A common misconception about anime cartoons amongst uninitiated audiences in majority-English-speaking countries is that anime characters are drawn to look ‘White’ rather than ‘Asian’. First of all, neither of terms are factual fixed categories - they are social constructions. That is, the meaning attached to race, whether ‘White’, ‘Black’, ‘Asian’ and so on, and the groups classified under these labels, change from one society to another, depending upon culture, time and place.
In an excellent exploration of the social construction of race in popular culture, sociologist Julian Abagond shows that Japanese animators do not, in fact, draw anime characters to personify their aspiration to be ‘white’. Instead, these characters reflect the animators’ own cultural biases - which is that Japanese people are the prototype model of the ‘default human being’. Abagond writes in Sociological Images:
If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.
The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.
Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian”. They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.
You see the same thing in America: After all, why do people think Marge Simpson is white? Look at her skin: it is yellow. Look at her hair: it is a blue Afro. But the Default Human Being thing is so strong that lacking other clear, stereotyped signs of being either black or Asian she defaults to white…
When you think about it there is nothing particularly white about how anime characters look:huge round eyes – no one looks like that, not even white people (even though that style of drawing eyes does go back to Betty Boop).
- yellow hair – but they also have blue hair and green hair and all the rest. Therefore hair colour is not about being true to life.
- small noses – compared to the rest of the world whites have long noses that stick out.
- white skin – but many Japanese have skin just as pale and white as most White Americans…
Some Americans, even some scholars, will argue against this view of anime. They want to think the Japanese worship America or worship whiteness and use anime to prove it. But they seem to be driven more by their own racism and nationalism than anything else.
As Abagond’s analysis shows, perceptions of race and gender influence how people ‘read’, understand and draw meaning from animation. For Japanese animators, their characters reflect their view of normality - that everyone in their creation is Japanese (or Korean or Chinese or wherever the anime is produced). Audiences that have an uncritical view of race and Whiteness presume that ‘Asian’ drawings should look ‘Asian’. Yet this term - Asian - means different things to different groups. In Japan, the category of Asian is not very meaningful. Instead, mainstream Japanese culture portrays the Japanese people as the ‘default human being’. Gender and class also affect how this default human being is imagined (usually male, affluent and lean).
Just all art forms embody the biases and taken-for-granted cultural assumptions about the world, what audiences see in anime drawings are mediated by the ethnocentrism of the animators and audiences. Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s group is superior to others. Viewers who think Japanese anime characters are trying to look ‘White’ are therefore viewing this artform through ethnocentrism.
Image of Jubei from Ninja Scroll from Jinni.
The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily so they can meet their quota of getting FREE FOOD donated every day to abused and neglected animals in their shelters.
It takes less than a minute (only about 15 seconds actually) to go to their site and click on the purple box titled, ‘Click Here to Give - it’s FREE!’. Every click gives about .6 bowls of food to sheltered dogs. You can also click daily!
Keep in mind that this does not cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising. [via.]
Go to the website here.
God’s Gonna Cut You Down || A southern gothic mix
The Lord’s gonna come for your first born son
His hair’s on fire and his heart is burning
So go to the river where the water runs
Wash him deep where the tides are turning
This isn’t no land of comfort. The earth is tired, and she heaves her rattling breaths through the dry grass. Dust hangs like a shroud on your shoulders and settles on the scuff of your shoes. Here, there’s religion in the cracked pages of Scripture and in the rim of a whiskey bottle. Our father who art in Heaven, He’s got a harsh heart. There’s bad blood in the bible; sins are not forgiven here, they are only absolved once the dues are paid. Here, grizzled men exhale their souls in cigarette smoke as they idle on the porch. Their venom is inside of slow smiles, as smooth as molasses. Here, women are sunken-eyed; they’ve got cleavers tied to their apron strings, vengeful and weary, faces hewn out of scrap iron. Nothing really lives here. The hoot owl whistles in the old cemeteries by dusk, but the real burial grounds are elsewhere- men find their graves at the bottom of the river, at the deepest hour of night. May they rest in sin indeed.
Don’t you lift him, let him drown alive
The good Lord speaks like a rolling thunder
Let that fever make the water rise
And let the river run dry
- Blood On My Name- The Wright Brothers
- Grounds For Divorce- Elbow
- David- Noah Gundersen
- Maneater- Blue-Eyed Blondes
- Bottom Of The River- Delta Rae
- Bartholomew- The Silent Comedy
- Nothing But The Water, Pt. 1- Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
- Rolling In On A Burning Tire- The Dead Weather
- 99 Problems (Jay-Z Cover)- Hugo
- Beat The Devil’s Tattoo- Black Rebel Motorcyle Club
- God’s Gonna Cut You Down- Johnny Cash
- Raise Hell- Brandi Carlisle
- Chop and Change- The Black Keys
- Awake O Sleeper- The Brothers Bright
“Let no man bring me harm, I bear the marks of Jesus.”