Rags to Riches: The Fangirl Phenomena by PopMatters

Written by Faith Korpi – PopMatters.com
See the original article here.

Urbandictionary.com defines “fangirls” as “young fanatical females… (who) suffer an absurd affinity for a randomly chosen object of obsession and base their life/daily schedule around it.” But we think of them as the girls who line up for hours and even days before meet and greets, book or CD signings, ticket sales openings, or some such event where their dearly beloveds are involved. Armed with homemade signs, T-Shirts and brain-splitting screams, fangirls can turn critically un-acclaimed albums double platinum and make shakily written fiction into a worldwide phenomenon. I can’t help but feel that if these girls gathered at the edge of the Red Sea, it would part.

What distinguishes a fangirl from the average fan are unrivaled displays of devotion and a willingness to spend countless hours and dollars paying homage to those they love. Fangirls are typically ages 12 -18, or as The New York Times put it, “old enough to be culturally aware but not old enough to second-guess themselves.” (“Cue the Shrieking Girls for the Band of Their Moment”, by Jon Caramanica, 10 August 2008) Mostly from suburban middle-class homes, they have the time and the disposable income to devote to their chosen stars. It may start as a crush or admiration, but what these girls end up being are the best publicists any celebrity could hope for. They will spread accolades all over the media free of charge. And to top it all off, they (or rather, their parents) will fund an artist’s big fat paycheck just by purchasing everything they put out on the market.

We don’t typically credit fangirls with being an astonishing breed of Super Fan – they’re not quite in the same category as people who dress up like hobbits or attend Star Trek conventions. Usually, we just roll our eyes at them, get annoyed when they occupy a row in the movie theater in front of us and “oh-em-gee” at trailers, and yes, we get upset when musical artists we like endorse things they like (cough) New Moon soundtrack (cough, cough). But take a quick look at fangirl history and you will realize that fangirls’ devotion has “made” some of the most significant players in pop culture history.

Consider the very first modern pop superstar: Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was the one millions of hearts beat for. Today, Michael Bublé’s crooning voice is a pop rarity, but in the ‘40s, the big band style wasn’t a genre that you had to look very hard for. Because popular music had until then been targeted primarily at adults, Sinatra and his teen fans offered up a previously untapped market. This is arguably what earned Sinatra his contract as a solo artist with Capital Records. Today, we remember him for Fly Me to the Moon, or My Way, but it was the intangible quality fangirls eat up like chocolate, that made Frank Sinatra become Frank Sinatra. Just take it from The New Yorker:

“Most of his fans are plain, lonely girls from lower-middle class homes. They are dazzled by the life Sinatra leads and wish they could share in it. They insist that they love him, but they do not use the verb in its ordinary sense. As they apply it to him, it is synonymous with ‘worship’ or ‘idealize.’” —E.J. Kahn Jr. (“Here’s to Sinatra and the Ladies who Lust”, 1946)

Even the Beatles quit touring after their third album because the fangirl frenzy around them made their live performances so difficult. Pat O’Day introduced the Beatles at what was then the Seattle Center Coliseum in August of 1964. He recalls catching a glance from George Harrison, “George looked at me and he reached down and pulled the electrical plug out of the bottom of his guitar for a minute. And then he put it back in and kept playing, and he shrugged like ‘What difference does it make? No one can hear us anyway.’”

The Beatles had the type of following that today garners more eye rolls from those with “refined” taste in music. But we can’t just dismiss the validity of something merely because the initial fan base is female and has a mean age of 14. After all, that would mean throwing out your copy ofThe White Album.

Even Johnny Depp, the eccentricity King himself, started out as a teen heartthrob on 21 Jump Street. Now he’s an Oscar nominated, highly respected actor and Hollywood icon of all that is badass. We just choose to forgive him of his previous dealings with tweens. But why is that even something that needs forgiving?

The same goes for Elvis. According to Rolling Stone, “it was Elvis who made rock ‘n’ roll the international language of pop.” (This quote is so commonly used on a range of online bios of Elvis, its proper citation is uncertain.) Yes, I’m sure that’s exactly what all those girls were “tweeting” about back in the day. I’m going to go out on a limb here. At the time, the Elvis phenomenon wasn’t just about his music. The great icons of pop may be remembered for their music now, but it was largely a fangirl thing at the time. Today we don’t take things with a fangirl following seriously as high art.

