Fan service and its appropriateness

João Gomes

Vampire Ninja
Well, since there weren't a ton of people participating in the fanservice bit in the Lagann thread, I'll go ahead and assume @CommanderZx2's post is also about me.

The thing I value the most about this forum is the tone, exactly because I don't feel you have typical internet characters playing "I'm smarter and better than you" and so you can imagine I dislike that, too. Just because I said I can do without fanservice doesn't mean I think I'm the one in the right or that everyone should submit to my taste. It also doesn't mean I look down on anyone or think I'm better than anyone, only that our tastes won't align in that respect. So maybe I won't take a recommendation from someone at face value, but that's it.

We all love anime, so we know it's a big part of the medium and the industry at large and the way it makes money. As I said in the thread, there's degrees to fanservice, up to the extreme where it becomes pandering but at that stage and from the examples I've seen, there's no point other than the pandering itself and that's trash tier as far as I'm concerned.
 

Rui

Karamatsu Boy
Administrator
I do personally agree that fictional content can be harmful, though not in the direct 'video nasties' way. The Monogatari stuff doesn't bother me at all because it's shocking and meant to be shocking, so I find it interesting. It's an artsy series. I knew what I was getting into very early on.

But there's a more insidious brainwashing effect on certain types of people when casual stereotypes are aggregated over time in content that is presented as 'normal', and while nobody is being harmed from (for example) sexist portrayals of imaginary people, it can serve to normalise things that were originally intended to be shocking. I have been negatively affected by that kind of thing, in real life, and pushing against the assumptions that we socially inept anime/game fans build up when constantly barraged with strange messages about how interpersonal human relationships are meant to work has caused me real life problems. Even discounting those people as outliers, some of the debates I've had online have highlighted some really toxic attitudes that people pick up and never question from the constant reinforcement. I'm mostly covering anime in this but mainstream stuff is just as bad - titles which don't fall foul of the virgin/whore dichotomy with all of their female characters are ridiculously rare to the point that I no longer watch films at all. It's no wonder that modern guys are obsessed with female treachery when lazy writers are fixated on rehashing the same plot in every work of fiction that ever makes it to the screen.

Sticking with the sexism example, I've participated in actual conversations with otherwise-functional otaku/gamer adults who genuinely seem to believe that female humans are second class citizens without independent thought. That they're obsessed with conning guys and turn into manipulative sociopaths the very second puberty hits. That they don't have self-esteem problems just like anyone else. That they're disgustingly old when they're past their mid-teens. That groping women for humour is ok. That female virginity is sacred. That female body hair is unnatural. That they're obsessed with money and incapable of friendship. That lesbians are just women who haven't met a real man yet. That idols represent a realistic ideal rather than being a manufactured image. That it's ok to make decisions for someone else without their permission. That talking to female-presenting people is a big deal that requires special rituals and pretentious airs. That talking to a woman is 'claiming' them and they're then not allowed to talk to other men. A lot of these things are played as gags but people take them as actual fact. It blows my mind.

Then a statistically significant number of people take the lazy 'hard done by protagonist who deserves a girlfriend if he works hard enough' theme seriously, and think that if they perform enough gestures of willingness they are owed a relationship by the woman they are trying to woo even if she has never expressed interest. Visiting anime conventions alone in my teens was an eye-opening experience and they were far smaller then than they are now. I'm not going to pretend that society on the whole is much better, but the constant reinforcement of that mindset in the way that certain anime/games push has definitely contributed to some really, really freaky situations for real people. A lot of anime forums are hostile environments for female-identifying folks because of the ingrained locker room atmosphere, which is one of the reasons I love this place so much. We seem to have been blessed with a lot more shared respect than most corners of the fandom.

I have nothing against fan service in general, even when it's freaky or mean-spirited - Prison School was hilarious, Trigger's love of T&A is great eye candy for me and I loved last year's Peter Grill - trashy softcore smut shows can be just as entertaining as their highbrow cousins and a few titles have managed to be both sexy and narratively strong. Some people won't like them, and that's fine, but I personally adore them. However, I do feel uncomfortable with less gratuitous fan service scenes which seem to be, frankly, pushing an agenda. They're not sexy because the obviousness of the pandering ruins my enjoyment of the scene and reinforcing the same tired stereotypes isn't funny or clever. The infantilising of young, sexy female characters has also moved from being a quirk to being a must-have ingredient in nearly every show, even when it's completely pointless and adds nothing to the series. I feel disappointed by it both personally and artistically. It's interesting when people challenge the stereotypes by showing guys in the same situations to highlight how jarring it can be, though even that is turning into a bit of an awkward arms race in its own right.

Prison School is actually a really interesting example to have come up because when I first saw the key art I thought it would be the worst anime ever. The guys range from boring to grotesque while the women are all sex-crazed mindless psychopaths with dynamite bodies. Ouch! It looked like a feminist-bashing hatefest. But it was actually really entertaining because the creators were obviously in on the joke and the sexy parts were gross enough to be funny; it was simultaneously tremendously dumb yet clever. I'd hate to lose imaginative stuff like that by clamping down on fan service in general.

I guess I just wish people would be more critical and question the damaging themes they're absorbing underneath the titillation. Sadly, the weight of history shows that they won't. That's the reason I can't embrace the personal freedom that @ayase loves. People can't stay in lane and keep their kinks confined to their own lives. If they could, the world would be a better place and I'd be 100% behind allowing anyone to enjoy anything that doesn't directly harm other people.

R
 

ayase

State Alchemist
We've probably had these conversations years ago haha, but I don't think it's really as straight forward as this though. I mean, would you really say that negative stereotypes perpetuated in popular fiction doesn't/didn't contribute to societal perceptions towards certain groups of people? And that does lead to real life problems. Of course there are some people, like yourself, who are educated/strong minded enough to not be effected by that influence, but I think many people are. Those repeated stereotypical representations will build up in people's subconsciouses. Of course fiction isn't the only thing creating these problematic perceptions, but I can't understand how it can be argued to have no impact.

