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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 Top06-04-2016 01:40:54 PM

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

Presentation of Men in SKU

Another thing I've noticed on my rewatch: all the male characters come across much, much worse than they did on the first go-around. (This may, I admit, be the result of all the analyses I've read in the intervening time that interrogate the series through that lens, where the whole thing is a struggle against the patriarchy; but then again, I never agreed with those analyses before.)

Seriously. All of them are pretty uniformly awful—either they're violent assholes (like Saionji), womanizing manipulative bastards (Touga, although maybe he changes later on—I've only just finished episode 20), vanilla manipulative bastards (Mikage), or seemingly-sweet but kind of creepy (Miki, Mitsuru, Tatsuya). The key point, though, is that they're all intentionally cruel: they act knowing that they might hurt someone, but put their own interests above the potential for harm.

Whereas the female characters (with the exceptions of Kozue and Nanami—and even then, Kozue comes across better than her socially-retarded brother, and Nanami is too laughable to be really repulsive), while they do cause harm, do so unintentionally. They are, as Juri puts it, "cruelly innocent." They don't hurt people by pushing too hard, they hurt people by bottling their feelings up and not telling them what they need to hear.

Even when—in just the latest episode—Wakaba becomes a Black Rose duelist, she seems to do so only at the very end of her rope: she's basically seen confirmed that Saionji, whom she's taken care of for months, thinks she's less than garbage, and will only ever care about getting back Anthy and his former position. And Shiori, while professing to torment Juri out of sheer hatred, seems honestly conflicted throughout her BR episode: even during her breakdown in Mikage's elevator, she seems in the end less horrified by Juri's feelings than distraught at her failure to mend their relationship.

Like I said, I haven't finished the series, but it certainly seems to me that the male characters in SKU are, pretty universally, pricks. But this has been the subject of a lot of discussion on this forum in the past, so I'd like to reopen the conversation for anyone who disagrees with me, or agrees but thinks I'm not going far enough. emot-tongue

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#2 | Back to Top06-04-2016 02:41:22 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Atropos wrote:

Whereas the female characters (with the exceptions of Kozue and Nanami—and even then, Kozue comes across better than her socially-retarded brother, and Nanami is too laughable to be really repulsive), while they do cause harm, do so unintentionally. They are, as Juri puts it, "cruelly innocent." They don't hurt people by pushing too hard, they hurt people by bottling their feelings up and not telling them what they need to hear.

I don't think that's really true, at all. Nanami's enforcers are all quite brutal (and cutting Nanami out, anyway, is a big cheat). Anthy is a huge villain. Hhhhuuuuuuuuuuugggeee villain.

I love Shiori, but Shiori fucks people over. It's kind of her thing.

Nor, are any of the male characters, other than perhaps Akio, only interested in or trying to hurt others. Saionji is trying to be a good guy, he's trying to be what he thinks is an adult, a real man. He's a kid. What's villainous there, to me, is less him and more the society and circumstances that have taught him that how he behaves is mature. It's Lenny and Squiggy and "Macho. It's short of Mach-ure."

Juri or Shiori aren't any more naive than Touga or Saionji. They're not more innocent. And, Miki isn't more malicious or knowing than Nanami or Anthy.

As for Wakaba and Saionji, let's not forget that Antsy seemingly orchestrates both their falling outs and the fights that come from those. This isn't just a case of Saio being a dick or Wakaba being naive, even though Saio is a dick and naive, and Wakaba is naive and being a dick sometimes. These are kids being played by a much more malevolent and aware older person.


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#3 | Back to Top06-04-2016 06:01:48 PM

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

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Decrescent Daytripper wrote:

I don't think that's really true, at all. Nanami's enforcers are all quite brutal (and cutting Nanami out, anyway, is a big cheat).

No. This is not a matter of "if you met these characters in real life they'd be awful." This is a matter of presentation. Nanami/IKU haven't been a serious threat since episode 4; since then their main role has been comic relief, i.e. a non-threatening counterpart to the real villains...all of whom, I should note, have been male (thus far).

Antsy is a huge villain. Hhhhuuuuuuuuuuugggeee villain.

Again, I'm only on episode 20. We don't have many hints of Anthy's sinister nature yet, beyond a few "Hey, maybe there's something else going on here" moments. (But from what I recall, she still gets presented way more sympathetically than does Akio.

I love Shiori, but Shiori fucks people over. It's kind of her thing.

Obviously. But she does it for semi-understandable reasons, and ultimately the worst things she does and says are under the influence of the Black Rose. I'd say at this point she's still broadly sympathetic, even if Anthy doesn't appear to think so.

Nor, are any of the male characters, other than perhaps Akio, only interested in or trying to hurt others.

Um. Mikage?

Saionji is trying to be a good guy, he's trying to be what he thinks is an adult, a real man. He's a kid. What's villainous there, to me, is less him and more the society and circumstances that have taught him that how he behaves is mature. It's Lenny and Squiggy and "Macho. It's short of Mach-ure."

We at IRG have created something of a narrative along these lines, but it's simply not supported by what's onscreen. How does this explanation justify his behavior towards Wakaba? He uses her to maintain a lifeline to the school, and as soon as he doesn't need her for that he buggers off without even bothering to tell her.

Juri or Shiori aren't any more naive than Touga or Saionji. They're not more innocent.

But Juri doesn't do anything nearly as bad as Touga or Saionji. She's basically the closest thing to a Prince presented in the series thus far.

And, Miki isn't more malicious or knowing than Nanami or Anthy.

Indeed he isn't. I never claimed he was. What he is, is somewhat entitled and possessive—both traits that he could, realistically speaking, grow out of. I'll concede that Miki remains far more sympathetic than the other male characters.   

As for Wakaba and Saionji, let's not forget that Antsy seemingly orchestrates both their falling outs and the fights that come from those. This isn't just a case of Saio being a dick or Wakaba being naive, even though Saio is a dick and naive, and Wakaba is naive and being a dick sometimes. These are kids being played by a much more malevolent and aware older person.

I don't buy that either was being "played": Mikage did nothing more than exploit a situation already in place that was bound to fall apart eventually. The key is that what Mikage exploited was that Saionji cared more about his power and position than about Wakaba, and Wakaba only went to the dark side when she'd been completely betrayed. Compare that to, say, Tatsuya, who basically turns to Mikage because he got rejected by a girl he never even professed an interest in.

EDIT: Besides which, talking about manipulation, would Nanami be nearly as bad if Touga weren't manipulating the shit out of her?

Last edited by Atropos (06-04-2016 06:15:58 PM)

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#4 | Back to Top06-04-2016 07:47:00 PM

pesimistamente
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From: Barcelona [former epi]
Registered: 01-12-2016
Posts: 70

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Atropos wrote:

All of them are pretty uniformly awful—either they're violent assholes (like Saionji), womanizing manipulative bastards (Touga, although maybe he changes later on—I've only just finished episode 20), vanilla manipulative bastards (Mikage), or seemingly-sweet but kind of creepy (Miki, Mitsuru, Tatsuya). The key point, though, is that they're all intentionally cruel: they act knowing that they might hurt someone, but put their own interests above the potential for harm.