So, what I’m proposing here is that we separate the phenomenon from its following before forming an opinion about its validity. I’m not saying that everything fangirls like is fit to be legendary, but historically speaking, fangirls have been largely, if not wholly responsible for cementing the status of many, many, cultural icons. Which begs the question: without them, where would all those icons be?

And what makes a fangirl tick? If there is a formula, it is deep in the minds of teenage girls. Oh, we females can be a fickle bunch. We can talk about why we like what we do, but can that then be applied to production and marketing? Eh, maybe not so much. Amy, the owner of the largest fan site dedicated to Robert Pattinson, was asked simply, “Why Robert?” And she responds, “Because he’s gorgeous.” Yep. That’s all.

Looking for more answers, I set to figure out the Fangirl equation. This past summer I went to a Jonas Brothers concert, and about halfway through it I became distracted from worrying about if I’d ever be able to hear again when I noticed something, or rather someone. Who was that dude on the bass? Out came the Blackberry. Google “Jonas Brothers bass player” and BAM. Greg Garbowsky. Hails from New Jersey, is allergic to peanuts, and is two days younger than I am.

Not that I expected to be the first to have noticed the guy, but I was a little surprised to find he has over 60,000 followers on Twitter (that’s more than Al Roker, people). Having learned from Garbowsky’s fanpage that he was going to be in Bass Player magazine, I proceeded to the bookstore to buy it.

If a wee crush had driven me to seek out needless information and to buy a magazine I would have never even glanced at before, this estrogen flowing through my body had more power over me than I was willing to admit. This was as close to being a fangirl as I had ever been. “You play bass?” the check out guy at Books-A-Million asked me, “Um… no. My little brother does.” Well, hedoes.

Imagine it as unbridled devotion floating around the atmosphere just waiting for a subject to fix itself upon. Therein lies the real power of fangirls. No subject is too small to be deemed worthy of obsession. That’s one really fascinating part about the Jonas craze. The brothers each have their own base of manic fans down to their little brother Frankie (the “bonus Jonas”).

In an essay entitled “1,000 True Fans” Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired magazine, defines a true fan as “someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.” (The Technium.com) Kelly’s theory is that all any artist needs to survive in the “long tail” environment of the web is a core of one thousand true fans who will spend one hundred dollars on the artist’s products each year. That’s about one concert ticket and a couple of CDs, which by my calculations would put a fangirl at least one notch above a “true fan” in the hierarchy of fanhood. And that is precisely why the earth shakes when girls decide that something is likable. Greater than just buying power, true fanhood is about participation, and the web presents a multitude of fangirl opportunities both to consume and produce idol information. Of course all this includes a willingness to follow a band, artist, or celebrity until they are no longer working in the industry – well, maybe even a little after that too.

Hoping to find out more, I asked girls who ran fanpages how long they saw themselves being active fans. And acting a little taken aback, they had to pause to think, but then they all said something to the effect of, “until the artist makes it known that they don’t want to be in the spotlight anymore.” In fact, my favorite quote was, “I guess until (he) gets married and has babies or something.”

Fangirls are one of the primary drivers in popular media and today they are more empowered than ever before. History suggests that appealing to this special type of super fan and their unparalleled loyalty is one of the best ways to achieve superstardom (even if the mania doesn’t last, your retirement is funded). Yes, fangirls can be loud, perhaps obnoxious, and not all their picks end up at exalted heights in the artistic pantheon, but it is unfair to dismiss fangirls merely as a gaggle of girls suffering from puppy love.

They raised the likes of James Dean, Heath Ledger, Michael J. Fox (who interestingly enough, changed his middle initial from “A” to “J”, because he didn’t want teen magazines referring to him as “Michael, A Fox!”), Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, and kept them in the spotlight long enough for the rest of us to fall in love with them too. Thank you, fangirls.

Funky Bunny for Cosmo Girl by Martin Sweers

As I finally start gathering equipment and ideas for my project ‘Everyday Heroes’ I came across the work of Martin Sweers, his great use of coloured backgrounds and lighting compliment and contrast the texture and colour of the wigs.

Before I go to exhibitions and ask cosplayer’s to pose for me I will do a few test shoots, this lighting is beautiful I’ll attempt to get something similar with basic travel equipment.

