Hey, Answerfans

by Viewers Like You, Sep 12th 2008


Hey folks! It's all Answerfans this week. We'll be back next week.


Here's last week's question:


From Andrea:

People often have different tastes, and tolerance is something we all have to hone, but there are few things I am openly against. One of them is yaoi.

To be blunt, I don't see the appeal in two guys being portrayed explicitly in that kind of thing. I'm not against gay people, but it angers me to no end to see that kind of stuff in something I love, like manga/anime. But it worsens when yaoi fangirls create that stuff with characters that are strictly heterosexual and go ga-ga over it, mostly with shounen series. It's sickening. Not only does that go beyond the OOC (out of character) line, but it's made me hate it more. I see nothing attractive in seeing a fanart of Naruto and Sasuke doing hardcore or even kissing. It just makes me want to throw up.

Anothr thing I want to point out is the absurdity of it. Why do girls go starry-eyed when they see two entirely fictional (and more often "handsome") characters being passionate with each other? The same thing happens in real life and I don't see anyone talking about it. Sure, the authors' aesthetics can make it look "beautiful" or "dreamy" but it doesn't hide the fact that it's still homosexual love, which is real and (sort of) rampant nowadays.

So, to make a long rant short, I'm against yaoi for many reasons, but the main ones are its pointlessness, its FANGIRLS, and the fact that their fanwork can make a relatively good series stink worse than rotten onions. There's nothing appealing with it. Nothing.

From Brandy Camel:


Let's take two things into account before I give my answer. One, I am female. Two, I have a strong dislike of Yaoi itself, exceeded only by the absolute hatred of the rabid (and I am specifying the rabid, not the relatively sane ones - to those of you that are, I am grateful for your existance) fans who surround themselves with it.

With that in mind, it's not so much the popularity of the content so much as the popularity of a certain culture that evolves from Yaoi that bothers me. I'll give a couple examples:

The Midwest seems to have some of the most rabid, ridiculous Yaoi fans I have ever met. Seriously. Every year that I was at Anime Central in Rosemont, IL, I counted no less than 30 separate Yaoi and/or Uke/Seme Paddles. Of those paddles, I'd say at least 50% of them were used on unsuspecting passers-by without warning or permission. This is just unacceptable. It's when you start forcing your culture and your interests on other people WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION that it gets out of hand, and that's what I hate.

Example number two. A few years ago, right after Naruto Shippūden made its debut in manga-form, a group of my friends and I dressed up in primarily time-skip outfits for a con. My friend in his Kabuto outfit was stalked (and I do mean STALKED) by an Orochimaru crossplayer (who couldn't have been older than 14, and we were all in college) who quite literally left a big bruise on his arm from clinging so much that it didn't go away for a week and a half. The poor guy put up with it, mostly because he's a nice guy, but he's still even more freaked out by Yaoi fans from that little event.

So to give my short answer, the popularity of Yaoi itself doesn't bother me. It's the popularity of acting like total asshats if you're a Yaoi fan and then claiming it's part of your culture that pisses me off.


From "Pretty Ladies Team":

I don't think anyone should be bothered by the popularity of yaoi, any more than they should be bothered by the popularity of any other major genre of manga currently being released in the US. While the idea of male romance may still be taboo to some, it's certainly no stranger to our media these days, and frankly much of what's liscenced and popular lately is harmless fluff, no more psychologically damaging than any other shoujo romance or bodice-ripping paperback. Also, like any other genre, there's a plethora of variety in subject matter with yaoi. Just as you can find shounen series with themes that vary from boxing to cooking, you can find it in yaoi too. I think it would be a shame to shun a genre, simply based on the addition of romantic homosexual themes. Furthermore, I think people miss the point when they focus on the homosexual aspect of yaoi, when what's really the crux of it for most of the female fans is usually the element of fantasy romance - I theorize that for many, yaoi is safe to "fall in love with" and read and fantasize about, because it's a type of love and romance that the reader could never participate in, and thus could never hypothetically be hurt or affected by it, either. As a female, you can sympathize with the characters, but perhaps because it's difficult to empathize with them, it's actually easier to read what typically amounts to an otherwise unbelievable fantasy romance.

Perhaps people are concerned because of the amount of teenage girls running around, squeeing at cons when cosplayers "yaoi," and flailing around their trusty yaoi paddles, but I chalk any surprise about that up to naivety about the nature of teenage girls. No matter what the era or the subject matter, it's always been in style for girls to fawn over and gossip about hot guys ad nauseum at that age, plus it's not something new and different for teens to want to explore things that they perceive as taboo matters their parents wouldn't like. I think it's just an anime and manga nerd's expression of normal stages in sexual and social maturation. Just because it has a slightly different look these days, it's basically no different than getting the vapors from Elvis gyrating, in my opinion. There's a reason you don't see a lot of 20-something yaoi fans continuing that kind of frenetic behaviour - they grew out of it, mostly.

