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HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top04-08-2013 07:31:29 AM

HonorableShadow
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From: Ohio
Registered: 11-03-2006
Posts: 471
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Utena and racism?

I wanted to watch this series with my friend, because I thought she'd enjoy it. Well, one of the first things she said about it was "so they made the brown girl the one who gets pushed around and the light skinned girl gets to save her?" She doesn't really want to watch the rest of the series because of this, which is too bad. I want to tell her that the trope is turned on its head later on, and also that at the end Utena doesn't save Anthy, but at the same time I don't want to give too much away. What do you think?  Any ideas on what I should tell her?

Last edited by HonorableShadow (04-08-2013 07:31:51 AM)


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#2 | Back to Top04-08-2013 11:42:05 AM

gorgeousshutin
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Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
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Re: Utena and racism?

As a non-light skinned person, I find your friend's reaction to SKU as being . . . peculiar.

Maybe you can point out how the Prince - presented to the audience as a strong, noble ideal in the earlier parts - is drawn as a "brown" youth?


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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#3 | Back to Top04-08-2013 01:06:03 PM

Atropos
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From: Hampden College
Registered: 10-22-2011
Posts: 906

Re: Utena and racism?

She does realize that the show is set in Japan, right?

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#4 | Back to Top04-08-2013 01:42:35 PM

gorgeousshutin
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Registered: 04-11-2012
Posts: 1312
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Re: Utena and racism?

Atropos wrote:

She does realize that the show is set in Japan, right?

I'm guessing HonorableShadow's friend was somehow getting these Japanese > Indian vibes watching SKU.  But that's just . . . peculiar.


(PSOH/SKU) Revolutionary Human Leon (Updated to Part 3 as of Sep 26, 2017) / (SKU/MPD) Seinen Kakumei Utena (Updated to Part 43 as of Sep 08, 2017) / (NGE) The End of Hedgehog_s Dilemma (Updated to Part II Chapter 6 as of May 17, 2016) / (BananaFish) Medusa (Updated to Chapter 3 as of Mar 1, 2016)
http://archiveofourown.org/users/gorgeousshutin/works or https://www.fanfiction.net/u/3978886/

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#5 | Back to Top04-08-2013 11:46:49 PM

HonorableShadow
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Posts: 471
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Re: Utena and racism?

Yeah, idk either.  Well anyway, I got her to watch by telling her that Utena's attempts to "save" her and play prince aren't really shown in an entirely positive light.  It's shown as her pushing what she wants on Anthy while she's trying to act like a prince.  She seemed to feel better about it after I told her that.


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#6 | Back to Top04-09-2013 11:36:55 PM

waifu
Wakaba Wrangler
Registered: 01-12-2013
Posts: 14

Re: Utena and racism?

I've always thought that SKU mocks the "white savior syndrome" quite obviously.

Last edited by waifu (04-09-2013 11:37:10 PM)

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#7 | Back to Top04-15-2013 06:42:22 AM

zevrem
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Registered: 03-23-2013
Posts: 387

Re: Utena and racism?

They show that it's about greed and power and not about "morals."

As for why the Wonder Twins were Indian, I have an idea. Basically, India was the crown jewel of European imperialism. It was really the perfect foreign colony. It was gigantic, meaning there was plenty of labor and resources to exploit. Its population was both fairly disciplined, unlike Africa, and docile, unlike China. It had tons of spices and silks and gold to ply the upper and upper middle class with, and as an added bonus, there were all kinds of silly native rituals and abuses that the missionaries and Moral Guardians could sneer at.

It's about how silly it is for Western Civilization to save the developing world from problems caused by Western Civilization. It's also, I guess, about the change in the West's attitude towards the Third World, from one of brutish exploitation (Saionji) to one of "Noble Savage"-style romanticism (Miki) to using it as a stage for proxy wars (Juri) to a means of advancing one's political aims by showing how noble you are, a la Bono/post-Cold War presidents (Touga), and finally, to one of simple-minded "egalitarian" idealism (Utena).

Last edited by zevrem (04-15-2013 07:52:52 PM)


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#8 | Back to Top04-16-2013 09:43:57 AM

Aelanie
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Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 377

Re: Utena and racism?

Ikuhara states clearly in the show commentary that there was no racial or political meaning to Anthy (and by extension Akio) being of apparent Indian ethnicity. He had seen a similar looking character in a manga and had liked the design, so he decided to use it. That doesn't invalidate any such meanings viewers pull from it, but Ikuhara - as usual for him - was really only using it as another way of finding unique visual tricks, of making the show's imagery more interesting.

