Oh girl comics, why must you normalize being a complete asshole?

Read the latest Hana to Yume today.

Skip Beat: I don’t read it, because I read the beginning and it had that infuriating gratitude toward assholes thing going on. Because really, the only way you can be motivated to do something with your life is to be treated like absolute dirt by a huge asshole so that you then want to prove something to them. HEALTHY!

Voice actress comic: A girl goes to voice actor school. I stopped reading as of this issue because I am sick of her betting the farm on ridiculous arbitrary goals set by assholes. I am also sick of the asshole she is bound to fall in love with.

Gakuen Alice: I don’t read it, so I am not sure how much it involves falling in love with guys who are complete assholes.

Kami-sama hajimemashita: I love Tomoe, but he is totally an asshole. Just not enough of one that I hate his guts like the asshole in Monochrome Kids (which was not running this issue).

Gekkan Nakatoba: Didn’t read because I don’t read comedies unless they actually make me laugh. Not intended as a judgment, just doesn’t meet my tastes.

Ore-same Teacher: Masaomi is a huge asshole. But to be fair, he was not in this chapter very much!

Chotto Sekai Made: One-off comic about a girl tutoring a bunch of foreign exchange students at Japanese. The Swiss guy is a huge freaking asshole and also the love interest. DUH. I am getting the impression that Swiss people are jerks. Nooo! A prejudice!

Love So Life: Gee, a comic about taking care of little kids! Boring! The kids need to have superpowers and transform into giant cat robots or something.

Shiawase Kissa San-chou-me: Don’t read, therefore cannot judge asshole content.

Kyou mo ashita mo: It seems the only way to teach people how to draw manga or whatever is to be really really mean and tell them they are completely pathetic wastes of space. Then they will be motivated! Yeah, I’m putting this one in the asshole column.

Lovesick: I got bored with this a couple issues ago. But I don’t specifically recall any characters being raging assholes.

Jiu Jiu: This is awesome because it has subservient demon wolf boys. This issue also features some kind of vampire prince, who is a total asshole, of course. But he isn’t a love interest or authority figure or in any superior position over the protagonist, so I hesitate to actually tally this one on the asshole column.

Grimoire and O’Toole: I am sure I am getting the title wrong but that is what it sounds like. Anyway, the time demon guy is an asshole. Asshole column +1.

My point is that every single comic I read except one (and it still had an asshole guy whom the heroine was nice to) in this magazine (and also some that I didn’t read and some that were taking a break this issue) featured a complete asshole as love interest and/or authority figure (sometimes there are separate love interests and authority figures who are both assholes) and pretty much the only option heroines have in dealing with assholes is to suck it up and work extra super hard on the slim hope that the asshole will be impressed enough with the results to tone down his assholishness by a tiny fraction which of course then causes the heroine to be totally elated and/or fall madly in love with him.

I think shounen comics have this problem too sometimes (or a similar one — not so much with the female authority figures there, so I don’t think there’s much falling in love with your asshole superior, but there is certainly the “being treated like dirt is the only/best motivator” philosophy on occasion), but not with the saturation that shoujo comics do. It is depressing. I almost hope the comics that make this magazine worth reading for me would hurry up and end so I could stop buying it.

Also note that there are no consequences for being an asshole if you are a guy! Everyone will adapt to it because that’s just the way you are! (I have totally experienced this in real life, too.) But if you are a girl, you will be shunned by everyone and hated and despised, because your first duty is to everyone else’s feelings, especially the assholes whose feelings you have hurt by being adversely affected by their assholish treatment of you. At least, if you are the protagonist. Sometimes other girls can get away with being assholes — to the protagonist.

Of course, a perfect person would be able to work under any asshole without feeling threatened, because she would have perfect judgment and therefore know exactly how much of an asshole he was. But for real people who might actually put some faith in the opinion of their superior or lover, desperate resentment is not really the number one desirable attitude for productivity.

I wouldn’t mind if romances about falling in love with total assholes happened occasionally in the context of “Let’s take a totally unlikely love interest and try to make a feasible story about falling in love with him!” But really, 90% of (male) love interests are complete assholes. (Note: that is one of the 47% of statistics that are completely made up. But you get the point — it is a very strong trend.) It is not original or interesting! It does give the message that there is something wrong with you if being verbally abused does not make you all twitterpated though. (Okay, not really. It’s the slight lull in abuse that makes you twitterpated. What’s totally abnormal is if you consider a constant stream of verbal abuse to be a turn-off. YOU PERVERT.)

Oh! Synchronicity! Girl-comics are a vehicle for corporate brainwashing, I guess.

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5 Responses to “Oh girl comics, why must you normalize being a complete asshole?”

  1. Keathwick Says:

    Everything you say here is so very, very true. And Skip Beat! is the quintessential “be grateful to people who were mean to you” manga. I mean, the heroine and her young female friend eventually throw a “gratitude party” to THANK the aforementioned assholes (as well as the few non-assholes who are also overly nice to the assholes, for whatever reasons). There’s also the problem that the spunky heroine keeps thinking about how much better a person she was back when she was an absolute doormat, and keeps trying to retrain herself to be a doormat and getting upset when she fails in her duty of offering doormatness to the assholish guy in love with her.

