"The phenomenon emerged a few years ago with the airing of a Japanese manga-turned-TV show. The lead character in Otomen ('Girly Men') was a tall martial arts champion, the king of tough-guy cool. Secretly, he loved baking cakes, collecting 'pink sparkly things' and knitting clothes for his stuffed animals. To the tooth-sucking horror of Japan's corporate elders, the show struck a powerful chord with the generation they spawned."
This comes from the article "Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?," which I linked to earlier today for some different purposes. I wanted to break this out separately. I may not be understanding the Japanese phenomenon accurately, but I'm interested in the way a television show can begin with a character who is supposed to be laughed at but who ends up inspiring some viewers, who legitimates and activates feelings that they have about themselves, and shows them new ways to behave, openly and without shame.
The example that occurs to me in American culture is Maynard G. Krebs, the best friend of the main character on the old Dobie Gillis show (which was on from 1959 to 1963). It was assumed that viewers would identify with Dobie. That's why he was the main character. He dressed and acted like a conventional teenaged boy of that time. He wanted girlfriends, and he had struggles with his parents and teachers, but he mostly tried to satisfy them even as he pursued his overarching goal: relationships with females.
The Maynard character wasn't supposed to call American teenagers into another way of living. Maynard (played by Bob Denver) was less good-looking, dressed grubbily, wore a goatee, was dumb about or uninterested in a lot of typical teenager things. He wasn't interested in girls. He rejected work and other conventions of middle class American life. His only interest was jazz, and he was — we were expected to understand — a beatnik. But we didn't fulfill the expectation that we would read this character as a clown. We got the idea: We could live in a new way.
Blah blah blah... we became hippies.