Women in Anime|
The previous editorial dealt with Japanese culture and the cool factor that is coming out of Japan these days. One thing in particular that many viewers of anime are enamored with are those heroic young schoolgirls that so often star in world-saving endeavors while still finding time for innocent crushes, shopping, and gabbing with their peers. No doubt they are often cute, but they're hardly realistic... or are they?
Though I've never been to Japan, I've had occasion to wonder what life is like there for women who so often are portrayed in anime as immature and a little bratty. Certainly the fascination with the "Kawaii Factor" seems to lend support to the idea that women there really do strive to emulate some of the antics of Sailor Moon, Asuka, and the women of Tenchi Muyo. A society where vending machines once dispensed used panties worn by schoolgirls also seems to suggest that there's enough interest by men to potentially influence women to act this way.
Now it's true that American men are widely regarded to be interested in the appearance of youth in American women, and so women there will strive to look young as well. But this appeal is generally limited to physical beauty whereas the Japanese appeal extends to the naivety and immaturity that is found to be so cute in innocent young girls. It's no secret that women want to maintain their sex appeal as they age, so in America you'll find women having cosmetic surgery and looking for beauty aids to "get younger" but in Japan you'll find 20 and 30 somethings giggling, clutching stuffed animals, and wearing stickers like a girl half their age. Sad or cute? Maybe it depends on your perspective, but Japanese women are obviously no less influenced by societal pressures than their american counterparts; when young girls there grow up watching 14 year old Sailor Moon stumble and shriek her way to victory over the forces of evil and at the same time attract the interest of the sophisticated, intelligent, college-age Tuxedo Mask, it leaves an impression: this is what men find attractive in their women.
And while its true that you can read something into just about anything if you look long enough, it's possible to look at other roles that women do have in anime that lend support to the idea that immaturity sells. The polished woman who dresses snappily in tailored suits, carefully styled hair, and displays sophisticated wit is often the villain or a figure deserving of our sympathy in these shows. I found it interesting that a Sylia Stingray who originally possessed these traits in the Bubble Gum Crisis series morphed into a much younger-looking and slightly sillier women in the 2040 TV series. Likewise, those women who are quiet, reflective, and studious are often portrayed as sad figures in need of help or coaxing to bring about their light and carefree manner that suggests a happy well-adjusted girl.
By no means should we stop watching anime because it portrays women this way, and indeed some of the fun of the shows might be lost if we weren't able to enjoy our cute heroines who manage to juggle their social lives with world-saving, but nor should we lose ourselves by buying into this fantasy as anything more than entertainment. As women, we enjoy cute things more than guys do, but that doesn't mean we should objectify ourselves into something one can adore without including a little substance to our style.
Saturday, March 13, 2004