Whereas the female characters (with the exceptions of Kozue and Nanami—and even then, Kozue comes across better than her socially-retarded brother, and Nanami is too laughable to be really repulsive), while they do cause harm, do so unintentionally. They are, as Juri puts it, "cruelly innocent." They don't hurt people by pushing too hard, they hurt people by bottling their feelings up and not telling them what they need to hear.

Men are evil in an active way, while women are evil in a passive way, even masculine female characters still sin in passive ways (Utena), while feminine male characters sin in active ways (Miki).

Sometimes, men are even seen as "noble" when "sacrificing" others (Ruka, Mikage), while in women's cases they are never presented as noble for sacrificing others (Shiori). They are *all* pretty awful, but the narrative does favor masculinity, that's out of the question. Even our hero is navigating masculinity, and becomes pretty unlikable when navigates femininity. Promiscuity is power when performed by men (Touga, Saionji, Akio, Ruka, even Mikage), but it doesn't mean the same for women (Kozue). Purity is the only quality women can perform and be praised when it comes to sex (even in Juri's case). Even Touga reminds Nanami of that in the egg episode ("you are not the kind of girl that lays eggs").

All of this is not unconscious: men are princes while women are princesses (when passive) or witches (when active). The Shadow girls' last play makes explicit the sexist system Ohtori (and us) live in, when even themselves tell the siblings story terribly biased. We, the viewers, are biased by out systems and the narrative is biased. There is no causality that all the duelists are male or masculine, while all the black rose duelists are female or feminine. Male characters can graduate when they accept their vulnerability while female characters graduate when they stop letting vulnerability control their lives.

It goes on and on: gender exists in Ohtori, and it plays a huge role on people's opportunities and paths. The Consulting Analyst has great analysis of gender, gender expression and sexuality in Utena, in case anyone wants to check it out emot-smile

Last edited by pesimistamente (06-04-2016 07:53:07 PM)

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#5 | Back to Top06-05-2016 10:00:37 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Atropos wrote:

Decrescent Daytripper wrote:

I don't think that's really true, at all. Nanami's enforcers are all quite brutal (and cutting Nanami out, anyway, is a big cheat).

No. This is not a matter of "if you met these characters in real life they'd be awful." This is a matter of presentation. Nanami/IKU haven't been a serious threat since episode 4; since then their main role has been comic relief, i.e. a non-threatening counterpart to the real villains...all of whom, I should note, have been male (thus far).

As your perspective, that's fine, but I seem to remember them being consistently threatening, while also Nanami becomes increasingly sympathetic.


Atropos wrote:

Again, I'm only on episode 20. We don't have many hints of Anthy's sinister nature yet, beyond a few "Hey, maybe there's something else going on here" moments. (But from what I recall, she still gets presented way more sympathetically than does Akio.

If we play it that, way, though, nothing that's revealed after the fact counts for anything, and that's... a lot of Anthy's character. I don't think that's a fair way to look at things.

She's not really presented as more sympathetic than Akio, for me, but we are free, as are characters, to treat her as more sympathetic. To feel more sympathy.

Even then, she's "not as bad as the Devil," isn't a ringing endorsement of her character.


Atropos wrote:

Obviously. But she does it for semi-understandable reasons, and ultimately the worst things she does and says are under the influence of the Black Rose. I'd say at this point she's still broadly sympathetic, even if Anthy doesn't appear to think so.

That may be your personal take, but from another thread recently:

Jacrad wrote:

Saionji is ignorant of other people's feelings. I don't think he ever intends to hurt people emotionally with his actions (Aside from hitting Anthy, although one could argue that he views that as a normal way of asserting dominance in a relationship and ultimately the 'love' he shares with Anthy overcomes any other feelings.) After he gets kicked out of school we really get to see what a hot mess he is.

Shiori on the other hand doesn't seem to have an 'excuse' for being nasty. She always gave off, to me, an air of being very well off. That she came from a good family and was part of the 'in-crowd.' And yet, despite having all these nice resources at her disposal all she does is try to hurt other people. Especially those that are closest to her. Sure we see her upset after Ruka runs her through the ringer. But the problem is that we still don't see a softer side to her we don't see her at her lowest point. We see her at a low point, but she proceeds to lash out at everyone and doesn't seem to grow from the experience.

Other people, clearly, have other opinions than yours, based on the same material


Atropos wrote:

Saionji is trying to be a good guy, he's trying to be what he thinks is an adult, a real man. He's a kid. What's villainous there, to me, is less him and more the society and circumstances that have taught him that how he behaves is mature. It's Lenny and Squiggy and "Macho. It's short of Mach-ure."

We at IRG have created something of a narrative along these lines, but it's simply not supported by what's onscreen. How does this explanation justify his behavior towards Wakaba? He uses her to maintain a lifeline to the school, and as soon as he doesn't need her for that he buggers off without even bothering to tell her.

Um... I - and, I'd wager those at IRG who you feel "created something of a narrative along these lines" - do feel it's supported by what is onscreen. That you disagree doesn't make something true.

Nor, did I suggest that it "justifies," anything. Behavior can be understood, and understood as symptomatic or misguided, without being justified, healthy, or valorized.


Atropos wrote:

But Juri doesn't do anything nearly as bad as Touga or Saionji. She's basically the closest thing to a Prince presented in the series thus far.

This may be your judgment, but it's not mine, nor the show, itself, make the claim. Characters may feel so, at times, but these are characters who are frequently wrong about many things.

Juri acts mature. Juri acts as if she knows so very much about all things. She doesn't, and she isn't. She may be good-hearted, but she does actively work to intimidate, shame, entrap, and hurt people when it fits her interests. The lack of mustache-twirling doesn't make her selfishness any healthier or less harmful. That she's a tall, good-looking upperclassman with good hair and less of a sex life doesn't make her less manipulative or willing to throw her weight around as an upperclassmen with good hair and a nice body who has a position of authority in the student council.

I think Juri's fundamentally a good person. But, then, I think Touga is fundamentally a good person. Saionji is fundamentally a good person, who has, in his brief lifetime, been taught some very bad lessons and encouraged in very unhealthy ways.


Atropos wrote:

And, Miki isn't more malicious or knowing than Nanami or Anthy.

Indeed he isn't. I never claimed he was. What he is, is somewhat entitled and possessive—both traits that he could, realistically speaking, grow out of. I'll concede that Miki remains far more sympathetic than the other male characters.

You said, in your OP:

Atropos wrote:

all the male characters come across much, much worse than they did on the first go-around.

Atropos wrote:

All of them are pretty uniformly awful

while,

Atropos wrote:

the female characters (with the exceptions of Kozue and Nanami—and even then, Kozue comes across better than her socially-retarded brother, and Nanami is too laughable to be really repulsive), while they do cause harm, do so unintentionally. They are, as Juri puts it, "cruelly innocent."