And vice versa is also true in my opinion, I think it's clear that positive fictional representations can and have contributed towards views changing in positive ways
I'm positive that we have had more or less this exact same discussion before, Vash! But it might be worth having again anyway. Since this thread is concerned primarily with fan service and sexual content I don't know if it's the place to discuss other potentially offensive content, but if a work of fiction is obviously pushing a particularly nasty ideology like racism or sexism then I think that's a bit different and I wouldn't put it in the same box as stuff that just has sexy shenanigans taking place. A lot of people do, I suppose, which is where you get all the accusations that any kind of depiction of women being sexy is a form of misogyny which I totally disagree with.

I'm not sure I've ever encountered any media that has done this, but if a show were to have the explicit message of "You, viewer, should totally go out and objectify, letch over, harass and grope real people in real life" (or any other such encouragement to treat other actual people badly because of their gender/race/sexuality) then I wouldn't personally like or be interested in seeing that. But I would still defend its right to exist as I think we should trust people to be able to discern when a creator is using their fiction as a political platform and reject it if they disagree with its message, rather than hand-wringing over the possibility they might be swayed by it. And most fictional media (I make the distinction because journalism and news media is a very different story) isn't pushing agendas. We've been here before, with violence in films and video games back in the '90s. Now it's sexual content. I don't personally see any difference and just like there is no evidence playing GTA turns someone into a violent criminal, I don't think there is any to suggest watching sexual content turns people into sexual predators either.

My main argument I suppose is that where fanservice exists I think the girls should at least look reasonably age appropriate for it.

I don't think "it's not real" is a good excuse to make it OK to include fanservice where this isn't the case.

People will have differing opinions on this, which is fine. I can watch shows where I find some of the fanservice distasteful (calling it upsetting is too strong of a description in my case).
It's perfectly reasonable to have personal tastes and not enjoy certain things, I would never argue that anyone should have to personally like everything. That would be a very boring world. But I am interested, genuinely, in why someone would think fictional content they don't like isn't okay for anyone to look at. Perhaps you take a similar point of view to Vash that it can cause genuine harm, in which case my response would be the same as I have already written above.

The thing I value the most about this forum is the tone, exactly because I don't feel you have typical internet characters playing "I'm smarter and better than you" and so you can imagine I dislike that, too. Just because I said I can do without fanservice doesn't mean I think I'm the one in the right or that everyone should submit to my taste. It also doesn't mean I look down on anyone or think I'm better than anyone, only that our tastes won't align in that respect. So maybe I won't take a recommendation from someone at face value, but that's it.
Absolutely João, and I want to make it absolutely clear I don't resent anyone having different views to mine. I just like learning and debating and trying to understand others' points of view. If I do ever come across as being too aggressive in my posts I apologise, it's not a sense of superiority, it's just passion, I swear. Also @Rui can give me a slap if I do. Speak of the devil...

DAMMIT RUI I THOUGHT I WAS DONE HERE
 
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ayase

State Alchemist
But there's a more insidious brainwashing effect on certain types of people when casual stereotypes are aggregated over time in content that is presented as 'normal', and while nobody is being harmed from (for example) sexist portrayals of imaginary people, it can serve to normalise things that were originally intended to be shocking. I have been negatively affected by that kind of thing, in real life, and pushing against the assumptions that we socially inept anime/game fans build up when constantly barraged with strange messages about how interpersonal human relationships are meant to work has caused me real life problems. Even discounting those people as outliers, some of the debates I've had online have highlighted some really toxic attitudes that people pick up and never question from the constant reinforcement. I'm mostly covering anime in this but mainstream stuff is just as bad - titles which don't fall foul of the virgin/whore dichotomy with all of their female characters are ridiculously rare to the point that I no longer watch films at all. It's no wonder that modern guys are obsessed with female treachery when lazy writers are fixated on rehashing the same plot in every work of fiction that ever makes it to the screen.

Sticking with the sexism example, I've participated in actual conversations with otherwise-functional otaku/gamer adults who genuinely seem to believe that female humans are second class citizens without independent thought. That they're obsessed with conning guys and turn into manipulative sociopaths the very second puberty hits. That they don't have self-esteem problems just like anyone else. That they're disgustingly old when they're past their mid-teens. That groping women for humour is ok. That female virginity is sacred. That female body hair is unnatural. That they're obsessed with money and incapable of friendship. That lesbians are just women who haven't met a real man yet. That idols represent a realistic ideal rather than being a manufactured image. That it's ok to make decisions for someone else without their permission. That talking to female-presenting people is a big deal that requires special rituals and pretentious airs. That talking to a woman is 'claiming' them and they're then not allowed to talk to other men. A lot of these things are played as gags but people take them as actual fact. It blows my mind.

Then a statistically significant number of people take the lazy 'hard done by protagonist who deserves a girlfriend if he works hard enough' theme seriously, and think that if they perform enough gestures of willingness they are owed a relationship by the woman they are trying to woo even if she has never expressed interest. Visiting anime conventions alone in my teens was an eye-opening experience and they were far smaller then than they are now. I'm not going to pretend that society on the whole is much better, but the constant reinforcement of that mindset in the way that certain anime/games push has definitely contributed to some really, really freaky situations for real people. A lot of anime forums are hostile environments for female-identifying folks because of the ingrained locker room atmosphere, which is one of the reasons I love this place so much. We seem to have been blessed with a lot more shared respect than most corners of the fandom.
It sounds like you have encountered a lot more horrible people than I have Rui, which is a terrible shame, both that they hold these views and behave in this way and that you have had to deal with that. I would, though, still question how much of an effect the fiction they consume has really influenced these attitudes. It is difficult when you can’t understand how people come to be this way but more likely, I think, is that it is other things in their lives like poor parenting, peer pressure from other nasty people, their own lack of social skills and (allegedly) non-fictional opinion media which are to blame. And there’s really very little anyone else can do about that.

