when somebody is not only unprofessional but also creatively incorrigible when I’m asked to read their work and they won’t accept even mildly negative opinions, instead telling me I’m reading it wrong or that I just don’t get it. There’s a huge difference between disagreeing during an engaged dialogue, which can be very productive, and simply putting up walls – either by attacking one’s critics or being in some weird fantasia denial – because you can’t cope with bad things being said about your work.

So are TRF claiming that they are indeed self-aware enough to be fair critics of themselves? They’ve been around a long while, but age and experience doesn’t always equal such crucial self-knowledge.

Another set of kids are on stage, and for some reason Lilith sits up straighter to take it in. Hey, maybe I’m not the only one who really likes the younger auditionees…

I also like how the one on the left looks like she could be both a survivalist and a backup dancer for Koda Kumi. Hey, this girl’s amniotic fluid isn’t rotten! Wait, does she even have amniotic fluid yet? I’m not going to find out…

Meanwhile, somebody’s modeling the latest styles from the Reverend Run line of menswear… “When you want to appear both holy and wicked badass.”

I think those are jazz fingers. It’s like a local grade school is hosting a musical version of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Papers shuffle around… 

Hey! You know how in the UK “blooming” is supposedly used as a kind of mild profanity? (I have no idea if it is, in real life. Again, damn TV for ruining my imagination!) Anyway, what if the same cane be said here? I mean, if you change bloomin’  as an assumed expletive to the more explicit fuckin’ – well, the song still works great! “I’m a fuckin’ girl / You’re a fuckin’ guy/ We’re all fuckin’ …” and so on and so on. That word replacement can be called the Noo Yawk Remix or something. Because New Yorkers do indeed say “fuck” more often than most people.

Next up in the auditions is Yu-ki! Except her dancing isn’t nearly as good as the half-pints who were tearing up the boards. She just kind of sashays back and forth and sings.

Nobody else sang. Is this a singing audition? Where are the other singers? Is she happy because she killed them off as well? Yu-ki and Koo’s presence as auditioners may be a cry for help over some skeletons in the closet, folks!

Private Benjamin opines, “I don’t like her. She can’t dance for shit.”

“Give her a chance,” Judge Gloria Swanson cautions, “Or I’ll have you back in the SDF giving half-and-halfs for a thousand yen.”

Ah, now comes the big guy! I love SAM. I really do. And yes, the reason I love him is because he was married to Amuro Namie and had a kid with her. Parts of his body were touched quite intimately by the Queen of Hip Pop, and for some reason that makes me tingly all over… and not just for her, which is typical, but for him as well. But does that make it queer, or just smpathetically straight or something?

I guess this is how some guys feel about Brad Pitt or Evan Seinfeld, a profound respect derived from who one has diddled. I’ve felt the same way about Shinya from Luna Sea for a long time, too.

However, the Arthur Miller SAM doesn’t seem too impressed. He’s thinking, “Why am I watching this? I could be out on the street doing half-and-halfs for a thousand yen. As research for my next play, of course. It’s called The Iceman Cometh All Over Me.”

It’s interesting to see SAM look so… pseudo-intellectual. I always find him quite sexy, for reasons stated below, but with the glasses and the hat, he looks even sexier to me. He also figured out that a scarf is better at keeping you warm if you’re actually covered up. His firm and manly physique being hidden actually makes him look more masculine and powerful, but in a quieter way; Arthur Miller never looked so butch. Out of all the alternate looks that the TRF assume, this is the most engaging, and the one I most want to believe reflects the person. Though a part of me fears that the most accurate mirror-in-disguise is probably Koo’s…

I find it interesting that Chiharu and Etsu dance together as auditioners. Are they that bonded, are they that simpatico? If so, why are their judging persona disguise thingies so different?

Holy crap, they’re hulking out in unison! I hope they’re wearing purple biker shorts underneath!