This is one of of the show's aspects that suffers the worst from what I call the "Utena Overthinking Syndrome", trying to find a deep and insightful intended meaning when in fact, for many of the show's elements, there really was none. Again, you as the viewer can draw all kinds of messages from what's presented, and Ikuhara would love that, but there was no original intent of that kind.

Last edited by Aelanie (04-16-2013 09:48:41 AM)

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#9 | Back to Top04-16-2013 09:54:24 AM

zevrem
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Posts: 387

Re: Utena and racism?

This is all true, Akio and Anthy certainly don't behave like colonial subjects.

I was thinking on how Akio and Anthy and Utena might have been extracted from a manga called Battle Angel Alita. The main character Alita is a cyborg girl who's really good at fighting and rushes headlong into every fight that presents itself to her, making her an obvious analogue for Utena. At one point, she joins a tournament for a sci-fi cyborg game called "Motorball."

The game has a champion that Alita fights named Jashugan who's very Indian looking

http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110306072122/battleangel/images/9/9a/BAA04_149_Jashugan.jpg

and he has a hot sister named Shumira whom he's very protective of.

http://danish42.free.fr/gunnm/image/Shumira.jpg

Also, the centerpiece of the entire series is an evil floating city that is a remnant of a fallen world empire.

http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110417064730/battleangel/images/a/a2/BAA01_10_Tiphares.jpg

http://jessi.gonein60fps.net/S1E1/Blog%20Posts/Utena%20DVD%20Comparison/08%20Castle%20DVD.jpg

Also, at one point, there's a part where one of the side characters complains to his girlfriend that he feels like a loser, and she tells him that nobody wins in the Scrapyard. This, I think, is the best way to describe the Rose Bride duels.

And btw, Battle Angel Alita is probably the best manga ever, so read it.

Last edited by zevrem (04-16-2013 10:09:44 AM)


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#10 | Back to Top04-16-2013 10:15:20 AM

Aelanie
Black Rosarian
Registered: 02-04-2009
Posts: 377

Re: Utena and racism?

zevrem wrote:

And btw, Battle Angel Alita is probably the best manga ever, so read it.

I've only ever seen the OVA, which was apparently only the tip of the iceberg that is the manga. It's certainly gritty, very old-school cyberpunk of the kind that isn't really made anymore, but forgive me if I express doubts that it was ever a source of influence for Utena. emot-tongue

Also, the name "Alita" is an invention of the Western translators. Her name in the original Japanese is "Gally".

Last edited by Aelanie (04-16-2013 10:18:22 AM)

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#11 | Back to Top04-16-2013 10:22:35 AM

zevrem
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Posts: 387

Re: Utena and racism?

The OVA only covers volumes 1 and 2, the Wonder Twins show up in volumes 3 and 4, and the "Nobody wins" quote shows up in volume 5.


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#12 | Back to Top04-20-2013 10:11:23 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
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Re: Utena and racism?

Battle Angel Alita is fantastic! Strongly urge, get out and read, etc. etc.

As for the question of Akio and Anthy's race, I never took it to be important other than their skin making them different, exotic, alluring. It visibly sets them apart from the rest of the students in a way that doesn't get explanation or definition. I would imagine the personal experience of being around someone like Akio or Anthy would include a feeling-- just an odd feeling of differentness that never gets addressed, and the easiest way to translate that visually and set them apart is by a different skin color that is never mentioned or referenced.


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#13 | Back to Top04-21-2013 07:04:39 AM

Atropos
Atropos Turretslayer
From: Hampden College
Registered: 10-22-2011
Posts: 906

Re: Utena and racism?

But doesn't Ikuhara explicitly refer to them as 'Indian' in some interview? Like, "I made them Indian because of Saito's manga," or something like that.

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#14 | Back to Top04-21-2013 08:50:36 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
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Re: Utena and racism?

I honestly can't see how that would invalidate the rest of what I said, but then, I'm bad at races/implied racism. Does being Indian mean something bad? emot-confused


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#15 | Back to Top04-22-2013 04:11:18 AM

Atropos
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From: Hampden College
Registered: 10-22-2011
Posts: 906

Re: Utena and racism?

I interpreted your post as "Their ethnicity is entirely symbolic of their separation from the rest of the cast; they're not actually meant to belong to any specific dark-skinned group." Is that not what you meant?

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#16 | Back to Top04-23-2013 02:18:43 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
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Re: Utena and racism?

Hmm... not exactly. They're clearly Indian, I'm definitely not disputing that. But I don't think that means anything insofar as the actual culture of Indian people, or Hindu religion and cultural background. From the little familiarity I have with the Hindu religion and the even tinier familiarity I have with Indian cultural mores and behaviors (very tiny-- I have a couple Indian friends, that's all), it seems like these things have no analytical applicability to Akio and Anthy.