That’s why I think people go after fiction as something to blame instead, because it’s easier to control (either by way of the authorities or simply piling pressure onto creators until they repent, aka bullying them into submission) than it is to control anyone’s upbringing or social life. Just like with the video game violence saga, nobody wants to tell the hard but actually blindingly obvious truth that parents should be teaching their kids to respect other people because if they do, they aren’t going to grow up to believe it’s okay to harass, molest, assault or murder people. Unless of course they’re mentally unstable to the point that would have no effect, in which case there really is absolutely nothing we can do about that except perhaps institutionalise them. That’s a hard thing for society to admit; that those particular people are just going to do what they do anyway, they’ve always been part of humanity and will always be among us, but thankfully they are also a tiny minority.

Edit: The possibility also occurs that if in fact fiction does have an effect on people’s attitudes and behaviours, that would be a hard thing for me to admit, because then the logical step would be to stop having anything potentially harmful in fiction. And what would we be left with then? The Teletubbies? Not even that, because that probably encourages binge-watching TV.
 
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Rui

Karamatsu Boy
Administrator
I'm a lot more relaxed about fan fiction because it's (usually) a solo work, so there's an implicit sense that it's an individual's artistic opinion rather than a normalised view of the world in which we live. The narrative that an entire production committee, sponsors, cast and licensing company approve of a show's distasteful themes goes a lot farther towards normalising a weird agenda than it just being a crackpot 15,000 word Santa x Lara Croft fic that some lunatic posted on AO3. Maybe that's a double standard; I also find challenging themes work much better in narratively complex arthouse films than they do in slick, shallow 'summer blockbuster'-style entertainment because the viewer is already being asked to digest what they're seeing more critically. I don't think there's anything I'm explicitly against being portrayed with the right kind of presentation.

This attitude also seems to exist in the mainstream because novels in book shops can portray basically anything these days, but the moment they're elevated to film for mass consumption the things that readers barely noticed in the original format are put through the filter of the movie staff's interpretation and the wider audience who watch whatever they're being told to watch via advertising. I don't think that the censorship taking place in LN translations at the moment (another recent news story) is the right way to do that - the original material is the original material, warts and all - but when the original writing is immature in some way it would be nice to think that having a bunch of professionals involved would tighten that up and add better framing or research to the weaker material.

And that just isn't happening, which I find disappointing. I'm not talking about increasing the age of characters or removing content outright, or even spoiling the fun stuff itself, but saying 'hey, this character is just mindless titillation to the detriment of my enjoyment, can we give her a cool line or two to expand on her character and agency in between the scenes where she's falling over like a victim and slapping people for peeking?' would often solve the problem entirely. There's no such thing as a 1:1 conversion across media formats anyway so why not take the opportunity to make stuff better while everything is being torn apart and rearranged? But instead people seem to have taken the idea of respecting the original author's work as sacrosanct when it's irresponsible and lazy, yet ignoring it when it's actually saying something intelligent in favour of commercialising things more, which feels like the worst of both worlds.

R
 

IdiomaticLynx

Student Council President
Fascinating discussion going on. I'm always positively surprised how, no matter the subject matter, discussions remain civil here. I don't often chip in, because I'm not too confident in my English when trying to express my views. But I'll give it a shot.

I personally think that for fictional works artistic expression should not be limited in any way. This obviously means that there can be works that I would strongly dislike, "disagree" with or outright detest. Nevertheless, I feel it's quite easy to avoid those altogether.

At the same time I do strongly believe that works have an impact on people in general or on individuals. These can be positive and negatives effects ranging from small to big. The small influences are, in some way, the worst, as I believe everyone is probably more influenced by what they consume than they would like to admit (me included). This can be things like reinforcing stereotypes or reconfirming the normalisation of things. (For simplicity going to use the term stereotype in the paragraph below)

I don't think the answer lies in disallowing these stereotypes from being depicted or otherwise regulated. To me this seems to miss the bigger picture. Roughly speaking, there are two ways how these end up in a work. Either it's ambient, and the stereotype is common in a specific culture, community, niche, etc.. or it's deliberately put in. In case it's ambient, you're not going to get rid of it by simply preventing this stereotype from being depicted. People will still get exposed to it by interacting with others. Even worse, to regulate it you need to define it, effectively pulling it to the foreground. Some might steer clear and avoid it entirely (often also not desirable) while others will try and seek the boundary of what can still be done. If the artist put it in deliberately, than it's likely their own opinion, which IMO should also not be "regulated" in any way.

While not as extreme as the examples listed by @Rui, I have met my fair share of people that had unreasonable expectations of relationships, life in general or the world. Often times these expectations seem to match what you'd read in a comic book, see in a movie/game/anime/whatever. As harsh as it may sound, I think most of them would've turned out the same regardless of the niche or community they happen to fall into. Bluntly put, they seek something and if whatever they consume provides something satisfactory that fills that gap, that becomes their basis, otherwise they'd continue searching. And the other way around, these people form a market which can be cater to.

Doesn't mean it's all hopeless. Not everyone is a critical thinker and it's very easy (arguably human) to stick to what you know. So seeing people apply what they've "learnt" from anime/movies/games/whatever in real life, is only natural. Exposure to the "real world" can allow anyone to reflect on this and form their opinions based off that. It's important to note that I'm not saying their opinion must change (if it's their opinion, so be it), but I do believe it's often misguided. As naive as it sounds, I would prefer looking for a solution in this direction as opposed to regulating works. I think this works best if done on a personal level (be it family, friend, neighbour, etc...) as opposed to broad campaigns (I would actually be against that), so it's not realistic in that regard.
 

Greboruri

Brigade Leader
I haven't read every single post here, but thought I might comment. I'm heading towards my fifth decade on this planet and I have seen the same issues crop their heads up over and over again; explicit lyrics in records, video nasties, pornography (again, and again, sigh, and yet again...). Due to the fact the vast majority of campaigns to control pop culture come from the religious far right or far left radical feminists who are often in lockstep with each other (hello horseshoe theory), which makes me deeply cynical about the motivations behind a lot of these types of campaigns to clean up or restrict certain media (and a lot of religious groups do hide the fact they fund certain campaigns and present themselves as non-religious). Every time when you bring up the fact a past moral panic didn't bring the social problems they said it would, they always suggest that this time it's different, without articulating why it actually is.