Now this is incredible. Every time I watch a TRF video, it always seems to me that the dancers are the main stars, while DJ Koo and Yu-ki are providing the music to justify being around. This wouldn’t hold up if I was listening to the radio, of course, but I’m not.

And then it’s time to decide who passes the audition…

“That freaky guy with the red piano… okay… and those two muscled lesbians… no, not those two muscled lesbians, the two muscled lesbians who are old enough to vote…”

The auditionees are all gathered together, and when the losers are told to leave the stage…

We’re left with TRF.

This shouldn’t be called TRF, it should be WTF. I mean, really? Are we supposed to think that these were the best of the auditioners? The ones who actually really danced, yes. But Yu-ki and DJ Koo? Come on! Their dances sucked! Koo didn’t even fucking fance! Why not have little Mad Maxette and her sad little friend join the group, instead?

I don’t know, I think it’d be much cooler – perhaps even more revelatory – if we saw the members of TRF rejected by their judge selves and some other dancers chosen. The premise of the video is great – the idea of performers in the role of judges, of the different aspects of one’s self taking a critical look at other aspects. After all, just because we do something doesn’t mean every part of our psyche is in agreement. And for most people who take pride in a certain art or craft, the tendency to focus on mistakes and flaws is a good way to improve over time – so TRF the judges would be ideal of pointing out such flaws in TRF the auditioners.

TRF had an interesting idea, and when push came to shove, they took the obvious route, they had to be the heroes in their own fantasies. The TRF judges chose the TRF auditioners, and everyone seems cool with it because that’s how it should be, because they’re the real stars of the show. Honestly, that isn’t favoritism. It isn’t even nepotism. That’s masturbation! It’s like the Simpsons episode where Homer imagines making out with himself. It’s funny, but what it says about the people kissing themselves – metaphorically, at least – isn’t very attractive.

However, a bone and some gristle had to be thrown at that conceptual queen bitch that is Fair Play. All the other auditionees come out to dance with the winners, I guess to make viewers think that they are indeed all winners, each in their own special way. But let’s face it, if they were really winners, they wouldn’t have had to walk off the stage in the first place. This kind of consolation prize Special Olympics crap would go down easier if the plot of this PV had the TRF folks dealing with rejection instead of success, if we didn’t get the sense that they already owned the stage and were just going through the motions all this time.

Which got me to thinking: what if TRF didn’t assemble in this Chorus Line scenario? Would the individual members have continued with what they loved? Would they have given up and become… I don’t know, judges at a theater or something?

I get the very clear sense that all three dancers would’ve kept dancing, whether or not they passed their auditions. There’s an intensity that makes plain how much they love what they do, that accentuates the idea of never giving up. 

SAM is thinking, “If I can build up enough momentum, I can knock out this sad-ass dancer in front of me and replace her with the kids! Also, my penis has been inside Amuro Namie, so yay me!”

In contrast to the heat of the dancers, the coolness of Yu-ki and DJ Koo as auditioners make me wonder if they’d’ve stuck around if they hadn’t succeeded. Which is a bullshit surface judgment, I know, but it also doesn’t help that a singer and DJ were at a dance audition. They can’t even go to auditions for their own jobs, for Christ’s sake! How can they expect to do well if the deck wasn’t stacked in their favor?

Judge Gloria Swanson seems sort of satisfied with the outcome. Her bodyguard wonders when Reverend Run will design a line of matching sleepwear and towel sets. Now the Judge apparently vants to be alone… Wait, that’s Tallulah Bankhead. Fuck! I blew that joke.

I really do like this video a great deal, and the song’s pretty good too. I love the premise of the PV, even if they did crap out when it most mattered. That said, they’ve had over a decade of success to look back on, so perhaps they feel entitled to be the heroes of their own fantasies. While I’ve made clear my distaste for such a choice, I won’t contest that they’ve earned such smug self-congratulation through hard work and experience.

Though TRF being fronted by two little girls would’ve been great. I mean, I’d’ve become more of a fan, at least. And I wouldn’t care how self-critical they were.