A Fan's Worthiness: Proving Our Worth

So I ended the last entry by talking about the different factors which come into play when we pick our favourite idols and how a member's popularity might influence that decision in order to make you blend into, or stand out from the crowd.

I don't think most people go to extreme lengths to stand out and be different. If you stand too far from the crowd you are alone and scream "Hey, look at me! I'm different!". An old Japanese proverb about society goes something like the nail that sticks out gets hammered in. And yet we go to great lengths in order to stand out, ironically enough, I believe, in order to fit in.

Consider that an idol fan has two goals in mind. The primary goal is, naturally, to support the idol by buying their products. Without this simple instinct to give to their idol, the fan is useless. This can clearly be observed in human history in the form of religion and the inherit need of it's followers to give gifts to the being, object or entity that they have come to worship as a god. Many cultures felt that the need to appease their gods by means of animal or human sacrifice, or gifts of wine, food or money. Social norms have changed and animal and human sacrifice is now frowned upon by many of today's cultures and faiths (although still present in certain beliefs) and the need of the people to sacrifice to their gods adapted with the times. Now many Churches, such as in Catholicism, accept gifts to their god in the form of money donations. And now this spiritual desire to give has been passed on into fandom at large - although in the case of this blog we'll continue to focus on idol fandom in particular.

The very word "idol" refers to an image. A picture, or a statue, in ancient times. An indeed, many peoples constructed these idols in the image of their gods in order to have a physical representation of that which they worship. It's no coincidence that the name later applied to the girls we, ourselves, worship. In earlier days of the industry the idols were presented with perfect images. Girls who could do no wrong. They were also presented with more middle-class characters. Beautiful, intelligent, entertaining. These were the perfect women. In recent years that tone has lowered, however, in an attempt to bring them closer to their fans. Noteable is the fact that ignorance and unintelligence is now found to be cute and endearing in idols, something which we can laugh at. However, during the 60s an idol with such an image wouldn't have been allowed, similiar to the way the BBC used to only employ proper-spoken, seemingly intelligent people in order to have a respectable image.

And so we worship these girls, and just as religious followers we feel compelled to give those monetary donations to our gods.

Why? I believe it has something to do with the idea that, in order to feel worthy of blessing and praise from our god, we give unto our god such sacrifices. And as such we have our secondary goal as fans, to prove that we are worthy. Although it's very possible that the primary and secondary goals are interchangable, as they are both tied to one another. We support our idols to prove our worth, and we prove our worth by supporting the idols.

Of course, proving our worth to the idols isn't the only thing we have in mind, but also proving ourselves and, ultimately, showing off to our peers. That is why all those "Post your H!P Collection" threads on various forums prove to be so popular. I, myself, post in Musume-Central's variation of the "Show off your latest purchase" thread whenever I can. I'm sure most of us do something of the sort. This isn't so much about ego, as it is about the desire for peer-approval. The idea is to be accepted. We think that, by showing off how loyal and "pious" we are, we can become accepted as worthy fans by many people. ie, become popular, to put it on blunt terms.

But why is that feeling of acceptance so important to us? Well, to answer that question we must move on from the religious metaphor and context and into Darwinist theory.

In nature evolution is fueled by the idea that the strongest will survive, and the weak will die. This applies not only to the idea that a weaker species will be killed off by a stronger, but also on a more individual level. When the males and females mate, usually males will compete for their partner in whatever way they have evolved to, wether that be a show of beauty or of strength. Either way, the best will procreate and their genetic makeup will continue, and the weaker won't. Darwinism could therefore be taken to argue that the meaning of live is just that. Procreation, passing of genes, and continuation of the species. And, just as the animal kingdom does, humans must "compete" for that right to procreate. Although human competition is far more complex and more depends on the taste and "type" of each individual as to what they regard the ideal partner to be. However, some of the more agreed upon themes are that of wealth and power as a way for members of the same sex to compete for the best of the opposite.

And so, accumulation of wealth and property proving to be a powerful tool for gaining another's approval. It could be argued that the accumulation of an impressive collection of, in this case, H!P merchandise and the subsequent show off of it is a flag and a way to prove that you are a worthy mate. Or a friend. Someone to be respected. Of course, taking it from a Darwin point of view is over simplifying the matter, there are many reasons why one builds a collection and I'm sure that the hopes of meeting and seducing members of the opposite sex (or same sex if that's more you) isn't one of the reasons at all. I'm just putting it forward as a possible explanation as to why we have evolved to feel the need to show our collection off.

One thing is certain however, by showing off the items we own to people who would be interested, we are ultimately trying to impress them to get their approval. That fits with the above Darwin theory.

This has been my two-part analysis on the behaviour of fans and how we try to prove ourselves as fans. Thank you for taking time out to read this. Any thoughts or opinions? Please drop me a comment. I'd be glad to hear your own theories and ideas on the topic.


CatchFiveBats said...

Very interesting read, I enjoyed it a lot.

I have to say, the religion comparison strikes an especially interesting chord with me. I have a friend who's not terribly into H!P or idols, and he's said many times that "it's religious for you people!". XD I thought he was overreacting a bit, but maybe there's some truth to that idea :P

Dran said...

To be honest the whole religion comparison never really struck me either at first - despite me having a whole religion based around Sudo Maasa.

It wasn't until I finished the previous entry and started thinking ahead as to what I could talk about that it really struck me. That's why it ends up consuming several paragraphs. When I was writing it I only intended for it to be a brief metaphor and then move in, but I started to notice more and more similiarity that it kind of took on a life of it's own.

Liamers said...

Very interesting read there Dran. I would never have put religion and the idol subject in the same subject but you make a very valid point.

I got a bit lost with the procreation part but it all seemed to tie in at the end.

good post A+ :P

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