I guess pretty much what I'm saying is that I figured the skin color and the bindi were chosen for their exotic look as a signifier of their separation rather than as a specific reference to Indian culture, and I don't assume any attempt was made to make them behaviorally or culturally Indian beyond looking it. As an example, while the bindi looks exotic, Akio really shouldn't have one, because it's supposed to be worn only by women. I guess he could be following the more modern trends, where it's mostly a fashion statement emot-keke


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#17 | Back to Top04-23-2013 08:44:34 PM

BlackBeforeRed
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From: The Nightosphere
Registered: 07-09-2010
Posts: 178

Re: Utena and racism?

The one major reference to Indian culture I see is the Rose Bride's dress. In India most wedding dresses are red, at least historically. I acknowledge that it doesn't matter one way or another, all we're really supposed to gather is they're foriegn, different from everyone else. I do buy that they're from Colonized India, mostly because everyone else in the mob sequence of episode 34 wasn't dark skinned like Anthy or Dios, and it reinforces the idea that Dios was a slave to the village, eventually working so hard to save every "princess" that he exhausts himself nearly to death. It also explains why we don't see them have a lot of Indian social cues besides the bindi or Rose Bride outfit. But I know that's mostly Wild Mass Guessing and isn't necessarily the intent or needed to understand Double A.

Regardless, calling Utena racist for pointedly putting the Dark Skinned Girl in the position of metaphorical slavery, which is made to make us feel uncomfortable in the first place, then eventually turning the whole idea of her being helpless and needing to be saved on it's head, is kind of like saying Utena is sexist for all of the bullshit that Our Heroine gets for her choice to defy the roles and being patronized for wanting to be a prince. It misses the point. Even at first view, we're obviously supposed to feel very unsettled by the setup of the duels and Anthy's position, that's the authorial intent. The White Savior thing isn't addressed right off the bat, but I'm pretty sure we were led to believe Anthy wasn't helpless and knew a lot more than she was letting on right from the get go.

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#18 | Back to Top05-02-2013 02:06:59 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
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Re: Utena and racism?

BlackBeforeRed wrote:

[...] but I'm pretty sure we were led to believe Anthy wasn't helpless and knew a lot more than she was letting on right from the get go.

I don't know anything about Colonized India, so I'm gonna leave that part alone, but we get our first evidence of Anthy's true nature in the first episode-- when Anthy takes such pleasure in reminding Saionji that he's no longer the Engaged. That "Saionji...sempai" is just creepy emot-keke


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#19 | Back to Top05-02-2013 02:17:32 PM

Lurv
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Registered: 05-25-2012
Posts: 520

Re: Utena and racism?

Yasha wrote:

BlackBeforeRed wrote:

[...] but I'm pretty sure we were led to believe Anthy wasn't helpless and knew a lot more than she was letting on right from the get go.

I don't know anything about Colonized India, so I'm gonna leave that part alone, but we get our first evidence of Anthy's true nature in the first episode-- when Anthy takes such pleasure in reminding Saionji that he's no longer the Engaged. That "Saionji...sempai" is just creepy emot-keke

I didn't find it creepy first time watching the show, but it did preemptively show that she was more than just a mindless doll.

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#20 | Back to Top05-03-2013 03:04:08 PM

BlackBeforeRed
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Re: Utena and racism?

I didn't remember exactly how early we were shown evidence of her not being mindless (been a while since I watched the SC arc) I couldn't remember if her "Saionji sempai" line was in ep 1 or 2 emot-confused  emot-redface  That line sent shivers down my spine even the first time I saw it, what a perfect way to show a glimpse of her true nature. It kind of reminds me of something I saw on tumblr the other day. Someone basically posted a rant about how Anthy was just a mindless doll and the people who appreciated her character or told him to look deeper into her character were all sick fucks who got off on that emot-rolleyes We're given canon evidence that there's a whole lot more to her than that, yet people still project their own issues on to her regardless of what is shown in universe emot-tongue

About Colonized India, what sealed my headcanon was that France was one of the major countries to colonize India emot-wink May explain why there's so much french influence at Ohtori emot-tongue

Last edited by BlackBeforeRed (05-03-2013 03:04:39 PM)

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#21 | Back to Top05-03-2013 04:38:55 PM

Lurv
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Registered: 05-25-2012
Posts: 520

Re: Utena and racism?

BlackBeforeRed wrote:

I couldn't remember if her "Saionji sempai" line was in ep 1 or 2

That was in the first episode, so anyone actually thinking she's a mindless doll after that can't have been paying much attention to her (which I'm sure was just according to plan, from her perspective emot-tongue ).

