145: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

"Most media created for children serves as propaganda as well as entertainment, and one can work backwards from a culture's children's programming to find out how they want their young ones to act. Japan and the United States each have very different expectations of young girls, and by watching animated programs aimed at children, it's possible to divine each culture's ideal girl."

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Thanks for the article. As noted, it's quite hard to get direct comparisons but entertainment and propaganda have always walked hand in hand and it's interesting to compare how different cultures focus on different virtues.

I think that these shows dont just display values specific to their respective cultures in their view of wimmen but for the society as a whole.

Western people tend to value individualism while Eastern people value family and teamwork.

Infact when i think about the male cartoons i watched as a child they reflect the same values as the female ones. In Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon the main characters must rely on others to overcome problems, while in Batman, Superman, The Hulk, Spiderman ect ect are heroes because of their own strength. They arent alone, but ultimately they win because of their own ability.

So now that they can watch both Japanese and American cartoons, girls can choose to either be a mewling doormat or a belligerent thug.

Woo hoo.

Razzle Bathbone:
So now that they can watch both Japanese and American cartoons, girls can choose to either be a mewling doormat or a belligerent thug.

Woo hoo.

Sadly, this translates directly to mainstream entertainment culture, where women are often portrayed as either weak or evil. It's particularly unfortunate that this message carries over to childrens' entertainment too.

- Alan

I'd rather have my woman kicking butt of whoever whacked me that cry and go search for help from some stupid sources. After all, noone can completely rely on others and self-sufficiensy is a helpfull skill to have. Fuckin' japs with their crazy culture.

And Sailor Moon doesn't neet help because she "progresses" or "matures": villains in jap cartoons get tougher with every new episode. And unlike jap cartoons, that say "there is always someone bigger, better than you, so you must learn new powers", western heroes deal with problems with what weapons they have and don't, all of a sudden, draw some new bigger gun.

JcDent:
I'd rather have my woman kicking butt of whoever whacked me that cry and go search for help from some stupid sources. After all, noone can completely rely on others and self-sufficiensy is a helpfull skill to have. Fuckin' japs with their crazy culture.

Yeah, have your woman be the hero and scream insults at the grizzled thug who just mugged you. That'll teach 'em. Possibly and get a nice bullet in her face in the process. I myself would have my woman stay calm, run away like greased lightning, get out of harms way, and get some help. Western girls either tend to panic their panties, crumble to the floor and cry like the spoiled brats they are, or get tha macho girl style, go over hauling butt and play "who's yer daddy, mothaf****a", and get murderized to death by some psyco. Yeah, you can't completely rely on anyone, granted, but playing superman and REFUSE to rely on anyone when you are in trouble, that is just retarded.

And for the record, those "Fuckin' japs" are whooping your ass with their "crazy culture", right now. That country is a tiny speck compared to all the bigger (and supposedy "modern", whatever that means) countries. Yet they manage to influence the whole world. For example, technologically they are so far ahead of everyone else, that compared to them, we all still live in the stoneage.

And Sailor Moon doesn't neet help because she "progresses" or "matures": villains in jap cartoons get tougher with every new episode. And unlike jap cartoons, that say "there is always someone bigger, better than you, so you must learn new powers", western heroes deal with problems with what weapons they have and don't, all of a sudden, draw some new bigger gun.

Lemme translate that sentence for you. "there is always someone bigger, better than you, so you must learn new powers". That means, there are a wast universe out there not controlled by you, and your tries to simply will away troubles are futile. Yes, you must "learn new powers", in the meaning of learning to cope with new situations, learning to solve your new problems and learning to cope with new people...etc. That is LIFE, duh! Western heroes however, faced with problems of extrordinary magnitude, and solve them with superpowers, you JcDent, don't have.

There is another aspect here. Anime, while sometimes seems overy silly, brutal or bizarre, have a lesson in them, hidden under the layer of the obvious: no matter how hard you try, you can't win all by yourself, just because you want it very much. You need the support (or use of) others to succeed. These lessons require a certain logic to be understood. Western cartoon are as simple as it gets. The hero always wins, the villain always get punished, and the heroic effort and faith always triumphs. It comforms with the rest of the western "Brute force" thinking and problem solving: "If something doesn't work, beat it. If that doesn't work, shoot at it. If that doesn't work, bomb the hell out of it. Problem solved." And all that in the name of heroic self-sacrefice, faith and "the greater good". The lesson in western cartoons are blatantly obvoius, put in front of the audiance on a silver plate. There is no underlying lesson, it doesn't require any thinking whatsoever. That makes the western society seem like immoral thughs. All that Superman BS teches kids to be like that:
"If you fail at something, you just don't want it enough, you just don't will it enough, just try harder and harder until you succeed. If you don't, you are a failure, and you suck at life! There is no need for logical thinking, no need for strategy, no stepping back and thinking things through to find a solution, and most importantly, by no means should you ask someone more quailified to help you, because that is a sign of weakness." That is what western culture is about. Teaching people to be more cutthroat in their cutthroat world. That's retarded.

