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Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Cult of Mediocrity: Shoujo Manga and Me

I don't blog very often about manga. This is because, while I used to be very much a manga fan, my interest has wandered into that of superheroes and I rarely look back.

But I do still read occasionally. And I still keep an eye out for manga-related topics on WFA

Recently there was a set of topics that intrigued me, discussions on whether or not shoujo manga is feminist or sexist. I can see the arguments for both, really. Both sides have really good points. In a sense, I think they're both right.

But this post isn't about that really. Or maybe it is. I'm not sure. But during the whole thing, I'm reminded of something that really started to get to me about shoujo manga.

I call it "the cult of mediocrity".

Ragnell once described comics as an adolescent power fantasy. I'd always thought that was an apropos description for both Japanese and American comics. And it started to explain to me why I was so tired of manga.

See, manga in Japan is a lot more gender-stratified than it is here. Manga is classified as shounen (Boys') or shoujo (Girls') based on a number of flexible criteria, up to and including the type of publication they're found in. While there are cross-genre stories, the majority tend to be stratified along the lines of Boys' stories being more action/plot based and Girls' stories being more character and emotion driven.

This is oversimplifying matters considerably of course. Many boys' manga have relationships and strong character development, many girls' manga have action, et cetera and so forth. But honestly, I'm sure you guys, if you really care, can look that sort of thing up on your own. Suffice to say, one can usually tell a girls' manga from a boys' manga.

Besides, this isn't my problem. I don't see anything wrong with differentiating manga focused on plot/action from manga focused on character development/drama. After all, there's no law that says a boy can't by girls' manga, or vice versa, and it's good to know what you're looking for.

It's just that after a while I started noticing an odd sort of theme. And I think it relates to Ragnell's power fantasy thing. See, the main character of shounen manga is usually a boy, the main character of shoujo manga is usually a girl (or the uke in boys love manga, which is the homosexual themed romance subgenre of girls' manga...the uke is the character that tends to correspond with female gender stereotypes.) The idea, I believe, is that readers are meant to identify with these main characters. To use them as wish-fulfillment, fantasies for themselves.

I have no problem with this either.

But what I've noticed is that in boys' manga, the lead character is differentiated as being special in some way. Either the strongest fighter, the smartest detective, the best magician something like that. Even if the character is a complete dunce, there's always some spectacular talent to be highlighted. (With the possible exception of harem stories...but one could imagine the accumulation of so many attractive women to be its own spectacular talent...certainly there are those that envy it). There are often female characters that are strong or capable as well, but they are not the center of the story and thus usually end up never quite matching up to the men.

I admit, this is a little irksome to me, but I understand where it's coming from. Everyone dreams of being the strongest, smartest, fastest, whatever. It's wish-fulfillment.

Girls' manga is different though. Because when I stop and think about it, I can think of very few spectacular female lead characters. The lead character is usually a c-student, klutzy, socially awkward, but naturally quite beautiful. She may or may not have a special power, but in general, she starts off unable to really use it well. She tends to be swept up into destiny. This is not to say that she's not brave and doesn't experience character growth. But, while her friends may correspond to "smartest", "toughest" et cetera, she herself is downright mediocre.

I wouldn't have any problem with this normally, as it's nice to see normal, flawed, imperfect central characters right? Except the male characters aren't written the same way. Because these tend to be romance fantasies, the male character is almost always perfect. Intelligent, handsome, either sensitive or an asshole with intriguing angst behind it.

So what this amounts to is a perfect male character and what amounts to a mediocre female character.

I'm not saying I want the female characters to be all-knowing or all-talented. But I think pretty much everyone has *one* thing they do well. These female characters don't. Their only real advantage is their "pure hearts", with which they winsomely end up entrapping their love interests. In fantasy type stories, they tend to have the destiny of something great, but the girl's own role tends to be passive. Often if she does have a great power, it always activates beyond her control. She might have the power of a goddess, but the power almost always controls her rather than the other way around.