Not only are there male characters who are not "pretty uniformly awful," there are plenty of female characters who are no more naive of socially-retarded, as you put it, than the male characters. That are not "innocent" in more ways than the male characters.

I don't disagree that you felt this way, watching the show, or that you believe it now, but I don't believe that holds up at all. Shiori isn't more innocent than Miki or Touga. Kozue isn't more innocent or less creepy than Miki. Anthy does considerably more harm, and greater harm, than Saionji, who is by comparison intensely more innocent than she and much less cruel.

That's verified by pretty much every moment in the show, and the show as a whole.

Are there trends in how the males are villainous compared to many of the female characters? Yes. Are all the male characters uniformly creepy and knowingly evil while the female characters are harmlessly cruel or "innocently cruel"? No. I don't see that at all.

If anything, that's a naive lie a couple characters tell themselves about people who are atrocious to them, who they aren't ready to actually blame for those atrocities, and the two most prominent examples of that, that I can think of, are girls thinking/speaking about other girls.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#6 | Back to Top06-05-2016 10:54:24 PM

Kita-Ysabell
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Registered: 11-18-2012
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Atropos, I think you're being pretty selective in your acceptance of what you consider "text."  It seems to be something along the lines of: chop off everything after episode 20, (like the parts that make clear the degree to which certain characters were being influenced by others) don't make inferences about actions or intentions that aren't on the part of female characters, which… it serves your point?  But it isn't an honest representation of the show itself.

Like, it's a valid to say that what stuck out to you on a re-watch was the guys being jerks.  What stuck out to me on my last re-watch was how young and innocent most of the characters were, like, I started off looking at them like adults who should have full responsibility for their actions but holy shit are they not.  I think both of those reactions are based on stuff that really comes up.  But that doesn't mean that it's the only correct way to react, and it isn't the same thing as an interpretation or analysis of the text of the show.


"Et in Arcadio ego..."

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#7 | Back to Top06-05-2016 10:59:03 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Decrescent Daytripper wrote:

Atropos wrote:

Again, I'm only on episode 20. We don't have many hints of Anthy's sinister nature yet, beyond a few "Hey, maybe there's something else going on here" moments. (But from what I recall, she still gets presented way more sympathetically than does Akio.

If we play it that, way, though, nothing that's revealed after the fact counts for anything, and that's... a lot of Anthy's character. I don't think that's a fair way to look at things.

She's not really presented as more sympathetic than Akio, for me, but we are free, as are characters, to treat her as more sympathetic. To feel more sympathy.

I agree with most of your post, DD, but not with this.  I think the show definitely presents Anthy as sympathetic from her very first scene.  We're meant to reflexively sympathize with her as an abuse victim, just as we're meant to reflexively react against her abuser.  Later, because we believe that all people are people, we rebel against the idea that Anthy is the emotionless doll that some characters portray her as.  The fact that Anthy herself is among those portraying her as an emotionless doll reinforces our sympathy: here is a girl who has been made to believe the lies that her abusers have told about her.  It's important that we sympathize with Anthy because otherwise it's hard to understand why Utena does, and we have to understand this, because whether Utena is right to sympathize with Anthy is a central moral question in SKU.  By the time we finally know that Anthy is an agent of suffering much as Akio is, we have also seen reasons to hope that she can grow and escape the cycle of abuse -- hope we're never led to feel on Akio's behalf.  And once again, our experience here mirrors Utena's: our foolish prince learns that the damsel in distress is no princess, but by now Anthy is a friend, someone worth fighting to help even when she's mired in harmful and self-harmful behaviors.  The show artfully arranges events to make sure that we never lose our sympathy for Anthy, even as we feel betrayed and disappointed by her.

You might mean to say that, viewed objectively and after-the-fact, you can make the case that Anthy is no better than Akio (or only a little better than Akio).  But I think that's different from talking about how the show presents her.  The show presents her as sympathetic, in a way that it never presents Akio.  I suppose you could argue that we're meant to feel bad for the fallen prince, imprisoned by the foul witch and turned against his will into the villain he is -- if you don't think that this narrative is meant to be transparently self-serving -- but we see Anthy want something better for herself than depravity; we never see the same from Akio, just posturing.

But Atropos, I don't view this as proving your point, because I think Akio is the only important character whom SKU presents as "uniformly awful."  Even Mikage, who will burn or bury anyone to achieve his goals, is fundamentally trying to protect someone, or at least his memory of someone.  Not for nothing is he painted as parallel to Utena, a fellow seeker of eternity whose capacity for goodness is often compromised by memory-biased black-and-white thinking of her own.

Pesimistamente makes the important point that SKU is not trying to present itself gender-neutrally.  It takes up specific gender roles and archetypes in order to deconstruct them.  If we're going to see why the prince and princess archetypes are toxic, we have to see lots of characters who embody those archetypes in various ways, and most of them will have genders that correspond to those archetypes.  The show's "princes" may be more overtly violent than its "princesses," but that's because the archetypes are different, not because princes are inherently more asshole-ish than princesses.  If these kids had Eva suits powered by assholery, Shiori would be right up there with Saionji pounding Angel face.

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#8 | Back to Top06-05-2016 11:48:21 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

satyreyes wrote:

Decrescent Daytripper wrote:

Atropos wrote:

Again, I'm only on episode 20. We don't have many hints of Anthy's sinister nature yet, beyond a few "Hey, maybe there's something else going on here" moments. (But from what I recall, she still gets presented way more sympathetically than does Akio.

If we play it that, way, though, nothing that's revealed after the fact counts for anything, and that's... a lot of Anthy's character. I don't think that's a fair way to look at things.

She's not really presented as more sympathetic than Akio, for me, but we are free, as are characters, to treat her as more sympathetic. To feel more sympathy.

I agree with most of your post, DD, but not with this.  I think the show definitely presents Anthy as sympathetic from her very first scene.  We're meant to reflexively sympathize with her as an abuse victim, just as we're meant to reflexively react against her abuser.  Later, because we believe that all people are people, we rebel against the idea that Anthy is the emotionless doll that some characters portray her as.  The fact that Anthy herself is among those portraying her as an emotionless doll reinforces our sympathy: here is a girl who has been made to believe the lies that her abusers have told about her.  It's important that we sympathize with Anthy because otherwise it's hard to understand why Utena does, and we have to understand this, because whether Utena is right to sympathize with Anthy is a central moral question in SKU.  By the time we finally know that Anthy is an agent of suffering much as Akio is, we have also seen reasons to hope that she can grow and escape the cycle of abuse -- hope we're never led to feel on Akio's behalf.  And once again, our experience here mirrors Utena's: our foolish prince learns that the damsel in distress is no princess, but by now Anthy is a friend, someone worth fighting to help even when she's mired in harmful and self-harmful behaviors.  The show artfully arranges events to make sure that we never lose our sympathy for Anthy, even as we feel betrayed and disappointed by her.

