Date: Tue, 20 Jul 99 15:55:00 +0900

From: Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow <onogerow@angel.ne.jp>

To: "KineJapan" <kinejapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Satchi

Message-ID: <199907200646.PAA19443@mail.angel.ne.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

 

This is an issue that touches not only on televisual culture, but also on

the nature of personality in modern Japanese culture, but what do people

think of the hubbub over Nomura Sachiyo? The whole thing, which started

over complaints that Nomura Sachio, the wife of the Hanshin Tigers

manager and a "jukujo" (mature woman) talento in her own right, was rude,

not paying back debts, and fond of borrowing things without giving them

back, has utterly dominated the wide shows and the weekly magazines for

over three and a half months and has progressed, with accusations that

she falsified her educational credentials when she ran for the Diet a few

years ago, into a criminal investigation and a debate in the Diet.

 

True, there may be some "truth" behind all the accusations, but factual

reality does little to explain how the topic has completely dominated the

media for such a long time, escalating into what some fear is a witchhunt

or at least a coordinated and violent (in the sense that the TV camera is

always violent) attack on an individual person. I have read articles in

the paper speculating that the fact the Satchi affair has dominated the

media just as the Diet is dealing with legislation that significantly

changes postwar Japanese society such as the guidelines law, the flag and

national anthem designation, etc., with little media attention is not a

coincidence. Even if we don't accept such conspiracy theories, why is

the media so interested in this topic at this time? Why are viewers?

How is the Satchi affair functioning ideologically in contemporary media

culture?

 

Clearly some of it has to do with the circulation of personality within

the mass media. The media destruction of Nomura Sachio, who herself was

purely a creation of the media (with no "talent" per se), is proof of the

power of the media, as well as indication that the content of mass media

is merely a circulation of signs that only refer to one another and not

to any "reality" (the "news" reported is only the "news subjects" the

media itself creates and makes important). But there is obviously a lot

of other things going on involving the definition of motherhood (Satchi

came to fame as a hardnosed older woman who told off the younger

generation), wifehood (why isn't her husband getting dragged down in this

affair?), "normal" behavior, privacy, media violence, voyeurism, etc.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Aaron Gerow

Yokohama National University

KineJapan list owner

For list commands: send "information kinejapan" to

listserver@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Kinema Club: http://pears.lib.ohio-state.edu/Markus/Welcome.html


Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 18:00:15 PDT

From: "Julie Turnock" <jturnock@hotmail.com>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <19990721010016.55017.qmail@hotmail.com>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed

 

I'm glad this has been brought up, because the intense interest in the whole

Satchi affair has mystified me. I hope that others have insight on this.

 

Since I have been in Japan, I've been intersted in the love/hate fascination

Japanese women have for "pushy women," both in the workplace (including

mine) and in the media. While men often dismiss (or worse) this outspoken

kind of woman, many women I know are at the same time provoked by and

envious of pushy womens' willingness to speak their minds strongly and

without equivocation. Since most TV media coverage of Satchi I've seen is

on afternoon shows, it seems that the story plays most strongly to the

middle-aged and older, non-working woman. Perhaps the most interested

people in this affair are those who don't feel able to exercise such

strong-willed behavior, and are deeply interested in those who do and the

consequences visited upon them.

 

Also what to think about the Satchi merchandising that goes along with this?

She's appearing as mobile phone mascots and stickers, along with other

totems of high school girl life. In what way are people buying these things

identifying with her?

 

What has also surprised me, since I can't read Japanese well enough to

follow it very well in Japanese papers myself, is how absent the issue has

been in the English-language press. From TV and Japanese friends, I

understand how prevalent Japanese media coverage has been, but I've seen

almost nothing in English about it. Granted, I primarily read the Yomiuri,

but why is it assumed that English-language readers will have NO interest in

this issue?

 

Any other thoughts?

 

Julie Turnock

Hamamatsu, Japan


From: Eija Margit Niskanen <eija@tkf.att.ne.jp>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <3.0.2.32.19990721101542.0098670c@tkf.att.ne.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

 

I think it was also primaraly set as a "war between women", since for a

couple of months the programs were always titled as Satchi vs. Mitchi

(Channel 4 morning show) , their photos side by side, underlying the

"common knowledge" that women always fight with other women. Since the

media, I guess, could not get enough out of this war angle in the long run

( as I have understood, Satchi has refused to discuss the matter with the

press -am I right?), the media turned to other people and issues in order

to keep the show running. I guess it has been going on for 3 months now....

 

eija


Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 00:15:50 EDT

From: GavinRees@aol.com

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Satchi, the media, and the Tokyo film festival

Message-ID: <4fee7300.24c7f4f6@aol.com>

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-2022-JP"

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

 

It has been interesting to read the recent thread on Satchi san.

 

Julie Turnock wrote:

 

>What has also surprised me, since I can't read Japanese well enough to

>follow it very well in Japanese papers myself, is how absent the issue has

>been in the English-language press. From TV and Japanese friends, I

>understand how prevalent Japanese media coverage has been, but I've seen

>almost nothing in English about it. Granted, I primarily read the Yomiuri,

>but why is it assumed that English-language readers will have NO interest in

>this issue?

 

I have to admit that I have been caught by surprise by the whole issue too.

Several months ago I disconected my tv set from the aerial and plugged it

into my editing deck. And resultingly for that period I became blissfully

unaware of everhthing that was going on on Japanese television. The first I

got wind of the Satchi issue, was a month ago, talking to the regulars in a

local bar. One woman in the bar asked me what kind of women I found

attractive, and so I said strong women who know what they want in life. She

looked at me slightly disapprovinly, and said that nice Japanese women don't

ever speak their minds until they get married. The other people at the table

also looked mildly perplexed. Then a thought occured to her: "Perhaps

Satchi-san is your type then." Everybody laughed, except, that is, for me.

When I heard Satchi san, I was convinced she wasÅ@actually talking about

Margeret "Thatcher" the former, (and in my neck of the woods), much

disliked UK primeminister. And so for a good 3 minutes, before the confusion

was sorted out, I too defamed poor Satchi-san with the most virulent Japanese

I knew how to muster.

 

Obviously, as Mark wroteÅAthe Satchi coverage points at all sorts of

half-submerged issues connected to gender, which even after a year here I am

still totally baffled by. And if anybody has any thoughts on it, i would

love to hear more.

 

More importantly, I think there is a connection between Kaminsky's article on

the Tokyo film festival, English Language Newspapers in Japan, and the

Japanese media. They are all institutions run from the top down and the

people working in them are primarily interested in reproducing news as a form

of currency which represents the interests and concerns of their own dominant

group. All the English Newspapers here, (apologies to Mark Schilling, whose

reviews I do enjoy reading.) are absolutely awful. News is not really about

the outside world. Truth and analysis don't seem to be really that important;

what matters if you are a newspaper man here is going through the motions,

and having "copy" that you can ceremoniously circulate rather like the tribal

exchange systems that link some pacific Islands. The act of printing seems to

be more important than the aim of conveying information. I am sure that

this is an incredibly contentious thing to say, but the more I read the

papers here, the more I suspect that they are a very expensive form of vanity

publishing.

 

Anybody who needs accurate information about developments in foreign countries

ÅAor indeed Japan itself, must be reading the Tokyo edition of the FT. And if

anybody who doesnot read Japanese wants to know more about pop culture, well

tough! (However, most of the gaijin here which the newspapers seem to be

aimed at, are financial types who probably have no interest in contemporay

Japan anyway!)

 

Tv here is obviously different, in that most of the wide shows, and comedy

shows are produced by young, and often aggresively innovative producers.

(Mostly male of course.) And some Japanese tv, the stuff which is often

lampooned in the West as trash, is trash of a very high degree of

sophistication. My personal perception that disposabe Japanese tv is a lot

better, and more interesting than disposable tv elsewhere. However, the

bounds of what people can talk about and write about are clearly delineated

from above.

 

I spent a very depressing afternoon talking to my Japanese boss at a small

Tokyo based production company, when he listed all the programmes he wanted

to make when he was young that he knew he would never be able to broadcast.

If you want to make a programme about religious spiritualists in India ,

forget it. If you want to make a programme about the prison system, forget

that too. In fact don't even dream of making any indepth analytical programme

about the workings of the Judiciary or the funding of political parties. You

can make any programme you like about prostitution, as long as you dont ask

any questions about the working conditions of the women involved. Titillation

is fine, but analysis is forbidden.

In other words you cant make the sorts of programmes that would constitute a

good 30 percent or more of the current affairs / documentary output in the

UK.

 

The problem with the Tokyo film festival, too, I think is that everybody is

very "tight at the top", and it is largely about the institutions that

sponser it then the people who want to participate. Thankfully, though, there

are different kinds of festivals here, which give great oppurtunities for

young people and people living in local communities to participate in.

 

I hope I am not the only person out there who holds these views. I am not

trying to burden other list members with a solipsistic rant.

