Saturday, January 25, 2014

The controversy continues for "Ashita, Mama ga inai"

It doesn't look like the controversy will die down anytime soon as Jiei Hospital shows that they mean business when they said they want NTV to stop the drama "Ashita, Mama ga inai":

- The second episode of the drama dropped slightly by 0.5% to 13.5% which is considered quite good because most dramas tend to lose more than a few percentage points in the second broadcast compared to its debut. Perhaps the saga surrounding the drama made some people tune in to see what kind of a drama this is? Some people could also have stopped watching the drama if they found it too painful to sit through. Episode 2 featured the development of someone getting sent to a potential foster parent family for a trial stay and those who have to remain behind have to grapple with the emotions running through them as they see this. (Source: Sanspo)

- The National Children's Welfare Facilities Association held a press conference on 21 January, asking NTV not to hurt the children and staff in welfare homes further with its drama and called upon it to improve and be more aware of the sensitivity of the situation. It was revealed that the association received reports of children living in welfare facilities being teased in school and concerned parents calling to ask about the condition of such facilities. They even questioned what NTV is going to do if any of those affected are to commit suicide over the unnecessary attention towards them. The association's president stressed that it is already very tough for the staff and children to cope with the daily challenges and the drama has made the situation worse for them by portraying untruths such as staff members insulting the children verbally.
It was also revealed that the Association already had concerns about this drama back in December 2013 when the trailer was shown on TV. They had asked NTV for the script of the first episode and was in discussions with them to ask for improvements to the content. However, after seeing the first broadcast, they realised that none of the suggestions were taken into account. As such, the Association also rejected the request by NTV to write articles about the true situation in welfare facilities which were to be published on the drama's official website.
In response, NTV's PR department said that they have no intention of disrespecting the children and staff in welfare facilities and has taken into account all the comments and criticism of late which will remind them to exercise greater caution in handling this drama. (Source: Sponichi)

- Meanwhile, sponsors seem to be wary of being drawn into this saga with no sponsor credits shown after the opening clip in episode 2.  Three of the sponsors i.e. Ebara Foods, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Co, and Kewpie have adopted a wait-and-see attitude by suspending their CMs for the time being. As for the remaining 5 sponsors including Kao and Nisshin, the CMs still ran during the commercial breaks of episode 2 but their names were not featured in the sponsor credits section. (Source: Sanspo)

- Jiei Hospital has made good of its promise to complain to the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) on 22 January and asked for a quick assessment of the drama so as to limit the adverse effects on the children living in welfare homes. As they had received reports that there were some kids who were bullied after the first broadcast, the hospital decided that this was a serious matter that required immediate attention. (Source: Sponichi)

So where do things go from now? Some possible scenarios could be:

1) The social backlash gets so great that NTV has to stop the drama or end it earlier than it should be.
2) NTV presses on despite the controversy and finishes the drama on schedule with no changes.
3) NTV continues on but makes changes to appease those who are protesting against the drama's content.

I don't know if the BPO or if there's any authority which can really force NTV to stop an ongoing drama but even if the BPO speaks out against the drama or NTV, there is a likelihood that there will be social pressure which may or may not have a material effect on the outcome of this situation. Frankly speaking, too much is at stake here for NTV. If they bow to the pressure, it will dampen the spirits of the production crew and all those who are just doing their job to produce a great drama. NTV even told the Association that they aim to make this drama as good as "Ienakiko" which also talks about social bias, bullying and the plight of children in dysfunctional families. Given the controversial nature of the material, I don't think they are going into this blindly as what everyone else is claiming. Maybe there were some parts which were overly dramatised and not reflective of the true situation but what do you expect since this is a drama and not a documentary? Moreover, it will be a huge loss of face for NTV if they succumb too readily. Last but not least, if all controversial programmes are to be whacked and cancelled like this, what does this bode for the future of TV programming? That's why I think there is no easy way out for NTV than to press on and show the world what exactly are they trying to convey by the end of the season. It may or may not shut the critics up but at least, it's fairer to judge them only when the entire drama is over, not when the first episode was just shown.

I don't remember any drama being made to end earlier (other than for low ratings or problems with cast members) or had its broadcast suspended or postponed as a result of such social pressure other than once when a drama SP had to be postponed because a case similar to what was depicted in the SP happened days before the OA. If this drama really ends up being cancelled, I think this would be the first instance within the last 10-odd years.

