Beckii Cruel- Western Otakuism

So, last night on BBC3, a documentary aired regarding a young girl called Rebecca Flint, or more commonly known by  her online moniker as “Beckii Cruel”, a 14 year old girl who rose to fame with the “Danjo dance”, a popular anime song.

What followed was a weirdly sombre look at her “Rise to fame” as it essentially showed 5-6 months in her life as she went from “Girl in her bedroom”, to Idol in Japan, to attempted UK pop singer. Cinderella for the digital age. However, the show, naturally, was somewhat misrepresentative of the reality, however did feature some soberingly honest moments on occasion. Like always, these kind of documentarys will show some kind of anime in which they attempt to ground the audience and show the kind of thing they’re on about, showing some of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzuimiya. Not sure how it was particularly relevenant, but hey, Kyon!

However, the bizarre parallel from Rebecca Flint to Beckii Cruel was cut together quite well. They somehow managed to interview her at school for maybe…15 seconds? In this time, kids in the background were bullying the hell out of her, singing the Danjo song in an obviously derogatary fashion. It was rude, obviously, but also kind of just…surrel. I mean I get it, kids are kids. They don’t really get it, and living in an age where they grow up with the internet obviously creates a much different youth individual than myself, who grew up in essence, with the closest internet source being the town library (When I used to print off Gold Chocobo guides from the library…). But looking at the kind of comments that people send to her is relatively shocking.

A youtube comment which has now been removed, I guess, was from a 14 year old boy, in which he berates her for “Having a shit body, and knowing fuck all about the real world because she’s just a stupid 15 minutes of fame kid, which I found…bizarre. I mean hey, I get it. I’ve used the internet a lot. I’ve seen so many people rise and fall from fame in the same vein that she has, and she’s just another passing fad. But for people to actively take time to explain to her why she’s a “Failed human” or some such shit is honestly quite bizarre. I  guess this is the age we live in.

The doc rages on, and shows what again, seemed to be a weird cross section of her life, as she splits between mild mannered Rebecca Flint, and Otaku sensation Beckii Cruel, showing an eerily well cut together montage of her being bullied at school, to her parents discussing her future, to her being swarmed by 16 year old dudes in Japan. One of the best bits in the doc is her manager, Fuji. He appears to be very “In the know” about what she…is. He explains that the culture in Japan is obviously very different. This contrasts to her parents, who, while being strangely accepting about everything that she is doing, have an all too obvious hidden motive to get her off the J-Pop scene, and into British UK singing sensation fever.

It doesn’t help that she can’t really sing.

However, the young girl isn’t entirely oblivious to her faux sexualisation in Japan. Even when I was watching the show, I had to constantly remind myself that she was only 14, as the way the doc was cut (Thank you BBC) made everyone look like they were a massive pervert, because they were fetishising moé idols at a 9pm timeslot.

So the doc goes on, it shows other people like her, including a much more polite and admittedly troubled girl who was like her, and/or inspired by what she’d done. Except she was a much more realistic version. As she looked at her demographics, she didn’t show it on film, but when she realised her main demographic (The age range of people that look at her) was 44-54 year old males in Japan, she was obviously deflated. This, I thought, was a much more realistic take on the show, and made the reality of the matter a much more sobering affair than the happy go lucky, everything’s sunshine and rainbows approach that Beckii demonstrated. After that, we didn’t see muc more of her. Another failure, I suppose.

So, like I said earlier, I’ve been around for a while. I get this kind of Moé idol culture. People don’t seem to realise that living in the UK, there’s a much more harsh clampdown on what we consider bad taste in regards to sexualisation of young people. We know that she’s 14 years old, but the BBC had no qualms in making her look like an oversexualised, for want of a less rude phrase, whore, who was getting all her attention from “Creepy old guys in Japan”, as described by her mother, away from the family. But, in the land of Maid Cafés, Shibuya and…well basically Japan as a whole, it’s a much more different world. Being a Westerner, I naturally can’t comment with any sense of objectivity because it’s just a perspective based observation, but the kind of moé girl who does cute things online has always been around. Allow me to demonstrate.

Beckii Cruell: Age 15

Young, naive, unassuming and excited to get into that kind of world. Watches anime, and did a video of her dancing online. The bottom rung of the ladder.