 

All the best,

 

Gavin Rees

 

 

 

 

 

----__ListProc__NextPart____KINEJAPAN__digest_666

 

Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 14:15:05 +0900 (JST)

From: Peter Durfee <durfee@japanecho.co.jp>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi, the media, and the Tokyo film festival

Message-ID: <199907220515.OAA15786@sepia.ocn.ne.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-2022-JP"

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

 

At 00:15 -0400 99.7.22, GavinRees@aol.com wrote:

>I hope I am not the only person out there who holds these views. I am not

>trying to burden other list members with a solipsistic rant.

 

No, I don't think these are your views alone, and even if this was a rant,

at least it was a fun one to read : ). I did want to comment on the

following, though:

 

>Anybody who needs accurate information about developments in foreign countries

>ÅAor indeed Japan itself, must be reading the Tokyo edition of the FT. And if

>anybody who doesnot read Japanese wants to know more about pop culture, well

>tough! (However, most of the gaijin here which the newspapers seem to be

>aimed at, are financial types who probably have no interest in contemporay

>Japan anyway!)

 

First of all, I think that anyone relying on overseas papers for news on

Japan will have their information limited to sparse, spotty stories; often

sensationalistic (not to the extent that Zipangu would have us believe, but

certainly less than balanced) and all too often reported by people who

cannot read or speak the language. I get the sense that Japan is a plum

assignment on the foreign correspondents' circuit, and the people who get

posted here are quite accomplished as reporters, but this has little to do

with their familiarity with Japan's language or culture. Nicholas Kristof at

the New York Times is one example.

 

I do think many of your comments on the nature of newspapers in this country

were spot-on, but I would recommend against giving up on them as a source of

information. Whether or not they adhere to the same journalistic standards

as the top papers in the West, they are realistically the only game in town

if you need to keep up with a broad range of domestic issues--as well as the

Japanese take on foreign affairs. An inability to read Japanese will cause a

Japan observer to miss out on much more than just pop culture.

 

I am unsure about the "gaijin whom the papers are aimed at" statement--does

this refer to international papers like the FT and IHT, or the domestic

English rags? I have heard (rumor alert) that the Japan Times has more

Japanese subscribers than non-Japanese. And I know plenty of people--myself

included--who read the English dailies for information to be put to use in

communications or education, not the financial sector. (I also know that any

worker in the financial field with "no interest in contemporary Japan" will

very quickly be out of the know, and thus out of a job.)

 

Yours,

Peter Durfee

 

P.S. All I know about Satchii is that some angry, noisy men in gray buses

are unhappy with NTV's treatment of her story . . . My ears are still

ringing from my walk this afternoon in Kojimachi.

 

 

 

----__ListProc__NextPart____KINEJAPAN__digest_666

 

Date: Fri, 23 Jul 99 10:47:22 +0900

From: Aaron Gerow <gerow@ynu.ac.jp>

To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <199907230138.KAA02545@app2.ipch.ynu.ac.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

 

Yesterday, the Hinomaru/Kimigayo bill passed the Lower Diet and Eto Jun

committed suicide, and still the morning wide shows all opened with

Satchi...

 

>What has also surprised me, since I can't read Japanese well enough to

>follow it very well in Japanese papers myself, is how absent the issue has

>been in the English-language press. From TV and Japanese friends, I

>understand how prevalent Japanese media coverage has been, but I've seen

>almost nothing in English about it. Granted, I primarily read the Yomiuri,

>but why is it assumed that English-language readers will have NO interest in

>this issue?

 

I think part of the issue is not simply English language press vs.

Japanese language press, but rather the definition of "news" that

operates within different media organizations. The major papers and TV

news orgnizations like NHK as a rule do not consider celebrity news and

gossip as news and frequently ignore stories that fill up space and time

in weekly magazines and wideshows. There are some differences (the

Mainichi tends to cover geino news more often than the Asahi), but there

is still a hierarchy within journalism over what is "really news."

 

Satchi is one of the few cases (Aum and the Miura/LA jiken are others)

where stories that originated in the wideshows and weeklies made their

way into "respectable" journalism, but even then, the reporting on the

Satchi affair in the major papers has still been very minimal.

 

This does raise issues of gender and audience. Since wideshows mostly

have a female viewership, it is as if "news" for them is defined as

Satchi, while "real news" is reserved for evening shows when the men come

home (shows which don't cover Satchi (especially if it's NHK))--as if

women would have no interest in learning about the Hinomaru issue in an

afternoon show. How is celebrity culture as a whole in fact "feminized"

through such standards? How does this relate to the "male" version of

gossip found in weekly magazines like Asahi Geino, which are tied into

late night TV culture of sexy idols (which we could call male celebrity

culture). Since this also revolves around issues of citizenship (the

press and the public sphere), how does TV celebrity culture define

Japanese citizenship and thus the nation across gender lines? (Satchi is

interesting in this regard since the issue directly involves political

qualifications.)

 

Just some more questions.

 

Aaron Gerow

Yokohama National University

KineJapan list owner

For list commands: send "information kinejapan" to

listserver@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Kinema Club: http://pears.lib.ohio-state.edu/Markus/Welcome.html


Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 15:36:56 +0900

From: David Hopkins <hopkat@sa2.so-net.ne.jp>

To: "'KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu'"

<KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Satchi and "Female"

Message-ID: <01BED521.4360B180@p8bae02.nara.ap.so-net.ne.jp>

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

 

I think you know the basic contempt I have for (Japanese) TV in general. I

have even greater contempt for the whole wide show scene (I can't believe an

intellectual like you-know-who would admit to watching "all the morning wide

shows"!). However, gender issues are very interesting and important, so I

can only offer an interesting observation from the Asahi Shinbun, which is

generally considered to be the left limit of dominant ideology. I didn't

clip it, unfortunately, but they recently announced a new e-magazine to be

called Female, with the information that it would feature news about fashion

and dieting. That really burned me up. Obviously, in this society, education

issues and investments should be the "serious" issues for women, even if

they also imply some stereotyping.

 

David Hopkins

Tenri University


 

Date: Fri, 23 Jul 99 15:59:56 +0900

From: Aaron Gerow <gerow@ynu.ac.jp>

To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Re: Satchi and "Female"

Message-ID: <199907230651.PAA14527@app2.ipch.ynu.ac.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

 

>(I can't believe an

>intellectual like you-know-who would admit to watching "all the morning wide

>shows"!)

 

Aaargh! I have been unmasked!

 

But no, I actually don't watch all the morning wide shows. (I have

morning classes to teach and a son to take to day care). But on some

mornings when I'm not taking Ian the Norimono Hakase off to day care, I

have about 10 or 15 minutes after 8:30 (the start of some of the morning

wide shows) to flip through the channels and check out what's going on.

The show I actually prefer is Hanamaru Market (TBS's alternative to the

wideshow), but then that depends on their topic of the day....

 

But it is interesting I feel like I have to defend myself. Has my

masculinity been challenged? My status as an intellectual?

 

Ah, there are so many meanings attached to involvement in popular

culture....

 

Aaron


Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 09:17:23 -0400 (EDT)

From: Kevin Alan Martin <martink@umich.edu>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Prosecutors accept complaint against Sachi (Sachiyo Nomura) (fwd)

Message-ID: <Pine.SOL.4.10.9907230914430.13661-100000@frogger.rs.itd.umich.edu>

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

 

This is *greatly* off topic, but for those of you shaking your head and

wondering what all of the fuss is about, read on.

 

Again, apologies to those who are fed up with this.

 

Kevin

 

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 09:19:46 +0900

From: Ken-chan <ken-chan@mui.biglobe.ne.jp>

Reply-To: geinou@mla.nifty.ne.jp

To: Geinou ML <geinou@mla.nifty.ne.jp>

Subject: [geinou] #458: Prosecutors accept complaint against Sachi (Sachiyo

Nomura)

 

--------------------------------------------------------

CAUTION:

If you're not interested in Sachiyo Nomura, please skip

this news mail. Since the news mail could make you feel

unpleasant, you'd better avoid reading unless you're

patient. Ken (me) and Mainichi Daily News do not

guarantee the accuracy of the original articles.

--------------------------------------------------------

 

brief description of Sachiyo Nomura bashing by the press:

As you may know, since 3 months ago,

Sachiyo Nomura (aka Sachi), a 67-year-old arrogant woman TV personality

and wife of Katsuya Nomura, has been criticized by the media for

her rude behaviors and a lie. Many entertaiment news programs feature

the arrogant woman almost everyday, and are investigating what she has

been doing during the past few years.

 

Sachiyo Nomura has been criticized in several points:

-- Vainglorious woman Nomura told a lie when runing in the 1996 House of

Representatives election. She insists she graduated from Columbia University

in the United States about 45 years ago, but many people believe it's

highly doubtful.

-- Nomura hasn't returned money she has to pay yet. A travel agency

staff asked her to pay the money, but she still ignores it.

-- Nomura carelessly described clebrity actress Mitsuyo Asaka as a person

who won fame for the name of Sachiyo Nomura. Asaka got very angry,

and filed a complaint to The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office (see

below).

-- Nomura carelessly described ex-Olympic figure skater Emi Watanabe as

an ugly pig woman. The former figure skater is very angry now.

-- Actress Hanako Tokachi pointed out she was given a card in the 1996

election, adding Nomura wrote there wrong educational background.