That's why I watch Naruto and not G.I. Joe...

This is a flawed comparison, I think, as the Powerpuff girls also have a strong element of parody about them. Much of the stuff they do is referential to other cartoons and comic books, taking the old, cliche plots and turning them upside-down.

A better comparison might be the series of 3D animated Barbie movies, which exhibit the 21st century Western ideal of a woman very strongly. In these movies, the lead character exhibits strength and compassion, sometimes becoming overwhelmed by her situation and crying, but for the most part realizing her inner strength and overcoming obstacles through determination and help from her friends. Still strongly individual, still very innocent in sexual tones (the main character frequently gets married, but there is never an instance where the main hero has to "protect" the heroine in the old Disney cartoon way.

Geez...having a 5-year old daughter really makes me too much of an expert in these things.

Also, you might look at the line of "Bratz" animated shows, the "Kim Possible" tv show, and others.

great article i must say though they could of used more western examples

tasq:
This is a flawed comparison, I think, as the Powerpuff girls also have a strong element of parody about them. Much of the stuff they do is referential to other cartoons and comic books, taking the old, cliche plots and turning them upside-down.

Good point. If you want to compare western cartoons with Japanese "Magical Girl" cartoons, you're better off with She-Ra or Jem and the Holograms, since they actually are MGs in western drag.

You could also compare with He-Man, who is the only Magical Boy in western cartoons.

I always saw much of the Powerpuff girls as taking the piss out of Anime girls. I do agree that a certain degree of teaching young girls to be strong and independent, of teaching them a take no crap attitude does seem to be a large part of western culture, this is offset by marketting clothes to them that make them look like prostitutes.

Nice article, the first names that popped to my mind were actually Kim Possible and Totaly Spies, but the Powerpuffs hold up largely the same (minus the Spies consumerism frenzy).

Shows created for boys generally play out the same in the East and the West though, either extreme super-powers or some random super move ends the villain after the main character gets angry/determined enough to see it through. So raging on super-hero shows doesn't really work. Teamwork in Yu-Gi-Oh? The others just stand by and gape as Yugi goes to town with his super-deck. And at the end we get a little sappy bit on how he couldn't have done it without the others, just like in GI-Joe and Mask or some such (not in super-hero shows, those are different).

The "strength" described as being the main lesson in Anime is actually what was traditionally held up as the goal for Western women until recently. Ask your grandmother (or your mother, if she was born in the early 50s or before) what a "good" girl was like when she was a kid, and what the ideal woman/wife was. The response will (with rare exception) talk about how "good" females were quiet, dependent, obedient, loyal to their family members even when abuse was involved, never fought, were to see being a wife/mother as the most wondeful thing to aspire to, and so forth.

They were taught that a female that wasn't that way naturally (and that didn't think it was wonderful) was defective, to be scorned/pitied, and that no guy would ever want to be with her. Girls that refused to fake it were ostracized & bullied (sometimes to the point of sexual assault), by their peers and often their family. So most did give in for survival; a lot of housewives became depressed, and handled it with alcohol & prescribed drugs (Valium in the '50s) by their doctors. The core difference between the two cultures is that American women started pushing our society to allow the option of being whatever they are naturally in the late 1900s, and from what I've read Japan is only now in the early stages of something similarly significant.

(Don't get me wrong -- the countless little boys that didn't match "macho" stereotypes didn't exactly fare well, either. Such boys were similarly rejected/attacked by their peers & families, of course... In addition, highly respected psych centers used varying degrees of reward/punishment to 'train' them what toys/behaviors to like or do, right down to smacking very young boys for picking up a teddy bear.)

As far as I know, the "Powderpuff Girls" are basically the same as all of the other superhero cartoons if you strip away what specific powers are involved, just with female protagonists. If what it is teaching is a problem, then it should be considered a problem regardless of what gender the hero happens to be. Regardless of how we get that way or what proportion it is, there *are* a lot of kids/people that don't match the old gender stereotypes & enjoy "hero" fantasies, and as a rule, most of us do grow out of them into reasonable adults.

These days, behavior & attitudes that make it harder to succeed as an adult in society are usually the extremes, and they tend to apply to both genders. There's a huge difference between how somebody prefers individuals from a group act, though, and what's the primary natural or healthy design for those people. We all have the right to have preferences and to pursue them -- the trouble is when we cross over to assuming what we like in others is the only healthy way to exist, and start trying to get other kids/adults to match our preferences.