The only matter I could see of real concern is whether very young people are getting their hands on illicit 18+ material. But, like any other mature book at the bookstore, mature yaoi is labled as such, shrink wrapped, and will not be sold to minors at reputable book sellers. Minors getting ahold of materials that they may not mentally be prepared for is a universal concern, and shouldn't be limited to the scope of yaoi. However, I'm pretty sure just about everyone had some little bit of scandalousness at 15 or so, and I think that's just a normal expression of curiousity in any young and developing person.


From Shou:

In general, the popularity of yaoi does not bother me; what does disturb me are the licensing decisions, and the fans that support them.  When Character A "passionately and forcefully embraces" Character B because his verbal messages of love just aren't getting across, I have to cringe a bit.  This is further accentuated when Character B then comes to love Character A, since he expressed his love so honestly.  When I hear fans say, "Aw, that story was so cute and sweet," I wonder if we're reading the same thing.  You can see how this style has influenced Western readers by looking at Original English Language (OEL) yaoi manga, and how they use the same forceful tactics to declare their love.  While I don't expect realism in my manga reading, I would think that some things go too far.  I don't mind BL and I certainly don't mind the sex, but forced sex is a little much.

From Rebecca:

It has been a long road to overcome the "Anime is all Porno Cartoons" perception. But there are still misinterpretations aplenty: When I was a teenager, my mother (ever lovely and supportive) gently inquired about those "Oh My Goddess!" tapes in my bedroom, and asked if I wanted to discuss my religious views with her. I reassured her, laughing, that I was not taking religious advice from a Japanese rom-com.

Now, over a decade later, I have bookshelves and bookshelves of manga, much of it BL. I wanted to read works written by adult women for adult women, and that genre is almost unavoidably BL. I've developed a comically eclectic Japanese vocabulary. I've watched the few available yaoi anime (all of them horrid), I've listened to CD dramas, I've even played the occasional love sim. I've attended Comiket and gorged myself on "Original June" day. I am 100% the target audience for adult-oriented manga for women, and I relish that.

So why do I still shudder whenever I hear the "RED HOT YOWEE" guy yelling at me from a convention dealer's room?

As I try to overanalyze my fandom, I realize most of this comes from embarrassment.  Embarrassment that squealing 13 year-olds are brandishing Yaoi Paddles and casting such a negative light on a genre I love so much, polarizing so many against it with obnoxious and inappropriate behavior... but also a bit of embarrassment to admit what I'm reading. I could confidently tell my mother I wasn't worshipping Belldandy, but can I really say I wasn't swooning over salarymen fixing each other's neckties? Not at all. I don't just read the High-Minded-I'm-So-Artistic ones, I like my pulp, my cheesy escapist summer romances too. And when no one knew what BL was, it didn't matter.

I'm happy about the influx of translated manga titles. I think it's BL's best hope to dodge its own "Anime is all Porno Cartoons" stigma. Yaoi is not all plotless sex starring men who look and behave like teenage girls. It's not all great, some of it is barely readable. But I hope the market will drive the publishers to release some of the better works; for that, the popularity of yaoi is appreciated. I may despise most of the fans, but then again it's only the obnoxious ones that you notice. They don't make documentaries about the quiet fans who read manga on their lunch break and thought "Far from Heaven" was a really good movie.

By now you've probably said, "Oh, she keeps saying BL and not yaoi. How pretentious." Using yaoi as a blanket term frustrates me, because there are wonderful engrossing works that don't deserve to be lumped in with the unabashed erotica. Both have their place, but they aren't equivalent. It's a crime to say that Takaguchi Satosumi writes without plot. I've lost many hours to Shimizu Yuki's work (the later volumes of Love Mode are almost unmatched), and once failed a college bio exam because I stayed up too late reading Yatteranneeze. Again.

So maybe what I really want to say is, I wish yaoi was less popular, but that more of us were reading BL.

But I'm still not going to tell my mom about it.


From Cait:

Well, the first question that arises is whether or not yaoi can really be considered "popular."  Certainly within the fandoms of anime and manga it is well-known (and moreso with manga than anime), but however well-known it is, it is still a niche genre.  It certainly is a very popular niche genre (to be completely oxymoronic), however I would still fall back on the argument that outside of the general anime/manga fandom yaoi is still something that most people know nothing about. 
 
I remember seeing a YouTube video not too long ago, where an English VA at a convention panel comically recounted an instance where he had inadvertantly explained to a poor girl's horrified mother what "yaoi" meant (the mother having had been told something very different).  Setting aside the worry that my mother might some day discover my collection of BL and yaoi manga (and I hope it only happens in the event of her cleaning out my apartment after my untimely death), it's really not that far-fetched to consider that most of the world doesn't know anything about this quirky fetish that some women have for being entertained by men getting it on with other men. 
 