You might mean to say that, viewed objectively and after-the-fact, you can make the case that Anthy is no better than Akio (or only a little better than Akio).  But I think that's different from talking about how the show presents her.  The show presents her as sympathetic, in a way that it never presents Akio.  I suppose you could argue that we're meant to feel bad for the fallen prince, imprisoned by the foul witch and turned against his will into the villain he is -- if you don't think that this narrative is meant to be transparently self-serving -- but we see Anthy want something better for herself than depravity; we never see the same from Akio, just posturing.

That's fair enough. I don't think there's anything more excusatory or damaging outside of any character's perspective, but it is Utena's show, after all. I may be overreaching on that one, though she is still pretty bad at her worst.

I think, outside of Akio, and really even maybe with Akio, we can see at least somewhat, why these characters do what they do, why they are cruel when they are cruel, etc, and certainly, I'm more sympathetic when it comes to the actual-kids instead of Anthy/Akio.


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#9 | Back to Top06-06-2016 09:36:48 AM

Nocturnalux
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Registered: 09-10-2007
Posts: 741

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

I agree with pretty much all satyr has said on this topic but will just add my two cents on how indeed subjective the viewer's reaction to virtually everything in SKU is.

My second, third and subsequent reviewings of the show led me to a radical different interpretation regarding the cast. I did not find the male characters more negative but the exact opposite. This applies across the whole of the genre scope, too, as I also found the female characters more likable.

The first time around it is easy to hate almost everyone at least on occasion. Be it Saionji's slapping fits, or Shiori's conniving ways. As the viewer progresses through the narrative and becomes aware of the motivations and reasons behind each character's actions, past events are cast in a different light. This process culminates in the climax and informs all further viewings. But since it is an ongoing as one watches the series, even the first time viewer will have their earlier assumptions challenged.

It is what makes Nanami's early behavior be seen in a more charitable fashion. Without knowing just where she is coming from, things like her stunt with the dissolving dress, for example, would remain typical of early-ish shoujo villains.
I am only using Nanami as an example, this happens to virtually all characters. The viewer is first exposed to often very negative behavior that is eventually put in perspective. Which is not to say that petty and even vicious deeds are waved away but that the viewer comes to perceive them in a more nuanced manner.

I am not saying my experience with the series is the correct one but for me, rewatching the show knowing more about Saionji made me think differently about his introductory scene. When I first saw that, my reaction mirrored Utena's in considering Saionji nothing of a bully. Just as I first thought Nanami was a mere bitch and the list could go on.

In other words, I found it easier to be sympathetic to the whole cast, male and female alike, in subsequent rewatches as opposed to the first time around.

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#10 | Back to Top06-06-2016 10:24:39 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Decrescent Daytripper wrote:

I don't think there's anything more excusatory or damaging outside of any character's perspective, but it is Utena's show, after all. I may be overreaching on that one, though she is still pretty bad at her worst.

She certainly is!  I don't think there's much excusatory either -- though "excusatory" is an idea where our own moral compass, outside the text, plays a big part.  I'm not saying the show wants us to excuse her actions; I'm saying it wants us to sympathize with her.  I think we see a great deal outside of any character's perspective to give us hope for her.  Of course Anthy is acting when she tells Utena that she wants to be a normal girl -- but she's not acting when she misses having tea with Utena in episode 12, or when Utena's courage cracks her facade later that episode.  She's not acting when she occasionally defies Akio, or when she routinely treats him coldly.  She's not acting when, for no evident reason, she's glued to watching Akio and Utena enjoy themselves in his car.  The show is determined to give us frequent hints that, on some buried level, she actually does want to take who she's been up to today and find the strength to throw it all away.  She feels pain and she feels aspiration.  She's sympathetic.

Nocturnalux wrote:

I am only using Nanami as an example, this happens to virtually all characters. The viewer is first exposed to often very negative behavior that is eventually put in perspective. Which is not to say that petty and even vicious deeds are waved away but that the viewer comes to perceive them in a more nuanced manner.

This is so well put.  Many if not most of the characters are presented in their worst light first, and then it's up to us to discover what's happening in their heads and whether that makes them relatable.  The biggest exception is, again, Anthy, who evolves in exactly the opposite direction, as we discover that the innocuous Rose Bride is a witch who has helped engineer all the suffering in the show.

Atropos wrote:

But Juri doesn't do anything nearly as bad as Touga or Saionji. She's basically the closest thing to a Prince presented in the series thus far.

http://ohtori.nu/gallery/var/resizes/Series/Episodes/Student_Council_Arc/01/Series_ep01_040.jpg?m=1380825421
http://ohtori.nu/gallery/var/resizes/Series/Episodes/Student_Council_Arc/07/Series_ep07_041.jpg?m=1385788333

The most obviously villainous thing Saionji does is also a thing Juri does.  It's just that the context for Juri's behavior comes to us much sooner than it comes for Saionji's, so it's easy to wave away her behavior like "oh, okay, it wasn't really Anthy she was hitting."  But it was really Anthy she was hitting, because Anthy is a person in addition to a metaphor.

What else makes Saionji a bad guy?  He kidnaps Anthy, treats her like a symbol instead of a person?  But Juri does that too, as we just saw, and also by participating in the duels.  Okay -- now what's the moment you were actually the angriest at Saionji?  If you're me, it's when he treats Wakaba ungratefully.  Juri's arc with Ruka also features her ingratitude or hostility to Ruka's attempts to help her.  "But satyreyes," you might rightly say, "Ruka is presented as a bad guy, or at least a morally ambiguous guy, while Wakaba is presented as a good guy."  Yes, but that's where those gendered archetypes come in.  Ruka is trying to be a prince, which makes his assholery (as, again, pesimistamente pointed out) vivid and active.  Wakaba is trying to be a princess, and so her assholery is implicit and passive.  You know I love Wakaba to death, but she does not have any more right to be loved by Saionji than Ruka has to be loved by Juri, because a person's love is not something you can be entitled to.  Her passivity is in its own way parallel to Ruka's activity; she's trying to earn something that can't be earned.  And Juri and Saionji each respond by spurning the help of a person who tries to love them in favor of obsessing over a person who treats them poorly.  I'm not saying the incidents are exactly parallel.  I'm saying that if you want to be fair -- if you read everyone in the series generously, or read everyone in the series cynically -- Juri and Saionji don't emerge looking so different.

Last edited by satyreyes (06-06-2016 10:27:10 AM)

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#11 | Back to Top06-06-2016 12:20:42 PM

KissFromARose
Thorn of Death
From: Austin, Tx
Registered: 09-29-2008
Posts: 506

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

satyreyes wrote:

I'm saying that if you want to be fair -- if you read everyone in the series generously, or read everyone in the series cynically -- Juri and Saionji don't emerge looking so different.

holy shit. We really do feel a lot of sympathy for Juri because of how the show is structured, but we don't get that with Saionji until much much later... and at least for me -- he was always viewed as such a villain, (see: arc 1)  that by the time we finally get those scenes to understand him more, im already buying him wholesale as an asshole.


When I read the title of this post, my instant reaction was... wow all the men in the show are evil... but upon reading this thread it's really true everyone is pretty bad in their own way. The portrayals of the men(and boys) are seemingly pretty stark in comparison to our group of ladies, but honestly.... if we really evaluate our society as a whole, the time period when Utena was released, Japan's culture (then and shit even now)... we have to acknowledge Ikuhara's contrast between women and men in this show.

