[Throwback] Male power fantasies in Re:ZERO

Recording our recent podcast on Re:ZERO made me want to share one of the earliest explicitly feminist fandom posts I read, from a writer who has since become a personal friend and an honorary member of Team AniFem (and will one day write something for us, no doubt!).

Re:ZERO and the White Knight Complex (Frogkun.com)

Screenshot of Frog-kun's post. Title: "Re: Zero and the White Knight Complex" posted by Frog-kun on May 27 2016. Image: Red-haired knight Reinhard stands with a background of sparkles and saying "I'll help" as he reaches out a hand to blonde girl Felt as she sits on the ground. The start of the text below the image: "Episode 3 of Re: Zero introduces a character who is, quite literally, a white knight. Reinhard van Astrea is a member of the Royal Guard and is apparently so powerful and righteous that he's known as the Sword Saint. He is also, incidentally, a minor character."

The white knight complex is one of the reasons why I personally find harems so endlessly fascinating in spite of (or maybe because of?) their generally poor writing: they might say very little about how women are actually like, but they do say a whole lot about male anxieties. This is sort of related to what I was saying about all those otaku power fantasies in an earlier post, about how they offer a way for a disenfranchised male to depict himself as the top dog. If the male otaku in these stories can’t live up to the impossible ideals of heteronormative masculinity, his answer is not to reject those ideals altogether, but rather to create a world where he can cheat his way to the top. In this scenario, women are relegated to trophy status; by loving the protagonist, they affirm his manhood to the eyes of the world.

People sometimes ask why we cover any texts targeting men, as if they should be exempt from feminist analysis. Posts like this (and the resulting conversation in comments) demonstrate the kinds of nuanced discussions we can have about male characters and masculinity by viewing shonen or seinen anime through a feminist lens.

Read the full post then let us know what you think in comments below, or tell Frog-kun directly on Twitter @frog_kun!

 

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Amelia is the editor-in-chief of Anime Feminist, has a degree in Japanese Studies and is a freelance writer for websites and magazines on film, television, anime and manga. 

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