(Yaoi/Shounen Ai/Boys Love manga works similarly. The uke character, again, tends to be klutzy, academically un-impressive, with their strength in their emotional bonds to other characters while the seme, or top, who is more traditionally masculine, tends to be again the perfect man. It's quite a disturbing thought that femininity=mediocrity).

And this bothers me. The boys get power fantasies of being special. Being the strongest, the fastest, the smartest. They win the girl, get the prize, beat the badguy.

The girls get power fantasies of...being in the right place at the right time and being victorious through no control of their own? And ultimately meeting the perfect man?

Doesn't something seem a little uneven here?

I mean, yes, I understand the fantasy of being a normal person and then finding yourself involved in something great. But where are the power fantasies for the girls? Why are the smart, tough, strong girls shoved off to the sidelines while the mediocre girl remains the center of the story?

In the end, this is probably where manga lost me. It's not that I don't like these characters. They tend to be very likeable. But I want more in my power fantasies than to win the perfect man or to be carried into my destiny.

But why the hell, when I can dream myself to be like anything imaginable, would I want to settle for mediocrity?

43 Comments:

  • At July 08, 2006 9:46 AM, Blogger Centurion said…

    I've always read into the genre split that shounen focuses conflicts externally, and shoujo focused internally, but whatever.

    This is partly one of the reasons I don't read much manga anymore. It really stems from the fact that not just females suffer from mediocrity, but the whole industry. So much is being cranked out that follows the same path of sucess of a few titles, and they all tend to bleed together without much originality.

    If you want a good female power fantasy in manga, you can always settle back with Slayers. You really can't go wrong with Inverse. ^_^

     
  • At July 08, 2006 9:52 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    Very interesting post, Kalinara! To me, the American genre that most parallels shoujo monga would be fairy tales. And much of what you say about shoujo applies to fairy tales as well - the female protagonist is often someone of meager means or outward talent who "grows into herself" during the course of the story and thereby earns her reward (the freedom of someone she loves, the handsome prince, winning some kind of competition, etc.). It's actually the standard "heroic journey" about which Joseph Campbell writes, only as you noted the heroic journey for men almost often begins with the men being capable and well-loved (think Homerian epic), whereas for women they start off being, as it were, "in disguise." I don't really have a problem with this, because it does mirror the path that many women have had to take historically - to hide their true abilities (and sometimes even their gender - see umpteen Shakespearean comedies) in order to succeed in a world ruled by men, at which point they're finally recognized for the amazing individuals they've been all along. And to be quite frank, I rather like that particular fantasy, it's the very kind I gravitate towards reading (and wanting to write).

     
  • At July 08, 2006 11:00 AM, Blogger tangognat said…

    I think that those generalizations do apply to the bulk of shojo manga that gets translated over here, but there are always a few exceptions. I think we haven't seen very many female focused sports titles translated into English - Crimson Hero features a girl that wants to be the best volleball player.
    Nana's Nana K. actually follows the personality type of the clutzy not-too-bright female, but the manga shows her dealing with the fallout from deciding to live her life that way. And Nana O. just wants to fight to establish her music career.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of titles with exceptionally gifted lead female characters:

    Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
    Gokusen
    Battle Angel Alita
    Penguin Brothers
    Sexy Voice and Robo
    Under the Dapple Shade
    Domu-A Child's Dream

     
  • At July 08, 2006 1:24 PM, Anonymous NormanRafferty said…

    For the most part, I'd agree. By Sturgeon's Revelation, 90% of everything is crud, and genres usually have a particular crud.

    One curious standout in this arena of manga was FLCL, whose anime enjoyed some popularity on Adult Swim. Instead of the usual setup of young boy and his three super-powered girls, it was a younger boy and the weird older girls he hangs out with. The boy hero only gets a few moments to shine, and they're almost all by the manipulations of an older, more sexualized female character. Without spoiling too much, the series ends with the heroine manipulating the hero for her own ends, and no clear victory.

