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.

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