What this has to do with the question posed, specifically, is that the potential for yaoi to become something mainstream in America is certainly worrying, especially considering the general climate of conservative and reactionary social thinking in the country.  The fact that the genre isn't known outside the general fandom is comforting, even pleasant when you think about how almost easily accepted its existence and people's enjoyment of it is.  Within the fandom yaoi is just one of many different niche genres, all vying for attention, so people simply accept it, make light-hearted jabs in the direction of the rabid yaoi fangirls and we all move on.  Because the environment is controlled, and because, honestly, there are probably even more quirky or potentially revolting (to an outside observer, at least) genres to be found (tentacle hentai, anyone?), those who count themselves among the fans of yaoi need not fear for their reputations or safety.  They are free to express themselves without fear of being shunned by their peers, many of whom may very well not share their interest in the slightest. 
 
But, take that controlled environment away and yaoi becomes something very dangerous for all of us.  The content of yaoi, particularly it's cliches, "rules" and sub-genres, to an outside observer using the standards of a "moral" society, would be appalling.  "Rape fantasy," for example, is a huge category in yaoi, and within the fandom it is accepted, even referred to with comical fondness, because within the safe environment, we know it is "fantasy" and that obviously, rape is not okay and these things would never be enjoyed in the real world.  The problem is that not everyone looks at the world objectively.  We live in a "PC" society where it isn't even okay to tell Polish jokes if you're Polish, lest you offend... yourself.   A society where we don't get news "stories" anymore, we get "news bites."  Only a portion of the information intented to sensationalize the issue just long enough to distract us until the next portion is doled out.  As a result, people end up making judgements without the full picture.  This might not necessarily lead to the extreme fear of censorship (though that can't be ruled out, either), but would certainly take those "affectionate criticisms" that can be found about yaoi within the fandom today, and twist them into something truly hurtful to the people who enjoy the genre. 
 
This is why most of the fans of yaoi that I know (including myself) don't tell anyone outside of the fandom that we are fans.  We don't want judgement to be passed on us when the other party does not have a clear understanding of the genre.  Only when the requisite amount of knowledge of anime and manga is proven will the average yaoi fan even admit to someone new that it exists at all, let alone admit that they like it.  It is truly an unstable and insecure genre for one that is so well-known within the anime and manga fandom.
 
So, my answer to the question would be a cautious and somewhat melancholy, "yes."  The popularity of yaoi does bother me, not because I have a problem with the content (as could be attested by the manga sitting next to me while I type this), but because I know if my copy of Finder Series fell out of my closet and into the hands of some moral reactionary with a big mouth, the fun would all be over for all of us. 


From AJ:

Quite frankly, yes, I am bothered by the popularity of yaoi, if only for the fact that there are so many crazy fangirls who think every bishonen they see has to be gay {even if the character has shown absolutely no interest in men}, and feel the need to look for nonexistant homoerotic subtext in every anime they watch, every video game they play, and every manga they read. I swear, if I have to hear about Cloud and Sephiroth being "too adorably shy to admit their everlasting canon love for each other" one more time...
 
It also doesn't help that what they're usually so obsessed with is actually shonen-ai. Real yaoi is not the fluffy softcore material with a romantic storyline and guys who look like teenage girls barely showing anything, like the fangirls coo and squeal over in their doujinshi--real yaoi is often hardcore stuff with no plot, featuring men who look like men, stuff that I've noticed makes many yaoi fangirls shriek not in glee but in terror.
 
And don't even get me started on those damn yaoi paddles, which I am thankful have been banned from sale at Canadian conventions.


Finally, from Aneesha Raines.

Well up front I'm a yaoi fangirl.  Unlike the popularization of anime in general, which had both positive and negative aspects for me, I love the growing popularity of yaoi.  One, I can now get it at Borders.  Still in its early stages, the commercialization of yaoi makes it easier to find but has not yet turned it to crap (my major compliant about the commercialization of anime and manga in America).  Two, the yaoi fan community is, in general, awesome.  Something to do with the higher mean age and greater maturity level than your general fanbase, though I'm sure some would disagree. :P  Three, instead of  just assuming that yaoi fandom is a small bunch of perverted girls, more people are taking the time to find out what its really about.  Not just two hot guys together, but the dynamics and differences and struggles of a relationship of two hot guys together.  Less people automatically assume you're a perv when that volume of shonen-ai manga falls out of your purse.  Which brings me to four, I can admit more readily that I am a yaoi fangirl.  But I still had to take down the suggestive Vash x Wolfwood wallscroll I had hanging in my office at work.
 

So here's the question for this week:




Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.


Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I hve so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

So check this space next week for your answers to my questions!

See you all next week!

Howl's Moving Castle © Nibariki * GNDDDT

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