A solid start for fans of the idol genre.
All our summer premieres with content warnings and notes.
While an executive order is a temporary band-aid, it’s not a law; so we’re continuing to highlight grassroots health care initiatives for those in need of abortive care, as well as protest information.
On White Queer Fandom and the Erasure of Fans of Color (Teen Vogue, Stitch)
Part of an ongoing series on queer fandom, here looking at how white queerness is weaponized to shut down queer fans of color talking about racism in fandom spaces.
“Even before I realized the levels of racism between fans, I was already internalizing a lot of shitty beliefs about whiteness that came from being in spaces where only white people — and mostly white cis men — were seen as desirable,” Deepa shared with Teen Vogue. “Even more than that, discovering my queerness among mostly white queer people made [me] associate queerness with whiteness. I had a realization a few years ago that I will often play up my queerness in white spaces to further my social capital and be more aligned with the privileges of whiteness, even when it is at the expense of my identity as a person of color, or even at the expense of other people of color. That came in part from fandom, where I know that I’ll be listened to about queerness up until the point that I bring race into it.”
That’s a recurring problem across fandoms, across decades. Queer fandom spaces obviously welcome our queer selves. Fandom is where we meet older queer people who help us understand who we are. It’s where we’re able to get our first partner (or even that partner who’ll be with us for a lifetime). It’s where you’re absolutely able to wave your particular pride fly high (for the most part, since there are issues about whose queer identities come under fire in fandom). However, the second you remind people that you’re also a person of color and that matters to you as much as your queerness does, it becomes a problem for far too many people in queer fandom spaces. Maybe you express unease when queer white Drag Race fans hype up a drag queen that’s done blackface, or pointing out that Billy (so many people’s Stranger Things blorbo) was a racist, or talk out the problems with how some folks write NSFW content with characters of color, or even just write fiction or meta about a character who shares and celebrates your and their ethnic identity. The reaction is often cruel, condescending, or violent. We have to care about one thing at a time and it’s usually not our identity as POC unless it’ll be used to silence some other person of color in fandom.
For Cait, currently locked on Twitter as a result of harassment from people angry about him talking about racism in his main fandom, queer fandom spaces have always been hostile to fans of color. “While I acknowledge they’ve been a place of exploration for myself too, I feel as a POC I’m not granted the freedom and peace to exist in ways white queers get to, and that I must abide to a completely different set of rules,” he shares via DM. Queer fans of color are told to “curate your space” to minimize seeing or experiencing racism, but how can we do that when we’re punished for setting boundaries (like blocking people or locking our accounts) in an attempt to protect ourselves from racists in our own fandoms?
Metal Gear Turned 35, But Quiet’s Character Design Marks A Timeless Controversy (Kotaku, Ashley Bardhan)
Yes, we’re talking about the “she breathes through her skin” character.
Being naked or (less sensationally) creating in-universe technology to accommodate her parasitic needs would let Quiet breathe better. With her skin exposed as much or as little as her character desires, she could eat and drink more frequently and efficiently. She’d become even more fantastically strong than she is in the sexually frustrated game that shipped.
When Raiden ran around nude in Metal Gear Solid 2, completely on display aside from both hands in front of his pelvis (perhaps in 2001 we lacked the technology for dick physics), the camera stayed politely back. The game communicated that Raiden’s nakedness was out of necessity, nothing else. Quiet and her compelling backstory would have benefited from the same sober eyes.
“Woman is desexualized at the very moment when she is stripped naked,” French literary critic Roland Barthes wrote about the striptease. “We may therefore say that we are dealing in a sense with a spectacle based on fear, […] a sort of delicious terror, whose ritual signs have only to be announced to evoke at once the idea of sex and its conjuration.”
But Kojima couldn’t help himself from conjuring sex.
“I’ve been ordering to Yoji to make the character more erotic, and he did it well,” Kojima’s English Twitter said about Quiet on September 4, 2013. “The initial target is to make u want to do cosplay or its figurine to sell well,” he continued, later posting a close-up of Quiet’s posed, stockings-covered ass as an example of cosplay inspiration.
That’s what Quiet’s bullshit vocal cord parasites really are. Not a plot point created by a genius to make us feel ashamed of our words and deeds and counter the exceedingly tired confines we impose on women in media. The parasites are nothing more than a handwaved explanation for softcore capitalism. Quiet’s bikini body sells products, not empowerment, though the game tries to align with Kojima’s argument for skimpy clothing cleverly indicating female empowerment as well.
