Perfect Blue: The Horror of Being Idolised
Dir. Ken Satoshi’s Perfect Blue is an incredibly tragic and lonely animated film, released in 1997. It took the Japanese (and the World) cinema by storm by being extremely popular with its beautiful animation and mind-boggling storyline. Perfect Blue is a story of being the object of obsession and idealization yet remaining completely and utterly alone.
Mima Kirigoe, a beloved idol, takes her departure from singing in a group, toward acting. But things start to awry when she starts to see her alter ego from her idol career, haunting her as she tries to make waves in acting. She is horrifyingly exploited and coerced into doing things she did not want to. Additionally, she is stalked by a murderous maniac who kills anyone who hurts her, making things worse for her as she starts to lose her sense of reality and starts seeing an aspiration of her former self haunting her every move.
Duality of self
Chris Rojek, the definitive pioneer of contemporary celebrity studies, defined a celebrity as ‘the attribution of glamorous or notorious status within the public sphere’. 1 He says that celebrity is a split between the public and private self.
In the opening scene, Mima announces her departure from her popstar group to pursue an acting career, a decision that does not go down well with some of her die-hard fans.
The event makes a crack into her reality, as a literal personification of her alter ego of the idol’s past starts to haunt her and refuses to let her move on. What’s real and what’s not soon starts to bleed into each other, driving our protagonist into severe depression forced onto her body by her mind and outside forces. What is ironic is the show Mima is acting in: It similarly depicts a dissociated identity of the character acting the part of herself and her sister and committing crimes; while a similar phenomenon is acting out in the movie we are watching, making us question whether Mima is being haunted or is she losing her sanity and committing the crimes herself through her alternative self. Additionally, the film’s conclusion which reveals Mima’s manager Rumi to be playing the part of Mima’s Idol self in her disillusionment, all of which, further blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not, even for us, the viewers.
The exploitation of idols
In Broey Deschanel’s video essay titled ‘The Sysmetic Abuse of Celebrities’, she argues three facets of abuse: Persona, authenticity, and Intimacy. Persona is a crucial aspect of parasocial relationships.
According to Horton and Wall, the public’s closeness with a celebrity is contingent upon their appreciation for how well they manage to present themselves as a real person, regardless of how constructed that realness may be when we get a glimpse of the celebrity’s private image, it’s typically complementary to their public image. Mima’s public image is that of a doll-like idol that is always pretty and modest, it’s when she is forced to break this image by doing nude photoshoots and explicit acting sequences that hardcore fans scrutinize her for being different, as she longer fits their idol image of her.
Full of constructing a private image for the celebrity is a means of simulating the performance of authenticity. In an essay on celebrity authenticity, Erin Meyer says ‘the supposedly true, intimate, and behind-the-scenes details of a celebrity’s private life are of the utmost concern for media sources as they emphasize the notion of a real celebrity who in her unguarded or supposedly outside the public eye moments is just like the average person.’ 2 This forceful demand for authenticity is subverted in Perfect Blue, which chokes Mima into carrying out an idol persona she has been beloved to be, her private life is completely disregarded as the fans and paparazzi stalk outside her apartment and the characters she’s acting out our celebrated, while the real person is discarded the second the director says ‘cut!’.
Intimacy is potentially the most defining aspect of parasocial relationships, this dynamic completely hinges upon the idea that members of the public forge a connection with celebrities that’s much closer from their perspective than the stars. Mima’s stalker creates a literal parasocial relationship with Mima, viewing her as an object of his admiration and obsession. Refer to this early scene in the movie that depicts Mima as a musical dancing doll:
Mima leaves her years-long idol singing group to pursue acting, yet she has formed no friendship between the other two girls and herself, as they celebrate the success of their new single while Mima is in the other room, standing uninvited.
The most tragic aspect of perfect blue is the utter loneliness Mima faces while she is going through such abject horrors. She has no one, and even while progressively getting popular, she still has no one. With only a small apartment and her fish (which die off as well). At her lowest, her manager comes over only to end up trying to kill her. In all the chaos, Satoshi Ken beautifully portrays the incredible loneliness: walking the viewer through Mima’s mundane life, her apartment filled with her possessions and quiet errands; all of which presents her personality and loneliness, despite her stardom.
Perfect Blue is a hauntingly iridescent story of fan obsession and the duality of stardom which is a crucial topic of discussion still. The rise of social media has blurred the line between fans and celebrities even further, and the discussion becomes even more important today. Satoshi Ken’s Perfect Blue is and will remain, an evergreen movie that will continue to haunt us in years to come.
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