    Unfortunately, the darn thing is also ridiculously addictive and one of the few comics I have ever seen that represents acting as a craft in any kind of meaningful way, so I expect I will eventually succumb and read more of it. Though at first the main thing that brought suspense to the title was my naive hope that one of the guys who was mean to her would eventually man up and apologize . . . but if that happens, I now suspect it will come on the last page of the last issue, or something.

    Wow, I think the very title Skip Beat now has the power to activate my rant autopilot feature. Oh well, at least it’s not as rapist-friendly as Hana Yori Dango.

    Assholishness from a male lead / love interest, etc. never bothers me as much when the heroine herself is the authority figure, so yay for Kamisama Hajimemashita, at least.

    And thank you, thank you, thank you for the tip about subservient wolf boys! I’ve added Jiu Jiu to my unlicensed femdom manga list. Hurrah! Femdom strikes again!

    • cicadasinmay Says:

      I am glad I quit Skip Beat after one volume. I don’t think the first volume was really that bad, so I thought I could have been overreacting, but it sounds like it just took that direction and ran with it into the depths of damnation.

      I have read a couple volumes of Hana Yori Dango, but it wasn’t much of a priority because it isn’t really one of my genres (no talking animals, no flashy spaceships). I would be interested to hear about its rapist-friendliness! But rapist-friendly is really par for the course. Even in comics I enjoy, the relationships tend to be rather screwed up in a rapist-friendly manner.

      I expect they use assholishness and/or incorrigibility on the part of the subordinate in an uneven power balance in order to restore some equality to the relationship (although the very strong tendency for the male love interest to be an asshole also plays a role, I am sure). But I think there is definitely a trope of a quiet and submissive female love interest, at least in the harem genre, and I don’t think it really has a male counterpart. You get quiet, serious guys sometimes in reverse-harems but they don’t have the same complete lack of assertiveness, and maybe occasionally masochists played for comedy (not so much in harems, and they don’t have lack-of-assertiveness either), and that’s the closest I can think of at the moment. (Not that I find that trope particularly appealing in the first place.)

      • cicadasinmay Says:

        Oh, correction: there were some pretty unassertive guys in (G-rated female audience romance game) Harukanaru Toki no Naka de. I liked them too. But I think it’s more widespread/extreme in female characters — I’m thinking of those characters who stutter and mumble so much that it is a lot of work to understand their dialog. (And hey, communication requires effort on both sides, but that is real life. Media is generally supposed to make it easy for the consumer.) Oh, I found an example, and not even in a harem show: Hinata from Naruto. (I actually like Hinata because I relate to her, except for the way she has always idolized Naruto, which annoys me, because by doing so she rejects her entire character.)

  2. Keathwick Says:

    I always found Hinata rather adorable, but Naruto has a rather pervasive tendency to make sure that its female characters never really get to succeed in any meaningful way, even while everyone stands back and talks about how “strong” a female character is–as they watch her fail (or show some specifically “female” strength not related to action). Not that that’s new for shounen fighting manga/anime. Which is a shame, because I like shounen fighting shows. At least the fighter-girl in Flame of Recca can competently fight female enemies (or she can in the early arcs; I’ve never finished out the series).

    Oh, Hana Yori Dango. Spoiler alert: At one point, one of the main male “love interest” characters actually gets a bunch of guys to attack the female lead. It’s made pretty clear that it would have been a rape scene. Someone else rescues her. I have heard from someone who likes the series that he proves his not-rapistness later by backing off from raping her outright (and why waas he trying in the first place?), but as far as I’m concerned, setting up a girl to be raped pretty much makes you a rapist. Hana Yori Dango also has what is in some ways the even more disturbing trope of parents who are presented as “good people” even as they basically sell their daughter, because of course it’s understandable that you would ignore your own daughter’s feelings and set her up to get repeatedly abused as long as you thought it would lead to her marrying into money.

    The main character actually has a pretty engaging personality, which makes it that much harder to watch her take truckloads of abuse and repeatedly fall for guys who don’t deserve her.

    Some of the most sympathetic male characters in romance stories tend to be the leads in non-harem (or not-quite harem), non-erotic shounen romance titles. Which are few and far between, but which constitute a genre I seem to by and large enjoy. I cannot think of too many examples at the moment, unfortunately, so maybe I’m imagining a “trend” where only “exceptions” (to the norm) exist.

    Male more-or-less romantic leads I actually like can be found in the shounen titles: Toradora!, Suzumiya Haruhi and Karin. And in Hayate no Gotoku! (despite the harem) and Pretty Face (despite the harem and overall sexism). (Then again, the “male” lead in Pretty Face isn’t really sympathetic until he takes on a female appearance.) I’m sure that there are others, but they escape me right now.

    • meerkat Says:

      Yeah, Naruto is pretty frustratingly almost there with showing female characters as competent as the male characters. It turns out girls are only good for healing people, really.

      I have heard good things about Suzumiya Haruhi, but when I tried watching it there was this one character who just existed to be sexually harrassed by Haruhi and it was really annoying. I do like Hayate though.

      Re: “good people” selling their daughter, well, remember that in shoujo manga, the protagonist has to view everyone as totally wonderful people. That’s just politeness! That’s why they view even the most assholish behavior as a wonderful favor the person has done them.

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