October 20, 2013

Soshoku danshi — "grass-eating men" — "a heterosexual man for whom relationships and sex are unimportant."

"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.


Balfegor said...

The character in Otomen isn't supposed to be the comic relief -- he's the main romantic lead. The gap between his public image and his private hobbies is a source of humour, but the character himself isn't supposed to be a clown character.

Glen Filthie said...

Hmpfffff. You may have point.

I for one can no longer find much fictional material worth reading or viewing. Being and old world man, I have nothing in common with homosexuals, bisexuals or other gender confused types that seem to dominate the literary and Hollyweird scene these days.

It's not for me, I'm afraid. I would rather drag my knuckles and grunt than eat grass and play with Barbie dolls.

somefeller said...

All Japan needs to do is import some Internet Tough Guys from America. Then all their problems will be solved.

Rae said...

It should be noted that tea ceremony, flower arranging and calligraphy were all passtimes of the samurai. Perhaps these soshoku dans hi have rediscovered their own culture.

Black Knight said...

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects!

- Robert Heinlein

Are there really any exclusively masculine or feminine skills?

elkh1 said...

Another eyeball-licking hoax?

Mitch H. said...

I dunno if the TV series is radically re-engineered, but the original comic was aimed squarely at a teenaged girl demographic. The male lead was designed to appeal to a female audience - classic alpha-male shell hiding sensitive beta-male core sort of feminine wish-fulfillment rubbish. I am not the most plugged-in to the current otaku trends, but I can't believe that that emasculated dullard is in any way a hit among the fanboy set, or any other.

(I do read shoujo, but I bounced, hard, off Otomen. Boring high school story about boring high-schooler characters.)

Peter said...

So, the end of our species will not be the Bomb, or Climate Catastrophe, or a terminally polluted environment.

It will be the sex robot that can capture a man's attention better than any human female. Or perhaps a wire in the brain that enables one to disappear at any time into a fantasy better than anything real could possibly be?

This is how the world ends- not with a bang or a whimper, but with a squeal of joy ...

KLDAVIS said...

Wore a goatee?

I'm not sure one wears a goatee anymore than one wears a handbag.

Coweatsman said...

RE: Black Knight's comment.

Robert Heinlein seems to have had an unrealistic expectation of what a human being should be. His "human being" is no more real than a perpetual machine.