Sakura Trick and the Objectification of Lesbians

Let’s Take This Fight Elsewhere…

vlc 2014-01-10 21-19-38-10Recently there’s been somewhat of social media debate going on between people that enjoyed and didn’t enjoy the first episode of the anime Sakura Trick.

There’s no secret that I found it absolutely wonderful myself, but that doesn’t really matter since the debate has not been whether or not it’s a good show or not. Specifically, it’s many bisexual and homosexual women who are having a problem with their representation in the show.

Sakura Trick is a fairly fan-service heavy romantic comedy about girls falling in love. It mainly focuses on the two girls Haruka and Yuu who after having been friends for years end up sharing a kiss as a memory that kicks off something larger than friendship. The actual pacing and style of the show is done with quick gags and skits since it’s based on a 4koma manga. If you want more details on the show, you can read my review of the first episode here.

So, where exactly lies the problem with the representation of lesbian couples?

I’ve been told by multiple people now that the problem comes down to Sakura Trick reinforcing the tasteless idea that lesbian couples are just something hot for boys to look at. The reasoning behind this view seems to be that the large amount of fan-service, mostly boob-jiggle or extended sensual kiss scenes, is something that mainly male viewers enjoy and female viewers don’t.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-28-13-13Now, honestly, that’s something I found quite offensive. I know countless of men who don’t get into fan-service, and I know plenty of girls that don’t. Your enjoyment of sexual content doesn’t come down to your gender, that’s just your personal taste. Saying that “Lesbian women don’t like boob-jiggle shots in their shows” is basically saying that any lesbian/bisexual woman who would like that is an odd one out and is directly being treated as a lesser important minority in a group of people that’s already being treated awfully in real life because of their minority status.

Don’t get me wrong, you can have a problem with fan-service. I had quite a go at Kill la Kill last season myself with fan-service being one of my major complaints. It all falls down to personal taste, but you can’t equate fan-service to a show treating lesbian couples as toys for boys. That’s not only insulting to any woman that might enjoy the show but also to the show itself that so far has not actually presented idea in its writing or direction.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-29-28-12Listen. There’s a difference between objectification and fan-service. You can present excessive sexual content (which Sakura Trick doesn’t, it’s far from excessive) and still have that piece of media not present some sort of hidden awful agend regarding what is currently going on in the content in question.

If you’re going to fight objectification you have to get into writing, mind-sets and find actual messages of objectification.

You want an example of stories where lesbians are treated as nothing but a hot thing for male viewers to get into? Find stories where lesbian characters are actually being turned straight by the male leads. Look at the movie Gigli (actually don’t, it’s awful) where Ben Affleck manages to “turn” the lesbian character played by Jennifer Lopez straight. That is a terrifying message to have in a piece of fiction. Hell, it happens in Goldfinger as well, Ian Fleming was a known believer in that lesbian women required good sex to realize they were wrong. And it’s far more common than you might think.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-23-48-12But going back to Sakura Trick for a bit here, since it’s the discussion at hand. Another argument I heard was that because most people watching the show were men, that made the show a disgusting case of all the things mentioned above.

That’s just plain wrong as well.

First of all, the fact that most viewers are men is not the fault of the show itself. The show doesn’t have a “Boys Only” sign onto it like some advertisement for a crappy browser game would have. In fact, getting a show that’s mainly about lesbians on the air isn’t all that easy to begin with and isn’t common because of the fact that it’s not an easy sell. If it was that easy to get a big male audience, we’d be having yuri tags applied to shows as often as we have slice-of-life tags. But we don’t, it’s not that easy.

But let’s for a second assume that having a majority of male viewers on a show about lesbians is a negative thing and causes objectification, which I disagree with but we’ll get to that later. If we assume that then we can’t point towards Sakura Trick and say that the show is bad for having this audience. If the audience is truly objectifying all lesbian couples then you should target that audience and not the show. Because there’s nothing in the show that conveys the message that lesbian couples are for boys. It just isn’t there. There’s not one frame in the show stating that opinion and if you think it does you’re reading into something that’s not there.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-18-33-13I’d compare this to someone annoyed with the brony community that would decide not to talk about the bronies, but instead only about the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. That person would seem absurd. Yes, the majority of the viewers are teenagers and adults, but that’s not the “fault” of the show, the show doesn’t ask the kids to go away when it starts because it’s time for the brony show. If it did, that’d be a disaster.

Going back to the male audience of Sakura Trick. Yes, I will not try to deny that it’s there and that is’ large. Because it is, but here’s the thing about a lot of that male audience that I don’t think some people really understand. Just like the female audience that are into stories about gay men, to them it’s quite often not a case of them viewing homosexual relationships as some sort of phase that they can get in on later.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-26-18-14In fact, quite often, they get very invested in the actual stories about these relationships growing. It’s why homosexual shipping happens in shows without actual homosexual couples, because they actually find characters matching in terms of their personalities, behaviour and other aspects of their writing. That’s the opposite of objectifying these characters.