Anyway, in the last 15 years or more I have been semi-active in campaigns to fight back against censorship, especially in regards to the internet. Somehow I got into an argument with one proponent of censorship and I pointed out to her that we had both seen the same material they wanted to block, yet we weren't going out committing crimes. They replied that of course we would never do that but others may. Ah, I thought, they said the quiet part out loud.

And that what annoys me the most; the othering of people who enjoy this stuff. While I don't doubt that sexist and exploitive material do attract people who already are chauvinistic or misogynistic, people do not generally live in bubbles. They have to live and interact in society at large in order to survive. They have to employ the widely accepted societal norms in order to get by and survive, otherwise you're isolated from society or worse pushed by it. This is largely why I think the media effects model is a load of hogwash and generally cannot be proven true. The vast majority of people who enjoy something like "The Rising Of The Shield Hero" are not incels or whatever some loudmouth yank know it all from an anime news site says they are. The vast majority are normally adjusted people who watch the show and enjoy it. It amuses me that practically every season one show becomes a bête noir for a lot of these people, because of controversial content (usually fanservice related - see the inexplicable and obsessive hate towards "Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!"), but is then promptly forgotten by most of these people the start of the next season.

Even though things are slowly improving, Japan is a still a highly patriarchal and quite a deeply sexist nation. I don't think you can deny that. Add in the fact over the last 20 or more years anime has gone mostly from a prime time product to disappearing from broadcast prime time TV altogether and ending up mostly being broadcast late at night or in the early hours of the morning (with the exception of a handful of perennial family favourite anime series). And of course a large percentage of these shows are aimed at young men. Merchandise makes more money than home media sales, so a fair whack of that material is of course fanservice related. I think maybe in the long run this is pretty short-sighted, but here we are.

I note the 2020 Anime Industry Report says that 49% of profit from anime sales comes from overseas. Now from my experience on social media in terms of how western fandom interacts with fanservice, quite a large percentage do not like it. But the only reason why "The Rising Of The Shield Hero" was made is because Crunchyroll pushed for it and partly funded it. And the show was a success for them. So perhaps those upset with controversial material like this one are somewhat of a noisy minority and the vast majority don't actually mind it? I'm not really sure. However it does seem to me that any influence by western companies via increasing funding may not lead to less fanservice elements.

I am not all that keen on fanservice, especially of the exploitative kind. However I can usually avoid all of those shows and find several shows a season I really enjoy. I think if fanservice or other elements in anime are a breaking point for you, and you can't find anything in the thousands of anime made from the 1960's onwards, then it may be time to look for a new hobby. It's pretty much impossible to attempt to get a foreign entertainment industry bend to your ideals or wishes, especially when you're not the main intended consumer. There is more entertainment options available to people now than they could consume in several lifetimes.
 

Vashdaman

Za Warudo
I think it is worth noting that no one in this thread (as far as I'm aware) has actually expressed a desire for censorship. I think what some people (including myself) are saying is that certain constantly repeated representations and tropes in the media can have an insidious effect on people and so does warrant thinking critically about.

Personally I just think it's wishful thinking to imagine that fiction has no deep effect on people. It's a huge part of people's lives and I'm sure everyone here on this forum has experienced being moved by a piece of fiction and taking it into our hearts. And I myself remember being an impressionable teenager and being influenced by so much of the tv and music I was listening to, but in terrible ways, I felt horribly insecure and that I was lacking in the cool strong tough mean masculinity I was having pumped into my brain every day. Of course that standard of manliness exists in society as a whole and I was getting it from my friends too, but I know for a fact that in me at least fiction did contribute to it certainly. Yes I grew and was exposed to other things and was able to escape that largely (though I still now sometimes catch myself feeling some of those old insecure impulses to prove I have some cool tough manliness that I don't actually possess, and I have to remind myself that I don't need to), but a part of that was actually educating myself on the effect that the media can have on us so that I could understand it and see through it, at least to some extent.
 

ayase

State Alchemist
I think it is worth noting that no one in this thread (as far as I'm aware) has actually expressed a desire for censorship. I think what some people (including myself) are saying is that certain constantly repeated representations and tropes in the media can have an insidious effect on people and so does warrant thinking critically about.
Yeah, I'm very much in agreement there. While I also agree with pretty much everything you said @Greboruri I think there is an important distinction to be made between those who are just questioning out loud whether fictional media does or doesn't have an effect on people and those who actually want things banned and people silenced for creating things they don't like. I don't see any of the latter itt.

Personally I just think it's wishful thinking to imagine that fiction has no deep effect on people. It's a huge part of people's lives and I'm sure everyone here on this forum has experienced being moved by a piece of fiction and taking it into our hearts. And I myself remember being an impressionable teenager and being influenced by so much of the tv and music I was listening to, but in terrible ways, I felt horribly insecure and that I was lacking in the cool strong tough mean masculinity I was having pumped into my brain every day.
I don't deny that fiction can make us feel emotions and stick with us after the fact, but the idea I really struggle to believe is that it actually does influence people's behaviour. I mean, sticking with music Nick Cave has written plenty of songs about murder, even from the point of view of murderers, but I don't think listening to them is going to make me or anyone else go out and murder people or think murder is okay. So it would be a bit hypocritical of me to take the kind of line some do against say, rap music with violent or misogynistic lyrics and how it poisons the minds of impressionable youth. If anything I think the fact people do take issue with some genres but not others is just kind of a snobbish (and potentially, actually a bit racist) elitism. Fiction in all its forms is self-expression, and I think it does a very important job as a healthy release valve for people's darker sides.

I think the part I've bolded is also important. You were a teenager, Vash, I don't think anyone (including yourself) should be too critical of things you might have believed or ways you might have felt at a time your hormones were going haywire. Of course you were going to be feeling pretty high off testosterone at that point, a ton of it was being injected into your system by mother nature. I think most people probably realise they acted a bit d*ckish when they were teenagers, but again, I don't think there's a lot we can do about that other than be grateful most of them calm down again.