    Since this manga talks a lot about feminism and comics, I'm curious what your take on FLCL might be.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 2:20 PM, Anonymous Flidget Jerome said…

    The thing is shoujo manga is aimed for a pretty young audience so much of the time they're busy catering to teenage wish-fullfillment and don't aim much higher. All the power fantasies turn up in Josei manga instead, since the readership has had time to consider that they might more from life than being adorable and getting the guy.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 3:16 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    centurion: Lina Inverse is naturally awesome. :-)

    elayne: I suppose it wouldn't bother me if I found a bit more variety. :-) I like fairy tales...but it certainly wouldn't bother me to see a few more Barbara Gordons in place of Usagis occasionally. :-)

    tangognat: I've heard good things about Nana, I have to admit. But honestly, my observation is fueled by what I've seen in Japan too. While there are always exceptions (which are usually awesome), they're still pretty hard to find.

    (G-Defend is a really nice exception to the feminized=mediocre thing in a shounen-ai form. The more feminized partner is the garrison head. The leader. And *very* good at it.

    I just feel like mentioning it because I love G-Defend. :-))

    anonymous: I agree that those have gifted female characters. Thing is, I don't agree that most of them are *shoujo*. But again, a handful of exceptions in a genre with literally thousands of titles doesn't seem to say much to me.

    norman: FLCL is weird. And I'd actually classify it a little with Evangelion, which also has a normal boy surrounded by extraordinary people. The thing about Evangelion, and I think FLCL too, is that the symbolism is the real story. The outside story seems flat and crazy because it's all about the internal/external struggles. Or something like that.

    FLCL is like a really bizarre coming of age story, I think. But it's sheer bizarre-ness causes it to transcend boundaries. For me though, the female characters' sheer strangeness and fucked-up ness keep me from considering the series feminist.

    Flidget: That's true. Audience age is a big factor. But it still tends to annoy me if I consider that shounen manga already builds in the power fantasies for such young people, where shoujo...does not. :-(

     
  • At July 08, 2006 3:25 PM, Anonymous crowdedhouse said…

    I guess the appeal of the whole medicore female as the main character thing is sort of trying to say that even the most average person can have their moment of glory and special talents, but then again, that's the same for most stories involving men and they at least get to be the best at what they do darn near every time out, so, yeah, I see where you're coming from here.

    That said, is there any specific female character in superhero comics who fits what I'll call "the male role," by which I mean: do you find that there are any superheroines who get to be the best at what they do and get, if not main character status, at least a fair to good amount of time to take center stage and show off their talents? And is that what made you turn to American comics over manga, or is there another reason that you posted and I've missed?

     
  • At July 08, 2006 3:33 PM, Anonymous crowdedhouse said…

    Also, manga at least (usually, at least non-hentai manga) doesn't make all its women look like the world's most well-endowed playboy bunny who also enjoys crimefighting in between her day job of showering and stretching sexily (I admit it's not that bad in American comics, but still), so it's got that going for it, at least.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 3:41 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    While this isn't my main reason for switching to American comics (it's partially a stylistic thing) off the top of my head:

    Barbara Gordon, one of the smartest people in the DCU *period*.

    Wonder Woman...I shouldn't have to elaborate here.

    Lady Shiva and Cassandra Cain are considered the best martial artists in the DCU. Black Canary is rapidly rising up the list.

    Power Girl is the strongest physical fighter in the JSA. (Though Wildcat is more skilled.)

    Wonder Girl's a bit weak now, but for a time, her cleverness and relatability allowed her to shine leading Young Justice.

    Selina Kyle's an awesome thief/acrobat, even capable of thwarting Batman.

    Lois Lane, whose Pulitzer still ranks higher on her list of accomplishments than marrying Superman. (Though that is up there.)

    Carol Ferris ran her father's air-field and did it well, while being a kickass villainess aside.