I don’t know who this girl is, but she pops up on/a/ and /v/ every now and then. She’s the more mature version of Beckii. Aware of her sexuality, and actively uses it to promote herself. Like Beckii in 3 years. Oh, and American…

And we end with Applemilk1988, the classic, and gentlemans choice. The opposite end of the spectrum to Beckii. Became an idol in Japan, to an extent, got a record deal etc. Beckii in 10 years.

Now, I’m not implying bad will onto her. In fact, I hope she does well, because it’d nice to hear these success stories about young people who manage to actually make something of themselves, however fickle and unreal it might actually be. What I’m trying to get at, I suppose, is that she certainly isn’t the first, and she certainly won’t be the last.

The doc closes with her 15th birthday. She’s surrounded by close friends and family, as she gets all her shit. Now, the much more surreal part for the viewer, will be that her biggest fan in Japan sent her a bass guitar. A fucking expensive bass guitar shipped from Japan. I wouldn’t want to think about what the guitar ALONE costs, never mind the shipping. However, looking at the guitar, it’s obvious what he’s trying to create…

However, following this, there’s a brief interview with her at the end, where it’s explained that this fan is now a “Friend of the family”, who’s actually much, much older than her. She implies he’s delusional about what’s going to happen between them, and he needs to get a reality check. This was a very important part in the doc, in which she is portrayed as a very rude, fickle young girl as she admittedly seems very pleased about the guitar, yet is still…in reality. And hey, she IS a 15 year old girl who’s an idol in Japan, not a whore.

So the doc ends with a “Where are they now” segment where it kinda wraps things up with an unsatisfying set of shit, blah blah, we won’t ever see anything from her ever again. Thanks for the 60 minutes of relatively interesting documentary footage about a girl trying to make it big in Japan. She probably won’t, but she’ll make a bit of money off it, and either come off better for it in the end, or get bullied to high hell, become disillusioned and turn into something more more seedy and insidious. But here’s hoping it’s the first.

Now where’s my Jiiiii~ documentary…

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6 Responses to Beckii Cruel- Western Otakuism

  1. Stu says:

    A very insightful review. Thank you.

    I have a few thoughts, more echoing your own:

    She seems a very typical teenage girl with self-esteem issues. No doubt why she turned to the internet in the first place which happily gave her adulation. This of course can make her come across as her being rather self-centred or just a spoiled brat.

    Any ‘responsible’ parent having found their daughter was uploading videos would’ve told her off and more carefully monitored her internet activity. None appears to have taken place. Instead they fostered it purely for money, it was very telling her dad saying: “we’ll be in the big bucks, I mean, she’ll be in the big bucks”.

    Naivety: Her parents seem quite deluded and not as aware of the internet as they try to make out. See no evil? Her father appears to have dollar signs in his eyes. Trying to defend their position against criticism, i.e. jealousy or that it’s the viewers fault for having dirty thoughts just showed further delusion.

    Her mother doesn’t seem to care very much about the consequences as long as the presents are rolling in. Soliciting for birthday presents did not seem a smart idea, sending everything back straight away and not giving out a PO Box seemed the sensible option. It made me feel uncomfortable that they were using her fan/fans. Her manager had clearly pointed out how to deal with people like this. Cut them off.

    Stupidity: Her Mother quizzes a garment, clearly she’s thinking it might be too revealing. She asks if it’s “outer wear” and when reassured that it is she says that’s fine. How the clothing is defined didn’t change the outfit.

    Strangely it’s Beckii who seems the less naive one, at least when it comes to knowledge of the internet and feeling uncomfortable with her “number one fan”. I can’t believe for a moment that girl hasn’t seen things she really shouldn’t on the net.

    But it’s all okay in Japan.

    Oh and yes, she really can’t sing, not that that stopped anyone. She’ll go far.

    • I ended up coming down on her as though she’s done something wrong, and she hasn’t, really. It was just a very surreal look into a cultural niche which I’ve known/been a part of for quite some time. I felt bad watching it, because the overt fetishisation which seemed to be prominent throughout was obviously tailored to appear as though the observer is the “Bad guy”.

      But hey, if she can get free stuff, then why not, right? She knows the inherent meanings and risks behind what she does, and it’s her choice, I suppose.

      More power to her.

  2. Jenny says:

    Please, I want to ask you where you got that last picture from, the one with the girl with her hand in that guy’s back. It looks interesting and I got curious. Please respond@<3

  3. Dood says:

    The internet is effing weird.

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