They replied that of course we would never do that but others may.
And that's a perfect illustration of that aforementioned patronizing mindset. It's okay for us well-adjusted folk, but we can't trust the plebs not to take these things to heart and act on them. I thought I had a pretty dim view of humanity but it pales in comparison to this kind of paternalistic attitude. I just don't think, in a very Ben Franklin way, I will ever accept that it's worth people giving up their freedom of expression, even voluntarily, for the cause of safety.
 
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Geriatric hedgehog

Thousand Master
Is it weird that every time I glance at the title of this discussion I see Fan Service and Tits Appreciation before reading it correctly?
That sounds so much more interesting and imagine the utter disappointment of anyone who clicked in anticipation after misreading heheh.

It's always with horror that I see this thread surviving, nay, thriving, as I selfishly cannot ignore my embarrassment at my avatar mug shot on it and early posts sounding incredibly sanctimonious. Anyhoo I'd like to think I'm not cowardly enough to delete them, despite the temptation, and let them be a reminder to think before typing heh.

Regardless, very interesting discussions and really nice to see them being in good nature and as @João Gomes mentioned, with no pretensions.

The discourse is heading into the more interesting, if not murky, territory of censorship, given that fan service in itself generally comes down to a personal preference or not, and I also think it can certainly be used artistically/tastefully, or as is expected for the hentai/ecchi genre. That is as long as it is not used to promote/encourage harmful ideologies like the hate @Rui mentioned. Also as @Lordhippos mentioned, I still can't, and probably won't ever, find the fanservice using overt minors (ie not even teens) not being distasteful, but each to their own. I'm not saying I'm any better than anyone else for thinking that way (I have no doubts that in real life I am more often than not a complete twat but I try not to be), rather that's just my personal preference.

I've always been of the personal opinion, maybe somewhat along the lines of what @ayase has said, of individual freedom to enjoy, believe & practice whatever one likes in their own free time and space, so long as it is not detrimental/harmful to others/society. As @ayase mentioned, regarding the violence in media arguement, a lot of the crimes attributed to the latter probably have far more to do with upbringing, environment, circumstances, personal experience, etc. Ultimately any individual, no matter how saintly, can be susceptible to perpetrating the most heinous crimes if put in an untenable situation, we're all human after all. And not even completely down to upbringing; as adults we make our own choices and can only blame parenting for so long. But I too believe that fiction, as much as non-fiction, can and does influence people even if at times on a subliminal level as:
a more insidious brainwashing effect on certain types of people when casual stereotypes are aggregated over time in content that is presented as 'normal'
This poses more danger I believe as it can enact a gradual and subtle change in a society's psyche, moreso than someone overtly spouting extreme views and hate/violence, who would be instantly rejected. I also guess this forms the current strategies used by extremists, of whatever ideology, pretending to not be extremists to gain mainstream recognition.

Then again extreme ideologies and prejudice will always exist and are unfortunately part & parcel of human nature, the same way that conflict is. People sometimes seem to want to hate just for the sake of it, for e.g. why are some supporters of different football teams from the same city ready to tear each other to shreds? Humanity would get very bored in utopia and just destroy it heh. What about the arguement that banning anything won't get rid of it, just drive it underground? But then can humans be trusted to just know to and therefore do the right thing all the time, needing no rule of law - clearly not. I guess everything needs moderation and a balance?

I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore but I guess one thing I would say is that these discussions are timeless, occurring recurrently throughout our history. The setting and technology changes, the pendulum swings from one school of thought to another, but we carry on, at times good and at times bad, and life goes on. Okay as I'm now just chatting gibberish I'll stop now.
 

ayase

State Alchemist
I still can't, and probably won't ever, find the fanservice using overt minors (ie not even teens) not being distasteful, but each to their own.
That’s one of my big head-scratchers really about this whole debate. I would have thought that the natural reaction to seeing or reading fiction you don’t like would be simply to stop looking at it, stop giving it attention and exposure (I mean, there are plenty of things in fiction I don’t like either and avoid, but these kinds of discussions don’t happen about those things because they aren’t things society is concerned about). Different, of course, from seeing actual, real abuse or mistreatment of real people and looking the other way, but it often seems like people are more interested in speaking up, complaining about and trying to rid the world of fiction they find offensive than real life human suffering. Again I presume this is simply because it’s just an easier option to take on artists and writers than people traffickers and child abusers.
 

Geriatric hedgehog

Thousand Master
I would have thought that the natural reaction to seeing or reading fiction you don’t like would be simply to stop looking at it, stop giving it attention and exposure
I fully agree and I said as much in an earlier post in this thread. This was mainly in relation to Monogatari, which I am a big fan of, and on balance am still very happy to watch & collect because there is far more in it that I like than dislike. As a fan, I always want to, and will continue to, recommend it to others but I guess it's my way of being defensive by "self sacrificially" offering up a caveat as part of the recommendation to see off any current or later objections, and potentially also to be the one doing the critiquing as I really hate having to hear others railing on something I love. Maybe that sounds hypocritical, so I don't really know and I very likely lack the eloquence to put my thoughts/feelings into words. Still, I hope a little of that makes some semblance of sense heh.
 

Lordhippos

Thousand Master
I fully agree and I said as much in an earlier post in this thread. This was mainly in relation to Monogatari, which I am a big fan of, and on balance am still very happy to watch & collect because there is far more in it that I like than dislike. As a fan, I always want to, and will continue to, recommend it to others but I guess it's my way of being defensive by "self sacrificially" offering up a caveat as part of the recommendation to see off any current or later objections, and potentially also to be the one doing the critiquing as I really hate having to hear others railing on something I love.

Monogatari is my #1 top anime series, and I have the same thing. I can only recommend it with the same kind of caveats you do. I feel like with shows like Monogatari as a more seasoned (though I am nowhere near as seasoned as some of you lot) watcher of anime in general it's more normal. I would never recommend it to someone who was just starting out with anime because it would be fairly jarring for most non-anime viewers.