Tokachi wanted to file a complaint to a prosecutors office to accuse

Nomura of telling a lie, but gave up doing it because a lawyer advised

Tokachi not to do it in order to avoid being involved in a big trouble.

-- Nomura beated and bullied boys of her baseball team, and even

beating their parents.

 

To our great surprise, Nomura released on July 20 a rap-oriented new

CD single titled "Such a Beautiful Woman." In this song, she insists,

"Everyone has to follow social rules." and "I don't mind if it's a pig

or something." When hearing the song, Emi Watanabe, the TV personality

described as a pig, lost her words. For more, see below.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Data Source: Mainichi Daily News

July 23, 1999

(c) Mainichi Shimbun

Entered manually by Ken

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prosecutors have accepted a complaint filed by actress Mitsuyo

Asaka against television personality Sachiyo Nomura on suspision

of violation of the Public Offices Election Law by falsifying

her educational background, Asaka official said.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office told a lawyer for

Asaka on Wednesday that they accepted the complaint.

Asaka is ready to coorporate if requested to by prosecutors.

Asaka alleges that Nomura falsely stated she studied at

Columbia University in the United States, when she ran in the 1996

House of Representatives election on a ticket for the now-defunct

Shinshin-to.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

memo:

Shinshin-to = a policitians party

 

[reference article on Sachiyo Nomura]

In order to understand the background of the Sachiyo Nomura bashing,

you need to read the article shown below.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Data Source: Mainichi Daily News

May 30, 1999

(c) Mainichi Shimbun

written by Michael Hoffman

downloaded by Ken-chan from a pay-database of NIFTY-Serve

------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

67 05/31 13:06 WAIWAI

 

Face of the Weeklies

 

If you had chanced to drop into a certain Osaka sushi restaurant

during the early evening of May 15, you would have seen, says Shukan

Gendai (6/5), a well-dressed elderly woman sitting at the counter and

directing passionate imprecations at the TV screen. The broadcast was

a baseball game, Chunichi Dragons vs. Hanshin Tigers. "Go, go!" she

cried when the Tigers were at bat. "Damn!" she muttered whenever

Chunichi scored a run, her face turning positively frightening in

its anger.

Meet (though surely you already have) Sachiyo Nomura, wife of

Tigers manager Katsuya Nomura -- which domestic detail is only a

very small part of her notoriety.

Who is Sachiyo Nomura? Lecturer, actress, personality -- better

ask who she is not, for of late she is, at 67, ubiquitous, spoken of

when not seen, bashed when not bashing. You don't like her? She can

live with that. "I am the notorious Sachiyo Nomura," was how she

introduced herself at a recent lecture, according to Shukan Taishu (6/7).

The audience ate it up. Her schedule is booked till autumn. No sooner

does one sponsor drop her like a hot potato than another one picks her

up like a diamond in the rough.

It's all trivia, huffs Shukan Post (6/4), nonetheless devoting

a page and a half to "Sachi." Her enemies call her a bully and a

loudmouth. Those and similar epithets have swirled about her since

actress Mitsuyo Asaka, with whom Nomura was to appear in a historical

TV drama series last year, bowed out of the project, publicly

complaining that her co-star was impossible to work with. Was that

the first episode of "Sachi-bashing"? Not really. That just got it

onto the TV Waido shows. The subterranean grumbling has been there

all along. Shukan Gendai quotes a Hanshin Tigers source as saying

that when it comes to team management, "She does the talking, while

her husband goes 'Mm, right.' "

For the famous, hatred is a kind of love. A TBS program on which

Sachiyo is a regular panelist maintains audience ratings in the 15

percent range. At the latest outburst of Sachi-bashing, over her

abrupt cancellation on May 16 of a scheduled phone-in appearance

on a TV show hosted by moderator Akiko Wada, TBS was inundated,

says Shukan Taishu, with 6,000 phone calls saying, in effect, Leave

Sachiyo Alone!

Bet on it that that's exactly what they will do. (MH)

[Mainichi Daily News/May 30]

 

[1999-05-31-13:06]


 

Date: 23 Jul 99 20:35:32 -0700

From: "Michael Badzik" <mike@vena.com>

To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <B3BE829A-25EEE7@205.158.33.85>

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

 

This thread really has generated a lot of interesting words, hasn't it?

There is a lot that I would like to comment on but for now will keep it

to two things:

 

Aaron wrote:

 

> Satchi is one of the few cases (Aum and the Miura/LA jiken are others)

> where stories that originated in the wideshows and weeklies made their

> way into "respectable" journalism, but even then, the reporting on the

> Satchi affair in the major papers has still been very minimal.

 

Could this come from, at least in part, a belief that their hands would

be dirtied by touching something that the "gossip hounds" and "scandal

mongers" first handled? It does seem, also, that the "hard news" people

are a bit more willing to report on hanky-panky in the political arena,

so perhaps there is a feeling that lax morals in its public servants is a

matter of public concern, but that the privacy of ordinary citizens is

something to be respected. Or perhaps not.

 

> Since wideshows mostly have a female viewership, it is as if "news"

> for them is defined as Satchi, while "real news" is reserved for evening

> shows when the men come home (shows which don't cover Satchi

>(especially if it's NHK))--as if women would have no interest in

>learning about the Hinomaru issue in an afternoon show.

 

You are going to need better evidence to convince me. There are "real

news" shows on during the day so any housewife who wishes to can keep

up with the "important" events. But then who am I to say what is

important for the largely female daytime audience, the spirited

discussions inspired by the Satchi affair often seem to be fueled by

issues of morality, proper behavior of a Japanese woman, privacy, and

the conduct of the press. These may be far more important subjects to a

wideshow audience than much of what is on the respectable news

programs, and I will bet that a lot of them will tell you that these are

issues with much greater impact on their lives than, say, the suicide of

Eto Jun.

 

I'm sure Aaron already knows this, but for the benefit of others I will

close with my first rule of Japanese television: Never underestimate the

intelligence of the audience - no matter how simple-minded the

programming may look to you. Come to think of it, Aaron has to agree with

this, given some of the shows he admits to watching!

 

Michael Badzik

mike@vena.com


 

Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 13:38:17 +1000

From: "Barbara Hartley" <hartleyb@jedi.cqu.edu.au>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <9907250253.AA09318@jedi.cqu.edu.au>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

 

It seems to me that the whole Satchi thing is comparable to the press

coverage of Hayashi Mayumi after the curry jiken last year.

Bizarre though the incident was it was nothing like the press coverage that

followed. I was travelling in Japan on work at the time and can't actually

recall any other current event that occurred since every time I turned the

tv on there was nothing but saturation coverage of Mayumi higaisha on

absolutely every station. There's undoubtedly a gender factor at work - and

a certain glee in dealing brutally with women who have stepped outside

defined parameters. The political demonisation is confirmed by candid shots

of the women looking stressed and tired and generally pretty dreadful, thus

'legitimising' the manner in which they are dealt with by the media as

deviant.

Not that I'm, advocating in any way for bumping off people who give you the

cold shoulder with a bowl of pesticided curry, or for not paying your bills

or whatever. But compare the press treatment of both Mayumi and Satchi with

the piddling little bit of coverage given to all those blokes who have been

involved in mega frauds and other scandals over the past few years. A bit of

a glimpse of them looking vaguely remorseful sandwiched in between two other

blokes in the back of a police car and that's about it. And with respect to

the unfortunate Satchi, how much more worthwhile had the media decided to

have a closer look at the bewigged chappy raking in a bucket by doing nips

and tucks, to say nothing of the whole cosmetic surgery industry in general.

 

By the way we've just had an incident in Australian where a prominent woman

politician, Carmen Lawrence - touted in the early nineties as a future prime

minister - has been the subject of a political witchhunt which resulted in

her being prosecuted for perjury. She was acquitted on Friday by a jury

which took less than an hour to make its decision. However, much of the

mainstream press (media and print) ran stories about her being 'let off' by

the judicial system and implying that she was undoubtedly guilty. The

hysteria is of a different tenor to that associated with Satchi. But the

message is the same. Beware if you're a women who is perceived as

transgressing.

 

And with regard to the boredom factor. You might get bored the with hard

sell coverage, but the manner in which that coverage is being orchestrated

is surely a topic that calls for inquiry and comment.

 

Barbara Hartley


 

Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 05:33:07 +0900

From: shh@gol.com

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <379A82AE.35C9@gol.com>

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-2022-jp

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

 

To loop back into film a bit, as for how stong-willed and outspoken

women are covered in the Japanese press, does anyone have any ideas of

how femme fatale Matsuda Seiko has been treated over the years?

 

Sharon Hayashi

University of Chicago


Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 01:45:55 +0900

From: "Peter B. High" <j45843a@nucc.cc.nagoya-u.ac.jp>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <199907251651.BAA21405@nucc.cc.nagoya-u.ac.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

 

Carole and Sharon's invocations of Akutagawa's pre-war suicide as a potential

context/contrast for considering the significance of Eto's suicide reminds me that we

can find similar antecedants to the "Satchi affair" in that period as well.