But I know the question on your lips. Isn’t it wrong that a straight person will find something homosexual hot?

The short answer would be a simple no. But that won’t do, so let’s deconstruct that answer. I will never ever judge someone based on what their sexual fantasises are as long as they’re not acting out things that would hurt any other living being around them. Because you can’t decide your own attractions, you’re into what you’re into. Some people are into trees after all, can we really deny them those fantasies when they’re not doing any harm?

If a straight man find Sakura Trick incredibly sexy because it has lesbians in it, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s personal sexual taste that we can not control. Your fantasies and enjoyment are always yours and should never be in control of someone else. If that same person actually would convey the view that lesbian couples are something that should exist for his enjoyment and starts treating real lesbian women with this view, then there’s a problem. And that problem happens every day and is awful, but it’s not the fault of some comedy show that happened to have lesbian girls with jiggling boobs, it’s the fault of that person …and possibly Gigli.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-19-48-11Honestly, if a straight person can actually find a connection to the homosexual couple and end up understanding them a bit more, isn’t that a good thing?

We love labels in this world, we love labelling everything. But you can’t put a label on everything, we’re finding out every year inside the LGBTQ community that our initialism becomes less and less accurate and that we’re finding new things to cover.

It’s not as simple as heterosexual or homosexual.

There are heterosexual people who hate homosexual content and there are heterosexual people who love it.

There are homosexual people who hate heterosexual content and there are homosexual people who love it.

Seriously, turn this around for a second. Let’s say you knew a homosexual person, gender is not important, who was watching The Pet Girls of Sakurasou and really enjoying it and possibly finding parts of it sexy as well. Would you start questioning that person for enjoying a show with a heterosexual romance story because it has fan-service? No you wouldn’t, because that’s ridiculous.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-22-53-13Before I close this out, I want to get some of my personal opinion on the fan-service in Sakura Trick out there. I actually found the fan-service quite refreshing myself as the way the extended sensual kissing scenes were mixed with narration made me feel more connected to what the characters were thinking. It also made me happy that we had a story in which lesbians aren’t simply treated as something super-pure and innocent, which honestly is the more common trope when it comes to anime specifically. Too often is lesbians treated as something that’s not really all that serious, just a fun little phase. Sakura Trick‘s first episode didn’t do that and I hope it never does.

vlc 2014-01-10 21-18-03-13If you don’t like fan-service, that’s perfectly fine. Feel free to do that. You can say that Sakura Trick is a bad show, that it has too much fan-service and that it doesn’t really agree with the way you envision your lesbian life. Rant about it, review it badly etc. etc. All of that is fine. In fact, I think it’s great that you’re voicing your opinion. But don’t try to pretend the show is doing something wrong because of the fact that there are bad people in the real world. We can all like and dislike different things without having to find non-existing agendas in a lesbian comedy.

I guess you could summarize this entire piece quite easily. If you have a problem with the way people think and behave, try to direct your hate and good intentions towards those people instead of finding something that really doesn’t match the line of thinking in question just because the same people might have had an interest in that thing. There are awful awful people out there who do objectify lesbians, I will never ever try to deny that because I see it on a weekly basis and it’s disgusting. But the fight is being fought on the wrong battlefield. Basically, don’t go hunting Marylin Manson and Doom for Columbine. It has never been right and it never will be.

And yes, I realize some of you will toss out every single word I wrote here simply because I’m transgender, and you know what? If you’re going to be that simple minded, I don’t want you reading my things anyway. But that doesn’t mean I will complain about my writing, just you.

To everyone else; I love you and I’ll see you all later.

12 thoughts on “Sakura Trick and the Objectification of Lesbians

  1. Great post. And it is so sad, that we have to talk about this. I would have never expected such an anger just because they’re many male viewers, who express themselves by blogging or tweeting about it.

  2. I agree with what u said about Yuri…. i feel uncomfortable watching yuri, Kinda hate yuri despite i am a boy! i think gay/Lesbian couples are Wrong in the first place, No offense, But i am speaking the truth here.

    anybody who objects with what i say, Send me an email and i will try to replay with all i can.

      • Learn to spell AiPie! Damn! And didn’t he just say he thinks gay and lesbian couples are wrong?

        And I agree with Onizuka, I can’t find myself watching this anime because it has a lesbian couple in it. (This is solely my opinion and I am not trying to persuade people not to watch it.)

        This is coming from another guy as well.