    Katma Tui. Period.

    Storm is one of the two X-leaders, worshipped as a goddess for her power.

    Jean Grey held the manor together through countless drama while being among the most skilled psychics on the planet.

    Even Kitty Pryde, much as I dislike her, is a ninja-trained, supremely skilled hacker-scout.

    And actually I could continue for a while, but I think I've made a point here. :-)

    --

    As for sexualization, I'd say manga and American comics are about even. There's a lot of sexualization of younger female characters, a LOT of unrealistic proportions, naked transformation scenes...

    And let's not get into underaged panty-shots. Which are *everywhere*.

    At least in superhero comics, the playboy bunny is a grown woman assumed to have dressed herself like that. As opposed to an innocent fourteen year old who's skirt just *happens* to drift up to flash us a hint of underwear...

    :-)

     
  • At July 08, 2006 4:47 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    Don't forget Those Who Hunt Elves, which features four nigh-omnipotent main characters in a mostly 'normal' world, out of which three are girls.

    ... Granted, the story is about stripping elf girls naked, but let's not get into that.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 4:52 PM, Anonymous crowdedhouse said…

    Ah yes, I forgot about manga's disposition towards a mathematically impossible number of panty shots per page/minute/hour. Taking that into consideration, yeah it's more even. And the whole underage girls with startlingly beautiful bodies who inevitably wind up naked at some point in time during the series...okay, that's just creepy. Sometimes, I wonder what is wrong with Japan-while thanking them for making my country look sane by comparison.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 4:56 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    zaratustra: :-) Definitely not a shoujo manga, that one. Funny though.

    crowdedhouse: I don't think Japan's all that bad. :-) I've loved manga for a long time. But honestly on the same basis, when people turn around and argue things like "I'm glad *manga* isn't as sexist as superhero comics" I can never quite get past my initial "Which Earth are *you* from?!" reaction.

    Manga targets female readers more and has a greater variety, but in its own way, the product has an obviously equal (if differently executed) level of sexism. At least to me.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 5:21 PM, Anonymous Lyle said…

    Tangognat -- those were the two titles I was thinking of recommending. The heroine of Crimson Hero struck me as being in the same place as the hero of Whistle! Overall, I don't care for sports manga because I don't like the theme of "Massive amounts of hard work can overcome any obscacle, especially if you work yourself to the point of collapse!" that I've found in everything but Hikaru No Go, but that theme probably gives sports shoujo more heroines who are the most determined.

    I love Nana. This may be the first manga title I end up buying twice (once in Shojo Beat and as the bookshelf volumes).

    Flidget Jerome, can you recommend some good josei titles? There aren't many available stateside (and Erica Sakuazawa's work -- which I love -- follows the "heroine finds herself" train). The more I look at manga the more I"m realizing my tastes lean more towards josei and seinen, though josei gets marketed as shojo in the USA sometimes.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I came here via the fangirls_attack feed over on livejournal, and I have to say that this was a very interesting post! I think you hit the nail on the head with your writing. And I can think of a few exceptions of the type you ask for - "strong" female leads in shoujo manga - but like you commented earlier, exceptions do not disprove the broad generalization.

    As for some of those exceptions... Well, Rose of Versailles features a heroine who is brave, smart, a fantastic swordsman, and anything but passive. Nausicaa has already been mentioned, although it's arguable whether that one is "shoujo" or not. (I would say that Nausicaa is one of the few manga that was deliberately created to NOT be easily categorized as "shounen" or "shoujo".)

    Even among little-girls' series, you have smart, talented, assertive heroines like those in Ashita no Nadja and Angel Hunt. And who could forget Cardcaptor Sakura? I think that Sakura (CCS) and Ayame (Angel Hunt) represent more of an ideal role model for young girls. They're "average", but not mediocre. For example, Sakura is athletic, intelligent, popular, and a leader among her peers - and she still has endearing character flaws that her prevent her from being too Mary Sue-ish, and more identifiable. Characters like Sakura and Ayame are "average" in the sense that they represent real human girls that you might know, meet, or be like yourself; yet they're both a far cry from the Usagi/Miaka archetype. In short, they're real, but not mediocre.

