Community Article: The Truth is Beautiful; but so are Lies

Community Article brought to you by Mage77

Everyone on Twitter is expecting an article on Hata Sawako from me. Well she’ll be mentioned in this one but I’m going to try my best not to turn this into a heavily biased defense of her from all of her detractors. Instead I’m going to attempt to tie it into the way idols present themselves to their audience and why maybe we shouldn’t take everything we see at face value.

If you didn’t already know, Hata Sawako is a member of SKE48 and part of Team KII. She’s the painfully shy and often clumsy girl who owns 7 PSPs and has had multiple episodes of Shukan AKB dedicated to just her. She has developed somewhat of a cult following in the fan community. However, like most idols Hata Sawako also has her fair share of detractors. Many of whom are very vocal in their dislike of her.

That dislike stems from the fact that some people believe that an idol simply can’t be that shy. Why would a person who is that awkward around cameras just decide one day to become an idol? This has lead many people to believe that at least to some extent (it varies depending on who you’re talking to) the persona that Sawako presents while carrying out her job as an idol is just a ploy to appeal to those of us who have a thing for quiet shy girls.

This article will examine that particular argument as well as ask some difficult questions about just how truthful our idols are being when presenting themselves to their fans.

So, you’re firmly in the camp that believes Hata Sawako is a fraud. You’ve got a pretty good argument to support it and even I admit that it’s a bit of a stretch to believe someone that shy could become an idol. I mean, she hardly fits the mold right? Things just don’t seem to add up.

If you’d indulge me for a moment; I want you to think of an idol that you really like. I’d suggest not using your oshimen in this example just so what I say next causes the least offense possible. So you’re thinking of this idol, she’s probably cute, energetic, outgoing, whatever it is that makes you like her. Now, consider for just a second that all of that is an act too.

If Hata Sawako can put on an act like everyone claims she can then why not other idols too? Do they simply get a pass because the persona they adopt is more believable to the masses? I can’t answer either of these questions because I obviously don’t know any idols on a personal level and can only judge them based on the media I consume every week. However, is it really that much of a stretch to consider that maybe it’s not just Hata Sawako that apparently uses these tactics as a means to build a fanbase?

When you really think about it it does make a lot of sense. As an idol your job is to be an entertainer and you’re not going to be very entertaining if you go out there and act like a regular person. You’re also much more likely to be noticed if you have some kind of quirk that the average person can pick up on and easily identify you with. Of course faking your entire personality is going to extreme lengths but I can’t say I’d blame an idol for doing it because the pressure to stand out from the crowd must be there all the time.

What I would like to believe is that each idol is somewhat like the persona they present when cameras are rolling or fans are watching. Perhaps they just play up certain aspects of their own personality for the entertainment value we all get out of it. Surely they can’t all be the fantastic actresses that this article makes them out to be. Unfortunately it’s just something that we’re never going to know for sure but it’s a slightly more positive way to look at things.

To bring Hata Sawako back into the discussion for a second; I think it’s great that someone like her (act or no act) can go out there and become a successful idol. If she can inspire even one shy or clumsy girl to go out and follow their dream of becoming an idol, actress or whatever then I think it’s all worth it at the end of the day. Even if we can’t agree if she’s being completely truthful or not at least we can hopefully agree on that.

This article really isn’t intended to spoil your enjoyment of idols and I apologize if it has in some way done that. I just feel that we as idol fans take a lot of things at face value without considering that there could be other factors playing into them. I think ultimately that’s why I enjoy writing articles that challenge our perception of idols and idol fandom. The community is full of incredibly intelligent people and I take great pleasure in reading and participating in the discussions that topics like these have a tendency to produce.

So, what are your opinions? They can be about Hata Sawako, idols putting up a front while doing their jobs or how wrong I am on this whole subject. If you have a minute please feel free to leave a comment, they’re what make writing these articles worth it.


About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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  1. “If Hata Sawako can put on an act like everyone claims she can then why not other idols too? Do they simply get a pass because the persona they adopt is more believable to the masses?”

    For me personally, absolutely; but that’s not what I would cite as the cause of me not being a fan of Sawako. I just straight-up don’t find her perpetual state of borderline crying endearing(I personally find it a tad unsettling), and for me, her hilarious and bold moments lose their luster because of it. Real or not, that personality is not one I would want to hang out with much, which is usually my bench test of how much I take to an idol.

    You don’t have to apologize about anything here; These are things that (I hope) most fans already take into consideration. Of course there are extremes: Fans who don’t understand that it’s a business first are scary, and fans who incessantly spout negative criticisms make me question if they’re actually fans or if they sunk so much time into it that they have no choice but to stay begrudgingly.

    I don’t find your article overtly cynical at all. This article shows you understand that one must utilize suspension of disbelief in at least some manner to really enjoy idols, and I agree.

    • Thanks for the feedback Dae. When I write articles I don’t write them so everyone reading can just agree with me and I guess I just feel like I have to cover myself in case someone doesn’t realise I’m only trying to spark a discussion. I’ll try to get better at that in the future.

      That and I try to appeal to the not so avid fans. So I do tend to point out the obvious a lot while still trying to make things interesting for the more seasoned among us. It’s a pretty tough balance to strike but I hope I manage it okay.

      I guess I just hope that the people reading them can take something out of my articles even if they don’t agree with everything that I’m saying.

  2. “So you’re thinking of this idol, she’s probably cute, energetic, outgoing, whatever it is that makes you like her. Now, consider for just a second that all of that is an act too.”

    I really I get the whole “playing it up for the fans” vibe from Tsugunaga Momoko. Momochi is indeed a cute girly girl, that much I believe is real, but there are times where her girly nature comes off as overly eccentric. For the record, I like her but there are times where I do get the sense that she’s really trying too hard to be cute. Especially since she’s 19 now, it almost seems out of character for someone at that age. Recently, she was a guest on Hama-chan ga and her overly cute presence felt awkward and cringe-worthy at times. Even so, I’ve come to accept the fact that there are idols who need some sort of shtick in order to be ahead of competition. In a way, it’s a tactic that allows them to be the constant subject of conversation in the industry.

    In the end, everybody wins. She gets recognition from old and new fans and tv shows get higher ratings for her antics. So, if there are people who feel that this behavior is fake, I can completely understand that. At the same time, to me, something like being overly cute is just an extension of who she really is but in a more concentrated fashion for the sake of entertainment purposes. In fact, calling it fake may be too harsh to describe it. An idol is an entertainer and in some way, it’s expected for them to accentuate their personality to some degree.

    • I think the point of Momo’s character is to be overly cringeworthy and get on your nerves. If she’s getting on your nerves she’s doing her job (even if it is a bit counterproductive). I think that is why on all the shows they’ve been on, they have had the “Momo abuse” (which is clearly scripted). It brings the laughs.

      She is a little more mellow and goofy when she isn’t playing at her annoying and cute character. Don’t particularly love or hate Momo, it’s a grey area, but I have noticed that a lot, especially more recently. I think it’s fair to say H!P girls have to do a lot more now to promote themselves than they used to. The idol world is becoming a lot more dominated by other groups that any push of character is a boost for them.

  3. I agree with Dae, this is not offending at all and it really shouldn’t be. If anything, it’s just a quick reality check since we do have to consider the fact that this is the entertainment industry we are talking about. I’ve definitely thought about it before with some of my favorite girls and even my oshimen. In the end, we just have to accept that these girls act a certain way in front of a camera and that it’s a job.

  4. Great job, Mage! I’ve been meaning to comment on your articles but I’ve been damn busy lately. Keep up the good work.

    I am a Shawako fan but let me state why. It isn’t really for her borderline crying or her timidness but I liked her because I found out about her from that Shukan pop quiz episode. She scored the highest so I was instantly attracted to her. Same thing with Nakamata Shiori and her college episode. I just like the smarts and I really doubt you can fake that unless there is some huge 48 conspiracy (which there may be).

