Racism and Sexism in Manga and Anime

Manga and Anime are two popular story telling forums that traditionally stem from Japan. These two forms of media feature a particular style of cartoonish figure drawing accompanied by stories that range in subject from action-adventure, romance, and comedy, to science fiction, mystery, and even sexuality. Manga and anime have become increasingly popular in other parts of the world, particularly in English speaking countries, gaining large fanbases throughout the UK and North America.

The stylings and storylines of manga and anime tend to share a few common themes that could possibly reflect certain cultural attitudes of Japan spreading themselves to other parts of the globe. For instance, female characters tend to be depicted as genetically impossible figures with tiny waists, large breasts, and long flowing hair. Such an example can be seen in the following picture.

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This impossible female figure is seen throughout mangas and animes. Not only are their figures ridiculous, but their personalities are also usually girly, flirtatious, and submissive. This can be seen as a reflection of what Asian pop culture defines as the ideal of female beauty.

A similar ideal can even be seen in boy-love manga. Boy-love manga storylines feature two males in some type of homosexual relationship. Whether the relationship is the main focus of the story, or a subplot, one of the males always tends to be masculine, while the other is more feminine in personality and physical appearance. Such can be seen in the way the two figures are depicted below.

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These two figures are posed with such body language that the viewer must assume that the masculine figure is dominant in the relationship while the feminine figure is the submissive. This alludes to the belief that all relationships, regardless of the gender of either partner, must always have one submissive and one dominant. It can typically be seen that in Asian cultures, the female or feminine partner must be the submissive, and the masculine must be the dominant.

Another and perhaps more alarming theme across the genres of manga and anime can be seen in the way characters are drawn. More often than not, characters have more pale skin, large eyes, and small noses. In other words, manga and anime characters are drawn with features more typically associated with a Caucasian lineage.

This graphic depicts a typical anime character (who has Caucasian features) and a not so common counterpart (with more Asiatic features).

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Even across Asia, a figure with features more commonly associated with Asian lineage does not often make any appearances in popular manga or anime. This may directly translate to popular cultures of Asia having insecurities with physical appearance. Many Asian cultures pressure both men and women to adopt a look that is more “Western.” In fact, “Westernizing” cosmetic procedures are quickly becoming the norm, and include anything from eyelid surgeries to nose jobs.

More recently, Miss South Korea 2012 admitted to having had some Westernizing procedures done to make her more beautiful.

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Though these commonalities in manga and anime reflect an alarming similarity to generally negative ideals in Asian cultures. It is unclear whether these themes are the cause, a result, or a little bit of both.

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Styling The Youth

Many men and women take pride in dressing themselves with utmost sensitivity to modern fashion cultures, whether their style is hipster-esque, hip-hop, business chique, or casual and classy. Dressing yourself for success every morning can boost confidence and even help define how you want to be portrayed and project where you want to go in life.

For young teenagers, the freedom to express his or her own style is a kind of right of passage. Many times teens’ fashion sense will sprout from pop-culture and teen idols they listen to on the radio or watch on tv. Sometimes the teen idols they are inspired by can sometimes be alarming, as it has been shown that the media children have access to is increasingly sexual. The internet, music, magazines, advertisements, and the like seem to become more and more bold in the way they portray the normalization of sexuality. While this much of this media was first exclusively aimed at adults, it is increasingly common for the market to incorporate hyper-sexualization at preteens and kids even younger.

As this hyper-sexualization continues to make its way into the homes of families, alarming images of young children seem to be popping up throughout the media.

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The model in this magazine spread is only age 13. She is adorned with heavy eye-makeup and lipstick, as well as high-fashion clothing and high-heels. The young model is portrayed not unsimilarly to a model who would be 20 years older. Is this image meant to be unsettling, or is it meant to portray some weird alternate universe norm?

If the age of a preteen wasn’t young enough to begin sexualization children, don’t worry, here’s your fix of cake-faced toddlers.

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Toddlers and Tiaras is a hugely popular tv program that features parents (mostly middle-aged mothers) who live vicariously through their children’s (infants and toddlers) accomplishments in the world of beauty pageants. It is one thing to teach your young son or daughter how to present themselves on a stage, through grace, elegance, and confidence. It is another thing entirely to play dress-up with you son or daughter in a many that would reflect what many would consider bad parenting. The image of the young girl on the cover of People magazine depicts a standard image of a toddler aged pageantry get-up. Thick makeup, spray tan, hair-extensions, proportionately short dress, and while not specifically shown in this image, the toddlers are many times told to wear fake teeth because their own full smile has not grown in yet.