Three examples spring immediately to mind (and off the top of my head, I might

add--meaning that I may have some of my details muddled). All three examples feature

prominent women who were pilloried in their era's press as sexual adventuresses (or

ogresses) and yet, after burning for a time in journalistic perdition, were then

redeemed by having the nature of their "crimes" transformed into something

..."allegorical." Exploring these examples might just conceivably provide a

prognostication as to if and how Satchi will be redeemed for her own "crimes."

 

The first example is the public uproar and wide commentary on the open "furin"

relationship between Shimamura Hogetsu and the legendary actress Matsui Sumako at the

end of the Meiji period. Both were married elsewhere and while for men extramarital

affairs were de rigeur, for women it was seen as a sacramental desecration challenging

the very foundations of society. Some time after Hogetsu's death and an unsuccessful

attempt to keep together the theatre troup she had started with Hogetsu, Sumako

committed suicide. The conservative press at the time commented that her death was a

natural atonement for her "sinfulness," but subsequently it became (indeed, has become)

seen as the affirmation of a brave and true love transcending social taboo. Both

Kinugasa and Mizoguchi played on this moral theme in their 1947 films about her.

 

The second example is the Abe Sada murder incident, which also has received several

cinematic treatments (at least three, I think), including Oshima's pornographic *Realm

of the Senses*. Unlike Sumako, Abe had been a "nobody," a hotel maid, before

accidentally strangling here lover in bed and then making off with his severed penis in

1938. This last horrific detail, the castration, put her on the front page, and kept

her in the public eye for months. From early on, the press demonstrated awareness of

the dual significance of the incident and the its coverage had a distinctly Janus-faced

quality.On the one hand, the press played up the inevitable fear and repulsion of a

large section of its male redership. Compounding matters was--as it continues to be--a

kind of Queen Bee Complex, involving fear of and erotic attraction to the (potentially

lethal) sexual domination of women--a favorite topic,incidentally, of Shindo Kaneto

throughout most of the fifties and then of Imamura Shohei in the sixties and seventies.

Contemporary accounts of Abe's ultimate arrest, meanwhile, introduced the second

perspective. Standing in the doorway of her hotel hide-away, she meekly surrendered to

the arresting officers amid a crowd of flashbulb popping reporters. In her hand, still

carefully wrapped in a bloody handkerchief, was her lover's severed penis. The

photograph of her kimono-clad figure and bewildered, sad and vulnerable-looking

expression became a much reprinted icon of the era. Needless to say, the photographs

were sans the grisly artifact. Within this other perspective, the Abe incident opened

the profoundly a-moral dimension of sexual passion to public meditation. Part of the

problem had to do with the manner in which the press had to report (and thereby publicy

acknowledge) the "porno"-graphic details, including the titillating issue of finding an

appropriate expression for "male member." In other words, the sensational impact of the

scandal came from its revelation, along with the details, of hithertop repressed

subject material. Significantly, all of this came amidst the aftermath of the "2-26"

Incident (the attempted coup-d'etat by young army officers in Feb. 1938)--in an era

characterized by "thought police" and the repression of public discourse on social and

political matters. In his book of essays about Abe Sada, the incident and his movie,

Oshima makes the point that in times of political crisis, the (Japanese) government

encourages the "liberation" of the sexual as a means of diverting attention from the

political arena. I am not sure that the government--even that of the thirties--was

ruled by the kind of monolithic logos Oshima posits or had this kind of immediate

access to the switches of such subtle and yet direct psychological/political

manipulation. However, if we can find such a tendency in history--and I think we

can--more than likely it was a sudden, independent eruption which took the bureaucratic

"control" officials by surprise and toward which they intinctively turned a blind eye.

 

The third "case" is that of the actress Okada Yoshiko, who "defected" to the Soviet

Union that same year. Since it had strong political overtones, the authorities of the

time made sure that little more than the bare details of the incident reached the

public. On January 3, 1938, stage and screen favorite Okada crossed the border on

Karafuto (Sakhalin) into Soviet teritory in the company of her lover, left-wing

dramatist Sugimoto Kenkichi. To this day, the issue of "Why Did She Do It?" continues

to intrigue Japanese film and social historians (in fact, recent years have seen the a

modest "Okada Yoshiko" boom, with the publication of articles and even a few books

about her). From the beginning of her stage career in the pre-Quake era of the

twenties, Yoshiko had developed a reputation for herself as a "flaming woman" who took

new bed partners before discarding old husbands. The press' discovery of her in one of

her "love nests" with an illicit paramour led to a much-publicized cancellation of her

contract with one film coimpany and her being temporarily banned from appearances in

other pictures. Still, she managed to continue a prominent stage and screen career

despite the pungent smell of sexual scandal which persistently surrounded her. Okada's

"defection" therefore came as a major shock/sensation and dominated the press during

the entire 1938 New Years season. Thereafter, however, the subject was allowed to lapse

into obscurity--in terms of direct press treatment, in any case. Reading various film

articles and round-table discussions of the era one gets the impression that the

incident had struck deep into the sensibilities of the film community (and presumably

the "public mind" as well). Oblique references to the incident (such as references to

"the one who ran away") tended to emerge for years afterward.

In probing the psychological effect of the Okada/Sugimoto defection, one need only

recall the oft-invoked cliche of the era--"Japan has no Switzerland"--meaning that

since there was no convenient foreign country capable of providing political asylum,

one had best stay at home, cope, and where necessary compromise and collaborate. While

the official line was that Okada had violated the sacred national boundary and had

engaged in an act of treason, one gets the feeling that in the popular mind her act had

stirred a certain amount of envy and even "respect"--this, despite the fact that even

today social and film historians regularly refer to it as an act of "folly."The first

in-depth treatment of the incident was done by Kishi Matsuo in his 1960s volume NIHON

EIGAJIN-DEN, where the defection is explained (away) as the result of sexual

infatuation. Okada had no political opinions, Kishi holds, and it was a spur of the

moment decision, apparently an act of "affirmation" of the opinions of her lover. As

far as I know, Okada herself has never really explained the reason for her defection.

Therefore, unlike either Matsui Sumako or Abe Sada, the enduring meaning of the Okada

Yoshiko incident has remained inchoate--reflected perhaps in the fact that there have

appeared no Okada Yoshiko movies.

In the late 1980s, the prelude period to Okada's much-publicized nostalgic journey home

from the USSR was characterized by an outpouring of sentimentalism and "forgiveness."

Part of it was clearly the sense of closure implied by her return after so many years

to the homeland. The defection was coming full circle, the final development in an

incident spanning the fifty years of the wartime and postwar eras. Now, ten years on,

however, one gets the feeling that it also marked the beginning of the present era in

which significant sectors of Japan are unilaterally "forgiving" and absolving the

wartime generation for excesses on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

 

The element linking the "heroines" of the three incidents was the unselfconsciousness

with which they transgressed the boundaries which hemmed in other, more ordinary women

of their era. In the cases of Matsui Sumako and Okada Yoshiko, at least, we see the

peculiar phenomenon of women of great daring, talent and audacity positioning

themselves in opposition to a male-dominant social context and thrusting upon that

society the responsibility of finding a means to accomodate them. In all three

instances, too, we see how flexibly and subtly Japanese society can move to create a

space to accomodate such unique individuals and their iconoclasm. All three ultimately

achieved acceptance and even a certain amount of esteem from their contemporaries and

their posterity. The rule seems to be that truly outrageous individuals, as long as

they have the perseverence to tough it out, will eventually be awarded a niche--often

a prominent one--of their own. This quality is equally apparent today, as in the case

of Mikawa Ken'ichi, who is regularly featured as "one of the women" in panel discussion

shows today, neatly eliding all (or most) references to his/her real identity as a

transvestite male.

 

Although the phrase seems now to have gone out of currency, "pushy" and/or unattractive

upper-middle aged women were were for a time regularly referred to as "obatarion"--a

uniqely Japanese neologism compounded from "oba" (aunt) and the title of the cult

horror movie *Battalion* in which dead flesh is revived v (via a gas, was it?). The

almost violent disgust implied in the phrase continues to be reflected in such tv ads

as the one in which a young man recoils in horror as he is about to acidentally kiss

one of these "obatarion." A couple of years ago, Tonneruzu tv star Ishibashi Takaaki

(whom I heartily detest) was almost embroiled in a law suit when he lured another such

woman out on stage dressed only in bra and panties and then began to revile her for her

ugly body. This is the hostile context in which Nomura "Satchi" emerged as a

sharp-tongued, admittedly talentless "tarento." For a time, this brassy (and, frankly,

utterly UTTERLY unattractive) woman seemed successful in her out bid to stake out her

own niche in the brutal world of "geinokai" television. Somehow, by pushing her own

"obatarion" pugnacity into the face of viewers and fellow-panelists alike, she actually

gained a certain amount of authority--MORAL authority, as shown in the shows where she

appeared as a panmelist lecturing frivolous young couples on the errors of their ways.

As in the case of the three women depicted above, the oppressive walls of social

opprobrium seemed to be moving back to accomodate this one outrageous "exception." Such

as we now see was not to be the case.