I just finished Mushoku Tensei, and that seems like a big can of worms. MT has amazing animation quality, a nice OST, really really good world-building, but it's also got an incredibly pervy MC who is basically the mind of a 40 year old NEET lolicon thrown into the body of a child, with all memory in-tact, and the show doesn't shy away from displaying the pervy side of the MC on similarly aged subjects.

I honestly don't know how to appraise it, is it appropriate if he is a similar age even though his mind is much older? I don't think there is a solid answer for that. Opinions seem split on whether it's right/wrong/necessary for the story.

If Monogatari carries a viewer caution, then MT needs a big old flag by comparison.

That’s one of my big head-scratchers really about this whole debate. I would have thought that the natural reaction to seeing or reading fiction you don’t like would be simply to stop looking at it

Honestly, for me sometimes it just boils down to the rest being good enough to override anything distasteful that crops up. Or maybe the parts I don't quite agree with are just short, one offs, and the remainder is fine. I'm normally invested into watching something so to just stop at a certain point would require more than one bad scene to crop up, and even then I can always skip forward if I really want to.

It doesn't change my opinion that the thing I'm watching could be even better without certain scenes included or perhaps reworked.

I think it is worth noting that no one in this thread (as far as I'm aware) has actually expressed a desire for censorship.

I would prefer not to have censorship in general personally.
 
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Vashdaman

Za Warudo
I don't deny that fiction can make us feel emotions and stick with us after the fact, but the idea I really struggle to believe is that it actually does influence people's behaviour. I mean, sticking with music Nick Cave has written plenty of songs about murder, even from the point of view of murderers, but I don't think listening to them is going to make me or anyone else go out and murder people or think murder is okay. So it would be a bit hypocritical of me to take the kind of line some do against say, rap music with violent or misogynistic lyrics and how it poisons the minds of impressionable youth. If anything I think the fact people do take issue with some genres but not others is just kind of a snobbish (and potentially, actually a bit racist) elitism. Fiction in all its forms is self-expression, and I think it does a very important job as a healthy release valve for people's darker sides.

I think the part I've bolded is also important. You were a teenager, Vash, I don't think anyone (including yourself) should be too critical of things you might have believed or ways you might have felt at a time your hormones were going haywire. Of course you were going to be feeling pretty high off testosterone at that point, a ton of it was being injected into your system by mother nature. I think most people probably realise they acted a bit d*ckish when they were teenagers, but again, I don't think there's a lot we can do about that other than be grateful most of them calm down again.

I think it's all kind of subtle though, I've not listened to Nck Cave but don't think writing a song from the point of view of a murderer is really the kind of thing that's necessary a problem. I mean it seems like it's not something that is reinforcing a commonly held oppressive belief, if you know what I'm trying to say. Whereas a song about something like the treacherous two faced loose woman stereotype that Rui mentioned we see everywhere in our media is reinforcing a misogynistic mindset that is having real life consequences for women. It's not even isolated examples of depictions of that sort that are the problem I think, but the sheer ridiculous quantity of them. And I think we need to be critical of these trends so that people can realise you know what maybe most women aren't actually gold digging cold hearted manipulators after all, because as Rui pointed out, some men really do believe that nonsense.

And by the way I do know what you mean about the disproportionate ire that rap receives (although some modern youth gang rap does definitely ask for trouble by crossing all sorts of unconscionable ethical lines), and I listen to that stuff myself sometimes. But it's now that I'm aware how much of an oppressive and oppressing trap that kind of masculinity is, it hopefully doesn't effect me too much. But I'm not so sure that most adults can see through all the nonsense they had programmed into them since childhood. There are plenty of grown men who carry sexism, homophobia ect ect into their adulthood, as we all know. It's incredibly hard to actually break out of those ways of thinking you've had inculcated into you. In my mid 20s I thought I was educated, self aware and free of all that toxic stuff, but actually I wasn't at all, it was bubbling under the surface and still effecting my actions towards people. It's so deep rooted man.
 
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ayase

State Alchemist
I mean it seems like it's not something that is reinforcing a commonly held oppressive belief, if you know what I'm trying to say. Whereas a song about something like the treacherous two faced loose woman stereotype that Rui mentioned we see everywhere in our media is reinforcing a misogynistic mindset that is having real life consequences for women. It's not even isolated examples of depictions of that sort that are the problem I think, but the sheer ridiculous quantity of them. And I think we need to be critical of these trends so that people can realise you know what maybe most women aren't actually gold digging cold hearted manipulators after all, because as Rui pointed out, some men really do believe that nonsense.
I don’t know. I mean that sounds very noble and sensible and all, but the very act of pointing these things out seems quite patronising, like posing the question “Did you pick up on this stereotyping and subtext?” seems like something that would be fine for an English or Media Studies teacher to do at school, with kids, to promote awareness and critical thinking but when it is (as it usually is) addressed towards other adults in the way a lot of “cultural commentators” do it just comes across as them thinking other adults aren’t capable of the same reasoning they are and need to be told. Which it’s very much their right to do, I’m just not sure how well disposed it’s going to make their audience/readers towards them and therefore their ideas if they feel like they’re being treated like idiots.

And then there’s the fact that this causes controversy, controversy generates views and therefore money, so people are encouraged to find and expose all this trope use in media anywhere and everywhere, and soon everything is “problematic”because any time a female character betrays someone, it’s a negative stereotype reinforcement (writer’s notes: okay, all female characters must be positive role models, they can no longer do bad things). Every time an LGBT character dies it’s the “bury your gays” trope (got it, LGBT characters CANNOT DIE in fiction any more) and even if the idea is not to force things via censorship it still starts to read very much like a manifesto for ridding fiction of anything potentially objectionable in exactly the same way the ‘90s anti-violence in media crowd wanted. For the sake of the children anyone impressionable.

