In the twenty-fifth episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher Olson and I welcome friend of the podcast, Charley Reed, to discuss one of the most influential anime feature films of all time, Akira (1988). Charley is a tremendous fan of the anime and manga, as is Chris, and we wanted to talk bout the film and it’s impact on global pop culture in … Continue reading Pop Culture Lens on Akira
Report by CarrieLynn D. Reinhard, Roskilde University (March 6, 2009) of the Quantitative Results (This paper was presented at the Danish scifi convention Fantasticon to discuss the nature of superheroes.) A series of quantitative and qualitative questions were asked of individuals around the world on: whether or not certain characteristics defined superheroes; creating their own superheroes; speaking about the first and most famous superheroes; labeling … Continue reading Making Sense of Superheroes: Awareness of superhero genre conventions around the world
[This is the final part of the women studies paper I wrote on hentai. You can find Part 1, on the definition of hentai, here, and Part 2, on the comparison of hentai to live action pornography, here. And, once again, the material covered in this part is strictly NSFW.]
While it may not be as prevalent or have the same tradition in our society that live action pornography does, there is no mistaking that hentai is here and is accessible, highly so if we consider the role of the Internet in its dispersion. We have seen in this essay that its similarities to live action pornography mean it could have similar impacts on consumers, and these impacts may be further influenced by the simulacrum nature of hentai girls and the fantasies they offer. Even if these texts are read as humorous, their situatedness in our society, in our public discourse that attempts to both normalize sex and keep it hidden, suggests that even harmless appearing cartoons can reinforce the ideology of male domination if it remains unchallenged.
[In part 1 of this 2006 women studies paper, I discussed what hentai is and how it has grown in consumption in the United States; so if you are first entering this report via this part, you should pop on over there first. In this part of the report, I compare hentai to live action pornography. Again, this is absolutely rated NSFW.]
Is it different than live action pornography?
Theories of what is pornography began to crystallize in the 1970s due to the work of American feminists and their analysis of how women are represented on film. In particular is the work of Laura Mulvey in theorizing how positioning and objectifying women in film serve the scopophilic male gaze that receives pleasure by its voyeuristic and yet controlling gaze of women. Pornography is largely held as an “art form” that objectifies the female figure, positioning women as submissive sexual objects presented for the sole purpose of providing pleasure to men, whether in the narrative with the women or in the audience consuming the narrative. Women are fragmented by the camera or the comic panels so that the focus for the viewer is on specific body parts to elicit arousal. Oftentimes women are being dominated by the male, in a heterosexual coupling, or by a masculinized woman in a homosexual coupling. Regardless of whether a man is actually present in the frame or not, by depicting women as objects, as dehumanized and subjected to a dominant other’s desires, they rendered powerless, denied agency, and thus not a threat to the presumed male viewer, who is left to gave over the spectacle without anxiety of being discovered, castigated, and ultimately metaphorically castrated.
(This paper, and the accompanying presentation I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way, were done in 2006 for a women’s studies course at Ohio State University. Some of the facts may be a bit outdated, some have been updated, but I still stand by the interpretation of the texts. And, warning, this posting will include illustrated examples of pornographic cartoons, so it is definitely rated NSFW. Part 1 here discusses the subject matter; Part 2 compares hentai to live action pornography; Part 3 considers the ramifications of hentai.)
(From a 2004 paper on a cross-cultural examination of the superheroine)
In their article on children and role models, Anderson and Cavallaro (2002) say that superheroes are “larger-than-life symbols of American values and ‘maleness’.” (p. 162). From a socialization point of view, is there reason to be concerned about the ‘superhero’-centeredness of a segment of the American pop culture to which many children are exposed? And if this is the case in America, where many believe women are on a more equal alignment with men, what is the situation in other societies, such as Japan, where inequality is perceived to be more common? Both the United States and Japan have a segment of their pop culture devoted to fantastic stories about individuals with superhuman powers. These stories tell of heroes with strengths that children may identify with in the hope becoming as successful as these characters (Anderson & Cavallaro, 2002). It then becomes imperative to understand how these heroes are portrayed. Are the women in media, which is directed towards tomorrow’s women, being portrayed as strong and independent rather than as victims and damsels-in-distress?
I want to start off by taking what may be a radical position on how I am conceptualizing film or really any media text. I’m going to take the position of stripping these texts of their accoutrements, designer labels like “entertainment” versus “new” or “high culture” versus “low culture,” and instead I am going to focus on an underlying genetic structure: the text as an information source, whereby the information could be put to any use the user requires of it. With that being said (and understanding I may have to defend, amend, and possibly sublate my position), I am interested in how the user of the text (in this case, the spectator of the film) understands and uses the text.
I state all of this in order to interrogate how the Western spectator may understand the information presented in a text like Ugetsu, which relies on Japanese conventions and intertexuality in creating the narrative and the structure of the portrayal.