The Dark Side of Celebrity Fandom: Perfect Blue [Review]

This review has spoilers!

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“I just want to thank my fans for everything” is a cheesy yet valid line we often hear from celebrities. Fans buy the albums, attend the concerts and purchase the merchandise. They’re the ones spreading the gospel. They go so hard, you’d think they were getting paid for it (some actually do).

In the summer of 1997, the late Satoshi Kon released his animated psychological thriller, Perfect Blue. Adapted from the novel with the same name, it revealed a much scarier side of celebrity fandom. The film focuses on Mima Kirgoe, a Japanese pop music idol who retires to become an actress. This isn’t an easy transition, however. Between self-doubt, upset fans and an emerging stalker, Mima’s sanity takes a nosedive.

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The film tackles two important themes: pressure and identity. We see the pressure, not only from Mima’s emotional state, but from the film’s rapid pacing. Things move overwhelmingly fast. Mima’s delusional behavior makes it hard to pin down what’s real and what’s fake, giving the film itself an identity crisis. Satoshi Kon stated his goal was to keep viewers’ guessing. This makes sense because the film is loaded with “what the hell is going on?” moments. Mima’s debut acting role was a trauma-inducing rape scene. Shortly after, film crew members are murdered with evidence pointing to Mima as a suspect. It’s hard to make sense of anything until the film’s final scene. It’s chaotic and makes you feel like you are losing it, too.

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Learning Mima’s manager, Rumi Hidaka, was behind everything is ironic. Rumi, an ex-pop star herself, went bonkers since her own identity relied on Mima’s music career. If Mima isn’t a squeaky clean pop idol, what is Rumi supposed to do? She lives vicariously through Mima – the “real” Mima.

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While you can draw some parallels between Perfect Blue and modern day music fans, Perfect Blue is still a fictional piece of work. Rumi wasn’t your typical fan. She admired Mima so much, she wanted to be her. When you consider she was an ex-pop star herself, it shows how addicting fandom can be from both sides. Fans love to be entertained and celebrities love the attention. Both can be potentially harmful if taken too far. This says more about a person’s mental health than anything else.

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Japan isn’t the only one suffering from this problem. Beyonce’s fanbase, known as “The Beyhive,” worships her as if she was a deity. You can find them on Twitter, along with Nicki Minaj’s “Barbies.” Korean pop fans are arguably worse. If this wasn’t enough, they get aggressive towards people who are critical of their idols. They have normal lives outside of their obsessions, much like your typical sports fan, so it doesn’t call for a psychological evaluation. The key thing to notice here is ownership. They are partially responsible for an idol’s success. They feel entitled because they made an “investment.” The problem is, they aren’t investing in a car or cell phone but a living, breathing human being.

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Fans are fortunate enough to have power without any sense of accountability. Unlike their idols, they can be imperfect without having to face universal criticism. Being scolded by your parents or your boss is annoying. Being scolded by millions of people you don’t know? Potentially traumatizing. If a celebrity struggles with mental health issues, fans don’t have to take responsibility for it – or even care.

Perfect Blue will change your perspective on the entertainment industry. Corporations feed us celebrities like they do food, so it’s easy to look at them like products. I’d take it one step further and say people look at them like gods. On the surface, it’s “only entertainment.” Dig deeper and it looks more horrifying. We have corrupt corporations who create, mold and package them for the masses. Then we have the rabid fans who spend an alarming amount of time worshiping them. Finally, there’s the celebrity, caught in the eye of this storm called fame. If Perfect Blue teaches us anything, it’s how bad consumerism has gotten. We’re spoiled rotten.

“When you become famous, being famous becomes your profession.” –┬áJames Carville