Toward creating normalized portrayals of disability that aren’t automatically created with an abled audience in mind.
We can also directly explore and discuss things that actually affect people’s lives. In this regard, 雨夜の月 by Kuzushiro, a yuri manga about an abled lesbian who has a massive crush on a character with hearing disabilities, stands out. The work has citations and annotated explanations that compare and contrast well with the fictionalized depictions of disabled people and their loved ones. Likewise, the work follows an abled person who is struggling to disentangle her feelings of romantic attraction with her desire to be an ally. She doesn’t understand every action the deaf character has and she’s worried constantly about upsetting her whenever she says the “wrong things”. As a result, there’s some genuinely uncomfortable scenes that the work makes readers (especially those who are abled and want to be allies) think about their own actions and knowledge.
Amayo no Tsuki is definitely more explicit than OreTsuba, but the idea is still the same: it respects the particularized moments of struggles and joy of people with disabilities and their family and friends. You don’t ever get the impression that the deaf character is just The Deaf Character; she has her own dorky aspirations and flaws, her hearing disability being merely one component of what makes her an interesting person to read about. I am truly impressed by this ongoing work and will like to read more.
So really, there’s so many ways to talk about disabilities, minorities, and et cetera without being Another Explainer for abled people. You can add a few scenes that show that, yes, people “different” from the majority exist: ぬきたし２ has a small trans affirming scene where a character counts a trans woman as a woman without any hesitation and the trans woman feels extremely validated; Melody Lyrik Idol Magick has a cute autistic side character who gets excited by the protagonists performing a pop song for her; Swan Song has a character who is friendly with kids and the autistic character there and she sympathizes with the autistic character over the loneliness of not getting the antics of abled people — scenes like that are genuinely helpful, even if they are very small.
A Grudge Against the Unification Church Motivated the Murder of Japan’s Most Prominent Politician (Critical Asian Studies, Levi McLaughlin)
Abe’s family has maintained long-term connections with the church.
The murder of Japan’s most powerful politician poses the risk of a moral panic that may spell danger for some of the country’s least powerful and most marginalized residents: ethnic minorities and members of minority religions. There are worrisome precedents for how events may transpire, given the connection of Abe’s assassination to a Korean religion. Relations between Japan and Korea have long been icy, at best. This is a trend driven in part by racism mobilized online, through broadcast media, and in Japan’s streets by far-right activists. Animosity against a Korea-based church poses a corollary danger to the hundreds of thousands of people of Korean descent who live in Japan; on July 8th, the South Korean consulate in Fukuoka tweeted a caution about the possibility of hate crimes. Anger directed toward the Unification Church may amplify targeting of Korean people and establishments, which persists as an incipient threat in Japan.
At the same time, groups that carry the problematic labels “new religion” or “cult,” and perhaps even religious and religion-affiliated organizations in general, are liable to endure a heightened risk of persecution. People in Japan are typically leery of self-identifying as “religious.” A religious motivation for Abe’s murder has surprised many, in part because Japan ranks near the bottom of global religious affiliation surveys. As few as one in five survey respondents in Japan affirm that they have religious faith, and Japan’s 1947 Constitution contains multiple articles guaranteeing separation of religion and state. Nonetheless, religion remains a vital part of Japanese life, and religions and religion-affiliated lobbyists foster governmental influence and comprise an essential part of politics in Japan. Politically influential groups include the Association of Shinto Shrines, Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), and other religiously motivated nationalists with close links to the LDP. The LDP’s national-level junior coalition partner Komeito is a party founded, and powered, by the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai. In this regard, Abe’s connection with the former Unification Church was not unusual or exclusive. It was one of many interest groups, religious and otherwise, with which he maintained ties in order to further his and his party’s aims.
There is precedent in Japan for heightened anger about religion in the wake of calamity, and specifically for backlash against politically significant religions. This was most notable in the wake of the March 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subways by the apocalyptic group Aum Shinrikyō. The Japanese generation that came of age after Aum developed an acute allergy to religion that remains prominent today. We may see a resurgence of anti-religious sentiment triggered by the religion-related motivation for Abe’s murder.