You know me Vash, you know that I completely accept that society has deep-rooted problems and inequalities that I think need to be addressed (Hell, I voted for Jeremy Corbyn every time it was possible to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as someone living outside his constituency) but I think that by far the best way to do that is through life experience. I find that if people have experience of being around REAL people of the opposite sex and REAL people of different races and sexualities then they pretty quickly drop their silly misconceptions and stereotypes because when they hear someone (either online or in person) say something like “All women are two-faced” then they can think (or say, if it’s not likely to get them punched in the face) “Well what about Julie? She’s a really kind and helpful person” and the same goes for if anyone said anything racist or homophobic and you knew black or gay people who proved those stereotypes wrong (my standard go-to when anyone makes any blanket statements about women is to ask if they think it’s true of their mothers, occasionally they do which probably goes a long way to explaining the deepest root-causes of their sexism, see my point about bad parenting in an earlier post).

I guess what I’m saying with this now rather rambling post is that I don’t think think criticising the media people consume (or create) brings about positive change in them, I think it just makes them put up the defences because something they enjoy is being attacked (I very much doubt anyone reads or watches anything like it’s the 2 Minutes Hate, except perhaps for those aforementioned cultural commentators and they’re doing it for attention, and money). Far better would be for them to gain life experience that is going to make them see these stereotypes are not real and make sure that dreams/reality barrier remains firmly in place, at which point there is no need to be concerned about fiction any more. It’s particularly tough when we’re all stuck in our houses, but come the Singularity and when we’re all worshipping at the Church of the Machine God together I think that future will come to pass.
 
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Rui

Karamatsu Boy
Administrator
Also want to confirm that I'm not personally into censorship. I have been very critical about the BBFC since forever.

It's true that being confrontational, especially towards strangers, doesn't successfully convey the message. For all that certain groups are called 'snowflakes' and treated as though they're very easy to offend, I find it's often the other way around; telling people they're wrong goes down even more poorly when the person on the receiving end isn't used to it. I'm a very confrontational person by nature but actively policing what people can enjoy on an instinctual level is just a waste of energy all around. People are always going to like what they like. Being confrontational amongst friends, however, is critical - I realised long ago that being subtle about how I feel to people with emotional investment in my happiness just causes my feelings to seem less important. A lot of the echo chamber effect in society would be lessened if people would speak out in their own social groups to ask their buddies to question things now and then. Keeping quiet to let misunderstandings persist is one of the facets of British culture that I find least endearing.

Going back to fan service, for me it's very much about the presentation. Weirdly I don't feel as uncomfortable about Redo of Healer as I do about Shield Hero, even though the former is objectively far worse in its themes, because everyone who watches it knows that the cultural narrative around it is that it's revolting hate-porn and if that's their kink then they can watch it and others can steer well clear. Relatively few people are going to pick up negative stereotypes from Redo of Healer unless they already had them and wanted the gratification of being told that they were right in an overtly creepy way (or if they know it's nasty but just want to push their personal boundaries). It's not hiding its agenda. Shield Hero is much more subtle about it in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable. Its source material is marketed as mainstream and suitable for 12 year olds. The narrative repeatedly shoves the toxicity of women down the viewer's throat and sells the line that anyone other than the main character is a raving idiot out to get him. Again, it's wish fulfilment nonsense telling the presumed average viewer nothing but what they wanted to hear, but it's presented as a slick, easy-to-digest adventure romp and people act with incredulity every time someone shies away from it. The stuff it's peddling is normalised, and portrayed without a single trace of finesse. The audience isn't asked to think about what they're consuming in the same way. I happily lapped up the kinky stuff in Monogatari but Shield Hero honestly gave me the creeps.

The established logic that 'everything must be made for straight men so it's ok if things are biased that way and other audiences are valueless' is also an enduring fallacy. Men are not even the majority group in the UK or Japan. Yet the trope persists in the weirdest of ways. It's not a zero-sum game. The best, longest-lasting material - whether by measure of success or subjective quality - tends to have appeal on many different levels. You're not going to make the next Demon Slayer Mugen Train by throwing more than half of your potential audience under a bus right from the planning phase. Risking alienating one segment of the audience to make something interesting I can handle, even celebrate, but the completely mindless, unnecessary, by-the-numbers, derivative tripe that gets thrown in to otherwise perfectly good shows without anyone in the production line questioning it really confuses me. I know there's a lot of fear that the opposite is happening - the folks who rage about Shounen Jump's popularity with women undermining its male-orientated mission, for example - but having the occasional bishounen in a series about people punching one another really doesn't feel as though it's turning its original audience off in any meaningful way (it's also nonsense that this is something new, because women have always been reading stuff like Shounen Jump long before any alleged pandering began and to assume otherwise is straight up wrong). Male readers were perfectly capable of appreciating handsome characters in shounen manga decades ago.

I would also say the anti-trope fear is bit of a false dilemma. It's also fine to have treacherous women and dead gays and villainous minority actors if there are other examples of those groups who aren't in those stereotypical roles; the trends only seem like trends when there's, say, one token woman in every show and the creator of each was intellectually incapable of imagining her as anything other than the played-out archetype (which sounds like an absurdly exaggerated scenario until you look at the last few decades of entertainment output). I sigh when there are 1-2 women and one is a perfect girlfriend type while the other is evil incarnate, but as soon as there are 3 women in the script and one is well-written it no longer matters (making the virgin/whore characters well-written and nuanced is also an acceptable alternative, it's just apparently a lot harder to do). Star Trek Discovery has treacherous women, dead gays and villainous minorities aplenty but it also has smart women, alive gays and heroic minorities, so the fact that the tropes can be found doesn't reinforce the same poisonous media narrative. On the other end of the quality-of-writing scale, Queen's Blade has a bunch of extremely questionable archetypes in its roster of characters. And yet I love it, because it has something for everyone and a lot of the characters come across as having their own agency even though it's a stupid sex action/comedy show based off a game about unrealistically attractive women losing their clothes in various stupid ways. Agency doesn't have to make things boring.

We left the industry to self-correct for decades and absolutely nothing happened, so I think that it's important to speak out about how lame it looks when people fall back on laziness. Otherwise, the path of least resistance is always to keep repeating the same design mistakes, the same way that nobody cares about real life safety issues until people start dying and someone manages to shift the problem towards the people who can actually change things.

