I've been trying to avoid writing a post on this topic for a while now. It's an EXTREMELY touchy subject, and one that I get easily worked up about, so I figured it was best to stay out. However, there are some bloggers (some of who have been obviously pointing fingers at me) who've posted about the whole H!P vs AKB "war", and I feel the need to put in my two cents.
To begin, while I certainly have a strong dislike for AKB48...it's not the idols themselves, or AKB48 itself, or even AKB48 fans that I have a real problem with. "Personal preference" and "real issue" are different things, and I've mistakenly confused the two in the past...but I've come to realize the errors of my ways and, if people are willing to listen, I would like to make my current position clear. Actually, my problem isn't with anyone's fandom, but more with the foundation that most people in the community have laid their idol fandoms upon.
Now, to clarify something...everyone has to get into idols somehow, and almost every idol fan right now did that through H!P. Everybody has an exploratory phase where they find out what they like, and I'm totally down with that. My beef is with the people who were into H!P first, became serious fans, and then let that dedication fall through to another group without good reason (by the way, general disinterest is NOT a good reason :P).
The base of the issue, from what I've observed, is that many members of the community treat being into idol groups like it's the same as being into any other music...they feel that sampling as many different groups as possible and developing a varied set of interests is a part of being an idol fan or a wota. Now, in my opinion, people who are purely Japanese music enthusiasts can listen to whatever idol groups they want...they're not in it for the idols anyway. But anyone who calls themselves an idol fan or a wota and is into every group under the sun clearly doesn't understand how this whole thing is supposed to work.
That's not to say that they're WRONG, just...misinformed, I suppose. Many Western idol fans started as fans of anime or Japanese music or even just music in general (almost any hobby could be inserted here, honestly), where one risks being considered narrow-minded if he/she focuses exclusively on one series or musician or whatever. And when those people made the transition to the idol world, they carried that mentality with them. But the idol scene doesn't work that way...or, at least, it didn't until the Western world got ahold of it.
Of course, some people will say that this is our way of approaching it, we don't have to do it the way they do it in Japan, etc etc. Frankly, I disagree with that. While we could certainly continue on the same path (and likely will - I'm part of a minority with little say in the direction that the Western idol fandom takes), I don't feel that we have the right to twist the idol world around to fit our own way of doing things like that. In fact, through that, I think we risk aligning ourselves with a mindset that I'm sure most of us want nothing to do with.
Consider this: when H!P was in its prime there were lots of people who really liked Hello!Project that may have never been into idols otherwise - children, parents, girls, boys, etc. They really were a national idol group - such is the way popularity booms work. But those people were not wota, nor were they idol fans. Those people are now the ones who are unable to name a single current member of Morning Musume, who loved Hello!Project as a fad and dropped it like a bad habit when that fad ended. And guess what? Now those kind of people - the mainstream public - are starting to get into AKB48. You could say it's because AKB48 is the better idol group, or because they have better management with better knowledge on how to promote a group to mainstream success (both of which are points that could be debated, although the first is certainly more subjective than the second). But you want to know the real reason why? Because they're the public and they'll eat up whatever's in front of their faces.
When H!P's popularity had been waning for a while, AKB stepped up to the plate as the next big idol fad (not trying to bash on AKB here - H!P was just as much of a fad in the early 00's as AKB is now). What disappoints me with so many Western idol fans is that they made themselves no better than the mindless public. Instead of sticking by the idols they had grown to supposedly love and cherish over the years, they grew tired and jaded with the direction that H!P's music and image was taking - something that is completely out of the idols' control and should not affect the preferences of a truly dedicated fan. I know that my idols deserve my support regardless of how the company they're a part of may change over time. Anyway, H!P was beginning to wane in popularity...then AKB came along, a fresh new face to gain the interest of a group of people who had grown bored with a fad that was on its way out (or a fad that was essentially already gone, in the case of the Japanese public). It saddens and infuriates me to think that these girls who are so deserving of our love and dedication could be treated in such an impersonal manner, as if their lives as idols exist solely for our entertainment.
For the most part, the only ones who are still truly around for these girls are the wota. Say what you will about the wota (creepy, obsessive, etc), but H!P's survival for the last few years has depended heavily on a small but extremely dedicated fanbase of hardcore wota. And I know a lot of H!P fans are waiting for Morning Musume's next big break, for that magical moment where they become THE Japanese female idol super-group again and can stand on their own two feet (or, right now, 16 feet) without depending entirely on the wota. I hate to rain on the parade, but that's almost guaranteed not to happen. That's not really the way female idol groups work (any female idol group's explosive public success is almost always a fluke - LOVE Machine was H!P's, in my opinion), and popularity should not be a determining factor in sticking with your idols. I'm proud to call myself a wota because I avoided the temptation of new idol groups and am still supporting the idol company that I "grew up" on. My pride in being a dedicated wota is also why I get so agitated about careless use of the word wota, since not all Western idol fans have been as dedicated as I've come to understand wota to be.
Back to my original point...I'm of the opinion that the "general idol fan"/"expand your horizons"/"get into as many idol groups as possible" mentality encourages this kind of fickle idol fandom. If you spend your time devouring every idol group that even slightly catches your interest, how can you be sure that you won't unknowingly (or even knowingly -_-') abandon idols who still need you? In my opinion, the only point where an idol doesn't truly need her fans is when she has completely left the idol industry and started on a new path in her life. At that point, it is up to the individual to decide if their (now former) idols still need that kind of support.
And if this kind of dedication sounds intimidating...honestly, it should. Being a wota isn't easy. There have been many times where I've faced criticism (both from those within the idol community and those outside it) or felt a little overwhelmed or even depressed (although those are more tied to my choice not to date...if my idol can't do it, why should I). But think of how our idols must have felt when they first started. The stress and difficulty they've faced over the years has to have been so much worse than anything most of us normally deal with, and yet they still always come out smiling for their fans. I personally feel that it's an honor to face these difficulties for my idol's sake, and I think any true wota can empathize with that. Put simply, my idol is worth it.
And on the subject of "WHAT IF I WANT TO LISTEN TO MORE THAN JUST ONE IDOL GROUP, I LIKE OTHER MUSIC TOO ;_____;"...if you want to listen to other idol music, I don't think that in and of itself does any real harm. But, at least for someone like me, that's something to avoid. I value my dedication enough to not listen to any other idol groups. Not because I fear that my dedication isn't strong enough...I just don't even want to take that chance at all. Of course, that's something that each person has to decide for themselves.
And in all seriousness, I don't want to upset anyone through this. I'd rather encourage people to consider what the purpose of idols REALLY is and whether the choices they've made, or are making, or may make in the future, are what's best for their idols. As for what that is specifically? I think you can gather an idea of that from what I've said here...but perhaps I'll do a post on that in the future...