    But her timid personality would get a little grating for me if I knew her in person. Shyness is cute but to her extent might be a little too much. And it seems weird that a person like that would be brave enough to even audition…

    Don’t be so apologetic in your articles. It will dilute the message. And this is a very good message indeed. This isn’t a subject matter that should be stepped around. Everyone should know that these idols are there for your entertainment and their personality may or may not be real. But I think I’m okay with that. Ignorance is bliss and even if it is just an act, I like the idea of a girl with the personality traits I find in idols. It isn’t like those personality traits are completely impossible.

    • I hope I didn’t come across that apologetic, I certainly didn’t mean to. It was more of a “hey, sorry if I made you feel this but facts are facts” kind of thing. Still, taking it on board for the next outing.

      Glad to hear someone who likes Sawako commenting on this. I mean, I like her but I can’t really show bias when she’s the example in my own article. Great points by the way.

  5. Great commentary as usual, Mage! My personal take on many of the idols is that the “characters” we see on screen are exaggerations of their actual personalities. Some greatly enhanced, and others only slightly. I’m guessing they get tips from management, staff, and fellow members on what to focus on to increase their face time and popularity.

    One of the reasons I love the “Making Of” segments for concerts and events is because they give the fans the chance to see them in a more pure and unscripted environment. With footage constantly filmed, they could still be in character, but with all of the rehearsals and preparations going on, it’s more likely we’re seeing more of their real selves.

    All this means to the fans is that Oshima Yuko is probably a crazy and silly girl 95% of the time, with the other 5% being when she’s napping.

  6. Another great piece, Mage, you should pace yourself! It’s an interesting topic, I think another good example would be graduated Team S member Shinkai Rina and her helium voice, if you remember her.

    For me, at first Sawako honestly annoyed me. I gradually caught on that it seemed a little forced at times, but already this made her stand out from the dozens of SKE faces that I don’t know. Not only that, it made me start to like her. Something about her comedic timing (she actually does have a really great sense of humor IMO) and her ability to make an entire room burst into laughter made the whole act endearing, sort of the same reason I like Komori.

    I guess I’m lucky that I don’t find it annoying anymore. It’s not like I actively tell myself to try and believe this performance of hers (as all personalities are performed, I would argue), I’ve kind of learned to take her as a package. Even if it is all fake, if she’s willing to put herself out there and commit to doing whatever it is that she’s doing, I admire that. I do see how some people might be uncomfortable with it, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    You mention that “each idol is somewhat like the persona they present when cameras are rolling or fans are watching”. I would go even further and say all of do this, daily. From an outside perspective, our very being is defined by the face we put on in front of others.

  7. Re: “Someone that shy shouldn’t audition to be an idol”
    Kamei Eri was initially this shy. She herself has said that she auditioned for MM in the hopes of changing herself from being so shy, and it worked gloriously. So I have high hopes for Shawako, although I love her humor already right now.

    And like you, I also always keep the possibility in the back of my head that it’s all an act, but if that were the case my respect for her would grow even more for pulling it off so well.

  8. ‘m all for character, though, whether it’s fake or not. What is the point of being an idol if not to entertain others, as well as make them appeal to your image and how you portray yourself? If being cutesy, crybaby, klutz, or shy boosts appeal, ratings, sales, and keeps your name in people’s minds, then you are doing your job as an idol. No shame there.

  9. I would say that almost all idols, unless they are new or still an indie group portray some false or overblown attitude.

    Shawako I have no doubt is shy, maybe not to the extreme she shows on TV, she seems to be the stereotypical video game/anime anti-social otaku, so it might come down more to lack of experience than true shyness on her part.

    There are others though who I think don’t or can’t pull it off, whichever the case, Takahashi Minami, Oshima Yuko, and Akimoto Sayaka easily come to mind as people who are who they show us, they just happen to be entertaining as they are.
    In the case of Oshima Yuko though that might be wrong, she has been in entertainment probably the longest of anyone and may have mastered being able to switch it on and off on a whim.
    I’m sure there are others who just have an outgoing personality but they are harder to identify.

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