The Dangers of Shoujo returns

Don’t miss the discussion going on right now on the Tokyopop Message Board about the effect of bad role models in shoujo manga. It began when someone posted the article The Dangers of Shoujo, from Sleep is for the Weak, which caused some controversy when it first appeared last summer. The thesis of the article was that overly submissive heroines in some shoujo manga are poor role models for girls, but I oversimplify vastly, and I encourage you to read the original article and check some of the original reactions at the bottom of the page.

Why revisit it? The discussion on the Tokyopop board is articulate and respectful, with people making good points on both sides. But even more important, as one of the original authors says, it’s important to discuss these things.

We believe that subtle, detrimental messages in media are usually completely harmless so long as said messages are discussed. Most people know, consciously, that a girl letting a boy knock her around is bad—but when that message is absorbed subconsciously, it may warp reader perception a little and/or act as reinforcement for low self-esteem or twisted ideals the reader is already struggling with. So when the themes of potentially “dangerous” shoujo are discussed and argued? Poof—from unconscious to conscious! And disaster is generally averted.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, after all, and it’s also the best antidote to censorship.

These discussions always leave me with a nagging question, though: If everyone hates Hot Gimmick so much, why do so many people read it?

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  1. Kai-Ming Cha says

    More than ice-cream, more than Jay Chou, there’s nothing better than smart women blogging about manga.

    The interesting thing about shojo manga is that it mirrors the gender-role sensibilities in it’s shonen/seinen counterparts. So if you’re a young man reading something like Gogol 13, by the time you’ve moved on to something more mature, like HEAT, it’s pretty much established that as the man, you’re the one calling the shots. Likewise, if you’re a young lady reading Boys Over Flowers and then ParaKiss, you’re familiar with this world of abusive bad boys.

    Of course, manga isn’t life manuals. But sometimes they are. And ultimately, I think that’s where the concern/debate lies. How much of manga references life and how much of it influences life? For some young men in Japan with salarymen fathers that they never see, manga provides cues for social behavior. For girls,well, we’re not supposed to second guess/doubt their intellect because manga is just entertainment, right? But I think we’d be lying to ourselves if we keep saying that young women are smart enough to know that manga isnt’ real. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if the message is consistent and repeated. Eventually, something seeps through.

    Are we surprised that commercial shojo serves a function within a partriarchal framework? Are we angry? I guess we’re talking about it, and essentially, that’s what’s important.

  2. I don’t think the majoriy of the ppl reading this blog, including the blog master, knows who Jay Chou is… :)

    Shojou manga is created for the consumption of Japanese girls/young women. Everything in it has its root in contemporary Japanese culture. If we’re going to debate on the merits of the messages hidden within these medium, we might as well just debate about the women’s role in Japanese society or simply critize Japan in general. I don’t think that’s very productive or fun, and people doing it can easily fall into the typical gainjin snobbery and ignorance. Not good.

    Why not just realize that Japan is not the West or any other place where Shojou is enjoyed and be done with it. The girls growing up in the US is not going to adopt views prevelent to women in Japan. The brainwashing methods and messages varies. :) I’d say until Asian cultures has real influence in the West and Asians in the West were not treated like second class in the media, there’s no worry about shojou manga has any real and profound effect on the great majority of non-Japanese readers.

  3. I think shoujo manga may have some effect, but probably a lot less than that Disney Princess Crap and the majority of songs on the radio. If parents are concerned, they should discuss gender roles with their child. I agree that Japan is not the West. If we want manga style stories with our own mores, we have to create them ourselves.

  4. neilworms says

    “I don’t think that’s very productive or fun, and people doing it can easily fall into the typical gainjin snobbery and ignorance. Not good.”

    Or the typical otaku, Japan is the land of sunshine and flowers, snobbery and ignorance. ;) Japan like all other countries has social issues, and people who want to look a little bit deeper into Japanese culture should at least be aware of some of the issues facing contemporary Japan.

    There was a good comic I found by a female manga-ka about the roles of women in Japanese culture, and based upon everything I’ve read, and the classes I’ve taken on Japanese history/culture its a pretty accurate assement:

    Not to pass judgement on the issue, but I feel that this comic fits pretty well into this discussion.


  1. […] At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna is so disgusted with the last volume of Hot Gimmick that she’s reconsidering the whole series. There are spoilers in the post, but it’s an interesting addition to the discussion about shoujo role models. […]