"American magical girls put front and center the importance of kicking butt: They teach girls to push themselves, to be strong and confident, and to make a place for themselves in the world"

This is what magical girl anime USED to be about before it was ruined with the later cliches of the 80s and 90s. Try watching some Cutie Honey sometime.

I liked this article, but I think some of the comparisons don't necessarily hold up. Powerpuff Girls is hugely influenced by mahoushojou anime, and to a large extent is something of a parody thereof. It's also a comedy, while Japan's magical-girl stories are intended, most usually, as action dramas.

Dora also targets a much younger audience; it's basically a kid's educational cartoon, intentionally didactic, so I don't think that works at all in this context.

Lots of the more dramatic cartoons I watch in the West are, ironically enough, for boys. Wonder if that's part of the reason why anime took hold so strongly here? Anyway, there are some girls' toons I can think of that represent the article's point better: Nickelodeon's Kim Possible, for one, and that Sabrina the Teenage Witch animation (which, believe it or not, is still on).

Even if the examples used in the article are not the best, the point made is accurate -- that Western heroines are expected to be tough and assertive, while Eastern ones are strong because they persist despite being emotional and vulnerable. While not a cartoon, the wildly popular Hannah Montana is another good barometer for the value ideals for American tween girls.

Should be noted, too, that almost all mahoushoujou heroines undergo a sort of "maturation" -- the whiny, klutzy, lonesome crybaby usually ends up, several seasons later, elegant and graceful and in a stable relationship with the longtime crush, while there is usually an impression, of Western heroines, that they are "right" from the beginning.

Actually, come to think of it, a good many anime series, not just those about girls, feature a character eventually overcoming some significant personality obstacles, but I'm digressing.

I've been trying to be less confrontational lately, but I feel the uncontrollable urge to point out that for every Powerpuff Girls type show in American culture telling female children to go out there and kick ass (Kim Possible being a much better example, incidentally), there are about a dozen My Little Pony clones telling little girls something along the lines of, "Don't worry about doing tough things like, for example, standing up for yourself or doing what's right, just look cutesy and do sweet girlish things so boys will notice you."

What about women in Chinese movies? Sure we're talking about girls in Japanese & American shows, but what about the Chinese? When they play heroes, don't they display independence & individuality more like their American counterparts?

Back to subject, what if the two themes of American & Japanese cartoons, merge with or collide against each other? What if the heroine is trapped between these two values, that they can kick butt, yet at the same time must realise they must not use their powers for selfish reasons? That there's a price to pay for their defiance & independence, but have the courage to face it?

It's like we're falling back on this truism: "With great powers, come great responsibility"