    For josei manga, there's Petshop of Horrors, which is a boys-love manga in which it's nigh impossible to pinpoint the seme or the uke of the main couple (thankfully). Junko Mizuno's delightfully perverted Hansel and Gretel features a katana-wielding Gretel, who definitely fulfills the "fastest, strongest, bestest swords(wo)man" archetype found in a lot of shounen manga. But other than that... Wow, this is hard! Most of the josei manga in my collection is about women doing nothing more noteworthy than snagging and sleeping with guys. (*sigh*)

    - nenena on livejournal

     
  • At July 08, 2006 9:01 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    *nod* It's frustrating really. Because the ones you mention are so great, they make the rest really look awful in comparison.

    (For the record. Leon's so the uke in Petshop. But he'll bitch the whole damn time. ;-))

     
  • At July 08, 2006 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Being a fangirl, I have to chime in with: Revolutionary Girl Utena

    Granted, Utena is the shoujo lead exception that proves the rule. And she's not as good in the manga as she is in the anime.

    (Neither is Juri.)

    I note that there's a fab essay on a closely related subject over on the Yuricon site: Agency and Female Gender Roles in Shoujo Anime
    .

    It's interesting that you went from manga to US comics. I was a US comic fan for umpty-squillion years, and over the past several years, I've lost interest in American superhero comics. Every time I pick one up, I end up feeling ill by the end of the book or wanting to hurl the book across the room. I can detach my brain -- to a certain extent -- if I read manga and non-superhero US indie comics. And I don't find them nearly as skin-crawling. My superhero comic reading has slimmed down to Legion of Superheroes (because I've been a fan since I started, and the only time I broke was during the bad, bad Five Years Later time, which couldn't even be saved by the very hot concept of Vi and Ayla doing the horizontal hokey pokey), an occasional stab at Teen Titans, and Astro City.

    Sigh. It makes me sad.

     
  • At July 08, 2006 11:04 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Like I said, for me it's a stylistic thing. And oddly, while I find both manga and superhero comics equally sexist, I find the superhero comics are more in the vein I can deal with.

    :-) It's just a personal taste thing.

    And I like the ongoing sense of history (decades of stories!) and shared universe aspects. And the crack.

     
  • At July 09, 2006 3:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Someone mentioned an important issue of what gets translated into English. My pedstrian impression is that most of manga, shojo or shonen available in American market are contemporary works. I remember (I grew up in Japan reading all sorts of comics) that in the 80s there were many comics running on shojo magazines that depicted main characters that don't fit the generalization offered here ... one example is Skeban Deka (high-school girl-gang cop?)featuring a steel-reinforced yo-yo wielding 17-year-old undercover cop mercilessly kicking the asses of criminals. Is this translated? I doubt ... and this one was written by a man, Shinji Wada. So that may support your point, but there were many other shojo that depcited main characters determined to become good and then great and best at, let's say, dance, theater, music, etc (no sports or fighting, though), with all trials, tribulations, triumphs, uncertanity, and love stuff thrown in.
    I guess I am saying shojo, or manga in general changed tremendously in the 90s ... (like Yaoi, which I think became a "mainstream" in that decade). While I feel the gender generalization present in shojo/shoen is valid to an extent, I hope more diverse groups of manga (including ones from the 80s and before) would be introduced here ...

    mm

     
  • At July 09, 2006 4:10 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly, I base very little of my own evaluation on English translated manga. While most of what I read are pretty recent, I do find the trends tend to continue even in older manga/anime. In a lot of cases, I think they're worse.

    Not to say there aren't exceptions, some damned good ones, but the trend exists, I think.