Modern Franchise Games Owe Everything to Ico but Refuse to Learn From It (Paste, Grace Benfell)
How the quiet human touches of Ico’s central relationship fail to translate in imitation.
Care goes hand in hand with struggle, with the distance that comes between two people. Ico asks the player to protect or care for Yorda in ways that are frequently inconvenient. She’ll wander off on her own. If the player’s in another room, shadows will appear and will take her away. Defeating these mystical monsters is not fun in any traditional sense. It’s easy to lose track of Yorda in the chaos of fighting, and enemies will constantly knock you down. Combat is also simple, a little kid waving around a stick by mashing the X button over and over again. Yorda is no help, to the point where one wonders if she even could meaningfully hurt any of the shadows. All this, as one says, smacks of gender, but it also makes Yorda into something other than a tool. She has needs that the player must risk themselves to fulfill. Fighting enemies doesn’t serve the player’s power, rather it is an awkward means of protecting Yorda.
It is precisely that inconvenience that future games would avoid entirely. Consider how much Bioshock Infinite’s press cycle touted that Elizabeth would not get in the way. Indeed, she does not, instead mostly offering up ammo, cover, and the free use of her physic powers. Ellie in The Last of Us gets similar, if less robust, treatment. The dangers she faces, when you don’t play as her, are mostly narrative. The primary innovation of these games is making the companion character a mirror of the player character’s legacy of violence. When you play as Elizabeth or Ellie, the distinctions between Booker or Joel respectively are superficial or non-existent. There is no longer the distance between two people.
I don’t want to pretend Ico’s influence is entirely good and misunderstood. Its tale is straightforwardly one about a damsel in distress. Yorda is more a feminine icon than a person. While Ico and Yorda are undeniably interdependent, the game’s imagination of who protects is straightforwardly gendered. Ico’s will, in both practical and narrative terms, is what drives the story. All the games I’ve mentioned previously rely on similar gendered and sexist assumptions. To take one example, no matter how plucky and capable Ellie is, Joel still must rescue her. Learning from Ico means not just pulling on its strengths, but also acknowledging its weaknesses. So many of these games have done neither.
Nintendo Japan Gives Same-Sex Partners Same Employee Benefits As Heterosexual Married Couples (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)
Marriage equality is not yet recognized in Japan at large.
“We introduced the Partnership System in March 2021 as one initiative based on this philosophy. Although same-sex marriages are not currently recognized under Japanese law, this system ensures employees who are in a domestic partnership with a same-sex partner have the same benefits as employees in an opposite-sex marriage. We have also established that a common-law marriage between couples will be observed in the same way as a legal marriage.
In the Code of Conduct for our employees, we had already established that “we do not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, nationality, ideology, religion, creed, origin, social status, class, occupation, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” prohibiting all forms of discrimination. In addition to introducing the Partnership System, we revised our internal regulations regarding harassment to clearly prohibit discriminatory comments based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as disclosing someone’s privately held sexual orientation against their will.
Alongside the introduction of the Partnership System in Japan, we notified our employees about the issue of gender diversity with a message from our President as a means of raising awareness of what diversity means. In this message, the President called for all employees to adopt a renewed understanding that even speech and actions, which are not intended to harm, can cause significant emotional pain, asking for understanding and support to create an environment in which everyone can work comfortably.
By improving our company systems and conducting training, we will continue our work to create an environment where each of our many diverse employees can fully realize their talents.
Indie Spotlight: Error 143 (Blerdy Otome, Naja)
The game jam build is currently running a Kickstarter in order to make a full (and voiced version of the game).
Indie dev, Jenny Vi Pham recently launched the Kickstarter campaign for their Otome Jam 2022 chatroom romance visual novel, Error 143! Inspired by games like Blooming Panic, Our Life, and Memory Days (that takes me back), the game features a fun, witty story where you bicker your way to romance with a snarky (adorkable) hacker named Micah. I played this game on stream and I AM IN LOVE WITH MICAH YUJIN!!
TWEET: Link to an open-access book on Japanese Feminism, specifically highlighting the chapter on the Unification Church’s role in Japan’s anti-feminist movement.
TWEET: Academic essay about Michiyo Fukaya, a mixed-race Asian American lesbian feminist, activist, poet.
THREAD: Latest union-breaking techniques in regards to dub actor pay scales.
Please enjoy these videos of cats investigating the much anticipated cat-starring cyberpunk game, Stray.