Thursday, September 20, 2007

Harajuku Girls

"Harajuku Girls" is a pop song by Gwen Stefani. It's a celebration of the trend-setting Tokyo neighborhood where fashions destined to cross the wide Pacific and invade California originate. Like most trendy, in-crowd songs, it's kind of dumb and childish.

What this has to do with the Southwest Airlines flap is not immediately apparent. Indulge me for a minute.

By now everybody is familiar with the story of the woman who nearly got kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for being dressed in a way that some airline personnel thought was "too provocative."

Like most Americans, I'm a live-and-let-live type of person. I see no point in trying to control other adults' behavior if that behavior is not overtly anti-social or dangerous. I believe in minding my own business and letting other people mind theirs. And I don't sweat the small stuff.

Though we may not be aware of it, a tolerant attitude as a cultural trait is a very important facet of democracy. Describing democracy in 500 BC, Pericles of Athens (acccording to Thucydides) said: "Just as our political life is free and open, so is our day-to-day life in our relations with each other. We do not get into a state with our next-door neighbor if he enjoys himself in his own way, nor do we give him the kind of black looks which, though they do no real harm, still do hurt people's feelings."

Nicely said. But then I saw this gal, supposedly a victim of Southwest Airlines, on "Today," and didn't like her. A bottle blonde who works at Hooter's, she'd be rather undistinguished looking if not for the hair coloring, the makeup, and the clothing which is engineered to attract maximum attention.

"You obviously wanted attention, honey," I thought to myself, "you just don't like the kind you got."

I got an e-mail this morning from a former colleague of mine about the "latest style" in Japan. It's a type of skirt that appears to be transparent. They're actually not see-through, but are printed to create the illusion of a diaphanous material that reveals the entire body, including whatever undergarment the wearer might or might not have on, from the waist down.

"Coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you," this much-forwarded e-mail warned in a shrill tone.

So I was in Harajuku in April, and didn't see anyone wearing anything even remotely similar to what the pictures attached to the e-mail showed. "This must be a very recent development," I thought.

But an internet search turned up that these garments have been around since 2003. So why didn't I see any examples of this "new craze" when I was in Harajuku in 2007?

Because this is an internet hoax, that's why, as I soon learned by consulting The Snopes entry, "Rear Admirable," even included the same pictures as were in this morning's e-mail. They've been making the rounds for four years.

Beware the internet hoax. The net makes urban mythmaking a lot easier than it used to be.

And also be reassured now that there are boundaries to people's foolishness. Despite Madonna's launching the ridiculous trend of wearing one's lingerie on the outside (presumably so the underwear police can "check it"), and Britney Spears's half-length shirts which encourage naval engagements, and men's pants that are always falling off, there are still some ways of making an idiot of oneself that are off limits.

There will be times, being as how tolerance and outrageous behavior reinforce each other, that some girl will get on a plane with her butt hanging out. My advice is pay no attention to her.

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