     
  • At July 09, 2006 6:53 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    Oh! Oh! Sukeban Deka!

    I've wanted a Spiked yoyo ever since I first saw it!

    I have the anime and two of the live action movies, but I've never seen the manga. I so need that.

    As far as I know the only thing officially available translated is the 2 part OAV anime.

    Oh, and apparently there is a new live action movie in the works. Yay!

     
  • At July 09, 2006 6:57 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    Looks like there's going to be an english release of the new Sukeban Deka movie, which is cool.

    They are calling it "Yo-yo Girl Cop", which is rather less cool.

     
  • At July 09, 2006 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kalinara,
    Hmm, my post sounded like I am out tring to demlish your main point by trotting out a few exceptions or making use of nostalgia. I should have said that an explanation of social-creative trends would be better served with an eye on the presence of diversity and transformation beneath those trends. I didn't think that this kind of approach would have hurt or diminished yoru excellent point.

    marionette,
    Ohh! You know Sukeban Deka! But "Yo-Yo Girl Cop" is pretty lame as a title ... What're they thinking?

    mm

     
  • At July 09, 2006 9:13 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Anon: No, you're right. While I think the trend is long-standing, it *is* a really good idea to examine the change over time. :-) The execution certainly isn't the same now as ten or twenty years ago.

    I'm sorry if I sounded overly dismissive. :-)

     
  • At July 10, 2006 1:03 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    Actually, I'd say that "harem" stories are pretty common in both shoujo and shounen manga & anime: the ordinary guy / girl somehow attracts the attention of the really cool members of the opposite sex, usually because of how nice the main character is; the lead ends up the center of attention, despite their relative lack of distinguishing features. It's just than in shounen harem stories, the lead is likely to attract the attention of several ladies, whereas shoujo stories tend to favor monogamy (though not always - I've heard more than one female fan describe Fushigi Yuugi as "Tenchi Muyo for girls"); and things tend to blow up more in shounen harems. :-)

    And certainly the appeal of the fantasy is obvious enough: that no matter how ordinary you are, someone cool and good-looking will take an interest in you if you're nice enough. It just gets a little tiresome to see the same fantasy ad infinitum. :-)

    In general, I think shoujo manga is more likely to make its female characters - or at least the leads - traditionally feminine . . . which, unfortunately, tends to translate into "passive milksop." The more interesting females, for my tastes, are either the secondary characters (e.g., the lead's friends or enemies) or over in the shounen world, having fun with the boys. :-)

    E.g., a recent anime and manga I've been following is "Black Lagoon." On one level, the main female character, Levy, is definitely the resident token hot babe: long hair, buxom, runs around in short shorts and a tank top (though, to be fair, it is set in the South Pacific). OTOH, she's also the resident asskicker, the one who's sent in when, say, it's time to shoot up a boatload of neo-Nazis. She's just clearly way the hell better at fighting than the rest of her male teammates combined. She's also the hotheaded, bloodthirsty one that the others have to hold back on occasion.

    Meanwhile, the big black dude is the thoughtful team leader, not the heavy muscle - so how's that for a bit of role reversal? :-)

     
  • At July 10, 2006 7:11 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hey! That does sound interesting! I'll have to keep a lookout for it!

     
  • At July 14, 2006 2:06 PM, Anonymous Lyle said…

    Hm, that mention of harem manga made me think of Wallflower, which has an extrodinarily unglamorous heroine.

    The initial premise is that a bunch of beautiful young men get offered free rent on an amazing house if they can makeover the landlady's daughter into a marriable woman. It turns out, however, that the daughter is quite adamant about her discheveled appearance, liking that her vision is obscured by the messy hair that covers her eyes.

    Volume 1 was cute and I only just got to picking up volume 2 and I'm told from there the story changes quite a bit. The creator meant to write an ugly duckling story with an eventual makeover, but I hear that possibiity goes out the window in volume 2. (In the meantime, vol 1 had plenty of the guys costuming up and being walked-in on while showering.)