Hatsune and Kyary in Tokyo

Whilst in Japan I tried to take a photo of anything Hatsune Miku related I saw, just to document her dominance in Japan and get first hand research for my interchangeable looks idea. I soon realised photographing everything was unrealistic, I tried my best but this is a tiny percentage of the Miku stuff around Japan, not including her official merchandise inside shops. Note that these images are from all districts, even the expensive Chelsea-like district of Shibuya.

I attempted to take photos of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s presense in Japan too, but this was nearly impossible. She was on the trains, in the shops on the streets on the TV on the billboards. Everywhere there was a place for advertisement or any pop culture areas she was everywhere.

What I oped to achieve with this research was to prove that pop culture icons change their looks to fit consumerism. They become what they are needed to be rarely wearing the same thing twice, they are what the advertisers want and what the consumer needs them to be.

Interchangable Icons

On project reflection I’ve started looking at character development. I felt as though my project was missing something so going back over my research and past projects one theme jumped out at me. Popular culture iconography and the adaptable/ interchangeable nature of transmedia pop icons. Below are the three biggest examples interchangeable icons and unsurprisingly they are all based in Japan.

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku is a Japanese computer generated pop star. She is the perfect example of a transmedia pop culture icon. Even the use of calling her she, proves just how integrated she is into my world as a real icon. Essentialy Hatsune Miku is a piece of software developed by Crypton Future Media. Everything about her is computer generated, her voice her image and her character. Unlike I first assumed when I saw her she is not voiced by a real person, her essence is the software that created her. She is a millionaire virtual pop icon, and her rein transcends into every platform, music, film, advertising, toys, food, clothes. In regards to this project I call her an interchangable icon. Like a doll her clothes are changed to fit the product, she is plastered on advertisements and products from cars to pizza boxes.

Hatsune Miku’s iconic hair is her recognisable atribute, sometimes it may change colour for a product or a theme but it always remains in the same style.

Hello Kitty

The 60’s version of Hatsune Miku, she is still a global icon today but could be seen as a bit too traditional in comparison to Miku. A different version of a virtual character, she is an icon in her own right and again an interchangeable icon.

Kitty’s face is her recognisable point, it’s key to have something familiar in every adaption so the audience can relate back to the character.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

So what about a real life Interchangeable icon? Keeping in theme with our Japanese girls I present you Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, pop star and trend setter in Japan.

So why Interchangeable?  I use the term interchangeable because it reminds me of the dolls I used to have when I was little, for example you would buy a barbie but she would then have interchangeable outfits, maybe one to make her a rock star another to make her a princess. The interchangeable nature is all about power over the character, you (or companies) control what they look like but only to some extent because you still had to buy into the extensions packs.

 

Cosplay Showcase by Nobutsugu Sugiyama

Cosplay photos often have a sexual bias. Photographer Nobutsugu Sugiyama has endeavoured to remove this bias and elevated Cosplay to a form of artistic and creative expression by the use of high-end photo-editing techniques. Conventional methods of shooting a model usually demand expressing their individual natures. However,Sugiyama has removed this individual interiority and focused on just the outline of the character. Resembling an anime-figurine,cosplayers are perfectly placed in a virtual showcase in this application.

http://www.nsp-jp.com/cosplayshowcase/index_eng.html

 

Cuties in Japan by Sharon Kinsella

Cuties in Japan

by Sharon Kinsella

http://www.kinsellaresearch.com/new/Cuties%20in%20Japan.pdf

This text was referenced in Emily Jane Wakelings writing “Girls are dancin“. In that text Kinsella’s writing is reference in relation to “Kawaii style, mentioned briefly above, has been analysed as a female-centred rejection of adulthood.” I intend to explore this, it is an area I am already aware of, however for academic reasons it would be good to read other peoples take on the idea, and see if their are any key quotes that could be used within my presentation.

Key:
Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
Quotes are screen grabs from the document.
Personal Note
Page Number
Other peoples References & theories

pp220


pp221 This is the first time I’ve seen an argument which opposes Murakami’s idea that kawaii is a reaction to the war.

Cute handwriting and slag

After reading chapters titled, Cute goods, Cute food, Cute, clothes it seems that this article is the go to place in describing Kawaii culture. However I don’t want to get to carried away with this as I have to define the culture within minutes, I don’t have time to explore each avenue. I know in the future if I need to know anything about cute culture to come back to this article, but unless that time comes it is not relevant.

