Expose It Yourself: Sex, Lies and Sarasu

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:50
Oral Presentation
Mira MALICK, Waseda University, Japan
Ethnographic depictions of music fan practices in Japan have tended to highlight collective forms of participation, consumer identity formation vis a vis subcultural styles and accompanying public displays of ‘fan culture’ (Stevens, Dunn, Tsuda, Yano, Inoue, Seibt). While these have generated insights into the ways in which audiences relate to one another and to materials, texts and their producers, the focus on such forms of collective cultural practices have obscured some under-explored elements present in all fandoms: critique, conflict and confrontation. In this paper I examine how anonymous internet textboards are utilized by fans of Visual Kei, a form of rock music in Japan, as a space for reconstructing the boundaries of communal participation, as well as one in which self-generated content potentially undermines the careers of recording and performing artists. I will focus on a particular action, sarasu (to expose), that takes place on these boards in which fans seek justice, play vigilante, and debate various self-leaked scandals surrounding bands.

I situate this within the larger debate of the rise of digital capitalism and the co-opting of consumers towards the service of capitalism in which fans are increasingly re-configured as co-creators of various products through the free labor and surplus value which they ‘willingly’ generate in the name of enjoyment, creativity and freedom. I will argue that sarasu further complicates ideas about exploitation and the very idea that has come to constitute the trope of what a fan community is itself, for the scandals generated neither clearly challenge the power of the music industry nor are they able to be subsumed by corporations into the larger creation of profit and value. I will also consider the implications sarasu has on leisure in terms of the potential for the internet to remain as a space for free-discussion.