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Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
Hello, and welcome to my blog! I like to write about children's literature, fandom studies, video games, feminism, and pop culture in general. I've recently earned my Ph.D. in children's literature ( Fall 2012) at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I also teach English (composition, British literature, and women's literature) at Sowela Technical Community College. Oh, and I like cats! [Banner image artwork by Yuki Midorikawa]

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hog-Tied Girls are OKAY!

I was reading a viewer's review of Hakuouki and, naturally, encountered more hate. (It seems to be the norm in today's sociopolitical climate.)

I can understand not being interested in BL ("Boys Love"), but the implications this person suggests in her post are ... disturbing, at best:

I thought that after I’d been watching anime for a certain amount of time, things would just come to me naturally. The “traps” that catch out anyone who’s new to anime would be glaringly obvious to an older watcher such as myself. Then I watched Hakuoki. In a way, it’s testament to Deen’s skill that I wasn’t able to tell what gender the main character was, as that was clearly the intent. Or perhaps it’s just anime that’s affected the way I’m thinking. A few years ago, I would’ve just automatically assumed that what’s-her-name was a girl, but it seems with the advent of such characters as Hideyoshi, I can never really be sure.

But the more interesting thing to me is how my perception of the show changed as I was watching since I couldn’t determine the gender of the main character. I reacted to situations differently depending on this – for example, there is a scene where the main character is hog-tied and left on a blanket. I personally found it more disturbing when I thought of her as a boy rather than a girl. Knowing a few yaoi fangirls has led me to see some… disturbing things, so seeing a boy tied up trapped in a compund filled with beautiful men takes my mind to strange places. I guess that’s just the hazard of delving further into the fandom.

In any case, when I saw the main character as a girl in that same situation, surprisingly enough I didn’t think of anything nearly as disturbing. In fact, I felt rather at ease. My mind seems to have worked in this way: if the main character was a boy, then that would’ve made Hakuouki BL, which means there would’ve ineivitably been passionate love scenes a la Junjou Romantica and the like, which… disturb me. However, if it’s the other way round (which it is) that’d make the show a reverse harem or “otome” show, which isn’t as focused on the sexual aspects of the character’s relationship, which wouldn’t make me as uncomfortable.

Funnily enough, resolving the character’s gender kind of changed my perception of the entire show. Before, I was pre-occupied with the thought that any moment one of those pretty, pretty bishies was just going to jump on the main character. When that seemed less likely to happen, I started to see the show for what it was: pretty, pretty bishies talking in a circle, eating, teasing, blsuhing and getting punched in the face. In other words, aside from the 3 minutes of zombie samurais at the start, this show had nothing to interest me. The only thing keeping me watching it was gender ambiguity.

I’m starting to wonder how I even made it through the episode.
Here's the full link: Hakouki and the Importance of Gender

I don't know about you, but I feel annoyed that a series like Junjou Romantica is compared to a situation wherein an underaged boy is hog-tied and about to be raped by a bunch of horny samurai. JR is a romance story, pure and simple (as the title itself says!). The above scenario would be a rape fantasy or fetish story.

I am not condemning either because sexual fantasies have their place. But think about comparing the two, and what that comparison says about this reviewer's view of BL/yaoi, or rather, romantic and sexual relationships between men, period.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that she sees absolutely nothing worrying about a girl being hog-tied and gagged by a bunch of men.

And this is normal?

I knew Chizuru was a girl from the start -- and the scene disturbed me because she was a girl.

It would never occur to me that a boy would be in danger because Hakuouki simply did not come off as a fetish anime.

But what do I know.

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