On artistic licence and the questionable utterances in Shojo manga

Huang Yixuan
Given the different impact of creative art works on adults and young people in their formative years, a rating system might be a solution.
Huang Yixuan

While there is little argument to the assertion that literary works or films and television series should be guided by proper values, some art productions continue to provoke controversy.

Recently I have noted the exchange of acrimony over the values and world outlook, expressed or implied, in some art productions.

It all started with a vlogger called Rabbyui criticizing prejudices and negative stereotypes of females suggested in several romantic Shojo manga -- Japanese comics targeting teenage girls.

The vlogger took a manga series 'Hori san to Miyamura kun' as an example, citing some dialogue in it such as "timid as a girl."

She also discussed details or plots in other manga or animated television series. These were fine at first glance but close scrutiny points to the stereotypes underlying them, suggesting descriptions intended for women to be essentially deprecatory.

Since these works exert a subtle, yet often imperceptible, influence on readers and viewers, their utterances, when amplified through art work, are not something trivial and should be subject to effective regulation.

When this view is expressed in a post on Sina Weibo, a popular social media platform in China, there has been both agreement and disagreement.

Some commentators insist that there should be no taboos in art, as all views expressed in literature and art, by affording us alternative views, are good for us to learn holistically about the real world. The audience themselves should pass their judgement independently.

"Family, education, environment, friends and our own life experience are what shape our values, world views and mindset. And we must stop holding a few works of fiction culpable," a netizen said in a post with over a thousand likes.

Significantly, the mangas she mentioned were actually quite popular for their romantic storylines and charismatic characters.

"Fictions are just fictions," another comment said. "Most readers like us just enjoy the stories for entertainment and there's no need to be too fastidious about subtle innuendos."

But there needs to be a proper balance between the two, as many other people pointed out.

For mature adults who have developed values of their own, they may not be so susceptible to the corrosive influence of a few books and TV shows.

But for impressionable juveniles and youths, proper education and inculcation of correct values should be a higher priority.

Given the difference of impact on adults and young people in their formative years, a rating system that legally determines the suitability of creative works for people in different age groups might be a solution.

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