Some people tend to get so caught up in how a character looks (portrayed through design and cinematography) that they overlook what’s truly important: their personality and actions. A lot of assumptions can be made of a creator based off of, well, what they create. While some things may very clearly feel like they were meant for some sort of purpose (like gratuitous titillation), these assumptions cannot become anything more than that without an overt, conscious admittance from the people who made it themselves. Not to mention that it would need to be taken to the Nth degree for a creator to actually confess to propagating some sort of negative world view through their work, thereby justifying any belief that there was wrongdoing involved in the making of any particular piece of art.
(Brief side note: I’ve decided to remove “gratuitous titillation” from the title of this because I feel I’ve gotten a bit far from that particular discussion. That being said, I still believe most of this and my previous post last week can easily be applied to the topic of “gratuitous titillation”.)
But back to personality and the actions of a character, IF assumptions were to be made of a creator through their creations, I think they’d be better formulated when based off the interactions of the character rather than how they look. In I’ve Always Liked You, a subpar anime film that I reviewed a while back, there is a character who confesses his love for another character and asserts what he wants from her as his girlfriend. In the moment, he says that he wants her to make him lunch every day. The film gives absolutely no context as to why he would want this from her, and so it’s ripe for assumption that he’s just thinking of typical gender roles when he decides to fall for this girl. THIS says a whole hell of a lot more about a creator than any sort of character model, any girl in a compromising position during a trip to the hot springs. Something “sexy” or “provocative” might show you what a creator believes is attractive, but the nonchalant interactions of characters within a narrative tells you what the creator believes to be socially acceptable. That is, if we’re assuming.
Then there’s this idea that real issues in society should be addressed in art, and that not addressing them is a waste of time. While there is a value in creating characters that defy convention and directly confront social norms, that doesn’t inherently devalue the things in life that don’t. Art does not need to touch upon social issues to have worth. There are plenty of important themes to be had in storytelling that can relate and greatly impact our own personal lives, be it a coming of age story where watching someone else find their place in life helps us come to terms with our own, or perhaps a story about becoming an artist and dealing with the wave of doubt that comes with being stacked up against those of immeasurable talent. Then there’s good old revenge tales about destroying yourself or learning to let things go, and so on.
Personally, I believe the best way to get a message across is to act like you’re not even sending one. Now, let’s use gay equality as an example. I could write a story about certain characters fighting for gay rights, but that doesn’t really stress the issue to any opposition that gay equality is a good thing. It merely shows that gay equality is a thing worth fighting for. On the other hand, if I were to write a story in a fictional world where gay rights aren’t an issue and they’re just treated like any other person, that spreads the idea that it’s okay to be a homosexual without a blatant confrontation of the other side. It’s simply showing people what you believe to be right, rather than telling them.
But some believe that outright addressing the issue is the best course of action (in terms of storytelling), which is fine too. However, I would suggest that the best way to accomplish this may be better done through another medium of storytelling rather than animation. Animation is visual idealism, and if you want to express REAL societal issues it would probably be best to do that through forms that appear more realistic (you know, like regular film). To strive for visual realism is counterintuitive when it comes to animation, and when the main focus of your story is to overtly address a REAL issue, it’s really just a waste of effort. That being said, it’s not like you can’t tell something about society through symbolization and allegories.
And if you still feel like there are pertinent issues you care about not being touched on in anime, I encourage you to look for what you want in other forms of storytelling. Anime doesn’t need to become more diverse, as it is just one of the diverse methods of telling a story. And even so, I think there’s plenty to be enjoyed AND plenty to learn from this particular kind of entertainment. What’s important is that you support those that create what you believe, but don’t chastise those who don’t. You’re not going to make any friends by jumping to the worst conclusion.
Crap, I still haven’t talked about objectification! Well, I’ll save it for another time. Thank you very much for reading and supporting me in my endeavors as I continue to get very off topic from the original discussion of fanservice. I’ll wrap back around to it eventually.