Thursday, April 9, 2009

Some on H!P and The L Word

For anyone who made it to Sakuracon this year and is anxiously awaiting Saturday's Hangry and Angry concert, I hope you're looking yourself in the mirror right now and saying "I am the luckiest mother fucker in the world, because I am about to be breathing the same air as Yoshizawa Hitomi". Seriously.

So I was supposed to go, but my dad ended up having heart surgery. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he had the surgery and continues to live, but seriously, Yoshizawa Hitomi.

Now that you've looked at the obligatory girl with a tie photo, you can surely see my distress. Our favorite girl to be sexually confused by, Yossy. Let me jump up and down and obsess for a minute: Depite the fact that I'm pretty sure that she isn't a lesbian, if I was in Seattle this week, I'd certainly be praying like hell that I wouldn't be thrown out of that convention for trying to find out. I may have a celebrity crush here. She's clearly a rockstar. I'll put up with her using dichotomous male/female language to joke about her "relationship" with Rika, and that shit usually drives me crazy. Fuck, I can even put up with the fact she's clearly making money off of me by her suggestion that she is a major dyke pimp who has probably gotten every member of Momusu and half of the female population of Japan in the sheets all by being so goddamn cute and nice. If she came on TV in the middle of the night and told me and every citizen of America to send $100 to keep her lookin fly and on the prowl, I'd have my checkbook out in a heartbeat.

For those unfamiliar with my strange fandoms I should mention a few things:

1) Yoshizawa Hitomi, or Yossy, is a Hello Project! (think Spice Girls, but with 40 members who are constantly switched out in an audition process) singer and idol who led a pop group called Morning Musume for a few years. She was generally popular for her deeper (comparitively) singing voice, confident swagger, and tomboy fashion. She, as well as the other girls, appeared on tv shows, "behind the scenes moments", music videos, a ton of merchandise and concerts to make you really feel like you were "getting to know the girls". It's ingenious marketing, really. To summarize what she was in Japanese entertainment, any fan of H!P would tell you to watch the "Mr. Moonlight" video on Youtube.

2) One pasttime of the H!P fanbase is shipping pairs of the girls based on anything from so much as a glance between two singers in some concert footage to more blatantly staged stuff like the link above. Yossy is the most popular member by far to ship with other girls from Morning Musume. Her pairings even have special BenandJen type abbreviations: IshiYoshi (YossyxRika), YoMako, YoMiki, depending on the girl she's paired with. These pairings become very real for some fans, to the point where each girls actions are analyzed as though they are characters in a soap opera, while the girls themselves have never made any real claim toward homosexuality. I like IshiYoshi the best, because you can tell the girls are close friends, or at least tremendously talented actresses who can disguise their hatred for one another.

So maybe it's unfair of me to assume Yoshizawa Hitomi is NOT actually a lesbian, because I don't know her and I certainly wouldn't want to be heterocentric, but it's a pretty acknowledged fact in cynical H!P fandom that these girls are entirely scripted for our benefit and management knows what sells. The biggest example of this is the latest Ongaku Gata's video "Come Together", which features a pretty in your face kiss between IshiYoshi. Yes, the girls played dumb in interviews about the kiss, saying that were just fooling around. Yes, the entire thing was promoted in such a way that you watched the clip, said what the fuck, and then wondered why it continued to promote whatever perverted fantasies you had in your head about whether or not H!P was just a ton of lesbians and the company no-boyfriend rule is just an injoke at the agency. While TaTu was frustrating, because the girls were so loud about being homosexual partners in Russian candypop except wait, it's a publicity stunt, IshiYoshi is frustrating, because they are constantly doing things that are so goddamn gay all of the time with no explaination or promotion and then leave you to wonder if you're just a pervert for reading into it. Hell, I've been guilty of showing my roommate a clip of the girls at a "court hearing" type game show where another member, Makoto, accuses Yossy of being a "bad girlfriend" for not wearing their matching bracelets, just to point out how uncomfortable Rika looks in the background so I'm not above it. It's part of the fun of fangirling H!P.

I guess I've been thinking about some representations of lesbianism lately, especially of the faux variety, since it's more plentiful. It's really interesting to me as to why Yossy pairings spark the interests of so many in this fandom. I mainly started thinking about it after the finale of that one show a couple of lesbians watched about continuity errors and murdering your recently gay friend. Okay, so I never got into the L Word. I thought the first season was nice and all, but I never felt that those women represented anything about my experience, plus, again, I thought the writing wasn't incredibly original or, well, good. I know that complaints about the L Word are even more plentiful for women of color, or butch lesbians, but I think anyone who isn't rich and surrounded by beautiful women has at least one or two complaints. Scratch that, I know a few girls who absolutely love the show, but I think they're mostly just watching it for the raunchy sex scenes. That's fine, there was some decent softcore porn on the L Word, but really the entire premise of what I saw as unhappy women in unhealthy relationships sort of put a damper on my ability to get off to 30 minutes of dialogue and 13 minutes of fucking.

In a sort of stark contrast to every Showtime series, sex does not exist in the Japanese pop idol world, which is one of it's charms and also one of it's completely exploitative downfalls. The girls sing songs about falling in love and hint at physical intimacy, but then you remember that they've interviewed as working someodd 355 days a year and receive very little time away from their "personas". Their producer Tsunku interviewed once that these girls have little to no time to pursue their own romantic relationships and even being seen holding hands with a member of the opposite sex has been cause for a swift removal, or as they say 'graduation'. The value of imagined virginity is basically the selling point. It's entirely fucked up. The charm of it though, is that it creates a little innocent fantasy world for what interaction we do see between these women, since we never see them interacting with others. Since there isn't sex, H!P fans can either write fanfiction to fill this gap, or they can and more commonly ship what is suggested. Pairings are more about the sweet things they say to eachother or the way they hold hands that stirs the imagination. The majority of Yossy commentary I've seen seems to be more about her looking at another member out of the corner of her eye and smiling during an interview, or hugging another girl while she's crying about losing a game that involves winning a pudding snack than fucking some girl in a bathroom stall or whether or not she owns a strap on.

And that's what I sometimes feel is missing and perhaps why I'm completely smitten with the character of this girl and the fandom that surrounds her. Sure, the actions of these women are staged to create personas and to a degree, lesbian subtext for profit, but at least I have to say that it's one of the more lovable premises I've ran into. Girls fawning over girls innocently. As a feminist I suppose that I am not supposed to be down with the idea with sexy fakelesbians having pillowfights for the pleasure of a male audience, but sometimes the idea of sex and the city with women who like women for women isn't entirely empowering either. I hope that the new stuff that will surely follow the demise of the L Word has a bit more whimsy to it, maybe taking more from the fun of suggestion that already exists in the "gay community" and a little less emphasis on taking itself so seriously. I don't want to sound like all of this is said, because I want to demean the relevance of physical relationships between women, but surely we're not all about to kill our lovers and I can relate more to the idea that two girls might secretly have a thing for eachother than the idea that I'll ever spend most of my day at a coffee house.

But yeah, Yossy's really hot and I greatly envy you if you're able to catch her. Maybe she'll come back around again.

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