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Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Downside of Cute

One more downside of some anime is the preoccupation with little girls in short skirts, or the "doll look". Now, I really do not like quoting the Daily Mail, but this article points out a problem I have guessed myself from the Japanese popularity of "cute" or "kawaii" in Japanese. This cult of trying to look very young and very cute, like a child, and even speaking like one, in imitation of anime heroes, both male and female. I have written on Japanese narcissism in January here on this blog and now, I think the dress and make-up reveal how far this cultural illness has gone. At first, it did seem like being cute was, well, just cute. But, now it has the horrible characteristics of androgyny as well as an inclination for child-sexual attraction. Having said all this, in European countries I have visited in the past year, the Japanese young women have not only been the most modest, but very stylish in retro clothes of high quality. They also act more feminine than their European peers.

Here is a link to the Mail article. I must confess, however, that I did have a Hello Kitty toaster, but all who know me, really, really, know I am not cute.

1 comment:

Supertradmum said...

I think there are a couple matters that bear keeping in mind:

1. Japanese (men and women both) tend to fall into extremes of femininity or masculinity. There is never such a thing as "gender neutral". Much of this has to do with the language which differs strongly between feminine and masculine forms of speech. Kawaii culture is often simply an expression (or marketing) of that extreme femininity, while there is an equally prevalent Samurai culture of high speed trains, magnificent architecture, and competitiveness that expresses the extreme masculine. While Japan has a deep tradition of subtlety of social expression, it has a deeper tradition of profound emotion - it is not unusual to see a fistfight in parliament, or a man weeping in public.

2. The Japanese are perfectly aware of this fact that they love the childish, and some contemporary Japanese popular art pokes fun at this. Once recent anime features an ingenious "Professor" who makes sentient robots. She is also about 8 years old and would live on snacks and read manga all day - were it not for the admonishments of one of her more sensible creations. The Professor is a critique of Japan - as brilliantly intelligent, magnificently creative, and absurdly infantile.

3. Captain Tylor from the "Musekinin Kansho Tylor" which we watched is a similar critique. The Captain is a Japanese everyman - naturally cunning, innocent, good-hearted, yet completely irresponsible. He is contrasted with the old imperial Japanese ideal, Lt. Yamamoto, who is consumed by duty and has to find his heart. This sharp contrast between the not-so-past feudal Japan and modern democratic Japan is still a daily reality for many Japanese.

4.. Japanese culture has from the earliest times has had what Fr. Isaac might call an "irrealist" mode of thinking and artistic expression. It is perhaps the first culture to attempt to depict nothingness. Traditional Japanese art is minimalist and ideological, like modern western art. Of course, the impressionist movement was heavily influenced by Japanese art. Similarly, western Realism has had a huge impact on Japanese society, which is radically apparent in the postwar anime and manga sphere, which is full of western "practical fantasy" such as princes, dragons, and faeries acting out morality plays. Kawaii is a polite derivative of Greek ideals - celebration of the physical form, a frank but positive view of humanity, and the benevolent leadership of fate (or grace!) - as much as it is an organic progression of Japanese ideals.

Remember Ayu from Kanon, who uses "Boku" for "I", a masculine form - probably from talking with boys more than girls as a child. Yuuichi suggests she use "Atashi" which is feminine, or "Watashi" which is a more modern, gender-neutral construction. She says she doesn't like these and so Yuuichi teases her by suggesting she use "Ore" - a medieval super-masculine form used for oration and commands. She tries it and the combination of her using "Ore" with her petite size and high voice is so absurd that Yuuichi reels over in laughter. Ayu, like Japan, is outwardly cute and feminine, but inwardly tomboyish, independent, and assertive.

from Anonymous