[Anime Feminist Article] “A Wedding Gown for ‘Their’ Idol: Love Live, male audiences, and idol culture”

Non-management: This was an idea that had been tossing and turning my mind for the past few years. Eventually, I became confident enough my writing abilities to turn those ideas into an article. Thankfully, by the time that I stopped clucking, Anime Feminist had established itself as a well-read and well-moderated forum for discourse on all things anime and feminist.

I’d like to give a big thanks to Anime Feminist for commissioning my article. I’d like to also thank & for being my very patient editors. Below is the (summary) short to the article. If you’re interested in reading it, click the link embedded in the title or at the end of the article sample:

[Discourse] A Wedding Gown for “Their” Idol: Love Live, male audiences, and idol culture

“Idols as hope” is an inspiring setup. That is, until it’s undercut by the notion of “idols as product.” 

If I were asked to describe Love Live in one word, it would be “optimistic.”

Not “catchy,” though the songs in Love Live are very catchy. Not “silly,” though the shenanigans the characters get into are funny, or “dramatic” though the conflicts they’re written into feel theatrical. That’s because my most striking memory of the show is at its very start, when Honoka and her friends truly believe they can make a difference.

The Love Live girls love their school, which they learn is going to close. School attendance isn’t what it used to be due to Japan’s low birthrate. Boards of Education throughout Japan have decided to shutter the least attended schools so they can merge ever-diminishing student bodies. This is a very real issue, as Japan’s shrinking and aging population is a concern that has plagued the nation for decades. It’s a challenge that still requires a solution.

Love Live frames the immediate conflict of a school shutting down as a symptom of a larger issue within Japanese society. However, rather than wallow in the hopelessness of such a backdrop, the girls of Love Live resolve to save their school by becoming school idols. They hope to compete in and win at “Love Live,” a contest between school idol troupes all over the country. They hope that the fame they acquire from their efforts and victory will attract more people to enroll at their school, and that the enrollment uptick will be enough for their school’s Board of Education to reverse their decision to close it.

They embody hope, and Love Live strives to make this hope relatable to audiences everywhere by embedding it in the girls’ characters. Nico’s facade as vainglorious idol trash is belied by the responsible role model idol that she wants to project to her younger siblings. Nozomi’s guise as a shadowy behind-the-scenes people-fixer brings all the characters together as friends and idols. Honoka is indefatigable to the point of recklessness, and when she finally does collapse due to exhaustion and depression, it’s the very friends she inspired who act as the idols who pick her up.

“Idols as hope” is an inspiring setup. That is, until it’s undercut by the notion of “idols as product…” READ MORE HERE

One thought on “[Anime Feminist Article] “A Wedding Gown for ‘Their’ Idol: Love Live, male audiences, and idol culture”

  1. This is tangentially related, but this post reminds me of the episode in AKB0048 where the fan sends one of the girls a death threat. I always found that episode interesting because while it criticizes the anime industry (toxic, obsessive fans), it also felt pandering especially with how the girl personally shields the fan from explosions and leads him to safety. there’s a sense of intimacy between the idol and the fan which gives off an impression of wish-fulfillment. It really shows that despite the show’s subtle knocks against the problems in the industry, AKB0048 still exists in the context of that industry, and has a set of guidelines it has to follow because it’s an idol anime.

    so with love live, it’s like… yeah, while Love Live does create its own isolated version of the idol industry about high school girls who are not professional idols, it’s still an idol franchise designed to sell these idols to otaku. On the one hand, Love Live’s a story about these girls chasing their dreams, and on the other, it’s an advertisement for the idols and the idol group. Sometimes, the two goals of Love Live clash – like you said with Rin’s femininity, by having that development be completely in the service of promoting her for male idol fans (if we’ll accept that interpretation), it weakens the authenticity of her character.

    So I agree with you, but at the same time I don’t think what you’re saying is far off from what a lot of fans think? I do think that any Love Live fan would at least agree that its status as a multimedia franchise can clash with the series’ narrative; in season 2 of LLSS, what should’ve been a duet ended up being an 11-person song, presumably because the staff wanted to sell a sick 11-person song for a climactic moment. so I don’t think ‘sometimes idols are made to pander towards otaku’ is that far off from what people accept about Love Live.

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