I don't know how to phrase it exactly, so forgive me... but isnt this entire thread talking about Ikuhara's commentary on society as a whole? The fairness that Satyr is talking about is part of Ikuhara's point maybe? We *dont* view each gender equally (as a whole, i'm speaking generally as a part of the  commentary, not as us specifically). Utena wants to become a prince, and so what? Why does she have to be a princess? The men in the show are 'evil' because they are trying to force her into that role... thats pretty unfair. But Juri gets a clean slate when slapping Anthy? (even though Anthy is solemnly swearing she's up to no good) Everyone in this show (save Akio and Anthy... and some part Mikage?? i guess?) are young kids naively trying to figure out how to be an adult, what is right and wrong and everything else. Nanami is pretty vicious, but we laugh at her because she's just so incredibly wrong...but she's really cruel, and shouldn't she bee seen in that same light of being a monster asshole?

I'm sorry, ive rambled. I have a lot of thoughts and they aren't well put together. TL;DR, Everyone is young and naive, men are seemingly given an unfair shake in the show, but maybe thats Ikuhara's commentary. . . . . probably only decent human being was the guy giving Nanami a ride in the truck in "India".
.... then again he looked like some kind of exotic animal exporter, so maybe not.


EDIT: 500th post!!! wooo!

Last edited by KissFromARose (06-06-2016 12:25:32 PM)

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#12 | Back to Top06-06-2016 03:55:46 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Posts: 2788

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

satyr, those dueling screencaps are the best thing in this thread and just... wow. Juri's really putting herself into that slap, too.

KissFromARose wrote:

Nanami is pretty vicious, but we laugh at her because she's just so incredibly wrong...but she's really cruel, and shouldn't she bee seen in that same light of being a monster asshole?

That Nanami is a little kid helps temper it, but honestly, her stuff with Anthy early on flips my ohmygodnooooo! switches more furiously than Saionji's behavior, because Saio comes and goes, he's a dick and he's gone, but Nanami is deliberately and long-game sadistic (and I can't stand seeing people embarrassed in entertainment, so that dress scene, the whole party invite and evaporating dress, cheesy as it is gets me every time).

But, it's reiterated to us consistently just how young she is, which we don't always get with the older kids who are the same age or just slightly older than what would've been the core demographic upon airing.

Something I love about the show, is how subtle things come out for me at different times. The last time I put in some episodes, I was struck by not only Shiori, Utena, and Touga needing an audience so bad, but that Juri does, too, she just never acknowledges her audience, even as she courts it. She goes out of her way to get one, and to bask in the admiration, but by visibly paying it no mind, comes off more mysterious, more mature, etc. (And occasionally intimidates fourteen year old girls by strutting around campus in a fancy dress.) Other times it's, "Oh, noes! Miki is a snail in a pencil box! Poor Miki!" or "Fuckin Siaonji."

It rewards new perspectives, new interpretations, and empathy in a way most television serials really don't.


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#13 | Back to Top06-11-2016 08:21:57 AM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8730
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Nocturnalux wrote:

In other words, I found it easier to be sympathetic to the whole cast, male and female alike, in subsequent rewatches as opposed to the first time around.

I'm going be a special snowflake here and say I've found the opposite to be true. I judge the characters more harshly as I get older*, which is a sure sign again that I should't be a parent. But in my defense, part of that harshness comes from that the further away from the central theme of 'growing up' that I get, the less childlike everyone seems and the more it just looks like watching a show full of adults acting the same damn way because apparently no one grows up in reality either, or when they do it's a very thin veneer of maturity until a rolling boil of Shiori. The show is obviously about growing up, but the battles fought and the trials lived don't seem all that different from the ongoing clash between people that persists day to day. Your relationship with a sibling may have improved, one hopes, but welcome to adulthood! Now get into a series of horrible relationships with people like that voluntarily! I'm often gripped by the desire to tell people to 'grow the fuck up,' but what does that even mean? The show doesn't tell us what it is, only what it is not. And in that respect, we're all still teenagers.

I agree that gender neutrality has never been in the bones of this show, but I do notice more and more how often it inverts its own tropes as I watch. A broad theme of masculine activity and feminine passivity is definitely present, but constantly turned on its head. Miki is made 'feminine' by a wariness to take action. Utena is masculine for her overabundance of action. Despite Anthy being the most passive aggressive woman this side of a Woody Allen movie, who is the one going out and doing the dirty work, and who is often sitting in the background passively directing her? Akio doesn't become an 'active' agent until Anthy no longer suffices to drive the mechanisms of his goals. Touga, who is at times one of the more 'active' agents on the show, is rendered totally impotent for one season and made the bottom in a homosexual relationship in another. (No I'm not saying bottoms are 'feminine' but the show is mired in cultural backdrops that do think that, so the comparison is there.) The show uses our assumptions about gender roles against us, while also using those expectations to tell its entire story. Good stuff.

*Except Akio, of course. At first I liked him because bad people turn me on, but the older I get the more I relate. I remember older interpretations of him being terrible almost without choice. But at this point I see no reason why he's any less redeemable than Anthy, it's just that his choice was so obvious to him that it appears never even to have been made. And given the choice he had, you wouldn't have seen me look back either.


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
Chiefest of Calamities

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#14 | Back to Top06-11-2016 10:12:56 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Giovanna wrote:

The show is obviously about growing up, but the battles fought and the trials lived don't seem all that different from the ongoing clash between people that persists day to day. Your relationship with a sibling may have improved, one hopes, but welcome to adulthood! Now get into a series of horrible relationships with people like that voluntarily! I'm often gripped by the desire to tell people to 'grow the fuck up,' but what does that even mean? The show doesn't tell us what it is, only what it is not. And in that respect, we're all still teenagers.

One (probably extratextual) thing I take away from the show is that maturity is a direction rather than a destination.  It's defined more by what you try to be than by what you are.  I look at the characters who palpably change during the series, and what I see is not just that their relationships change, though that is surely important too.  I see that their own self-image changes, along with their aspirations for themselves.  At the end of the show, Touga is approximately where Utena was at the beginning of the show: he has an inflated sense of self-importance and thinks of himself as someone's savior.  Is that a "mature" way of being, in some artificially binary sense of the word mature?  No, of course not.  But it's different from who Touga was at the beginning of the show, when his sense of self-importance led him to exploit people instead of trying (however misguidedly) to help them.  His consciousness has expanded to include the possibility that other people matter.  It's not that he is grown up, but rather that he has grown up.

When you want to tell someone to "grow the fuck up"*, I think you might mean something similar.  It's something you want to say to people who you see mired in a stagnant self-image that is hurting them or other people.  You aren't telling them "hurry up and become an adult, defined as someone who does what I think you should do."  You mean something like "see yourself the way I see you, as someone who could be more than they are."