 

The ingredient to be found in the cases of three pre-war woman but missing in that of

Satchi was catastrophe, tragedy, the completely unremediable screw-up. They had to

descend into the cauldron of infamy and then be resurrected, not through their own

efforts but through a reinterpretation (or universalization) of the significance of

their folly. Even Mikawa Ken'ichi had to drop into oblivion before being resurrected as

a "lovable" sage of popular tv.

Well, Satchi now has her seemingly unremediable screw-up. (As I write this, late night

television is reporting that her case has now come out onto the floor of the Diet!)

Satchi herself alternates between silence and defiance, just the right attitude to

stimulate the pundits. Will she be consigned forever to popular odium? Somehow I think

not. The dramatic structure seems to be in place for some sort of reversal--although

just how this would be achieved I have no idea. The game is afoot. Or, to use another

metaphor, the concentrics are spreading out across the surface of national

consciousness. We must wait and watch to see what they ultimately configure.

 

Peter B. High

Nagoya University


Date: Mon, 26 Jul 99 16:10:53 +0900

From: Aaron Gerow <gerow@ynu.ac.jp>

To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <199907260701.QAA25860@app2.ipch.ynu.ac.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

 

Michael wrote,

 

>There are "real

>news" shows on during the day so any housewife who wishes to can keep

>up with the "important" events. But then who am I to say what is

>important for the largely female daytime audience, the spirited

>discussions inspired by the Satchi affair often seem to be fueled by

>issues of morality, proper behavior of a Japanese woman, privacy, and

>the conduct of the press. These may be far more important subjects to a

>wideshow audience than much of what is on the respectable news

>programs, and I will bet that a lot of them will tell you that these are

>issues with much greater impact on their lives than, say, the suicide of

>Eto Jun.

 

Trying to be neutral yet provoke discussion, I haven't really put forward

my views of wideshows, but the general tone of my language probably

belies a general dislike of the format. While I can watch them and not

infrequently see interesting stories (if not intellectually interesting

cultural problems), stories like the Satchi affair still make me worried

about the power of the media, their definition of privacy, the morality

of journalism, and the construction of subjectivity. Frankly, I found

the scenes of reporters hounding Satchi around the train station

offensive and repulsive and a clear demonstration of the dangers of the

violence of the camera (which any good documentarist from Hara to Koreeda

is conscious of). I question the morality of anyone who makes such

things and who likes watching it. Koreeda and others on the production

side have been trying to warn people a lot lately about the complete lack

of action on media ethics within the TV industry in Japan (as Koreeda

said in a Doc Box interview I did with him, every time a scandal occurs,

nothing is solved), but we also have to wonder about the viewer culture

that supports these problems.

 

This is my emotional response, and feel free to analyze it if you want,

but Michael thankfully does remind me that both the situation and my

reaction to it are more complex. There are actually features to the

wideshows which I actually liked. Before the demise of the TBS

wideshows, the morning show reserved from 30 minutes to an hour on

Fridays just to discuss contemporary issues in often interesting ways.

Wideshows, I should remind people, did some of the better and earlier

reporting on the AIDS scandal. And as Michael emphasizes, quite a few

still devote a lot of time to discussions of social, famialial, and moral

issues.

 

But there are still many problems worthy of discussion. First, while it

is clear we cannot easily divide TV news into afternoon and evening

formats, there nonetheless are distinctions in the way news is defined

and delivered on TV. While in the afternoon, hard news is offered on NHK

and the 11:30 news sports and in market news on TV Tokyo, the way these

programs are constructed, their tone, point of view and content all

differ from the news breaks seen on some of the afternoon shows, or on

the actual programming of the wideshows. Not all can be reduced to a

male vs. female audience, but many shows very literally present their

news as "okusama no tame ni" and construct it according to their views of

what this audience is and wants. As I discuss below, the problem arises

when these definitions of viewership are not merely passive responses to

actualy viewer desires, but serve to shape those desires--and

subjectitivites--themselves.

 

Second, as we can tell from the kind of responses to the Satchi affair

seen on this list, there is the fear that whatever issues are discussed

on the wideshows are often presented in a conservative way which

reinforces dominant ideologies. Much of the time the discussions reveal

major fissures in such ideology (e.g., the simultaneous love and hate of

bossy women), but there is the fear that the "consensus" over what is

"natural" and "common sense" (something very evident in the Satchi

affair) is a mode of power and social control.

 

>I'm sure Aaron already knows this, but for the benefit of others I will

>close with my first rule of Japanese television: Never underestimate the

>intelligence of the audience - no matter how simple-minded the

>programming may look to you. Come to think of it, Aaron has to agree with

>this, given some of the shows he admits to watching!

 

Actually, Michael, I've said the same things many times on this list.

But I do think we in Japanese TV and film studies still have a lot of

work to do on audiences, industry, and ideology. We are all aware of the

Fiskean, cultural studies point of view which emphasizes how audiences

appropriate and use popular cultural texts for their own ends. There are

clear cases where audiences do take "dominant ideological" texts and

effectively rework them according to their needs, making them important

to their lives. There is more than a strong possibility many wideshow

viewers are critically working with the texts in ways we should not

desparage.

 

But at the same time, there are many people in cultural studies who

remind us that texts contain many devices which, if not forcing, at least

encourage "proper" readings. My research on prewar film reception

indicates that there is a long history of efforts to promote, control,

and regulate the kinds of meanings people produce from movies. Without

having to follow Adorno precisely, we also have to recognize there are

industrial factors which encourage companies to find means to prevent

alternative readings and uses of its cultural products. With this

historical, cultural, and industrial background, we have plenty of

evidence to lead us to conclude that many wideshows (as well as many

shows in general, and many films) are constructed to prevent a critical

response/use on the part of the audience and that most audiences follow

along with that. It is there when the issues of ideology and control

arise.

 

Clearly neither extreme is right, but there remains a lot of work to be

done in work on popular culture in Japan to understand that culture as

neither liberatory nor oppressive, but as a complex struggle over meaning

and power which involves dominant corporate and state structures as well

as amorphous spectator fields and reception contexts. I've only started

thinking about it, but looking at the ease with which the

Kimigayo/Hinomaru, defense guidelines, and wiretapping legislation passed

the Diet without any discussion, I tend towards the skeptical side.

 

Any comments?

 

Aaron Gerow

YNU


 

Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 18:49:21 -0400

From: Joseph Murphy <jmurphy@aall.ufl.edu>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <l03110701b3c20e637c8b@[128.227.20.66]>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

 

This will eventually get to the question of image-media.

Peter B. High wrote:

>Carole and Sharon's invocations of Akutagawa's pre-war suicide as a potential

>context/contrast for considering the significance of Eto's suicide reminds

>me that we

>can find similar antecedants to the "Satchi affair" in that period as well.

>Three examples spring immediately to mind (and off the top of my head, I

>might

>add--meaning that I may have some of my details muddled). All three

>examples feature

>prominent women who were pilloried in their era's press as sexual

>adventuresses (or

>ogresses) and yet, after burning for a time in journalistic perdition,

>were then

>redeemed by having the nature of their "crimes" transformed into something

>..."allegorical."

 

Barbara Hartley's juxtaposing the press treatment of the female defendant

in the recent "Karei jiken" to the vilification of Satchi Nomura brings to

mind another antecedent for the way the mass-media siezes on these strong,

transgressive women, and possibly for the wide-show format itself, namely

the "poison woman" genre of serial fiction popular in the 1870's when

Japan's mass journalism was just establishing itself . These stories

weren't really fiction but fictionalized accounts of actual news events

(jitsuroku shosetsu). A single incident would kick off a rash of competing

serials in different newspapers, to be bound and sold as books afterward.

The most popular kind featured as their heroine the "dokufu" or

poison-woman, i.e. a woman who had committed a rash of sensational, usually

violent crimes. To get an idea of the tenor, behind "Takahashi Oden yasha

monogatari" was the true story of a woman who conned her own relatives in a

land scam in the mid-1870's, wandered the Kanto plain for a while with a

man, then lured another man back to her room and killed him for his money.

She was sentenced to death January 31st, 1879. As soon as the sentence was

handed down at least fournewspapers rushed out competing serializations of

the story, mixing fictionalized accounts of her exploits as well as

transcripts of Oden's own self-defense plea, etc. This is by no means the

most lurid.

It's not such a stretch to the current discussion both for the similarity

in mass-media format and the consistent content of the fantasies being

circulated. The phenomenon (of the "true-account" genre) occurs during

the initial sorting out period for Japan's mass journalism. They were

consumed in intallments each day like the wideshow, and competing versions

appeared in different newspapers (channels). Fiction is still serialized

in Japanese newspapers today, but as newspapers gained in respectability,

the basis in factual events and unseemly scramble to get out the quickest

account was expunged, and by the 1890's newspaper serial were "pure"

fiction. Where you have to go these days to get the jitsuroku presentation

of the latest sensational real news event is the despised genre of the

wideshow. Its like within the phenomenon of mass-media, the general format

switched from print to visual media . Second, the hybridity and free

combination of fact and fiction in the jitsuroku shosetsu (What I know

about this I learned from the work of the early-Meiji scholar Kamei Hideo,

from his book Kansei no henkaku and from talks he has given here) was

instrumental in establishing conventions of realism, and not coincidentally

conventions for image-ing women that made possible the "birth" of the

modern novel a decade later and clearly the fantasy of the woman who "won't

give way on her desire" still circulates meaningfully today.

