Saturday, November 9, 2013

The "Bias" Factor

Everything in this post is my opinion, understanding, and/or experience with whatever I'm discussing. It may not always coincide with yours, and I'm always glad to hear what other people think, so long as it's constructive, mature, well-thought, and not insulting. Please keep this in consideration while reading, and avoid taking offence to anything here. Nothing written is meant to insult anyone.

So this is a post I've considered doing for a while now, but I had no idea how to go about it. I still don't. But really think it's something that people should be made aware of, so I'm going on a whim here and hoping for the best. In other words, please be patient with me if this post doesn't seem as organized or point-directed as it probably should be based on what it's on.

I really want to bring up the points of "bias" and even "prejudice". Specifically I'll be using examples of hypothetical instances within, around, or associated with the Hello!Project fandom, but by no means are any general ideas I'm going to bring in this post specifically in regards to this fandom.

Before I start, I do want to mention that in my Philosophy class this past week, my teacher brought up the point that "prejudice" is not always a negative thing, like we tend to think in the context we use it nowadays. Prejudice is a similar concept to bias, it can be positive or negative, and it branches from our human tenancy to make assumptions prior to an experience based on our previous experiences. What I'm trying to say is, I'll probably try and use the term "bias" when referring to "in the process" or "already experienced" moments, while I'll try and use "prejudice" when referring to "prior to experiencing" moments. This might sound confusing, so I hope you understand more-so as you go along.

If you read my blog regularly enough, you've probably noticed I have a tenancy to emphasis, or at least mention, when a "bias" I have may influence an opinion I have. As much as it probably sounds like a bad thing, and some people may wonder why I would mention it rather than pretend/bluff that there are other reasons. But, in reality, prejudice will always be present when approaching something new. Whether or not the bias carries into whatever you're approaching completely depends on what you're approaching, how open-minded you are about it, and who you are yourself.

If you have no idea what I mean, let's do a little pretending game for a second. Let's say you're going to watch the PV for Morning Musume's Ai no Gundan for the first time. Do you really think you're going to sit there and judge it for itself, in itself, and of itself without any outside influence affecting your opinion of it? Haha, nice try. Even if they're small things, you're going to have some prejudices going into it. Just a couple examples of these can be whether or not you like Morning Musume and their songs and whether or not you've heard the song without the video. Then there are even more biases at work affecting how you watch the video and what you think of it. For example, let's say you really really don't like Sayumi. You could watch it and notice how much attention/what lines she gets and think "Ugh, why does she have to get so many lines" or you could think "Wow... She actually pulled off that line pretty well." Although you start with a negative bias, that could, and will, influence how you look at the bias in either a positive or negative way.

Sometimes, biases can lead to disappointments. For example, Berryz Koubou was my favorite group for a long time. So whenever new stuff of theirs would come out, I would try to like the song more than I typically would for, say, C-ute or S/mileage. However, when Be Genki came out, I basically wanted to cry. Even though Berryz Koubou was my favorite group at the time, I couldn't even force myself to like the song (still can't btw). This was extremely disappointing because one thing about a positive bias is that it's much stronger to use words like "every" or "whole" to justify why the bias over everything else than it is to say "most" or "usually". And these "broken points" in your bias can also lead to getting overly defensive to people inquiring about why you love your bias. This is, of course, not how everyone is, but it's how I am, and how people I've seen seem to be.

Bias can also influence whether or not you even give something a chance. If you hate Airi's voice, for example, and you heard that SHOCK! is like 90% Airi solo, it may cause you to not even give the song a chance. It doesn't necessarily mean you're close-minded, but logically, if you hate someone's voice, or it drives you crazy, or irritates you, you may not even want to risk liking a song that has dominantly their vocals. Sometimes a situation like this can actually be a good decision to ensure you don't end up in an uncomfortable position (in this case - loving a song, but hating the vocals of it). You may be inclined to give the song a chance if you find out that Maimi did a solo of it at one of their concerts, so you can try the song without risking loving it OR your bias against the vocals leading you to hate a perfectly good song.

