Funimation and #FujoshiLife

By: Anime Feminist March 13, 201718 Comments

Last week Funimation started a new marketing campaign for yaoi anime Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi by asking BL fans in their staff to talk about their “#FujoshiLife mishaps.”

“After my senior year of college, I binged all of Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi and Junjou Romantica in three days. I lived on fruit cups, popcorn, and drove to the Taco Bell that was literally walking distance away. #FujoshiTRASH”

“I used my husband’s iPad to catch up on some BL manga. Unfortunately the site I used wasn’t very wholesome and when he accidentally opened the tab at work it was instantly blocked. And reported to security. I can’t use his iPad anymore.”

“When I was 16 I wanted to buy my first BL manga but it was marked for 18+ only. I convinced my mom to buy it by claiming it was marked mature for violence.”

LGBTQ+ fans objected and Funimation ended the campaign, offering a sincere apology. In an industry where, as we have already discussed, it’s easy to sidestep or defer accountability, Funimation choosing to take such a public stance in support of their queer customers deserves to be acknowledged.

However, this is a complicated issue which stirred up mixed feelings in feminists and allies. On the one hand:

  • Yaoi presents a romanticised and commercialised image of queer men for the consumption of straight audiences; Funimation were, from the most clinical perspective, leveraging that image for profit
  • A #FujoshiLife hashtag implies only women were asked about this; whether true or not, appearing to invite only women to talk about their experience of texts featuring exclusively queer male characters is not a good look
  • Ultimately, LGBTQ+ fans were upset; when marginalised people are hurt by your actions, you stop immediately and commit to do better, even if you don’t necessarily understand or agree straight away.

On the other hand:

  • Women’s hobbies and interests are often sidelined and overlooked, while marketing campaigns targeting straight men who like cute anime girls have been completely accepted for some time; it’s hard to imagine a similar outcry for an #OtakuLife hashtag featuring anecdotes identical to those above
  • Fujoshi make up a large and increasing segment of the market paying big money for anime and related merchandise; it would be odd for a commercial company not to try to cater to them in some way
  • The anecdotes shared are more focused on self-deprecating fujoshi than on fetishising queer men
  • Queer men read yaoi too, even queer Japanese men.

Funimation was undoubtedly right to take the action they took and stand publicly on the side of their LGBTQ+ customers. However, BL fans are a huge part of anime fandom, mostly women, and many queer themselves. How can companies like Funimation represent these voices in a way that is sensitive to queer people who find yaoi demeaning? How could they have run a campaign for a yaoi anime as problematic as Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi in a way that would have been received more positively?

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