A few years ago, I kept bugging my Japanese friends about the origin of the phrase mīhā (ミーハー) — which is used to identify young people who are overly starstruck towards celebrities, weak-kneed to anything popular, and too sensitive to trends. “Superficial” would be the simplest translation. One theory was that it was a Japanese pronunciation of “me her” but this basically makes no sense.
Who needs friends when you’ve got Wikipedia?
“Mīhā” is a pejorative term targeted towards superficial women who are engrossed in low-culture like celebrities, sports, astrology, ghosts, and blood-types and who show no real interest in education or culture.
The term began to be used around the same time that Ohya Souichi [famed post-war journalist and critic] came up with his idea of 「一億総白痴化」 [literally, The Dumbing Down of One Hundred Million — a comment on the mass media’s vulgarization of culture] in the mid-’50s as television began to diffuse into society.
The term mīhā was born at the beginning of the Showa Era as an abbreviation of “Mii-chan” and “Haa-chan” (these words are said to come from the names “Miyo-chan/Hana-chan” which were common women’s names at the time.) These women were also called the “Mīhā Tribe” [ミーハー族]. At the present, the word can also be used for men…The term is often used incorrectly these days to mean “Those who only become interested in something after it has become the talk of the public sphere (and picked up in the media, etc.)”
Over time, the word has retained its pejorative edge, but seems to have adapted to changes in the nature of elitism. At first, mīhā was meant to disparage women who found too much interest in low culture and the mass media. The sex specificity is important here: the educated male elites no doubt saw the roots of this problem with mass culture in some deficient aspect of femininity. Or they rejected interest in the common culture as an improper fit with traditional female roles.
Over the last several decades, however, the term has become sex-neutral. The problem implied in mīhā has shifted from a general problematic interest in low culture to the callousness of being interested in a specific pop culture item solely because it is popular. In other words, consumer culture itself is no longer a problem: The offense stems from a lack of personal judgment about the value of the item in question. There is now an “elite” way to consume that is one-step ahead of the public and a “mass” unsophisticated way to consume that puts the social participation aspects of consumerism/fandom ahead of the personal definition aspects of consumerism/fandom.
(Update: This site has “me her” as a possible derivation, but it’s less convincing than Mii-chan/Haa-chan)