This week, I turned once again to The Atlantic for Inquiry Project inspiration. I found yet another fantastic, twisting, otherworldly article by an author that goes by the name of Gabrielle Bellot. Bellot’s piece is titled Hayao Miyazaki and the Art of Being a Woman and touches on my two favorite subjects: Studio Ghibli and Femininity. Disclaimer: I LOVE Miyazaki and am definitely for sure very biased. Turns out, so is Bellot. She seems to love Miyazaki’s subversive portrayal of what it means to be a woman just as much as I do. Bellot is transgender, and points to Miyazaki’s films as a source of comfort and inspiration for herself and her perception of womanhood. Perhaps Bellot found this identification in the films because Miyazaki portrays women in all stages of life. He gives them real faces and real personalities. Miyazaki’s heroines have hopes and dreams, fears and realities. He doesn’t sugarcoat them, instead allowing the audience to witness their moments of pure unadulterated humanity; whether that be staring out at a river, or just sitting silently on a bed. Even the most fantastical of the women, witches and wolf girls, feel utterly human, through and through. Bellot discusses how seeing these depictions of tough, real girls gave her hope as a child and helped guide her through an eventual transition to female. I imagine Miyazaki’s films do the very same for many women, giving them hope through their beautiful and extraordinary power. I know whenever I return to my great loves, Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle and Chihiro from Spirited Away, I feel a sense of belonging that often escapes me in this strange and unusual world. Funny how an animated land of monsters and spirits can feel so much more human than the one we currently inhabit.
I know that was a little ramble rant-y, but I honest to God can’t help myself. I’m really enjoying doing all this research on cartoons, animation, and gender. I think it’s awesome and it feels important to me. In a real way.
Anyhow, next up is another article from The Atlantic about a badass animated heroine named She-Ra. The piece is written by Maria Teresa Hart and titled She-Ra and the Fight Against the Token Girl. Hart details the journey of the not so popular She-Ra, an animated series from the 1980’s that attempted to turn the traditional male-centric superhero trope on it’s head. The show featured an all female cast, virtually unheard of during the time, of superhuman beings. Hart points to the show’s successes in the fight against gender norms, but also it’s many failures. Hart accurately states that the marketplace and the audience didn’t really know what to do with She-Ra or the rest of the female cast as it was not something they had ever really encountered before. I have my own interpretation for She-Ra‘s failure as a subversive gendered television series for children, and it goes a little something like my favorite quote from feminist philosopher Audre Lorde. Lorde has said many a time “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” I think that, essentially, was the problem with She-Ra. The creators were literally taking a male-dominated, male-created structure and trying to shove women where the men normally are. But in order to really flip those dude’s that only gave us one smurfette the bird, you need to tear down the trope and set up a new one. We need to come up with some new tools to dismantle the master’s house, and this time let’s take his flatscreen TV with us.