     
  • At July 14, 2006 3:44 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) That one does sound pretty cool. :-)

     
  • At July 18, 2006 11:54 PM, Blogger Maya said…

    I was very interested in this post because I'm trying to understand another question.

    I've only been reading manga since last fall, and I've been a little surprised by the amount of male homoerotic manga available for young women.

    I'm an adult who writes erotic romance, and I don't object to content written for adults by adults. However, I have to admit I don't understand the attraction of this material for younger women. Assuming they're heterosexual (or will be), I would think they'd be more interested in heterosexual romances.

    My first thought was that it was less threatening for a young woman to read about a male seme/uke relationship than a female one.

    I'd be interested in your thoughts on the subject. Thanks.

     
  • At July 19, 2006 12:12 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Eeek, that's a complicated question I think.

    Part of it might be that teenage girls do feel less threatened or inadequate when identifying with the feminized male rather than a female character.

    Part of it might be the slight taboo aspect of it. Homosexuality is still something relatively discouraged in our culture after all, which could add to the naughty thrill of reading it.

    Part of it might just be because, in the same way many men like the thought of two women together, they think it's hot.

    Sometimes it's just that they like the specific relationship in that yaoi book like they like the straight relationship in *this* book.

    I occasionally read it myself, but darned if I could really pinpoint why. It's just the way it is. :-)

     
  • At July 19, 2006 4:09 AM, Blogger Maya said…

    Thanks for your response, Kalinara.

    I am the membership chair for Passionate Ink, the RWA chapter for erotic romance. M/M stories written by our authors are increasingly common. Among adults, I can understand the desire for "something different."

    Among teens, I would have expected more of an emphasis on M/F relationships. Going back to your comment on a M/M pairing being less threatening and less likely to make a young girl feel inadequate, I'm also wondering if seeing a "feminized" male is reassuring in terms of "Gosh, they really do have feelings like me," when they may be encountering young males who are not open about expressing feelings. Then, too, there's the issue of not having to feel competitive with a female character who might be perceived as better-endowed, more beautiful, brighter or more talented than the young reader.

    Thanks again for your input. I'm going to continue to explore this. It is as interesting to me as the feminism issue. Frankly, I'm wondering if it's part of the answer to the feminism question.

    Regards.

     
  • At July 19, 2006 4:17 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Your guess is as good as mine. :-)

    But I'm glad to be of some small help! It definitely seems like something worth looking into.

     
  • At September 16, 2008 5:10 AM, Blogger João Bispo said…

    Reading your post got me thinking: a lot of what is in manga (just like any medium) is a reflection of the persons. Even if it doesn't fit your case, could you say that generally, a boy has a better image of himself than a girl has? (independetly of it being cultural, genetical or whatever reason)

    I found amazing that in a profound sexist society like the japanese, we can find insighful works like some mentioned here, and even as putting the sexism at the same level as in the West. It is only a sign of how people are not that different (which I think is a good thing =) )

    Just as a remark, I find hard to hear you "dismissing" the exceptions. If it is expected that in a mass medium, 90% of what is produced will be garbage, it is those exceptions that make the difference.

     
  • At September 16, 2008 5:19 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    However, when you're critiquing the mass medium, the exceptions only prove the rule.

    If I were critiquing those exceptions, then yes, I would very well be addressing those exceptions. However, what I'm critiquing here is the 90% crap. Thank you.

     
  • At September 16, 2008 11:37 AM, Blogger João Bispo said…

    Just to be sure, you noticed that by critiquing the 90% crap of shojo, you are in fact critiquing it for delivering what the generality of young girls want or like to read.

    Your main critique, "Doesn't something seem a little uneven here?", has more to do about the girls themselves than the medium.