And that vision of maturity (or maybe I should say maturing) is something that I think the show applies evenhandedly to men and to women.  The show, obviously, is very conscious of gender roles and archetypes, of disparate socialization between genders, all of that.  But, to the extent that SKU presents us with conclusions, I think it rejects the idea that gender has very much to do with what it fundamentally means to mature.  The characters all have different problems, most of them gendered in one way or another, but all of them need to grow the fuck up in the sense above. emot-smile

* I want to add that I view your use of single quotes around the phrase "grow the fuck up" as an act of treason against the United States. emot-tongue

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#15 | Back to Top06-11-2016 05:15:07 PM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Akio is Alvy Singer. And, Saionji should always be played by Wallace Shawn.

There is now no doubt in my mind.


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#16 | Back to Top06-11-2016 07:33:41 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

I will never be able to listen to Saionji the same way again. emot-rofl

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#17 | Back to Top06-12-2016 06:19:20 AM

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

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

With regard to Juri's treatment of Anthy, I wish to reiterate a viewpoint that - surprisingly in my opinion - doesn't seem to occur to people often. As I've said in the past,

Do I think Juri could've spiritually overpowered Akio as Utena did? Without a doubt. But, could she have cried tears of princely compassion and opened the gate? I'm less certain. Juri is at bottom a good and righteous person, but she disdains Anthy, as we see clearly early in the show, and with reason; I believe that of all the Duelists, Juri had by far the best insight into who and what Anthy truly was. She was not fooled by the Rose Bride. They are after all very similar, both allowing themselves to suffer in a twisted kind of loyalty to terrible people. The only difference - though a substantial one, it must be said - is that Juri never uses it as an excuse to justify bad behavior, either for herself or Shiori.

So while she may not know the details, nor fully understand the totality of Anthy's self-sacrificial commitment, she senses that Anthy is acting in a manipulative and conniving fashion on End of the World's behalf, and despises her for it.

Obviously, as has been alluded to in this thread already, this is something we can only take into account much later, after the fact. That said, I feel strongly that such is the case. Juri is one of the most perceptive and self-aware people in the show; in fact, adding to my previous thoughts above regarding their similarity, I would say with confidence that Juri's degree of self-possessed realism (or fatalism, if you prefer) is second only to Anthy's own. All the other characters, even Akio, delude themselves to an extent, but Juri and Anthy never do. This is also the reason Juri was, I may say, the game piece that was least useful to Akio and produced the least results. Juri could not be twisted to usefulness by promises or temptation because, at bottom, she does not believe in the possibility of more than the reality she sees around her, both externally and internally, just as Anthy does not until the climax of the show. They are both a "grounded person", in the most extreme sense of the term, tied down by an everpresent recognition of and resignation toward a painful and (as they perceive it) unchangeable reality.

Consistently underestimating the Rose Bride, to the point of all but dismissing her, was of course one of the biggest and most foolhardy mistakes most of the duelists' made, and this has long puzzled me. It always seemed to me that it should've been self-evident that the Rose Bride, as a known agent of End of the World, would be much more than she appeared. (Of course, this also raises the usual questions of just what they were originally told at the start of the "game", and the specifics of why and how they were recruited to participate.) Yet by and large the other duelists don't appear to have given thought to this. Saionji and Miki never do seem to attain a real grasp of her, in point of fact, and Nanami does only after Anthy's secrets are laid bare to her in a particularly stark manner. Even Touga, as closely involved with Akio as he becomes later in the show, never seems to perceive how dangerous and formidable Anthy is. He appears to take it for granted that she is nothing but Akio's tool, totally devoted and completely within control (a mistake mirroring Akio's own). Juri is the only one that shows a perception very early in the series that Anthy is not to be trusted. More than that, she recognizes Anthy's gesture as a knowing and premeditated attack: a "slap" in Juri's own face, but one with a far more mocking and calculated intent than the physical slap Juri gives in return.

Thus, I think directly comparing this behavior to Saionji's is even less productive than it might appear. Leaving aside the obvious differences that they have - completely dissimilar relationships with and intentions toward the Rose Bride - they are also operating on completely, diametrically contrasting levels of insight and perception regarding her.

Last edited by Aelanie (06-12-2016 06:44:17 AM)

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#18 | Back to Top06-12-2016 06:43:46 AM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Aelanie wrote:

With regard to Juri's treatment of Anthy, I wish to posit a theory that doesn't seem to occur to people often. As I've said in the past,

Do I think Juri could've spiritually overpowered Akio as Utena did? Without a doubt. But, could she have cried tears of princely compassion and opened the gate? I'm less certain. Juri is at bottom a good and righteous person, but she disdains Anthy, as we see clearly early in the show, and with reason; I believe that of all the Duelists, Juri had by far the best insight into who and what Anthy truly was. She was not fooled by the Rose Bride. They are after all very similar, both allowing themselves to suffer in a twisted kind of loyalty to terrible people. The only difference - though a substantial one, it must be said - is that Juri never uses it as an excuse to justify bad behavior, either for herself or Shiori.

So while she may not know the details, nor fully understand the totality of Anthy's self-sacrificial commitment, she senses that Anthy is acting in a manipulative and conniving fashion on End of the World's behalf, and despises her for it.

Obviously, as has been alluded to in this thread already, this is something we can only take into account much later, after the fact. I believe this is the case though. Juri is one of the most perceptive and self-aware people in the show; in fact, adding to my previous thoughts above regarding their similarity, I would say with confidence that Juri's degree of self-possessed realism (or fatalism, if you prefer) is second only to Anthy's own. All the other characters, even Akio, delude themselves to an extent, but Juri and Anthy never do. This is also the reason Juri was, I may say, the game piece that was least useful to Akio and produced the least results. Juri could not be twisted to usefulness by promises or temptation because, at bottom, she does not believe in the possibility of more than the reality she sees around her, both externally and internally, just as Anthy does not until the climax of the show. They are both a "grounded person", in the most extreme sense of the term, tied down by an everpresent recognition of and resignation toward a painful and (as they perceive it) unchangeable reality.

Consistently underestimating the Rose Bride, to the point of all but dismissing her, was of course one of the biggest and most foolhardy mistakes most of the duelists' made, and this has long puzzled me. It always seemed to me that it should've been self-evident that the Rose Bride, as a known agent of End of the World, would be much more than she appeared. (Of course, this also raises the usual questions of just what they were originally told at the start of the "game", and the specifics of why and how they were recruited to participate.) Yet by and large the other duelists don't appear to have given thought to this. Saionji and Miki never do seem to attain a real grasp of her, in point of fact, and Nanami does only after Anthy's secrets are laid bare to her in a particularly stark manner. Even Touga, as closely involved with Akio as he becomes later in the show, never seems to perceive how dangerous and formidable Anthy is. He appears to take it for granted that she is nothing but Akio's tool, totally devoted and completely within control - a mistake mirroring Akio's own. Juri is the only one that shows a perception very early in the series that Anthy is not to be trusted. More than that, she recognizes Anthy's gesture as a knowing and premeditated attack: a "slap" in Juri's own face, but one with a far more mocking and calculated intent than the physical slap Juri gives in return.