For those who haven't followed it (you couldn't help be exposed if you've

been in Japan anytime in the last two years), the "curry incident" was a

spectacular mass- poisoning where several people died after eating the

curry rice from a stand at a neighborhood festival in Wakayama ken (correct

me on the details, please,, those who've followed it more closely). The

incident unraveled in a fascinating way over its first few days, beginning

with the mysterious deaths, the pinpointing of the curry-rice as the

source, the identification of quantities of arsenic in the curry, the

arsenic traced circumstantially to Hayashi Masumi, a local housewife who it

was found in the last several years had taken out large insurance policies

on other people who had "accidents" and whose husband showed clear symptoms

of long-term, low-level arsenic poisoning. The police had no witnesses or

hard evidence linking the suspect to the poisoning, hence they had to

release Ms. Hayashi to her home, presumably waiting for her to crack under

the pressure. We know that's what the police are doing because we've all

read Dostoyevsky and seen it a dozen times in detective novels and at the

movies. However, Hayashi (yogisha?) did not crack, and what elevated it

from a good summer read to wide-show media frenzy seemed to be the repeated

images of her "hansei-free" comings and goings from her rather

well-appointed suburban house.

This brings up the question of whether the representation of these women is

"attractive" or not. It seems like a presumption of the commentary that

the Japanese media presents these women as "unattractive," to coincide

with the moral case, but I wonder if that's how it works. Those sorts of

judgements of course involve projection on the part of the beholder, but

with the proviso that they can be organized and manipulated, insofar as the

production of Hayashi is going to follow this well-established "poison

woman" schema she has to be allowed the same kind of magnetism (of the

woman who refuses to give way on her desire, and will not back down).

Hayashi is full-figured, with a no-nonsense contemporary hairstyle and a

warm, open face, and shows remarkable composure in the face of the camera

onslaught. One of the most repeated images on the wideshows is of Hayashi

out washing her car and then turning her garden hose on the phalanx of

photographers catcalling her, literally hosing one especially persistent

cameraman off of his perch on her fence. Its a beautiful image (sun

shining, just a hint of a rainbow in the spray) and a truly elegant

response to the media frenzy. Aaron's term "violent" is probably a good

description of the way the wideshow paparazzi pursue their subjects, its

too invasive to be voyeuristic, and anyone who watches the wideshows

probably experiences a sense of guilt about their complicity in these

invasions of privacy. Yet the US testosterone-driven celebrity response of

punching the camera simply reverses the violence. This image of Hayashi

sprinkling these intrusive photographers with a sudden shower, a gentle

baptism that ruins their cameras allows a very easy identification on the

part of the guilty viewer, and if one isn't careful this might then just

slide to some fantasies about what you'd like to do to those nosy neighbors

of yours, or how you might like to get that aging, belching beer-drinking

spouse of yours out of the way...

What is ugly about the Satchi affair is that it entirely lacks the

novelistic element of the "Wakayama Curry Incident." It's just an ugly,

pointless story. Hence where Hayashi is shown hosing off the scum of the

earth on a sunny day, we are treated to daily, mean-spirited and very

unattractive pictures of Satchi Nomura rummaging around the trash in front

of her house, or cleaning up behind her dog on a walk.

There were personal tragedies in the Wakayama curry incident, many of the

victims who did not die are still suffering debilitating effects from the

poison, but the question is of why and how the media fixes on certain

events and not others, and the "literary" expectations the viewers bring to

these media events seems to really shape the spectacle.

J. Murphy


 

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1999 13:55:13 +0900

From: "Peter B. High" <j45843a@nucc.cc.nagoya-u.ac.jp>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <199907270501.OAA00703@nucc.cc.nagoya-u.ac.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

 

<

Joseph Murphy wrote:

 

> Barbara Hartley's juxtaposing the press treatment of the female defendant

> in the recent "Karei jiken" to the vilification of Satchi Nomura brings to

> mind another antecedent for the way the mass-media siezes on these strong,

> transgressive women, and possibly for the wide-show format itself, namely

> the "poison woman" genre of serial fiction popular in the 1870's when

> Japan's mass journalism was just establishing itself .

> It's not such a stretch to the current discussion both for the similarity

> in mass-media format and the consistent content of the fantasies being

> circulated...

 

 

In our two postings, I think both Joseph and I have been groping toward the realization

that the Japanese media tends to orchestrate its "incidents" according to certain

dramaturgical patterns ("ur-stories" perhaps?) and that it may be possible to track these

patterns back into earlier historical periods. I first came upon this notion when I was

writing an essay abpout the Japanese press during the Manchurian Incident of 1931. In

hindsight at least, reportahge during the "prelude" period leading up to full-scale

intervention--featuring assassinations of Japanese individuals and even a massacre of

Japanese residents in Manchuria--seemed to me to be following the classic plot development

pattern of the *matatabi*-style jidaigeki (samurai film). First there is the the series of

one-sided outrages carried out by a sinister enemy whose "true shape" and motives remain

obscure. The hero (the ronin, the yakuza, or in this case, the Japanese army) stoically

endures the provocations, holding to priniciples of decorum and morality utterly

incomprehensible to the villain(s). Of course, the reader/viewer knows that eventually the

hero's endurance will snap and that he will launch against the enemy a jihad of righteous

fury (the "*nagurikomi*/i.e. full-scale military action) in which the perfidy is requited

in a bloddbath and the villains abashed.

--Parenthetically and for what its worth, the "co-star" in the Satchi drama, Asaka

Mitsuyo, is known to the Japanese public for her stage work in old-time *Onnna

Kengeki*--samurai dramas enacted by all-women troups. On stage, she presumably played the

righteous samurai doing to death all sorts of villains preying upon the hapless public.

 

Now, returning to the 1930s--> For the subsequent Shanghai Incident of spring 1932, which

developed into military conflict too quickly for the press to emplot it in the above

manner, the incident was given "transcendent" significance by digging out extraordinary

examples of self-sacrificial valor displayed by individuals or small groups of military

men involved in the fighting there.The narrative category for such exemplary incidents is

as ancient as the medieval era *senki-mono*, such military histories as the *Taiheiki*

etc. This was the BIDAN (lit. "beautiful tale"). Before coming upon the single ideal bidan

for the Incident, we find the press almost daily putting forward various candidates in the

form of little front page accounts of "brave deaths" on the battlefields to the north and

west of the city. The one they finally settled involved three youing men who died while

trying to blow up enemy barbed wire defenses. Tokyo Nichinichi immediately dubbed them

"Our Three Human Bomb Patriots" (Bakudan Sanyushi), while ASsahi used the term "Three

Flesh-bullet Patriots" (Nikudan Sanyushi); it is usually under the latter name that they

are referred to in the history books. Within weeks, the Flesh-bullet Three became the

subject of radio plays, "quickie" (kiwamono) movies, rakugo routines and even full-scale

stage plays.

 

One of the remarkable aspects of the above incidents was the manner in which the national

press would throw up one real-life "candidate" after another (in the form of

"provocations" and then of valorous deaths in action) in an open attempt to find just the

right material to fit a pre-determined narrative model. This, naturally, would lead to the

impression on on the part of the public spectator of similar incidents "clustering"--in

other words, the instinctive perception of "crisis". It seems to me that we continue to be

exposed to this sort of serialized reportage today--the North Korea-related stuff, the

scandals in the economic world, etc. etc. Interestingly enough, once the sense of "crisis"

has been set a-brewing in the..."MEGA-sphere," can I say?--the arenas of politics, high

finance, government and similar areas of High Historico-social Import--the media then sets

to work creating minor key counterpoints, public or personal scandals clearly unrelated

in their details to the "crisis" of the MEGA-sphere and yet, on some virtually

subliminal level, vibrating to the same rythm. This of course is today the dimension

worked by the Wideshow and the shukanshi.

For example, returning to our early thirties parallel, we find the great Lovers' Suicide

Rage of 1932-34. On May 10, 1932, the newspapers reported the suicide of Chosho Goro, a

Keio University student, and his sweetheart Yaeko. The two had met at a Christian

fellowship meeting and fallen in love, but because of class differences, marriage had been

forbidden by both sets of parents. The means of death they chose was both romantic and

striking. They jumped into the Sakatayama volcano above the beach at Oiso. The day after

the initial news report, all of the national papers published their suicide note, in which

they told (the entire nation, as it turned out) that they had died "pure in body and

spirit." At Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun, the copy editor had the inspiration to play up the

Christian connection, publishing the note under the headline "A Love That Reached

Heaven". It was the headline's brilliant balance of spirituality and barely suppressed

eros, more than the actual event, which created the greatest sensation and set off the

subsequent chain of events. Within days, the suicide was being re-enacted as a play by

various small stage troupes using the headline as their title. Radio too picked up the

story, first in editorial commentary and then as a radio drama. Record producers released

a number of sentimental ballads extolling the pure love of Goro and Yaeko, and Shochiku

film company announced it would produce *A love That Reached Heaven*, with Gosho Heinosuke

as director.By this time, the surge of copy-cat suicides (i.e. the "clustering effect")

had begun . From mid-May, several couples a day were climbing the slopes of Sakatayama to

throw themselves into the volcano . Now, with the movie, their numbers doubled. At the

movie theaters, usherettes had to patrol the aisles as young couples had taken to drinking

poison during the showing. By the end of the year, there had been hundreds of

suicides.After a brief lull, the Lover`s Suicide Rage flared anew. On January 9 (1933), a

pair of school girls climbed Miharayama volcano on Oshima Island, a short ferry trip from

Tokyo, and, holding hands, jumped in. The first copy-cat suicides began three days later.