Little Boy: ‘The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture’

I have written before about ‘Little Boy’ an exhibition compiled by Takashi Murakami in which a number of artists explore how the Atmoic Bomb made Japan take on the role of a child, hence their Kawaii culture, obsessing over Hello Kitty and anything cute.

On reading the book I have managed to find the original quote which Mirukami suggests this…

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the American-made constitution prevented the nation from taking an aggressive stance… it cast Japan in the role of a “child” obliged to follow America’s “adult” guidance, and the nation willingly complied.

pp08 “Little Boy” by Takashi Murakami

 

An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture

JAPAN 101

An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture

Posted by  × August 6, 2011 at 09:23

http://www.axiommagazine.jp/2011/08/06/an-editorial-the-bomb-in-popular-culture/

This article is a great summary on texts influenced directly by the bombing. However I am yet to find an article which actually says how Japanese stroytelling through various methods changed after the bombs, in a way that’s good it means my idea is original, but it also makes my research 10X harder.

However this article is useful for references and quotes.

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were events which became the focal point for popular and high-brow culture alike in Japan. Artist and author, Takashi Murakami stated:
“The two atomic bombs have left a permanent scar on Japanese history; they have touched the national nerve beyond the effects of the catastrophic physical destruction.”

I have looked at Murakami’s work, it’s impossible not to when looking at Japanese culture and art. The article then goes on to explain Godzilla’s roots which I explored in my post on John Rocco Roberto’s essay but it also offers a different reading of the text.

But some also argue that Godzilla is the true victim in the story, Prof. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) even says so in the movie. The monster was laying peacefully dormant on Japan’s seabed and was rudely awakened by a nuclear blast. When it came to land, its skin was hard and covered in boils, an observation that author William Tsutsui believes links Godzilla with the 被爆者 (Atomic Bomb Victims). Godzilla is also extremely isolated, although poisoned with radioactivity, people run in fear and ultimately want to eradicate the “monster.”

Yatta Man
Yatta man is a childrens TV series which takes direct influence from the bombing.

In the show, the protagonists, Tanpei and Junko are relentlessly pursued by Doronjo, Boyakki and Tonzura, who have a nuclear bomb dropped on them at the end of every episode, from which rises a skull embossed mushroom cloud. Despite this, the dastardly trio reappear next week, back to full health and full of mischief.

Barefoot Gen
This is a short film I have seen before. It approaches the effects of the bombs head on, which is strange for a Japanese anime, usually the influences are subtle. This just adds to the effect it has on emotions even more.

What makes the film even more harrowing is that it is based on the autobiographical manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Having witnessed the effects of the bombing first hand, Nakazawa exposed the full extent of the damage unflinchingly. It is extremely difficult to watch, even though it is an animated movie, and it could well be a representation of any war, or any country, as the message that seems to seep through is that of humanity and how delicate it is.

Daicon 4

the annual Covention held in Osaka, Daicon, celebrated its fourth year in 1983. At the opening of the convention, a small team of artists put together a short film depicting a bunny girl fighting with the best known “otaku” characters of the past decade, (that small team went on to produce a little TV show called Evangelion). After cruising through the pop-culture world, the woman witnesses a huge atomic explosion, from which plumes of cherry blossom fly, tearing down buildings, leaving a barren wasteland. Afterwards, the Daicon spaceship shots a powerful ray that restores life on the planet and popular characters eat rice-balls together.

The most interesting piece about this animation and Adam Millar’s interpretation of the text is this…

Although the spectacle of the artwork may well be its biggest draw, many believe the Daicon spaceship restoring life is a thin-vieled metaphor that otaku-culture is one way of coming to terms with the subject.

This is something I have been trying to explore for a while, in my head I know that Japanese Otaku culture is about escapism and the amount of references made to the atomic bomb in the Manga I read and Anime I watch is outstanding. However with months of research this is the first example I’ve seen of someone else acknowledging this fact.

A finishing point from Millar, which resounds within me and speaks truth about how a certain group of people cope with the idea and effect of nuclear warfare.

Although these cartoons and comics may seem unimportant, they are a window into the fears felt by Japan, and the deep scar that has yet to be healed.

Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb by John Rocco Roberto

Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb

A Study into the Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Japanese Pop Culture

by John Rocco Roberto

Before I delve into this essay I want to provide a bit of context. I am starting to finally realise the importance of when and where essays were written, we are told to challenge everything we read for the symposium, but it’s silly to challenge a piece of writing you haven’t done any research into.

John Rocco Roberto

While John was not well known with some of the newer members of the fandom, his influence was far reaching. He was the true mover and shaker of the old days when fans didn’t have the internet to connect with one another. His articles, as well as the articles of his contemporaries in the old issues of G-Fan and later in Kaiju-Fan set the standard for serious analysis of the films (“Godzilla in America” anyone?)

– ‘Special Tribute’ By John “Dutch” DeSentis

He [was] one of the founding fathers of modern Godzilla fandom, helping establish G-FAN and G-CON.

– ‘Remembering John Rocco Roberto’ by BRETT

It’s safe to say from these account that John Rocco was a key player in the fandom world of Godzilla and was active in his passion. Therefore I can accept that this isn’t a half researched essay. Founding conventions and fan bases for one film takes a lot of work and dedication, and the success for G-Con reflects on his knowledge of not only the film but it’s surrounding debates.

Let’s get started on the essay…

The section I am particularly interested in is titled ‘From Desperation to Insperation’

However, one could argue that the true date of Godzilla’s birth was not November 3rd, 1954, but August 6th, 1945, the day the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

I had my suspicions before that Godzilla was a representation of the Atomic bombing, purely because of it’s release which was just after the bombings. However John Rocco Roberto explains this with more substance.

“On the plane ride back to Tokyo, I was desperate,” Tanaka recalled.“  I was sweating the whole time.”  The year was 1954, and the film he intended to make was to have beenIn the Shadow of Glory, co-produced in cooperation with the Indonesian government.  The plans for the film, however, fell through when Tanaka could not get work permits for the film’s stars.  Having a budget for a war film, but having no film to shoot, Tanaka agonized at the prospect of losing face in the eyes of his company.  But it was during that plane ride that, as Guy Tucker argues, “desperation became his friend … and would lend him an idea that would develop into something far larger and more enduring than the project he left behind.”

At the end of the Second World War Japan was devastated; physically, politically and financially.  The people of the nation were starving and homeless, and their spirits had been broken.  There was an atmosphere of hopelessness, known only too well to Haruo Nakajima, who served in the Imperial Army during the war, and who would go on to play Godzilla in eleven films.  “There was a feeling of great despair [all around].  It was very difficult for people to find work at this time,” Nakajima recalled. The intensity of the Japanese reaction to their defeat, and the devastation brought on by it, is evident in their present anti-nuclear policies. Their inner feelings towards this defeat, however, have never been fully examined.  But one place to start that examination could be through analyzing two important Japanese films in the context of their times.

Quotes by the man inside the Godzilla costume and Tomoyuki Tanaka himself define the idea of the bombs not only having an effect on Japan physically and financially but also culturally, inspiring the iconic character that is Godzilla.

Under SCAP guidelines Japanese directors were to stress how all Japanese “were endeavoring to construct a peaceful nation [and] how soldiers and repatriates were being rehabilitated into civilian life.”  The result was a series of poor films half-hearted in their execution.

We can clearly see that there was a massive reaction to the bombing in the film industry. John Rocco Roberto goes on to explain this in the section section…“Gorja”

In Gojira, the monster Godzilla is the United States’ atomic bomb, devastating Tokyo and reducing it to a radioactive cinder all in one night.  Originally conceived by Tsuburaya as a giant mutated octopus, producers Tanaka and Mori felt that a giant dinosaur-type creature (mutated through the effects of atomic testing), would have more appeal and be more threatening to land-based civilizations… In Honda’s conception, the monster Godzilla would not merely be awakened by the bomb; instead “He would be twisted and mutated by it, into a rampaging uncontainable force; the A-bomb made flesh.”

“Japan and the bomb in the 21st century”

Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War has remained a heated and controversial debate in the United States to the present day.  Whether the Japanese were about to surrender; whether the Soviet Union was about to enter the war; all remain good, but academic points in the 21st century.  The bombs were dropped, and Japanese culture changed forever.  On the surface, there is very little sign of pre-war Japan.  American influence has completely embedded itself into every part of Japanese society.  In fact when one travels to Japan, one is immediately taken with the lack of any sign that Japan suffered from nuclear attack. In fact there are very little signs that Japan ever lost the war.  The average Japanese citizen drinks Coca-Cola, eats breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, eats lunch at MacDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, enjoys American sports such as Baseball and Bowling, and flocks to their local theaters to watch big-budgeted Hollywood films.  There is no sufficient way to describe the experience of traveling in Japan unless you have actually experienced it.  The best description would be to imagine Times Square in New York City multiplied by 100.

