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    Candy everybody wants

    This (via Joel) is too funny:

    For the most part, Japanese network television is pretty darn unremarkable. If one were to flip through the channels at any time of day, one would likely find:

    • A variety show featuring a roomful of mindless “talents” who are completely and utterly devoid of any actual talent whatsoever

    • A cooking program
    • A cooking program featuring a roomful of mindless talents who watch food being cooked and then sample it and loudly and repeatedly exclaim “OISHII!!!”
    • Some kind of quiz show
    • A quiz show featuring a roomful of mindless talents demonstrating just how mindless they truly are
    • A sappy documentary about someone somewhere in the world who faces some sort of adversity (e.g., is looking for a job, is living in a brutal war zone, was born without legs, a combination thereof, etc.) and who Tries His/Her Best® to overcome the hardships of their situation
    • A variety show featuring a roomful of mindless talents watching a sappy documentary and providing their horribly forced reactions to the hardships (tears) and the overcoming of the hardships (more tears) for the sake of the television viewers at home who have to be instructed how to react since they have neither souls nor a capacity for empathy

    That last sentence is a little over the line, but overall: No fooling! Japanese television does have interesting historical dramas; shows about the country’s unique geological features; and profiles of famous artworks and artisans. But it does the lowest-common-denominator thing no less, er, adroitly than American television.

    The タレント (tarento: “person who’s famous for being famous,” derived as Jeff notes from the hilariously inappropriate English word talent) phenomenon has to be seen to be believed. You look at some of these people and think, Maybe we don’t need to worry so much about having the US education system outcompeted after all. The guys are unbelievably ditzy–and not in the I-bet-he-makes-up-for-it-by-being-good-with-his-hands way, either. The women, who are encouraged by convention to be slightly flibbertigibbety in public anyway, don’t help things much. I saw one quiz show a few years ago on which contestents were asked to locate a few countries on a map of Europe and the Mediterranean, and only one person knew where Germany was. Dead serious.

    I’m less in agreement with Conbini Bento about Masaki Sumitami:

    Known for his revealing black leather S&M outfit, incessant pelvis-thrusting and frequent exclamations of “WOOO!!!”, Hard Gay made a splash on the talent scene earlier this year and has quickly become the man of the moment on Japanese television. Despite his flamboyant personality and outrageous appearance reminiscent of the biker in the Village People, Hard Gay is not only not an actual homosexual, but his forays on television thus far have primarily been based on the wholesome concept of yonaoshi, or social improvement (although in recent appearances he has begun drifting into other territory involving his newfound celebrity). His TV segments usually feature him walking the streets and attempting to help out those he perceives as being in need whilst making jokes rich with pun and innuendo and thrusting his crotch with abandon, often to the horror and embarrassment of the subject(s) of his attention. While his antics may push the envelope at times, Hard Gay’s controversial moniker and appearance belie his good humor and affability.

    Perhaps I can’t get into Sumitami’s routine because I’ve spent too many years running into men in revealing black leather S&M outfits who are actual homosexuals and think that incessant pelvis-thrusting and frequent exclamations of “WOOO!!!” are great ways to hit on guys.

    4 Responses to “Candy everybody wants”

    1. Toren says:

      I saw a show a few months back that was a sort of fake classroom, with Sanma as the teacher, and a random assortment of tarento as the students. A test taken from current 8th grade curriculum was administered one question at a time, and everyone’s answers were publicly examined and great humiliation was handed out ad lib by Sanma. At the end of the show the loser was some dimbulb swimsuit model I’d never heard of, who really didn’t seem to care too much. I think she was only partially aware of her own existance, anyway. The big surprise was the winner–the older of the two Kanou Sisters (those two are perhaps the ultimate expression of tarento). She aced the test and even showed her work on the maths.

      The world is full of surprises….

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      I don’t know that I would have expected those two to be stupid. Look at how they’ve parlayed their, you know, assets into lucrative…careers hardly seems like the word to describe what they do. Anyway, they’ve demonstrated ample resourcefulness, if not book smarts.

    3. Toren says:

      Well, I didn’t really expect them to be stupid (I didn’t have much in the way of expectations at all) but the way Kyoko stood out in that crowd was impressive, considering she graduated from school about 20 years ago, and some of the other tarento were actually currently in high school and still couldn’t get the questions right. I had pretty much ignored them up until that point, but now I follow their perambulations with mild interest. Sort of like Ijima Ai, who has often impressed me with how sharp she is for a tarento. I just wouldn’t have expected that from a ex-porn actress, y’know?

      I should note I don’t automatically expect beautiful Jaanese women to be airheads, but after watching Japanese TV for a while, you can understand how one would take the default position that any sexy-looking idol or tarento is probably a blithering idiot.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Yeah, I knew what you meant. Most of the reactions they’re called upon the make on television are like, “Woooooowwww!” Not a lot of room for demonstrating such mental acuity as they have.

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