As before, the press reacted with sensationalist irresponsibility. Pictures of young

lovers creeping up the slope arm-in-arm were published with syrupy thanatopic

captions.When the rage finally subsided for good in March, a total of 944 young people had

perished in the Miharayama crater ( Kato Hidetoshi's count).

 

Certainly, on the surface, the two levels of "incidents"--those of the mega-sphere and the

counter-pointing minor-key Lovers' Suicide incident--had nothing to do with one another.

Yet, clearly, they were all sagas of death, and were therefore thematically linked. To

recognize this, we need only realize that the issue of Fascism ("fassho") was just then

dominating public discourse. The connection , I think, was made most apparent in a comment

by German director Karl Ritter a few years later, about the intention of his own

fascist/Nazi films: "I want to impress upon our youth the transcendent value of apparently

meaningless death."

For those who feel it inappropriate to suddenly drag in evidence from a foreign source,

one could re-explain the issue within a purely "native" context. The Lovers' Suicide Rage

became a successful minor key counterpoint incident by being "sublimed" (in both the

alchemical and the literal sense) into a parable of surpassing "beauty." And, to continue

the alchemical metaphor, the Philosopher's Stone was the early-on Nichinichi Shimbun

headline: "The Love that Reached Heaven"...and that patriotism was seen as another form of

that same vaulting love.

 

This brings us to Aaron's repeated query in reference to the Satchi affair--what is its

significance in the context of major events in the mega-sphere (centering on the Diet

resolutions and debate about defense/the flag and the national anthem)? By implication at

least, he is asking whether we can perceive an aspect of direct manipulation or

re-direction of public consciousness away from the truly important to the trivial.

Certainly this appears to be the effect. Personally--and, as with the example I developed

in my previous posting about the Abe Sada affair and its virtual concurrence with the

February 26 Incident of 1938--I find it difficult to locate the subjective (i.e. the

"willing") element which does the "re-diriecting" of public consciousness. That is also

why I have trouble with Noam Chomsky's fascinating studies on American politics and the

press. Observations couched in this sort of "anthropomorphizing" mode of expression may

work well as a kind of short-hand, in other words as a means of cutting to direct

observations of the phenomena, but there is a clear tendency for the

anthropomorphized/short-hand unit (the Press, the Government, the Power Elite, Them) to

stand up and begin to walk around by itself.

What I would like to posit here is possibility that there is no subjective or "willing"

element to be found, rather that at some refined meta-level "real" events and their

representation in the media interact according to certain naturally-arising patterns and

that they produce "products" (incidents, scandals etc) which send out ripples through both

dimensions:

Query #1: Cannot these patterns be considered either as a.) universals (i.e. part of the

phenomenon of our present day planet-girdling media news coverage and/or, more distantly,

arising from the ancient structures of human story-telling ) and also as b.) determined by

the narrative modes peculiar to a specific culture, with its roots thrust deep into that

culture's own sentimental, historical and story-telling traditions? In reference to a.),

we could hypothesize that the CNN format may be a hybrid spawn of the Hollywood narrative

tradition which, since Griffith at leasst, developed techniques for universal transparency

and "reader friendliness." (So what do we make of CNN'schief rival, BBC?--is it so

substantiallyy different?) Queries about b.) will be covered below.

 

Standing in the way, I think, is the comparatively recent history of modern media

themselves and the manner in which they tend to compound, interact, and mutually

reinforce--via music, sound (effects), the oral word, written word, the visual image,

etc--to create the illusion of "crises" et al--in Japan, I of course locate its inception

in the early thirties. In the past hundred years, the very sense of a publicly-shared Now

has undergone tremendous change--starting with "recently"/in the past several days or

weeks (via newspapers) to the Now we experience today--"just now"/ a few hours ago/ a few

minutes ago/ "developing on your screen RIGHT NOW!" Another problem is that new dimensions

keep being added to the mass media. For example, I can't think of a single 1930s example

comparable, in immediacy at least, to the image Joseph Murphy talks about so

eloquently--Hayashi Masumi hosing down the press. Also, I remember a personal conversation

with Markus (Nornes) in which we tried to list up some of the "iconic photo images" which

have encapsulated our impression of impportant moments of the twentieth century--the

explosion of the Arizona at Pearl Harbor, the burned Vietnamese village girl...But even

these have a different, far more limited range of sensibility than that green Bagdad sky

we all saw on CNN the moment the Gulf War began. More striking than its composition and

direect visual impact was the eerie you-are-there/yet-aren't-there, vicarious immediacy

provided by satellite tv. Its a visual icon of a quite different sort. Photographs are

always "then."

 

Query #2: Returning to hypothesis b.)--about media coverage being determined by the native

narrative patterns of a particular culture, I wonder if other readers would agree that the

historical antecedant line opened by Joseph and myself has merit. The idea, as I see it

anyway, is that the culture has, ready-to-hand, a complex set of (what I call) ur-stories

and thayt modern mass media constantly fishes down among these stories, not only to find

an appropriate "shape" for casting an already-unfolding story, but on a more instinctive

level, for types of new stories to pursue (or, maybe, invent?). And, that the

story-tellers--tv, the papers, shukanshi,etc. etc.--are not consciously in conmtrol of

this rummaging.

Sub-query a.) What would these stories be and how could we identifyu them?

In the Japanese context, Japanese historians seem to make the task easy by plotting out

their historical accounts popular culture cultural history along a time line of

consecutively occurring incidents and fads. These latter form the dots of the line. The

spaces between, representing various mini-eras in the life of Japanese mass society, are

given substance by invoking the buzz words, slogans (inspired by the government or

advertising), popular songs and memorable visual images of the period. All of my examples

from the 30s figure large in most such accounts.

Sub-query b.) Okay, this might possibly be true for Japan, but can we say if its equally

true for other cultures? And what of such "international" media as CNN? Should we only

look into American lore for its ur-stories?

Sub-query C.) What, if anything, does this tell us about the Satchi affair? Can we place

it as a projection of one or another of these ur-stories?

 

Although I feel I have lots more to say about the matter, I think I'll stop here to see

if there is any reaction. Thqat's the great thing about lists like this. Its not necessary

to develop a notion in complete isolation.

To quote Sitemaster Aaron, "Any comments?"

 

Peter B. High

Nagoya University


 

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 99 15:29:54 +0900

From: Aaron Gerow <gerow@ynu.ac.jp>

To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <199907270620.PAA25480@app2.ipch.ynu.ac.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

 

Glad to see that the Satchi affair has produced such long, thought-out,

and downright juicy responses. Don't have time to be juicy myself, but I

think there are some basic issues that need review.

 

Peter wrote,

 

>What I would like to posit here is possibility that there is no subjective

>or "willing"

>element to be found, rather that at some refined meta-level "real" events

>and their

>representation in the media interact according to certain

>naturally-arising patterns and

>that they produce "products" (incidents, scandals etc) which send out

>ripples through both

>dimensions:

 

Actually, this is basically the definition of power we see dominating

much cultural studies since Foucault and, as a postscript, was in some

ways the definition I was trying to invoke when discussing wideshows and

power. It would be amusing to think Obuchi is calling up the wideshow

producers and telling them to attack Satchi, but no one seriously

believes that. We can, however, consider the question of power without

having to think of subjects wielding it for specific purposes. Power can create subjects, mold behavior, etc. through various technologies and

apparatuses, but no one need be at the wheel.

 

Basically, this is the view of subjectivity since structuralism, and

especially with Peter's "ur-stories," it struck me that Peter is offering

us a good and specific example of a structuralist analysis of modern

Japanese culture. Here people do not make (speak) structures, they are

made ("spoken") by them.

 

But while I think Peter's ur-stories have a lot of promise and can be

utilized quite fruitfully, I wonder if we should be wary of such stories

for the same reason there were problems with structuralism. There is the

tendency to see them as "natural," which often leads to a kind of

functionalism; they become "defined" (often though a central binarism) in

ways that occlude the fissures and deferrences of signification; they

focus on texts and signification at the expense of reading; they tend to

write out the messiness of historical moments in favor of longue durees;

etc. (others can add to the list).