  3. This could have not been wrong, sadly, it is. The best thing I coudl say right now is to start watching Sasameki Koto instead, if it’s not already done. That’s a romantic show based on lesbian relashionships. It’s even pretty funny.

    What you forgot to take into account writting this is the fact that it’s being broadcasted in Japan. And Japan really likes to categorize its shows by the gender of their watchers. Sakura Trick is aimed at youg men, like most of 4-koma, it’s actual audience and target audience are pretty much matching. It’s not always the case and their is always exception. It’s not youg men only, but juste aimed at young men and you should really take it into account. Sometimes the targeted audience and the actual audience doesn’t match at all, it happened with Madoka or K-ON! (wihc both aimed young men and both hit a way larger audience), but in most times, it doesn’t happen. There’s extremly few boys watching serie adapted from otome games. There definitly is, I do know some, but it’s a large minority.

    The second point is the show being somewhat daring in what it does. Its not. It’s just a continuation from shows like Yuru Yuri or A channel. There’s more explicit content because it’s getting more popular, but not as a way show homosexuality more realisticly. It’s really something you have to keep in mind when talking about japnese animation : the ones who are talking about actual homosexuality are the fewer. Yume Tsukai (the anime version) did an interesting episode about it. Shigofumi did an another. Paranoia Agent did an even more intersting one. But Sakura Trick is juste about cute grils kissing.

    But in the end, there’s one thing you have to remember above all : you can like a problematic show. It’s juste fan service, it easy to make, uncreative and lazy show and I it actually sad that we get see that instead of a show like Simoun. But it doesn’t change the fact that you like it or not. I still somewhat likes Mai Hime, even though i understand how actually bad it is. It’s not problem, anyone can say that you’re wrong to like what you like, but you’re yourself free to laugh at their nose because it’s ridiculous.

    Long story short, I do think Sakura Trick is a completly uninteresting show. Even Kashimashi may be more worth watching. this show is bound to be completly trivial trough the end cause it’s format is those of comic strips because it’s made to be anecdotic. There’s any point even arguing about cause the story itself won’t bother telling anything. Some does, even in this format (like Yane no Naka Sora no Shita does with neets, from what i read) but this one won’t because it’s just here to profit the popularity of that kind of show. Like Imouto moe show.

    We should all discuss about Hourou Musko and how there barely anything that get close to be as pertinent as it is. And then we should wonder isn’t there not more of those and conclude that Japan doesn’t care about homosexuality as much as orientals does. And that’s why arguing about a random, trivial show being LGTB-friendly or not is pretty pointless : it’s not. Japan doesn’t at all.
    Not a single bit.

    Also, supp from somewhere else on the earth. English isn’t my mother language, excuse me if I speak it weirdly and rudly, it’s not my attention.

  4. Male gaze in Japanese media is something we can’t easily address under the same banner of Western issues. Yes it’s present in men’s media, but they also have huge, thriving entertainment outlets for women, by women under the thumb of female gaze. Their general movie industry has actually been operating under a slight female gaze for years now. It’s just too different a dynamic to apply the same arguments without taking a hundred other factors into consideration.

    That said, once a piece of Japanese entertainment moves into Western spheres, it now operates within the same realm as our media and can run afoul of our rules and sensitivities, but critique still has to account for the caveat that the work wasn’t created for our audience and the intent may not warrant the same reactions.

  5. Do we really have to have this stupid false dichotomy of ‘insulting fanservice OR po-faced realistic exploration of homosexuality?’

    Also this is way better than the anime adaption of Sasameki Koto. It actually goes somewhere, for a start.

  6. To be honest I don’t think that deeply of media. Unless its blunt and in my face like most fan service is. I thought most of the episode was… cute and a bit clumsily romantic. I am sure if I put a microscope to it I could pinpoint a few um erm fan service moment such as the sensual kissing that quickly turned erotic or the focus on breast grabbing. But at the same time I think it well um, they seemed to have this very deep passion for each other so I can see things getting a bit out of control the first time. I remember my first kiss, I wanted to keep going ~.~ and then I had a deep crush on this person and that was only spin the bottle.

    Maybe I am just a perv T.T

  7. I’m a bisexual woman, but I enjoyed this show. And you are right, what we find sexually appealing in our eyes really can’t be controlled by someone else. Even if some lesbians and other bisexuals state that this show objectifies them, then they are wrong. There is nothing in it that makes women seem like objects. There were no grotesque imagery and such. It was a simple series of situations about friends who innocently fell for each other. It’s sweet and not disgusting like Hentai. As for Male audiences, they just find lesbianism appealing in their eyes, and they cannot just turn away from it. Just like how I repeatedly watched this show, in my case, admittedly, for the kissing scenes.

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