But then, I think even the fact that she said "good luck" to Utena (rather than Saionji) at the start of the duel showed that.

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#22 | Back to Top05-03-2013 07:14:19 PM

HonorableShadow
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From: Ohio
Registered: 11-03-2006
Posts: 471
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Re: Utena and racism?

Someone basically posted a rant about how Anthy was just a mindless doll and the people who appreciated her character or told him to look deeper into her character were all sick fucks who got off on that  We're given canon evidence that there's a whole lot more to her than that, yet people still project their own issues on to her regardless of what is shown in universe

Haha, I saw that exact post and I wondered if they were even paying attention.

But you know, growing up I'd try to show Utena to some of my school friends, and a lot of them came away thinking Anthy had no personality or that she was basically just a damsel in distress.  I have bad luck with my friends when it comes to Utena. emot-frown

Last edited by HonorableShadow (05-03-2013 07:15:52 PM)


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#23 | Back to Top05-06-2013 07:25:50 PM

Yasha
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From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
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Re: Utena and racism?

I don't tumblr, so I never saw the rant, but a lot of people used to say the same things back in the day. They're wrong; that's pretty much all there is to it.

As far as racist themes, it's sort of funny that people can see it that way when, after watching the series and engaging brain while doing so (unlike the rant referenced above), the power is in the hands of the hands of the dark-skinned ones, and it's a freak accident that one of the white skinned ones managed to convince one of the dark skinned ones that she was being self-destructive and she should maybe stop-- and then it's the dark-skinned one's choice to do so, which she makes after a while of thinking it over. I would figure a more overt approach if there was meant to be a racial element in the show.


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#24 | Back to Top05-13-2013 11:50:19 AM

yuzukelly
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Registered: 09-22-2010
Posts: 130

Re: Utena and racism?

Yasha wrote:

Battle Angel Alita is fantastic! Strongly urge, get out and read, etc. etc.

As for the question of Akio and Anthy's race, I never took it to be important other than their skin making them different, exotic, alluring. It visibly sets them apart from the rest of the students in a way that doesn't get explanation or definition. I would imagine the personal experience of being around someone like Akio or Anthy would include a feeling-- just an odd feeling of differentness that never gets addressed, and the easiest way to translate that visually and set them apart is by a different skin color that is never mentioned or referenced.

This is what  I assumed. These characters aren't white, but since they're so colorful (the student council, at least), going with an ethnicity for Akio and Anthy that usually has darker sin sets them apart than if they decided that they were European or something.

I also think it's because Saito seems to like that look. I've read a couple of her other mangas, you can even just google image her work and see Japanese females with tanned males (I read one where one was whisked away by an Arabian prince, I believe) and it's not just one series, it's a pattern I see in her work.  Wasn't she mostly in charge for their looks?  I bet she just wanted to make them special, and since her heroines end up with the special, handsome darker skinned man, she just used that for Anthy and Akio emot-smile

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#25 | Back to Top05-22-2013 07:49:49 PM

MissBakes
New Student
Registered: 05-22-2013
Posts: 3

Re: Utena and racism?

Yasha wrote:

I don't tumblr, so I never saw the rant, but a lot of people used to say the same things back in the day. They're wrong; that's pretty much all there is to it.

As far as racist themes, it's sort of funny that people can see it that way when, after watching the series and engaging brain while doing so (unlike the rant referenced above), the power is in the hands of the hands of the dark-skinned ones, and it's a freak accident that one of the white skinned ones managed to convince one of the dark skinned ones that she was being self-destructive and she should maybe stop-- and then it's the dark-skinned one's choice to do so, which she makes after a while of thinking it over. I would figure a more overt approach if there was meant to be a racial element in the show.

This is pretty much how I feel about the races in the show. The REAL power is basically in Anthy's hands. Maybe you could tell your friend that there is much more to Anthy than you see at first glance? That the whole show is about subverting and twisting fairytales? I mean Utena inspires Anthy to break free of the cycle, but Anthy herself is the one to break free of the actual violence. No one swoops in on a white horse to save her. I also saw the ending as Anthy going to save/rescue Utena from wherever she is now. Utena basically said in the end that she was only ever really happy with Anthy, so this is another way that Anthy saved Utena.

Another point that you could mention is that Anthy literally back stabs Utena. I read this as her trying to save Utena from the swords of hate. One sword is better than millions, right? Maybe you could get her to watch the movie first? Then she'd get the idea that nothing is going to happen the way she thinks it will? Good luck. etc-love

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