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.