    You talked about super-heroes, but even today, there is a disproportion between the number of male/female readers of super-hero comics (as high as 90%):

    http://comicsworthreading.com/2008/01/24/superhero-comic-readers-still-mostly-male/

    It is plausible that a big chunk of this difference comes from the differences in the genders, more than anything else (more than "the other girls haven't been iluminated to the super-heroes comics"). Unfortunately I don't have numbers for the shoujo readers, but I would risk there are more female readers than male readers.


    Because we are still chilling out from the women fight for equallity of rights (which I totally support), we forget that men and women are not physically equal. Not only the outside is different, the way the brain works and the internal body chemistry is different too. It is expected that there will be differences in the way people feel. Shoujo manga may be a clue in respect to that (and never forget shoujo is for teenage girls - a totally different way of feeling from adults).

     
  • At September 16, 2008 12:40 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly, I've challenged that piece on this blog before and also on that blog. I respect Johanna very much, but there are a lot of problems with her generalizations there that were never addressed. I have taken them up with her and see no need to rehash them here.

    And to be frank, I don't think this is adding anything new to a discussion that primarily took place more than two years ago.

    I am critiquing a media that I find to be as equally as sexist as superhero comics. I've explained why. My issue is not what young girls like/want to read. (I am of the opinion that the company makes the product, not the customer. The customer buys what suits them best, but there is no reason to believe there is not room for improvement.) I'm not particularly interested in continuing the debate with you at this time. Please feel free to consider my comment policy enacted.

    Blogs are free. Please get one. Drop a link here if you like. But I'm concluding the discussion. I get paid to argue in circles now so I don't see the need to offer it for free. :-)

     
  • At September 16, 2008 1:44 PM, Blogger João Bispo said…

    I've been shut up American Style X)

    I understand your reasons, and I want to thank you for answering me two times, it was more than I could expect.

    Greetings from Portugal.

     
  • At September 16, 2008 4:18 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) I went to Portugal once. Lisbon area. It was beautiful. I got to climb Moorish battlements. Always wanted to see it again.

     
  • At January 07, 2010 12:52 AM, Blogger somaie said…

    Good post

    regards,
    www.onlineuniversalwork.com

     
  • At December 12, 2011 2:18 PM, Blogger Penguvengu said…

    Wow! This is why I love google! You can find anything! Anyway, I'm really glad that there are discussion links like this on the free web, it's a fascinating discussion my sisters and I have been rehashing over and over since we saw Fushigi Yugi, and then went on to other shojo mangas! We've always moaned and groaned about how sexist some of the stuff we've found were! Thanks for posting this stuff!

     
  • At December 24, 2015 11:19 AM, Blogger   said…

    It all has to do with the culture in Japan, and how it differs from that of the rest of the world. You should really check out the article on my blog with goes into detail on this topic :) http://dereproject.com/discussion/gender-roles-and-sexism-in-modern-shoujo-manga/

     
  • At August 05, 2016 5:11 AM, Blogger ShySassy Girl said…

    Hmm, I don't know if you will actually read this after almost 10 years, but I just wanted to mention that there has been a change in the past decade. Sure, shitty series still are being produced and have a surprisingly large audience but there are some gems in Shoujo category too. One prime example of this is Akatsuki no Yona. Before reading it, I had watched Fushigi Yuugi, which I left after the...I don't even remember where I left it, but it wasn't too long before I realized the stereotypical "strong" heroines prevalent in the 90s manga. There was a slow start in Akatsuki no Yona, the heroine was weak, the plot wasn't anything new but it's execution made it unique. You actually see the female protagonist slowly becoming more mature and realize she never was weak. I can't praise this series enough. There are some others, which are found quite rarely; for there are loads of manga and anime popular for their strong heroine, who actually doesn't turn out to be like that. Again, it's just my perspective. Anyways, my point is your post was great and when I found someone with thoughts similar to mine, I decided to add my comment too.

     
  • At August 05, 2016 8:05 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I do occasionally keep an eye on my old comment sections, though my opinions have changed quite a bit here and there. :-)

    Nice to meet you.

     

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