On an even broader sense, can you remember when you first found H!P? Or even Japanese music in general? Do you remember your thoughts from before trying it? During? A lot of people who aren't a fan of Japanese music (who aren't and don't know Japanese) will often have negative biases to Japanese music and say things like "how can you like it when you don't know what they're saying?" or even when they listen they my have decided in advance that "all Japanese girls have high screechy voices when they sing" (like my mom concluded) and may accidentally end up either listening for annoying voices, or be surprised by the ones that aren't. I'm pretty sure a lot of Japanese music fans came from the Anime side of things, so they may have had the "I (don't) like anime opening/endings" prejudice before arriving at non-anime based music. This will also have an influence on how they hear other music, like "does it sound like an anime song?" or the like.

Another thing I want to mention is that biases aren't a bad thing, so long as your not closed-minded. A lot of the time, Biases give you a reason for taking something on. If you didn't like Reina, would you listen to Lavendor? If you didn't like Berryz Koubou, would you watch ROCK Erotic? If you didn't like H!P, would you buy their CDs? If you didn't like Japanese, would you listen to the music? Sometimes these answer may be "yes". However, if you were, rather, in a situation where you 'did' like the provided examples, wouldn't the chances of doing their outcomes increase? If you love Morning Musume, aren't you likely to watch when a new PV comes out? If you love Sugaya Risako, aren't you likely to listen if she were to release a solo song? 

Biases aren't a bad thing in themselves. However, they become a bad thing when you go beyond the point of "prioritizing" based on your biases, and start "monopolizing" your biases. Loving Miyamoto Karin is not a fair reason to dislike/hate Takagi Sayuki. I'm sure this is an extreme example, but even I have fallen to the point of "monopolizing" my biases without realizing I was doing so in the past. For example, initially I loved Sayashi Riho, and wanted her to get in since she was in the final 5. However, when Only You came out, and she, not only got more lines than the other Cookies, but also more than even Gaki, I started to hate her. I realized my error later when I was watching something where she was dancing and remembered how much I loved her dancing. I really do like Riho, now. I just hate her voice. A lot. :)

Referring back to the SHOCK! example, a situation where you may come into something with a close-minded bias would be if you did give SHOCK! a listen, despite hating Airi's voice, but wouldn't give the song chance before concluding you "hated" the song because of Airi's voice. Or another example that, honestly, people (including myself) use a lot is the "My favorite member didn't get good/any lines, so I hate the song/leads." This is how I initially felt with Yattaruchan, to be honest. When DAWA didn't have any solos, I basically threw a childish fit and refused to let myself like the song. However, once Atarashii Watashi ni Nare!'s PV was released, and Dawa had a lead in it, I felt better, enough so that I could go back and give Yattaruchan a real try, and actually came to like it more than Atarashii Watashi ni Nare!.

Another piece I do want to mention is the instance of conflict of biases. A friend of mine really doesn't like slow songs much. She'll try them, but typically she just doesn't like them. However, she does like Yoshizawa Hitomi and harmonies. So one of the few slow songs she likes is Mushoku Toumei na Mama de. Yet, she doesn't like Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago. There's a big difference between these two songs themselves, but the three major biases (that I'm aware of) are met equivalently between the two. This is where your personality may come into play a bit. One of those instances where someone would use the excuse "there's just something about it..." or such. Which is perfectly fine. In the end, with or without a bias, it's up to you what you want to like.

Another example is with me and my love of Rock no Teigi. I don't like Reina's voice, but I love songs that have a "cool" sound to them. There's no real way to measure how much I dislike Reina's voice and how much I like cool sounding songs. Even if there was, it wouldn't be something I could apply to all songs, since I don't like Kira Kira Fuyu no Shiny G. I think the song sounds cool, and I still don't like Reina's voice, but I just can't get myself to like that song much. It's not a bad song, I just don't like it. There's always going to be songs where the conflict of biases may be equivalent, but your feelings towards the songs themselves are different. Most of the time, I'd say this links to your personailty/individuality.

Biases are part of everyday life, and to brush them off as "bad" is foolish an ignorant. However, to not realize they're there, or to close your mind off to any other possibility is even worse. One thing to do is be aware of their existence, and take the time to question your opinions of things, preferably as you're forming them. Ask yourself "now, do I just think this because of some bias I have?" and questions of the like. 

Of course, whether or not you think about this stuff in the future is purely up to you. I just felt the need to express my thoughts on it, since it's something that I mention slightly... pretty much every blog post I make. I hope that if you're still reading this, you got something worth while out of it. Thanks for your time. Good night/morning/afternoon, and may your biases blossom. (> * 3*)>

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