Blown Opportunities and Taking Stands

I was in a record store in Shibuya today (as am I most days) and there was a television crew there interviewing some white dude. I couldn’t hear everything they said, but I could tell they were asking him about why he came to Japan and about record stores in the area.

I was really hopping to get my chance on camera too. So after they finished up his interview, I casually sauntered over to them, hoping they would ask me too.

It turns out they were really mostly interested in tourists, but when I showed them my blog and my massive guide to record stores in Tokyo, they really wanted to talk to me. Before committing, I wanted to know more about what show/network the show would be on. 

They told me TV Asahi, so I let out a heavy, depressed sigh and told them I couldn’t do it.

TV Asashi is the home of London Hearts

And fuck London Hearts.

London Hearts is a variety show. Variety shows are insanely popular in Japan. And most of them are quite bad, in my opinion. They focus on gross-out humor, low-brow jokes, stupid memes and staged pranks. That’s fine, whatever, most TV in most countries is pretty stupid. But London Hearts isn’t just bad, it’s virulently homophobic and transphobic.

London Hearts frequently targets the LGBT community with sick and disgusting jokes. They do a recurring bit where they make effeminate gay men compete in “masculine” sports just as an excuse to mock them. More notably, and disgustingly, is their recurring feature where foreigners are asked to choose which woman in a group they find the most attractive. Populated within this group are several (incredibly attractive) transwomen and cross-dressers. If the foreigner picks one of them, well then laughs abound for everyone. It’s racism and trans panic combined!

The first time I saw this shit I was disgusted nearly to tears. It wasn’t that it was stupid, it was that it was hateful. LGBT people aren’t just a punchline for the writers and hosts of London Hearts, they’re punching bags. And in a country where LGBT representation is sadly lacking, things like this are even more damaging. When the only gay or trans people on TV are disgusting stereotypes played for laughs, it dehumanizes them. And that leads to things like bullying and discrimination against LGBT people. And those lead to things like depression and suicide. This show makes lives for LGBT in Japan worse. 

I could not be on a network that endorses that. I had a horrible vision of me on the show, and then it cutting to a commercial for a homophobia-fueled episode of London Hearts. I know that would’ve just made me sick to my stomach, like I betrayed all of my morals and scruples for a quick five minutes of almost fame.

So I told them I wouldn’t do it. And I explained why. They were shocked at first, but I must say that they were totally polite and understanding. They seemed to get where I was coming from, and I hope that they will relay this message to people who matter. I doubt it will change anything at the network, but still.

Leaving the store I was depressed, and I immediately doubted my decision. But now I know I did the right thing. And I’m not sad because I think I made the wrong decision, just sad because I had to make the decision in the first place. It’s unfair and bullshit that I have to take a stand in 2018 on the idea that treating gay and trans people like shit isn’t cool.

And it sucks because (and I’m going to brag now but I don’t care) I know I would’ve impressed the hell out of anyone watching that show. I know more about record stores in Japan than any other native English speaker. I know I do. Prove me wrong. I’ve literally been to every store worth a damn (and several not) in the greater Tokyo area. It is my actual favorite thing about the country. I earned the right to be cocksure about this. I put in the time. I spent six months writing that guide. I spent countless days off traveling miles away, often to stores not worth the trip, just to make sure I wrote the most in-depth guide possible. I wanted that guide to be dope, so I poured my heart into it and made it as in-depth and detailed as I possibly could.

Is it wrong for me to want recognition about this? Am I being selfish to think some credit would be nice? A shout out that I put in the time and effort? A quick spotlight on a Japanese TV show going into just a little bit of detail about my hard work, that would’ve been cool. Recognition feels good, any writer telling you otherwise is bullshitting you. It would’ve been nice to finally get some.

Giving a shit really sucks sometimes.

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