Like vash, I strongly believe that the media affects people. Heck, in my case the male gaze-heavy entertainment industry gave me a great appreciation for the female form that would never have emerged from my childhood religious brainwashing otherwise, so I think I managed to get a positive outcome on that front after the years of introspection needed to reframe my world. But the media is horrendously biased and it deserves to be questioned. You only need to see a tiny fragment of the outcry over Lil Nas X's new video to see how artistic expression is only cherished within a narrow framework. The same people who are crying out for the freedom to disrespect the values of others are suddenly clutching their pearls because some guy on the Internet used his platform to question theirs. Then there's the view that it's fine to have hundreds of big budget fan service videos aimed at the straight male gaze every month but a successful queer artist releasing just one represents the gay agenda bringing about the end of human civilisation. 'Free speech' usually seems to mean the right for the dominant group to say what it likes against any dissent, not an ideal which cultivates the free exchange of genuinely-held opinions. A freedom of expression which only exists for certain classes of people, or encourages those people to restrict freedoms for others, isn't worth defending.

If fan service is only acceptable when it's for a particular group, or goes out of its way to alienate perceived minorities for no apparent reason, then it turns me off. That's not to say that weird kinks can't be catered for in their own content; have at it. I just wish that 'casual fan service' in otherwise story-based shows could be more inclusive and, well, responsible. I don't want to stop things from being made, I want creators to have the guts to challenge their viewers to interpret what they see. That layer of interpretation is implicit in books and to some extent music, because a lot less money is changing hands on the production side and there's less rabid hysteria about viewership. The need for the consumer to think about what they're consuming is often missing in mainstream visual media by design, and I think the medium is better when the viewer isn't passively force fed.

R
 

ayase

State Alchemist
Well, it took me a couple of days to work out how to respond to that. You’re awfully good at this debating lark @Rui (look at that like count and then look at my none). I agree entirely in fact with the opinion that it is execution rather than content which is the thing to criticise in media, and no-one but the most defensive and hypersensitive would protest anyone's right the criticise poor quality writing or art (Do I have a problem with Tell Me Why for including a transgender character and themes? No. Do I have a problem with its horrible control system and characters who default to behaving like complete pricks whenever the player is not in control of them despite the player's choices? Yes). That's different from criticising media simply for including potentially offensive material, because it's hopefully constructive and if creators take it on board it will improve their work rather than neuter it.

I think the main reason I find it hard to respond to some of your points is because I don't believe I am one of these people with double-standards (although anyone can feel free to call me out on that if they think I have been guilty of this) so I’m not going to argue their corner. Those who criticise media simply for including content they don’t like, whether it's sexualisation, violence or the presence of non-white or LGBT people, are all very similarly inclined in my opinion and I dislike that attitude in general. I’m NOT going to get upset over people including things I don’t like because I think it’s everyone’s right to create whatever they want, no matter their beliefs or political inclinations. And they already do! I don't think there any barriers in the way of people creating those well executed shows you (or I) enjoy so I can't really see the problem. I'm so out of touch I had to DuckDuckGo Lil Nas X and despite all the crying it doesn't look like anyone prevented him from making his controversial video, and that's good. Just like I think it's good that despite all the wailing no-one is preventing anyone from making rapey anime.

As to just producing what sells or telling your audience what they want to hear, that's less of a problem with art than it is with consumer capitalism, I think. Because profit is not just what leads to Japan churning out plot-less fanservice for straight men, but also what leads to Hollywood churning out scenes for a progressive audience that feel like PSAs for children which would probably be more honest if they were narrated by Mr. Mackey from South Park. Prejudice is bad, m'kay? I'm fairly confident you and I had a discussion before wherein we both expressed the opinion that such things weren't likely to change anyone's mind, so is there any difference between the two? They're both just preaching to the choir so they clap and keep buying their stuff. And whenever these corporations "apologise" and promise to take action or do better it's not because they care, it's just because their market research tells them they will profit more from doing so than not. And the times they don't and instead double down, it's for the exact same reasons.

Worse though is when the pressure is brought to bear on creators who aren't doing what they do at the behest of multinational corporations but are simply making what they want to make. They actually do have true freedom to create, but people still take issue with them using it. You mentioned earlier the case of a fan artist being harassed for creating content people didn't like, and I can think of dozens of cases of this happening. But what bothers me more than the people piling onto creators is the increasing regularity with which those creators cave instead of showing some backbone and standing up for their rights. At that point not only is my ire then directed at the bullies who have broken them but at them for breaking. No more heroes. And that, probably, is my major problem with society in general at this point. Too many people aren't strong willed enough to go their own way and do their own thing, everybody is so concerned about what other people are doing, or what other people think of them. What do we do about that? All I can think is make people stronger and more independent to the point they really don't give a damn, and that goes back to parenting and early influences. What I certainly think we don't do is create a society that caters to and creates more weak-willed, easily offended, easily swayed people.

A freedom of expression which only exists for certain classes of people, or encourages those people to restrict freedoms for others, isn't worth defending.
I agree with this completely. That wouldn't even be freedom, just a hypocrite's definition of it.
 

João Gomes

Vampire Ninja
I was going to talk about the creators caving bit @ayase, but maybe it's better if you talked about a few examples (if you want to), otherwise I would risk writing stuff that ends up being irrelevant. Just so I can have a general idea of what you mean regarding that.
 

ayase

State Alchemist
I was going to talk about the creators caving bit @ayase, but maybe it's better if you talked about a few examples (if you want to), otherwise I would risk writing stuff that ends up being irrelevant. Just so I can have a general idea of what you mean regarding that.
Go for it João, there are multiple reasons I’d rather not name names, but this is not a phenomenon that is confined to say, artists who have drawn sexual content or lolicon (though I believe they have the right to do so as much as anyone else) but artists who have been bullied into submission for fan art of characters being too pretty, or too slim, or having a slightly off skin colour from the official art. The latter often tend to be young women as well (more often than not having bile poured on them by other young women), which is a GREAT message to send them about their right to artistic freedom.
 
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