Thus, I think directly comparing this behavior to Saionji's is even less productive than it might appear. Leaving aside the obvious differences that they have - completely dissimilar relationships with and intentions toward the Rose Bride - they are also operating on completely, diametrically contrasting levels of insight and perception regarding her.

I'm not convinced. Juri doesn't seem all the perceptive, to me. She's good at being tall, capable, and physically intimidating. At appearing untouchable. We know that's not true, though. And, we know just how naive she can be. But, she is cynical.

I think what you're describing as knowledge or awareness, is, for me, just more related to her cynicism. And, her slapping Anthy doesn't really support any awareness of how dangerous she is. If anything, it's her extraordinarily underestimating Anthy. And, being just as physically violent as anyone else, for primarily emotional reasons.

I think, from my perspective, we tend to see Juri the way students see Utena. We can't see Utena that way, because we are more intimately familiar with her and her private, inner life. But the princeliness and maturity of both characters is affected to curry admiration and deflect risks. Juri's on the edge of being the dark-dressed nihilist poet who tries to dominate a class with the cynical wisdom of a world-weary seventeen year old.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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#19 | Back to Top06-12-2016 07:31:42 AM

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

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

I think that you simply have too realistic a view with regard to her age. I would certainly describe her as a more developed and deeply layered person than any teenager really could be, but that is par for the course in anime. Remember, this is the same show that expects us to believe Utena, with all her growth and expanding emotional complexity, is fourteen. Characters overly sophisticated for their stated age and stage of life are actually quite pervasive in every fictional medium I'd say, but this is especially pronounced in anime and particularly in Utena.

Nevertheless, we're meant to perceive her as she is presented. Liking a girl and having her get a boyfriend is not, in fact, a dramatic and tragic past, but within the context of the show, it is meant to be taken so. Within the context of the show, Juri is a powerful, stern, and honorable character who has no flaw or vice except for an inability to let go of the tragic, hopeless love that scarred her soul in the deep past. That is her role in the story. The fact that this characterization is being overlaid onto a high schooler should not be considered - cannot be, in fact, if suspension of disbelief is to be maintained. You've solved this problem by casting it as an elaborate and shallow front, but to me that is doing a disservice to the character. You're attempting to find a way to make her realistic, but fitting her character rationally into a high school teenager can never be done, and wasn't intended to be.

In my opinion, at least. Please don't take it as a criticism, simply a reflection on your view of the character.

Last edited by Aelanie (06-12-2016 07:43:38 AM)

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#20 | Back to Top06-12-2016 08:05:29 AM

Decrescent Daytripper
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Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Aelanie wrote:

In my opinion, at least. Please don't take it as a criticism, simply a reflection on your view of the character.

I think, where we're at with the characters, it's not about evidence, so much as judgment or interpretation of the evidence, so I don't have a problem with you having the take you do. I can see it, even.

If these were real people, one of us would have to be more right than the other, but since they're not. I actually think your take is pretty well put together, regardless of disagreeing with it in some major ways. (Plus, I'm biased; her intimidation scene with Utena, fairly early in the series, and a few of her fan club scenes taint my judgment of later behavior and scenes.)


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#21 | Back to Top06-12-2016 10:19:11 AM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Aelanie wrote:

Within the context of the show, Juri is a powerful, stern, and honorable character who has no flaw or vice except for an inability to let go of the tragic, hopeless love that scarred her soul in the deep past.

Even granting that we have different views about how seriously we're supposed to take the show's high school setting, I don't know if I buy that Juri's only flaw is her tragic, hopeless love.  I think she must have at least one more flaw, or she wouldn't be slapping Anthy around.  If I suspected someone was mocking me over my crush, I might be upset with them, but I wouldn't hit them to the floor.  I suggest that, in addition to an inability to let go of Shiori, Juri also has anger issues, as well as very, very thin skin.  Look here:

http://ohtori.nu/gallery/var/resizes/Series/Episodes/Student_Council_Arc/07/Series_ep07_117.jpg?m=1385788431

Juri is trying to wrestle Utena's ring off because Utena shared a story about why she tries to be noble, and how she believes that maybe a miracle happened to her, and how her ring symbolizes those things.  That is literally the only reason.

juri:  Your Rose Signet, throw this ring away!
juri:  It's disgusting! Your so-called nobility is to copycat as someone you love told you!
juri:  Yes, fighting over the Rose Bride
juri:  is just as stupid as your sentiment to your prince!
juri:  However, to be qualified for that, you must be truly noble!
juri:  The Rose Signet doesn't suit a girl the likes of you!
utena:  No!
utena:  This is my one and only tie with him. I won't lose it, no matter what!
juri:  Then show me what you call a "miracle!" My sword will show its true nature!

Utena won't discard the thing that ties her to a love from her past.  If Juri's only flaw were an inability to let go of Shiori, one thing she might do would be to sit down next to Utena and talk about Shiori -- to empathize.  (She does this much later in the series, during the badminton scene, one of my favorite scenes in the show.)  Or if Utena is setting off Juri's self-hatred so hard that she can't possibly empathize with Utena right now, she could walk away.  Instead, she assaults a girl three years her junior, one who wasn't mocking her and in fact was entrusting her with an intimate secret.  "If I can't be connected to the special person from my past, you can't be connected to yours either!"  Anger issues, and very, very thin skin.

So my general argument here, which is that the moral characters of Juri and Saionji are not presented radically differently, stands up, at least in my mind; Saionji is another character with anger issues and very, very thin skin, traits that are linked to an inability to let go of a relationship he had in the past, and this leads him to abuse middle school students.  That's not to say they're identical.  Saionji has problems with machismo, while the projection of power is something that Juri is pretty good at calibrating as long as she's not angry.  Juri has (she claims) given up on things like miracles and eternity, while Saionji has not.  But they're both violent towards people who have not wronged them.

Another thing I'm not saying is that this violence is unforgivable (to me, at least).  I like Juri and Saionji.  I also like Utena, who tackles Mikage for reasons strikingly reminiscent of Juri's reasons for tackling Utena.  People have histories -- "don't touch my precious memories!" -- and we can say this leads them to do bad things without saying they're bad people.  That's how I feel about these characters.

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#22 | Back to Top06-12-2016 11:11:35 AM

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

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

To be honest, I always found that scene incongruous, and at odds with the entirety of Juri's characterization everywhere else. The thing is, they needed a way to get Juri and Utena to duel for plot/dramatic purposes, but honestly, when you think about the reasons for which they would actually do that, they seem thin on the ground. Juri does not desire or believe in the duels or End of the World's promises. She has always seemed to me to only be participating in the duels in a kind of detached exercise in cynical self-punishment, much as (as I once put it) an atheist who willingly engages in arguments with religious people for the sport of it, but without real investment, realizing they are only wasting their own time.

