Eguchi Aimi is the newest member of Japanese pop group AKB48. Here she is with the rest of her group, in a commercial for candy. Eguchi is the third girl in the commercial (0:04), and the one who holds the little purple candy. She’s also the one in the center of the wide shot. Before I tell you how old she is, watch the video and ask yourself if you find her beautiful.
Here’s the twist. Eguchi Aimi is not yet 18. If fact, the pretty and oh-so-twee Eguchi Aimi is less than a year old.
You see, Eguchi Aimi is not real. She’s a computer-generated composite of the what the band’s producers consider the best attributes of all of the real-life girls in the group. In the world of J-Pop, Eguchi Aimi is William Gibson’s Idoru.
This is what the other side of the uncanny valley looks like. Before the collected works of Jean Baudrillard and Marshall McLuhan collapse into a neutron star of postmodernism, consider what this commercial means.
Could a normal healthy person be attracted to this girl, or think she’s cute? Why not? How many boys were attracted to Britney, how many girls screamed over Justin Bieber, after only seeing a video? “But those people are real,” you say.
The people on the video, they are real? In what way? And why does it matter? They are just as unattainable as CGI pseudopeople. And isn’t that the point of putting anyone in those costumes, making them beautiful, and making them talk directly at you through the screen? For you to want them, to invest in their image all your fantasies, dreams, and desires?
It doesn’t matter if Eiguchi is real or not, and even now that you know (and everyone in Japan already knew), it still doesn’t matter. The singers and dancers, the actors and politicians, everyone who talks to you through the screen–all those people you felt a connection with–were never actually connected to you. What they say and the way the look and what they do is all fake. The connection always goes only one way, from you to them. It has been this way since the shutter closed on the first portrait. The image induces the emotions in the viewer, and you can control or manipulate the what will be in the image to elicit different emotions. The subject of the image does not participate. They are merely a prop.
So by all means, be attracted to Eguchi, or Justin, the retouched model in the magazine or the person on your computer screen. Whether they exist or not doesn’t matter, because what actually draws you to them is the fantasy existence you project onto them, one that is never real, and forever unattainable.
Just remember that the connection only runs one way, from you to them. But there is no connection back from them to you. They don’t even know you exist.
For those interested, here’s how Eguchi was made: