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[personal profile] lapetit_chou2
I need to ramble because I’m panicking. I tend to procrastinate when I’m panicking. A horrible trait, really, but I’ve learned to live with it for more than two decades. I have a very important, life-deciding exam in like 32 hours (and counting) and I am here….writing this.

I had a conversation a while back and that person asked me, “Can you describe them to me? The Arashi members, describe them as if you want to ‘sell’ them as a talent.”

And I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. It felt like it would either fall short or it would be an exaggeration of who they really are. Because, really, honestly, all we - the fans - have are perceptions.

True to what Arashi members always say in their programs, there is an image. We can read all the magazine interviews, watch all their programs, concerts, guestings, behind the scenes and making of - and it will never be enough. We can never really know who they are. It’s the image that we see. Don’t get me wrong, I like what I see. There are a lot of good things there mixed with the bad things. The good things, they play up. The bad things, they either try to cover-up or manipulate into a comedic charm. I love it! I’m truly enthralled by these five men who just know how to catch people. At first it’s just amusement. Before you realize it, you are trapped. And you never really struggled.

But every once in a while, it’s good to keep ourselves grounded. We don’t know them. What we know of them are the parts that they wish to show us. Plenty of times, they slip up and show something contrary to that image and we can spend all day discussing the meaning of such things but we’ll never get to a conclusion. I have never met them. I have never talked to them. I have never spent enough time with them to actually begin to understand them. I am a spectator. We are all spectators. So from here on, everything will be just my perception, nothing more. Let me emphasize this – all are just my perceptions. I am not an expert in any of these so everything must be taken in with a grain of salt.

Is it all lies? No way. You can’t keep up with falsities for almost 17 years and be consistent with it all the time. Compartmentalizing your identity between work and private life is exhausting. It’s constantly going against your nature. It shrinks your world. It’s going to be hard to keep up. Because then it would be lies on top of lies just to maintain an image that is contrary to who they are and then after that, they would have to make sure that the lies they tell won’t seep into their private lives and in their situation, that’s just not quite workable. What I’m saying is that, there is a part of their true selves that are always on display. It is the foundation of that image, whatever it is they are trying to convey. They just don’t show everything. They keep parts of it to themselves. Those parts they keep, those are the ones they share with each other when the cameras stop rolling and the staff is gone for the day.  Those are the ones that they share with their family and friends. Those are the ones they share with their lovers.

Chances are, we’ll probably never see that. We may hear stories from those friends and family, but they will already be filtered and partially obscured by their own perceptions. Not quite the same as experiencing them first hand. But for us, that is enough. After all, that is the only way we get to see the other parts of their personality.

So fans in this fandom can spend all day discussing why Ohno and Nino like to touch each other so much. Is there a meaning behind it? Do they really like to touch each other or is it all just an act? But look at the genuine joy in their eyes when they look at each other! Is it humor, fondness, gentleness, happiness? I don’t know. But it’s there. We see it.  Why does it some like, Sakurai and Matsumoto can’t seem to look each other in the eye? Do they hate each other? Are they uncomfortable with it? And why does it seem like it’s so easy and natural for Matsumoto to wrap his arm around Ohno’s, Nino’s and Aiba’s shoulders, while he’ll never do it with Sakurai? And why does it seem so easy for Sakurai to hug Aiba, Nino and Ohno, but not Matsumoto? Always easy with others but never with each other? Do they hage each other? But they used to be so close! What does it mean? But they tell stories of how they watch things together. Or how they talk about concert planning. But that’s work, something they can separate from personal life. And how about Sakurai and Aiba? They seem really close. Don’t they tell us stories of how they message each other a lot? Or that they shop in the same stores and sometimes even go together? That seems nice, right? And how about that time when Matsumoto and Ohno always seem to be arguing in VS Arashi? They don’t seem fake? Or were they scripted? I’m not sure. Ohno sure looked pissed off. But then Matsumoto or Ohno would then lean against each other or smile at each other. Did they make-up? Or was it really just scripted?!

See? I can go on and on about this and it just won’t end.

But the thing is, we’ve seen those kind of gestures in our real lives and so we interpret it the same way we perceive those same things in our lives. That is just how our brain is wired. Our brain loves pattern recognition. It’s how our ancestors survived the harsh world long ago, and it’s still keeping us alive to this day.

But you see, if you talk with enough people in this fandom, you’ll find a few who would share the same, exact insight about the members as you do. That’s amazing, right? Sure, that’s probably and a little bit colored by conversations with others or by posts in blogs or forums or tumblr or twitter or instagram or facebook or what not. But still, amazing right! And you’ll also encounter those who are the polar opposite of your thoughts regarding this member or that event or that song or that interview. All these, these are never ending. But we have to live with it. It’s just the way it is. If we are going to survive this fandom (and life in general) we have to learn to adjust and accommodate.

But I’ll let you on a little secret, I cringe when I see something akin to labelling the five Arashi members. Sure, labels are important. Those labels and categories are part of how our brains sift through innumerable information that our senses feed to it. But what I don’t like is putting labels and categories on human beings. Like, this dude is the brainy one, this dude is the funny one, this dude is the cool one. It’s like putting them in a box, where you stifle them to conform to that box and not let them take on another shape or get misshapen like they want to. Labels are too two dimensional sometimes. They are neither characters of our imagination (fics, memes and the like not included) nor programmable computers. They think, they feel, they love, they hurt – they are exactly the same as we are. They are allowed to be who they want to be.

Oooooh boy. Did I digress there or what?

But anyway, going back to that conversation I had, I decided not to “sell” Arashi to that friend. I told her, if she wanted to know, she had to see them for herself. She had to make her own impressions on them. And I warned her that those impressions would sway and change and do a back-flip every once in a while. I told her she had to experience all of it – getting familiar with their faces, their names, their voices, their laugh, their mannerisms and then watching the intricacies of their internal relationship, the obvious and the not so obvious “pairings”- all of it!. It’s all part of the fun! It’s like getting to know a new acquaintance and seeing if you are going to be friends with them or not, or maybe more.

And for me, that was how it was like. Areashi was like a new acquaintance. And I don’t know exactly when it started, but when I realized it, here I am, preaching. (And I totally don’t like preachy ones. Don’t let me get started on those hard core ‘fans’ who think they own these boys.) And that’s just how things are.

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May 2016

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