nenena: (Devi - Flaming Tara)
nenena ([personal profile] nenena) wrote2012-08-10 03:53 pm

FedEx Arrow Moment of the Day.

Self, why did you think it was a good idea to mainline a big chunk of Tezuka's available work in English in one afternoon at the library. Why did you think that.

Because damn does Tezuka have glaring, horrible issues with women.

I mean, holy shit. When you read MW and Swallowing the Earth and The Book of Human Insects and two volumes of Astro Boy and the two volumes of Princess Knight all at the same time, it is kind of impossible not to notice that Tezuka has some seriously misogynistic, fucked-up ideas about women. And those fucked-up, misogynistic ideas are present in an awful lot of his work.

Yes, even in Princess Knight. In which Sapphire's swashbuckling skills and heroism are repeatedly credited to the fact that she was accidentally given a boy's heart. (*barf*)

I remember reading Phoenix back in high school and being struck by the terrible characterization of Tamami, the heroine in Future: she has no personality traits except being in love with the hero. Her only dialogue consists of her stating repeatedly that she loves the hero. Even up to the point where she gives up her life for his sake: So pure! So selfless! Because she loves him! She's supposed to be the heroine of the story, a woman so compelling that her death drives the hero to madness and obsession, yet literally the only thing that we readers learn about her is that she loves the hero. A lot. That's not a character. That's a plot device. How can I sympathize with the hero's obsession with Tamami when I have no idea what attracted him to her in the first place? Was she funny, was she smart, was she kind, did she have any personality flaws? What did she care about in her life (other than the hero), what were her goals and dreams? What was she passionate about? I don't know any of that about Tamami, because she's not a character: she's a cypher.

To a certain extent I can forgive the fact that some key characters in a work like Phoenix are going to be archetypes rather than developed characters with actual depth. BUT when most volumes of Phoenix deliver complex, psychologically nuanced studies of male characters while repeatedly shoving female characters into those prop-like roles in which they have no personality traits whatsoever, a clear pattern starts to emerge. And it's not a pretty pattern. Also, like I said before: it's fine for some characters in Phoenix to be archetypes, but when the central focus of a particular volume is to make us sympathize with a male character's obsessed attempts to bring back his tragic lost love, we had better be shown something interesting and compelling about that love interest - something that makes us feel for the hero's loss - or else the whole damn story just rings hollow.

Meanwhile, contrasting Tamami and her many sisters in Tezuka's works (much like, sad to say, Uran in Astro Boy) to the selfish and highly sexualized women in MW/Swallowing the Earth/The Book of Human Insects just makes the virgin/whore dichotomy becomes impossible to ignore.

What's even worse is that the villainous women in Tezuka's works claim to be feminists - and indeed, Tezuka presents his stories about these women as if they're supposed to raising questions about sexism that women face in real life. Unfortunately, Tezuka largely fails in this respect because it's hard to take his "feminist critique" seriously when his "feminist" characters are slithering boogeywomen with forked tongues.

So now that I've noticed that ugly pattern in Tezuka's works, I can never unsee it. Ugh.
naoto_fuyumine: (Default)

[personal profile] naoto_fuyumine 2012-08-10 09:08 pm (UTC)(link)
I've read essays about the sexism in Tezuka's works before, and even then, I already knew some stuff, like the "boy's heart" plot in "Princess Knight".

I don't want to say that Tezuka was a product of his time, since there might have very well been mangaka in his era which were better with women than he was. But it is disheartening that his work is so sexist given that it is generally considered required reading. Plus, no matter how good a story, I enjoy it much less when the women in it are portrayed like this. :/
the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)

[personal profile] the_sun_is_up 2012-08-11 09:15 pm (UTC)(link)
I read Princess Knight and wasn't bothered by the sexism in it because hey, it was written in the 1950's and it'd be unfair of me to expect better. But I'm disappointed to hear that the sexist themes continued into his later works, and in ways that seriously screw up the quality of the text.
sagesoren: (:[)

[personal profile] sagesoren 2012-08-11 11:24 pm (UTC)(link)
I noticed it even in the small amount of things I've read of his. The first volume of Black Jack has a horrifying story about a woman having a hysterectomy and having to live as a man afterwards because losing her inner lady junk made her "stop" being a woman. (Furthermore, said woman was his love interest at the time, and her hysterectomy was pretty much treated as equivalent to death. She had it done and they couldn't be together anymore. She had to change her name and disappear. Wtf.)

Some publications of his works actually have warnings in the front stating that they were written years ago and that some depictions of certain races, people, etc. might be offensive. Eek.
anditfellfromthesky: (Default)

[personal profile] anditfellfromthesky 2012-08-13 08:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Honestly, I never noticed the misogyny in MW. Reading this has piqued my interest to go reread it now, though.
I can't remember names right now oh crap.
I do remember that the woman that was in love with the priest seemed kind of flat, but I figured she was there to show that Yuki (I think that was his name, the antagonist) was twisted and sadistic moreso than he had been shown to be. Not the best writing, but I didn't read it as being misogynistic.
Granted, I read this before I had a good grasp on sexism and REALLY don't remember it.

Reading the comments though, I'm not touching Black Jack now. Why does that kind of thing pop up so much? The whole "I have characteristics of the opposite sex or lack characteristics of MY sex so regardless of how I feel, I MUST live as that now." Ew.

Thank you for posting this! I'm thinking about Apollo's Song now and the other stuff I've read of his. It's making me think.
philippos42: (child)

[personal profile] philippos42 2012-08-15 07:45 am (UTC)(link)
I think I've said this before: I went through a Tezuka kick a little while back, and MW was the one I got on loan, started, went "ew," looked at the end, and just didn't even bother to continue. It didn't seem like it had any redemption or anything.

The Phoenix books are a mixed bag, but I suppose you have a point that Tezuka largely favors the male characters' points of view.

Well, Nostalgia is largely through a female point of view. That character pretty much goes nuts early and repeatedly, but she's not the only protagonist in the series to do so (and the really big problems with Nostalgia are at the end, in my opinion).

Strange Beings has a female protagonist, but it's a shorter work and the character not that deeply developed.

Hm. Oh, well, just makes me want to read some Azuma Kiyohiko or Takahashi Rumiko. :D Or Swan--how far into that did I get again?
Edited 2012-08-15 07:49 (UTC)