Whenever I think about anime humour, the first thing that occurs to me is that it is very often self-deprecating. This is especially noticeable whenever a joke centers around a male character. He may be a brainless pervert, a loser geek, clueless about girls (and in many cases, all of the above), and he will often be teased by the female characters, sometimes even physically abused in a slapstick manner.
I’m not going to pretend that anything about “anime humour” is unique. If you’ve ever watched a Japanese variety show, you’ll understand that the tendency towards exaggeration and silly jokes is hardly confined to anime. And, of course, the gender bias in slapstick is a common media trope in general.
Still, I did get to thinking about how “anime humour” and “fandom humour” overlap. It certainly makes sense that fans of anime would engage in self-deprecating humour themselves. You can see this in words like “waifu” or the common fandom joke: “Your favorite anime is shit!”
In general, people use self-deprecating humour to create an aura of approachability. There’s really nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s good to have a sense of perspective and the ability to laugh at yourself.
Self-deprecating humour can also be indulgent and self-serving, though. In the fandom context, it can come across as a self-defense mechanism, a way of deflecting outside criticism while carving out a distinct identity for oneself. By making fun of themselves, fans establish themselves as an in-group. Outsiders can only laugh at them, not with them.
I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately. Specifically, I have been thinking about how gender politics relate to the anime fandom. It’s widely acknowledged that otaku culture is sexist and that the vast majority of anime marginalise women by objectifying or “Othering” them. But what about the individual people involved? Ordinary people like you and me who don’t necessarily think women are inferior to men but still involve themselves with anime culture anyway?
So I got to thinking… am I sexist for being an otaku? Am I a big, fat hypocrite for calling myself a “feminist” while also calling fictional female characters my waifus and buying merchandise featuring anime girls in sexual poses? This isn’t just a matter of enjoying ecchi anime – this is stuff I actually do, even if I intend it jokingly or ironically. Lately, I have been doing some hard thinking about what it means to be a “feminist” and what it means to be an “otaku” and I wonder if the two are mutually exclusive.
To entice you to read this post, here is a picture of two guys kissing from one of my favourite shows.
It is commonly assumed by anime fans that the Harem Protagonist, the audience stand-in for socially inept Japanese males, has shit taste in women. Close analysis of any given harem anime reveals that a vastly superior Best Girl is ordinarily present within the harem framework. A question that presents itself is why Harem Protagonists do not simply bang the Best Girl when she clearly displays strong amorous desire for his dick. This systematic study of harem anime shows that Harem Protagonists are genetically encoded with bias towards girls with severe IQ deficit.
… Face it, the fujoshi would be all over it.
Fun fact: I know a guy in real life who is basically a harem lead character. For reasons which continue to baffle me to this day, he is insanely popular with girls despite putting zero effort into talking to them and having the emotional radar of a sack of potatoes.