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Many times the children are presented in a comic-relief, “kids say the darnedest things,” type of way. But many times, the children project alarming values that their parents have instilled upon them. These children seem to have a narrow grasp on what their own identities mean in terms of personal development and inner growth. They are instead told what they need to wear in order to “impress the judges.” Growing up in this type of environment is not exactly an ideal place for young girls to develop their mental and emotional health. When a parent encourages or even forces their child to step into the shoes of a hyper-sexualized, full grown woman, it is hard for them to be what they are, a child.

The Celebrity and the Suedo-Celebrity

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We watch them on tv, we follow them on twitter, and we gossip about them with our friends. The latest story on our favorite celebrities flood media every day, and consumers eat it up. Why? These celebrities, like Justin Timberlake and Johnny Depp, are just normal people, doing their jobs. Actors, musicians, tv hosts, and the like. They don’t live for media, but the media lives for them. Their level fame only depends on their level of performance and actively producing films, musics, and the like for consumers. When their songs and movies are of high quality, more consumers buy them, and therefor more people admire their talent, and the more people want to know about them and their lives. The media fills this gap in the market by providing stories on the surface lives of celebrities. This, as the equation of the celebrity makes perfect sense.

However, a new market has become quite prevalent in more recent years. The market for the Suedo-Celebrity has seen increasing numbers on celebrity blogs and tv shows. What is the Suedo-Celebrity? The suedo-celebrity has not produced any chart-topping records or made any award winning movies, yet consumers go mad when one gets married or divorced or buys a new pair of shoes or makes a fashion faux-pas. The only parameters for their celebrity-ness is the fact that they are a celebrity. What? This equation doesn’t make any sense.

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The the Kardashian family (above), there are a select group of people’s lives that are put into hyper-focus, as if they were a talented singer/actor. It almost seems as if, when the media got bored with celebrities, they decided to create their own. And thus, the suedo-celebrities were born. Why do consumers watch them? Because, if they are being advertised and marketed by the media, then their lives must be interesting and relevant. We don’t want to miss out on what our friends and coworkers have to say about them, so we have to keep up with each and every show. Are they interesting, relatable, intelligent, or talented people with charming personalities? It doesn’t matter, because they are marketed in such a way that consumers don’t mind who they are watching, as long as they are watching someone.

Suveillance in Entertainment

The cast of The Real World: EX-plosion

People are generally uncomfortable with the idea that they are being watched. Active surveillance is generally thought to be a suspicious activity, whether it’s by a stalker, a random video camera, or even the government. Even so, within the past decade, there has been a huge increase in demand for the media to produce reality television. Reality television is literally just surveillance of a person or a group of people in order to capture reactions with each other in certain situations and observe their daily lives.

The Real World is a reality show series that has been aired on MTV for 21 years, with it’s most recent season (EX-plosion) incorporating observations of reactions between ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s MTV’s longest running program and is associated with the creation of the reality genre on television. The show is meant to target young-adults by featuring concepts such as sexuality, romance, politics, substance abuse, and religion.

The main criticisms of highly viewed reality shows such as The Real World are such that one might not legitimately call them reality, as average people do not live in luxurious spaces, get taken to exotic locations for free, and party every night. Despite this obvious separation from reality, the question remains, why do so many people watch reality tv?

The fact is that people are generally curious as to how other people live, what other people think, what other people do, and if there are any similarities with their own personal lives. Reality television, even it is scripted or exaggerated, allows young viewers to connect and validate everything in the lives, ranging from their feelings, opinions, and interactions with other people to the clothes they wear and the food they eat. More recently, MTV has made an effort in include personal help for young adults with issues similar to those the subjects of the program face. The Real World: EX-plosion, in addition with the regular program, has provided support, help hotlines, and discussion groups for victims of violence, deaths of family members, issues with sexual identity, and unplanned pregnancies.

Among the criticisms of reality tv, it is hard to argue with the fact that even though many people are personally uncomfortable with being observed, they have no problem with being the one observing others.