“Japanese Pop Culture and the Bomb”

Beginning with the lifting of SCAP restrictions in the 1950s, several films began to address the issue of the atomic bombings

Read the full essay here

Whilst this essay has been interesting and informative, and have allowed to me form a strong group of quotes, it reminds me again of the importance of titles, The sub header suggests this essay explores how the bomb effected Japanese popular culture, when instead it only explores Godzilla. It is still, however an insight into post Bomb Japan, and worth referring to in the future.

others explorations of Japanese escapism

With my newly focussed idea I decided it would be best to look for articles and essays written on Japanese Escapsim and see other peoples take on this aspect of Japanese Popular Culture.

Bloggers without borders – “Japanese escapism

Article Link – http://bloggerswithoutborders.com/2012/08/30/japanese-escapism/

 This article starts off by talking about how Japan is the place to go if you are looking to escape, whether it’s through video games, manga and themed restaurants. It then contradicts this with a link to Japanese suicide rates and pressure to create perfection and be the best you can. Linking these two juxtaposed aspects within Japanese Culture to explain why there Popular culture is so connected with escapism and is so intense. The same ethics are used in the work place and in entertainment. All or nothing. It then goes on to explain about the culture of Otaku (Geeks, Freaks, Obsessed), men (predominantly) who work hard a are well educated and have good jobs, but who then have an alter ego, obsessed with teenage girls and anime. A great social group example of both worlds.

Key Quotes:
“I’m not aware of any other nation where fantasy, escapism and the cyber world have fused with such intensity.”
“As Japan is very regimented and cold. So, pop culture, is everything but regimented. Pop culture in Japan is all about creating a world where anything is possible.”
“could it have anything to do with the great despair the Japanese live in? There is no country where there are so many complaints about the great expectations every one has to live up to. Maybe these expectations are just too much for many and they seek enjoyment in the alternate universe of Otaku.”

NY Times – “Japanese Obsessions

Article Link – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/opinion/15iht-edcohen.html?_r=0

Oddly enough this article begins at a Japanese Gym, where the writer Roger Cohern see’s images of food whilst on a treadmill. he began to be mesmerised by this strange addition to workouts which he had never seen.

The exploration of Japans intense popular culture is broken down into 4 sections in this article.

Wealth- Japans economy is strong, but whilst they are one of the wealthiest countries they have not gained the leading position in exports and products that was expected, China has that role now. So Japan is left somewhere inbetween America and China, with lots of money and no heavy restrictions on where it should be spent.
Postmodernism –
Conformism – The individuals need to escape from millions of other doing the same thing in the same country.
Dispair –  Natural disasters and economies all around collapsing.

Key Quotes:
“I’m not aware of any other nation where fantasy, escapism and the cyber world have fused with such intensity.”
“My sense is that four factors have contributed to this: wealth, postmodernism, conformism and despair.”
“Japan is also moderately bored. The days of rising Japan Inc. when the former U.S. ambassador in Tokyo, Mike Mansfield, could speak of U.S.-Japan ties as “the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none” and fears of a Japan takeover were rampant — those days are gone. China has occupied that space.”
“So what’s left for this comfortable, perfectionist society of narrowed ambition is otaku escape, the games I found myself playing to fool exhaustion as Chinese dumplings adorned the treadmill. “What’s all this food?” I finally asked a man on the neighboring machine. He had no doubt: “Things you should not eat.””

Alex Gross

“Bizarro” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches
“Leia’s Very Bad Day” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches
“Peter” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches
“Batman” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches

Alex Gross’s mixed media pieces take vintage cabinet photos and transforms them into modern pop culture icons through paint. The majority of the photographs are transformed into fictional characters from comic books, by transforming sepia, simple images into fantasy like images completely transforms the purpose of the subject. A person who is forgotten in time, and a family photo which has somehow become lost suddenly is given an identity and use, in a way it is comforting as well as comical.