Unlike most Western cultures, the Japanese place the general emphasis on cooperation. In face, most companies would prefer a team player rather than an independent worker. They also are struggling with a strong case of sexism. Just look at what little media has leaked into the US. Most of the females are pretty submissive if you take a thorough look.
Another thing to point out is the fact that the Powerpuff girls aren't even in grade school. Dispite their many more mature escapades, their emotional level often is reduced to that of a small child. If you tell a fragile little girl that she's weaker than her sibling, she's likely gonna throw a fit.
One of the best examples of this is the Rainy Day episode, in which they just play. Like children. It's one of the most accurate portrayals of child behavior in the media that I've ever seen.
~~~
On the other hand, the Deimashta! PowerPuff Girls Z! anime is...
Well, its like taking Halo and having the person who made Bejeweled remake it. Not only is it mediocre, its the wrong genre. Times ten.

[Blinks]

I think this paticular article is massively out of touch with reality. The truth is that I don't think that there is a single recurring propaganda message present in Girl's media in either country. Other than some basic morality/societal stuff about right and wrong.

Rather, the sad truth is that children's programming in both countries is intended to pimp products and toys based on the characters. Thus it's intended to appeal to what the children want and how they see themselves.

Without trying to start a huge arguement on feminism, the bottom line is that most girls are simply wired to be relatively submissive, value relation responses rather than rational ones, and similar things. Thus media directed at them reflects this. The more submissive girl's media simply caters to these desires and appeals to them by saying "hey, the way you are is okay, and you can be like this and still be a strong hero".

This represents the majority of Girl's media in both countries. Someone mentioned "My Little Pony" as an example in the US. But you also have the whole "Disney Princess" thing.

Understand however that this is not how it is for all girls, as normal as it is. You also have the so called "tomboys", "Grrrls" or whatever you want to call them. An image that I might add doesn't nessicarly appeal to all girls. However there are enough of them that in both Japan and the US you see stuff directed at them.

In the US you've got "Kim Possible", and various female super heroes and detectives in the US who seriously cater to that demographic more so than "The Powerpuff Girls" which are a joke as much as anything.

In Japan I'd argue that it's probably more common because Japan pretty much defined the whole "Girls With Guns" genere. Bubblegum Crisis (two versions), The Dirty Pair, Noir, etc... sure a lot of people say that's "Shonen" technically but still that stuff has a very large degree of appeal to girls with those instincts as you find out from Anime Fandom. The whole "Shonen"/"Shouju" distinction never having been perfect to begin with.

The point is that while many Feminists would flip to hear it, I think girls and guys are just a bit differant psychologically. Girls are not held back by propaganda, it's just thair instincts are differant on average. Some desire, and go on to, become very strong and assertive people in the masculine/feminine ideal. Others do not, or do not begin with those desires.

Media creators are out to make money, they are not part of some vast media conspiricy run by the goverment to engage in brainwashing. Such is ridiculous. They are out to make money, and they create their product to appeal to the audience, as opposed to trying to mould people in specific ways.

Like it or not, most little girls gravitate towards the dolls and have tea parties. Most little boys gravitate towards the guns and play war and such. It's not societal propaganda or brainwashing, that's simply how we're wired.

Article:
Sexuality of any kind is equally absent from Dora the Explorer

Wow, dear what your trying to equate just doesn't match up.
Lets find something a little more relative in the future.

Therumancer:
Media creators are out to make money, they are not part of some vast media conspiricy run by the goverment to engage in brainwashing. Such is ridiculous. They are out to make money, and they create their product to appeal to the audience, as opposed to trying to mould people in specific ways.

Like it or not, most little girls gravitate towards the dolls and have tea parties. Most little boys gravitate towards the guns and play war and such. It's not societal propaganda or brainwashing, that's simply how we're wired.

For as many interesting contrary ideas as this post inspires in its entirety, it is a mistake to generalize the role of children's media as a solely money-making venture. It-- like all other media--is both reflective and influential of the society that surrounds it. Our media shapes how we think, just as we shape what it portrays. A "vast media conspiracy run by the government" is indeed ridiculous, but not only is that not even vaguely insinuated by Dettmar, but government has nothing to do with it.

Rather, I think the question that should be asked goes deeper than both Therumancer's point and Dettmar's. I feel that Therumancer treats the entire scenario with too simple an outlook and too simple a set of terms, while Dettmar's points feel as though they are based on straightforward literary analysis instead of complex cultural analysis. Instead of examining the superficialities and general themes of American and Japanese girl's media and drawing conclusions about disparities in societal expectations, or making generalizations about how developing humans are "wired" and drawing the conclusion that there is a singular commercialized media interest at the expense of social impact, it would instead be far more illuminating to make a catharsis-mimesis comparison. Instead of assuming a particular media example in a certain society is indicative of how girls are expected to act in that society, perform a more thorough comparison between the example and the society that contains it as a whole, and then decide whether girls are supposed to mimic that example--or treat the example as an unrealistic and unattainable escape scenario in order to avoid the impulse to indulge in such detrimental tendencies within the society proper.

From there, instead of determining that Culture A believes girls should act as Archetype X and Culture B believes the contrary--tending instead towards Archetype Y--the right set of mind could lead to a conclusion concerning the specific mimetic or cathartic tendencies in girl's media in each culture, how they compare and contrast against one another in that regard, and what that means for the girls themselves in relation to their societies. Hopefully, that would instead result in a narrower conclusion with a much more logical dualism that is easier to rationalize and has an easier time integrating counterexamples, instead of something that attempts to be all-encompassing of a society's outlook on how girls should act.

The largest influence behind suggesting such a radical revision of Dettmar's initial topic is because I do not imagine that either American or Japanese societies are so simplistic that they do not have some idiosyncratic contradictions concerning girls' mannerisms and demeanors. As an American surrounded by American society, I can see that girls are constantly tugged in several directions by numerous formative influences. I definitely would not conclude that American girls are expected to "get mad and then get even" in any given situation; we might expect more sass and guts out of them than the Japanese might, but only when it is appropriate. When it is appropriate, we reinforce it with media examples that are crafted to encourage mimesis. When we would rather a woman shut up and make her husband a sandwich, the media might craft that same example in a way that encourages a cathartic reaction--through violence, perhaps (the movie Kill Bill comes to mind as a particularly fitting example).

tl;dr: good article, wrong topic.

Do you wonder why the powerpuff girls don't worry about sex and boys? Maybe because they are in KINDEGARTEN.

Indigo_Dingo:
I always saw much of the Powerpuff girls as taking the piss out of Anime girls. I do agree that a certain degree of teaching young girls to be strong and independent, of teaching them a take no crap attitude does seem to be a large part of western culture, this is offset by marketting clothes to them that make them look like prostitutes.

This, also i love the Police reference in the title of the article.

 

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