 

My references to the issue of power in this discussion have mostly been

in relation to a continuing concern of mine: the relation of text and

reception in signification within historical contexts interlaced by power

concerns. A central question of power is whether or not a text like a

wide show has the authority to enforce "its" meanings or ideologies on

its viewers/readers. Much poststructuralist work on reception has

focused on how readers have the power to resist and rewrite the

ideologicical structures contained in the text. This, to put it

simplistically, is the vision of a free and often critical reader. Since

Michael seemed to be invoking such a reader in his note, I cited the

theoretical basis while also warning that we have to recognize that there

are many elements in popular culture which work to train readers/viewers

to receive texts "the way they should." When they do that, they are in

effect in the power of the text. Of course, no one need be "at the

wheels" controlling the texts for a purpose (though moments like war make

this more possible), but there is still a power relationship being

created (and not just by textual producers: by subjecting themselves to

the power of the text, readers create certain pleasing forms of

entertainment).

 

My central question then had less to do with who was "using" these texts

for what purpose, but rather with how we should theorize cultural

signification in Japan in terms of power. This does relate to issues of

politics, industry, gender, class, nation, economy, etc., but not always

in direct ways. The Satchi affair is not being used by any to divert the

Japanese people away from the Japanese Diet debates. Rather, what I fear

is that certain historical practices regarding signification,

intersecting with structures of textual power, mold subjects who

precisely don't have as much "freedom" to read as some scholars hope.

Such subjects also end up being those who are less critical of political

texts, which is one way these issues of signification also relate to the

political field.

 

Again, these are issues I am still working on, but I still wonder what

people do think of the the intersecting issues of power, signification,

and reception within Japanese popular image culture.

 

Aaron Gerow

YNU


 

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1999 21:06:05 +0900

From: "Peter B. High" <j45843a@nucc.cc.nagoya-u.ac.jp>

To: KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <199907271211.VAA20478@nucc.cc.nagoya-u.ac.jp>

Mime-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

 

Aaron Gerow wrote:

 

> But while I think Peter's ur-stories have a lot of promise and can be

> utilized quite fruitfully, I wonder if we should be wary of such stories

> for the same reason there were problems with structuralism. There is the

> tendency to see them as "natural," which often leads to a kind of

> functionalism; they become "defined" (often though a central binarism) in

> ways that occlude the fissures and deferrences of signification; they

> focus on texts and signification at the expense of reading; they tend to

> write out the messiness of historical moments in favor of longue durees;

> etc. (others can add to the list).

 

As often happens among scholars whose point of view and/or area of interest

tend to coincide as closely as Aaron's and mine, we often feel the need

to interject a "yes, but..." in order to stake out our own territory, and

insights. This I believe is what Aaron is doing in the paragraph above; and

quite rightly so. However, since I feel the above paragraph contains a key

misconstruing of what I said (mea culpa, indoubitably), I want to see if I

can set things right.

 

I am of course aware of the rebuttal of the structuralist position Aaron

refers to here and believe it is well taken. However I am not aware of how

this very good advice relates directly to what I said. I am also not quite

clear about what he means by "functionalism" and am therefore equally

unclear about why I need to be wary of that frumious bandersnatch. In

other words, while Aaron warns that my idea of "ur-stories" may be caught

up in the Structuralist Fallacy, I must complain that I am being subjected

to the debater's categorical fallacy (in other words, that I have been

thrust into the wrong "ism" box).

 

The key element of Aaron's criticism (of the structuralists) is that "they

tend to write out the messiness of historical moments in favor of longue

durees; etc." This of course reflects the anti-historical bias of their

discipline and would signify a grave failing in any historian.

 

The point I want to make here is a tricky one since I have to recycle some

of the very terms Aaron uses, but in a different context. I am suggesting

that these ur-stories represent (archetypical?/traditional?) forms

pre-provided within a specific culture for the casting, as news and/or

entertainment, developments of the day. In fact they do function to "write

out the messiness of historical moments," since they represent patterned

forms of representation. I would add that they also tend toward an

essentially conservative interpretation of the world and therefore , by

implication at least, have a role to play in signification. However, since

the content is invariably "current events" taking place within the

radically different circumstances of each era, ideology included, they also

completely vulnerable "defferences of signification." Take for example the

American "Horatio Alger" ur-story. We can find it at work in contemporary

accounts of the life of Thomas Edison, up through the twenties. On the

other hand, it turns into a parodic weapon to be wielded against Dick Nixon

in the late sixties and early seventies. We even find it in the background

sketches of the rise of Apple Computors. Complicating matters is the fact

that ur-stories can intertwine in the same account--Apple was even more

often cast as David in combat with the IBM goliath.

 

In any case, I don't think it is any more tenable to hold that ur-stories

characterize any particular era than it is to attempt a similar

characterization by simply invoking its incidents, scandals and what-not.

The latter are indeed "messy," being subject to constant reinterpretation

as to their facts and significance. But we must also recognize that as

patterned forms of representation purveyed to the public, ur-stories seem

to have a life and career of their own in the real world. Why was America

swept up in grief at the death of JFK,jr.? Why, because he was the last

prince of "Camelot" of course!

 

Actually, the line of inquiry which fascinates me most is the way in which

the narratives of what I called the MEGA-sphere (of politics and other

events of High Historico-social Import) tend to be "counterpointed" by

stories (scandals, affairs etc) in the minor key, spawned by the popular

media dimension. As I have already pointed out, the Manchurian Incident was

quickly followed by public fascination with the Lovers' Suicide Rage; the

Feb. 26 coup incident was counterpointed by the Abe Sada Incident. Now, in

the midst of millenialist fears and all the stuff going on in the Diet,

millions seem more concerned with the Satchi affair. My hypothesis is that

the counterpointing (popular press) stories, while clearly unrelated in

their details to the "crisis" of the MEGA-sphere, still, on some

virtually subliminal level, vibrate with an allied significance. Both the

*bidan* tales of valor spewed out on the front page during the Manchurian

Incident and the lovers' suicides were all sagas of death, and therefore

thematically linked--the region where they interpenetrated being the issue

of Fascism ("fassho") which was just then dominating public discourse.

 

So what would be the significance vibration shared by Satchi and the major

domestic news issues of the moment? The flag and anthem issues arise amidst

a wider, and increasingly nationalist, discourse about Japan and the War

(guilt/responsibility/factuality), Japan as an "independent, full-fledged

nation" and the sense that Japan must re-emerge on the international stage

as a full-fledged national entity. At the fringes of this discourse is the

persistent debate about Japan having lost its identity, its old values and

traditonal virtues of straightforwardness. One of the most prominent

incarnations of Satchi herself was as the sharp-tongued moralist, attacking

members of the loose-living younger generation. At the same time, she

represent(ed) a travesty of the old,traditional image of the proper,

selkf-effacing "obasan." Enter Asaka Mitsuyo, the proxy representive of the

good old (semi-mythical) world of chambara drama (she was an *onna kengeki*

actreess). ASsaka proceeds to publicly prosecute Satchi for her duplicity

(her distortion of factuality) and lack of "common-sense" (she borrowed

things and failed to return them--a nearly unforgivanble sin in the old

moral order). Seen this way, motifs of both the MEGA-sphere and the

counterpoint clearly intertwine, or "vibrate" as I have been putting it.

Quintessentially, we find vaguely analogous issues of identity--who are

you? who are we? Also there is the very Japanese iassue of "midare wo

tadasu" (correcting things out of order/ finding and adopting the correct

forms).

 

Once again, any comments?

 

Peter B. High

Nagoya University


 

Date: 27 Jul 99 20:58:13 -0700

From: "Michael Badzik" <mike@vena.com>

To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan@lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>

Subject: Re: Satchi

Message-ID: <B3C3CDEA-2963A8@205.158.33.85>

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-2022-JP

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

 

I have been considering all through this discussion how similar the

Satchi affair has been to a number of recent news events (with the

emphasis on "event", not "news") here in the US, most recently with

the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. Our televisions screens were continually

filled with every bit of rumor, innuendo and gossip that could be found,

and then repeated a hundred times over. The media seemed to be caught

in a positive feedback loop as the stories fed from one medium to the

next until arriving back at the first, only to repeat the circuit again,

gaining "importance" and "credibility" from each pass. Coverage grew

far more rapidly than public demand for it appeared to. And of course

we heard very little about the real issues that needed addressing in

Washington. There were calls for a return to the (reputed) high morals

of the past. But after all was said and done (or not done), the general

public ended up fully understanding the (in)significance of the whole

affair, showing a much better sense of perspective than the media

pundits. The press, already suffering from a large decline in respect

from the public at large, ended up with even less. It will be interesting

to see if the Satchi affair ends up playing out this way, as I expect it

will ("Never underestimate the Japanese television viewer.(IS)

 

So now, considering the above in light of Peter High's intriguing

comments on possible origins of these stories, I would certainly think

that there is then a dominant universal aspect, that these circuses can

and will occur in any sufficiently developed land. There is probably

also a local aspect though, as I am not sure American's attention could

be held with the not very outrageous surface issues of the Satchi affair.

But I wonder how much of the striking similarity between the Japanese

and US media coverage (ignoring the question of origin, which seems

even more difficult) is rooted in the structure and delivery of modern

media, and how much is in the "ur-stories" which do seem to travel

across cultures quite well, as mythologist Joseph Campbell was always

pointing out. A difficult and complex problem it would seem.

 

Michael Badzik

mike@vena.com