Los angeles-based artist alex gross has created a collection of reconfigured cabinet cards from the late 19th and early 20th century.
the vintage photographs have been altered by means of mixed media to portray the figure depicted the image as an imagined or
contemporary comic book super hero. the photographs, originally a commercial printed portrait standard forms gross’ collection.
The cabinet cards will be on display along with nineteen new mixed media pieces in gross’ solo exhibition ‘product placement’
at jonathan levine gallery in new york city beginning february 25th, 2012.

– http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/18839/alex-gross-reconfigured-cabinet-cards.html

Product Placement @ Jonathan LeVine gallery

February 25, 2012 through March 24, 2012

Product Placement is a solo exhibition by Alex Gross featuring his painting and his multi-media art, looking at consumerism, pop culture, and branding.

Here are some of his paintings…

 

 

Lady gaga X Hello Kitty

In 2010 Lady Gaga took part in a photoshoot to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 35th Birthday. Photographers Markus Klinko and Indrani shot Gaga in a Hello Kitty stuffed dress and combined the image of 2 of the biggest female icons in Popular Culture.

 

The power of Sanrio’s branding in regard to Hello Kitty is outstanding.

In the US alone, Hello Kitty has expanded into 4000 stores nation wide with more than 200 Sanrio specific shops. Created as a gift item to be exchanged between families, Hello Kitty now adorns more than 22.000 products across categories and contributes more than half of Sanrio’s USD 1 billion annual sales.

– taken from http://www.asianbrandstrategy.com/2006/04/hello-kitty-iconic-japanese-brand.asp

 

 

Soasig Chamaillard

 

 

 

 

As you can probably tell from the photographs, Soasig Chamaillard’s work looks at pop culture and relates it to religion. Much in the same way of Pierre et Gilles and David LaChapelle’s work. Mixing iconic figures from religion and transforming them into modern iconic figures comments on today society and the role of products, note that none of the characters depicted are real people, instead products of consumerism that shape pop culture.

www.soasig-chamaillard.com

JeongMee Yoon

JeongMee Yoon’s ongoing series ‘The Pink & Blue project’ explores gender association within children and how we can be manipulated by consumerism.

My current work, The Pink and Blue Projects are the topic of my thesis. This project explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism.

The Pink and Blue Projects were initiated by my five-year-old daughter, who loves the color pink so much that she wanted to wear only pink clothes and play with only pink toys and objects. I discovered that my daughter’s case was not unusual. In the United States, South Korea and elsewhere, most young girls love pink clothing, accessories and toys. This phenomenon is widespread among children of various ethnic groups regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the color pink in order to look feminine.

– www.jeongmeeyoon.com/aw_pinkblue.htm

Whilst the idea that each gender of child is almost obsessive with one colour is a really interesting idea, the thing that engages me with JeongMee Yoon’s work is the idea of popular culture and consumerism, within each of the girls image we see barbies, hello kitty and the boys we see thomas the tank engine and superman it shocks me how consumerism effects children. From a young age we are exposed to branding and advertising and it’s becomes second nature to want what the TV tells us is good. Popular culture icons are part of our life from a young age and these images represent the variety of cultures and ages and that need everything fast and in mass like popular culture today, it is sickly, and over the top. The children placed in the middle of their belongings represents how they are almost trapped by there belongings.

www.jeongmeeyoon.com

Joshua Scott

Joshua Scott’s website doesn’t provide any information on his work or whats it about which is slightly annoying. However it does allow me to read his images without being positioned by the text. (It’s interesting how lost I feel without any information)

www.joshuascottphoto.com

Locker Notes

 

Locker notes is a very kitsche series, saturating us with colour and aesthetics, unrealistically portraying the contents of an American (we asume from the style of lockers) teenagers locker, but the over done use of objects and colour makes a comment on the mass consumption of popular culture and modern society.

 

Other Still Life

 

 

These pieces by Joshua Scott remind me of Andy Warhols work on marilyn. Representing the less pretty, more destructive side to celebrity and the ageing and death of icons which are considered modern day gods.

Andy Warhols reaction to Marilyn Monroe’s death

 

 

Chris Scarborough

Photographs and drawings where the people have been altered to have facial and body proportions similar to those found in Japanese “anime” cartoons and manga. – Chris Scarborough

www.chrisscarborough.com

Chris Scarbrough is a photographer, digital artist and illustrator. His photography relates directly to Japanese pop culture, and points out the strange characteristics of most anime and manga characters.