Yet they needed to create a dramatic reason for Juri and Utena to be at odds, and so they did.  It can easily happen that the atheist might be irritated out of their detachment by the degree of a particular cultists' earnest, idiotic fervor and begin arguing with real heat, lashing out vehemently in order to disillusion them of their ridiculous beliefs. That could certainly be said to be the situation here, but it's too dramatic, too overdone. Juri's behavior in that scene is nonsensical, and I believe, intended to be. It's supposed to be a moment that stuns the audience with something beyond the bounds of rationality. I was certainly stunned myself. Juri, at first sultry in this scene as she is nowhere else in the show, moving in on Utena seductively, only to explode into a violent, sneering rage? To be honest, it has always rung hollow to me. Completely unlike the stoic and self-possessed character we see everywhere else in the show. Even in Juri's confrontation with Ruka - one of the most intense moments of bitter conflict in the entire show - Juri retains more self-restraint and demonstrates more proportional responses than she does here.

In short, I tend to largely discount that scene. It was a tool that served a narrative purpose, creating a dramatic clash so that Juri and Utena could have a confrontation and a duel. It served that purpose, but I do not feel that it informs Juri's character or accords with her nature as presented everywhere else.

Last edited by Aelanie (06-12-2016 11:29:14 AM)

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#23 | Back to Top06-12-2016 12:30:30 PM

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

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

I think, once you disregard what's happening onscreen, you've passed the point of interpretation and entered the space of speculation—which, I must admit, I find rather purposeless with regards to fictional characters in a fictional world. You might well argue that Juri's behavior in that scene is "bad writing," but it's still her character: it's what's depicted onscreen, in the body of the quote-unquote text itself. There's no real, platonic Juri out there, of whom the version seen onscreen is only the merest shadow; what we see onscreen attributed to Juri is Juri, insofar as anything is Juri.

(I haven't made any further responses to this thread, by the way, because I've conceded that satyreyes and DD probably have the right of it. Still, it's interesting that the show is able to maintain this balance, considering there was only one woman working prominently behind the scenes.)

Last edited by Atropos (06-12-2016 12:32:41 PM)

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#24 | Back to Top06-12-2016 01:17:32 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
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Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

Hmm.  Aelanie, I understand why your image of Juri is at odds with the Juri we see in the statue garden.  But Juri keeps taunting Utena in the arena, doesn't she?, with just as little reason.  ("Pathetic!  Isn't a miracle going to happen yet, prince?")  Between that and hitting Anthy, it's hard for me to see the statue garden as some kind of weird outlier in Juri's character.  I try to understand the Juri I see on the screen; I give Be-Papas credit for being able to invent a character whose behavior is basically internally consistent, and then I try and figure out who that character is.  (And when a character only has one big episode in the whole first arc, it shouldn't take a genius writer to create a character who can plausibly behave the way the plot requires of her!)

You view Juri's attitude towards the duels as detached and cynical.  I think she wishes very much that she felt detached and cynical about the duels (and about the "power of miracles"), and that's the image she tries to project, but in fact she's deeply invested in them.  There's something she needs badly that she hopes to gain, whether that's Shiori, or just vindication for her cynicism.  From Episode 2:

Miki:  With this Rose Signet, the gates to the Duel Arena opened,
Miki:  and the illusionary castle appeared, just as the letters said.
Juri:  I know.
Juri:  I could never quit once I saw that spectacle.

Juri saw something she couldn't explain.  It rekindled a hope in her, I think, that maybe miracles are real.  But she can't allow herself to hope miracles are real, because if miracles are real then she might have a chance with Shiori, which would open Juri up to pain all over again.  She has to fight in order to prove that miracles are impossible after all, to justify staying in her safe, lonely shell.  Miracles are so threatening to Juri that when a sword literally falls out of a clear blue sky to impale her rose in a way that is all but physically impossible, she still denies that a miracle is happening.  To think that a person so threatened by miracles could participate without deep personal investment in a tournament whose promised prize was the power of miracles -- it doesn't ring true to me.  And I think it's exactly Juri's investment that makes her react the way she does to Anthy and to Utena.  The sudden change in her attitude towards Utena, from sultry to enraged, reflects her own warring impulses towards and against believing in miracles, and towards and against hope itself.

I feel like I've strayed from the topic of the thread somewhat; I haven't mentioned gender at all in the last couple posts, though I've still been examining whether women are really presented as faultlessly in SKU as Atropos first thought.  So let me try and bring things around with a question for anyone who wants to tackle it.  We've been dissecting Juri, mostly, for the last several posts, but Juri's way of being female is only one of many that the show presents.  Every woman in the show seems to me to represent a decidedly different take on femaleness.  By contrast, I see more uniformity in the way the men are presented, boiling down to just a few variations.  How different are Akio, Touga, and Ruka in their takes on maleness?  How different are Tsuwabuki, Tatsuya, and Miki?  We know that men in the real world usually get more latitude in how to perform their gender role than women do; why is SKU different?  Or is it only in my imagination that SKU is different?

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#25 | Back to Top06-12-2016 04:19:15 PM

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

Re: Presentation of Men in SKU

You view Juri's attitude towards the duels as detached and cynical.  I think she wishes very much that she felt detached and cynical about the duels (and about the "power of miracles"), and that's the image she tries to project, but in fact she's deeply invested in them.  There's something she needs badly that she hopes to gain, whether that's Shiori, or just vindication for her cynicism.

Juri saw something she couldn't explain.  It rekindled a hope in her, I think, that maybe miracles are real.  But she can't allow herself to hope miracles are real, because if miracles are real then she might have a chance with Shiori, which would open Juri up to pain all over again.  She has to fight in order to prove that miracles are impossible after all, to justify staying in her safe, lonely shell.  Miracles are so threatening to Juri that when a sword literally falls out of a clear blue sky to impale her rose in a way that is all but physically impossible, she still denies that a miracle is happening.  To think that a person so threatened by miracles could participate without deep personal investment in a tournament whose promised prize was the power of miracles -- it doesn't ring true to me.  And I think it's exactly Juri's investment that makes her react the way she does to Anthy and to Utena.  The sudden change in her attitude towards Utena, from sultry to enraged, reflects her own warring impulses towards and against believing in miracles, and towards and against hope itself.

That's fair reasoning, although I still think that moment is, by narrative/dramatic necessity, inflated. The way you describe it makes sense though, and that's fine. If anything, that line of thinking only supports my original, far more important point, that Juri is more aware of Anthy than the others. If Juri really is as invested as you say, she must surely have expectations of the Rose Bride - must surely perceive that Anthy is far more than she appears. Indeed, through Anthy's flower gesture, she would know it for certain, understanding as she does that the proffering of the orange flower is a reference to a private moment of her past that no one else could know about. That moment could very well have been the moment where Juri's intuition solidifies into certainty. That would make this exchange between them significant in an entirely new way.

Now that I think about it, that really was by far the most blatant and transparent of Anthy's various prods toward the other duelists. I'd also posit that Anthy is well aware that Juri is onto her, and so chooses to taunt her in a particularly direct way. It would've been very easy to have arranged a more subtle poke, but no need. In fact, the more brazen the provocation, the more effective in that instance.

Last edited by Aelanie (06-12-2016 04:27:07 PM)

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