Of course, from the viewpoints of those concerned about the children and staff in welfare facilities, they have a reason to be concerned. However, the bullying and taunts cited can't be exactly new and caused solely by this drama. In many past dramas, there were lots of descriptions about the discrimination and bias shown towards such children and how people view them differently because they don't belong to the "majority" who have complete families. So how can the blame be borne by just one drama when it's a social problem that people have been aware all along? I agree that the problem might have popped up once in a while and gone quiet for most of the time and that the appearance of this drama is just bringing a lot of unwanted attention to these kids again. However, if you are to view it from another perspective, isn't the drama also a good way of making the general public more aware of the problems faced by these children? Pretending that the issue isn't there and sweeping it under the carpet certainly isn't the way to go. Sometimes, the reality hurts so much that people must look at the truth in the eye and learn how to move on from there. And I certainly don't think the staff at the welfare home depicted in the drama are "evil" for no reason and the drama should be able to give us a sufficient reason why they had to treat the kids like that. Dramatisation may have been a bit overboard at the initial stages but I'm sure nobody has the intention of painting the welfare home staff as baddies.

This issue makes me wonder though: WOWOW has its fair share of controversial dramas especially in recent years but people don't seem to react so strongly against them. Could it be that WOWOW is paid-TV so people who don't want to watch their programming have an easy way of showing their preferences by not paying for their services? Conversely, if this controversy were to happen to a NHK drama, would it bow to social pressure more quickly than NTV which is a private network but more readily accessible than WOWOW? Some food for thought here...


Keiko said...

I think TBS has also had some issues with their more controversial dramas in the past. Koukou Kyoushi 1993 being one, I think also Seija no Koushin is another one.
Please, keep us updated on this.
Keep up the great work with your blog!

Chiaki said...

Now that you mention it, I remember that Ningen Shikaku (1994), Miseinen (1995), Lipstick (1999), Strawberry On The Shortcake (2001), Love Shuffle (2009) also attracted quite a fair bit of negative comments due to the controversial nature of the stories. And is it any surprise that these dramas coupled with the other two you mentioned all came from Nojima Shinji? ^__^

I read somewhere that there is a rumour saying that Nojima Shinji is also involved in this drama "Ashita, Mama ga inai" but can't seem to find anything related to him on the official website. Maybe some people are thinking that it can be only be someone like Nojima to come up with such a sensational storyline because of his past history of controversial hits?

Keiko said...

Nojima-san have done it again! ^_^

脚本監修 - 野島伸司
脚本 - 松田沙也

Source: Japanese Wikipeida for "明日、ママがいない"

I definitely need to watch this drama, but I will wait until it (let's hope will) finish airing, and is subbed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for all the information. I was trying to find what happened after seeing many people complaining about the fact that the drama might be over, and I finally found your blog that explains everything really well. Thank you!!

Chiaki said...

It seems that there are more reports these days saying that Nojima Shinji is actually the brains behind the script rather than the guy who was named as the scriptwriter on the official site. If that is truly the case, the silence from the scriptwriter is truly strange. Does anyone remember if he did come out to protect his past dramas whenever they suffered lots of criticism for being too controversial?

loesje said...

Sometimes things need to be highlighted in order to bring change to bad situations.Children being bullied is nothing new,and the fact that these group home think it is worse after one episode is redundant.There seems to be a kind of dickinson quality to the drama.But then again there are an incredible amount of children abandoned in Japan.Never to be really adopted.Also turned out into the street when they reach 17.For all kinds of reasons people get rid of a child.Sometimes economic hardships,but also illegitimacy.This girl Maik being rudely taken from her home and without any explanation put up like this is very sad,but i would bet also very realistic.

loesje said...

I most certainly hope this will not be taken out of the ethers.The acting among the very young cast is incredible.The topic, I am sure ,a hot one in this society that does not like to air it's dirty laundry.
30.000 Children wind up in situations like this.600 Orphanages like this across Japan.With little hope of being adopted.Social stigmas are still very much alive here.Illegitimacy,single parenting,incest ,and plain not caring or economic difficulties.Like it with Maki,when her mom meets another guy and no longer wants her,because of her new found flame.I truly hope,although this is highly dramatized that this drama will continue.There are many social issues at hand here that need a closer look.