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Blame It On the Sluts: Nostalgia Critic’s Review of Sailor Moon

In August 2013, popular internet critic/comedian Nostalgia Critic decided to review Sailor Moon. At the time, I was unfamiliar with Nostalgia Critic, but the review reverberated throughout the fandom. The rumblings weren’t particularly positive, so I decided to skip it. Fast forward a few months later, and on a boring, lazy Sunday, my curiosity got the better of me. It turns out this piece of internet comedy has a lot to say about male sexuality, female sexuality and victim blaming.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

[Content Note: Discussion of rape, guns and victim blaming]

The video opens with a mad doctor scribbling on a white board. We’re informed that Dr. Hack is the master of TV formulas–the formulas individual TV shows use from episode to episode. Here’s his formula for Power Rangers:

Teens + Monster + Giant Monster + Giant Robot.

Since Sailor Moon was based on the Power Rangers formula, I was eager to hear more about Sailor Moon’s particular formula.

Dr. Hack: Fourteen year old girl acts stupid, using magical powers to look slutty and stupid, talking cat tells her how to fight crime because she’s so stupid, surround herself with smarter girls that make her look even more stupid–

*sigh* I realize that Nostalgia Critic is trying to be funny here, but unfortunately, I can’t find the humor in it since this quote basically sums up the entire video. Sailor Moon is stupid and slutty. Are you laughing yet?

In this vintage Dateline Sailor Moon report, I noted that the reporter’s first words to describe Sailor Moon are “blonde bombshell.” Nearly 20 years later, Nostalgia Critic replicates this double standard–Power Rangers get to repetitively fight monsters whereas Sailor Moon just gets to be repetitively stupid and slutty. It’s a refrain returned to again and again throughout the video.

After reviewing the English dub’s opening credits, Nostalgia Critic continues his review by giving a brief overview of the cast of characters. He then spends a considerable amount of time dissecting the transformation sequences.

Nostalgia Critic: And, of course, this gives way into the famous transformation scene–the tiara, the boots, the nail polish-later covered by gloves so that was pointless–and of course, the mini skirt. The mini, mini, mini–mini, mini, mini, mini–mini, mini, mini skirt. Yep, the costume choice that no way enables her to fight better, but sure forces her to squat a lot. OK, so take out the fact that it’s no way battle armor, take out the fact that it’s obviously fan service, take out the fact just like He-Man somehow removing more clothes bizarrely disguises them–though to be fair both these outfits is the face really the first thing you’re going to be looking at?–Take all that away and just tell yourself, this obviously sexualized transformation that takes up a solid minute in each episode happens to a 14 year old girl.

Ok, first of all, Sailor Moon’s transformation isn’t fan service. There are no boob jiggles or butt gleams in these sequences. But of course, viewers can choose what they want to see. If you are are heterosexual male dude, you can choose to leer if that’s how you roll. If you are a heterosexual chick, you are simply seeing a young woman put on a cool outfit. If you are a gay dude, you might not give a shit and if you are a lesbian–well, hey, give me a call when a lesbian comedian calls Sailor Moon’s transformation a “strip tease.”

In fact, this promo sent to TV stations back in the 90s argues that girls will particularly love the transformation sequences where the superhero becomes “glamourous.” The focus of the transformation is the outfit and accessories and Sailor Moon’s moves are not unlike a gymnastics routine or walking down the catwalk. Or, a superhero who is simply getting ready to kick your ass.

Nostalgia Critic’s main beef with the transformation sequences isn’t that they’re sexy, it’s that a 14 year old is being sexy. Much of this section seems to be a reaction to his previous video where he named Sailor Moon one of his top 11 hottest animated women. Some commenters felt that Sailor Moon shouldn’t be described as “hot” because she’s 14 years old. Personally, I have more of a problem with Sailor Moon’s transformation sequences described as a “strip tease.” Cuz you know, putting on clothes is totally the definition of a strip tease. No word on what Nostalgia Critic feels about dude superheroes who actually rip off their clothes.

Superman pulls at his coat and shirt to reveal his chest, displaying his costume with an "S."

Take it all off Superman!                              Credit: www.comicvine.com

Nostalgia Critic hammers it home that the sexy, sexy transformations are happening to 14 year old girls—as if in the history of the world 14 year olds have never worn a short skirt before or have boobs or have long legs or whatever. To show how sexualized Sailor Moon is, Nostalgia Critic gives us an example of what real, 14 year old girls look like. Note that these images aren’t of young ballerinas, or 15 year old figure skaters. Would anyone like to say that the young ladies below are “dressing like sluts”? (And they lift their legs too! How scandalous!)

Young ballerinas stand, posed, wearing black leotards and white tights.

Young ballerinas who aren’t even wearing any skirts. Via: prima ballet

15 year old Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest individual gold medalist.

At 15, Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest individual gold medalist in 1998. Credit: Olympics Tumblr

The images Nostaglia Critic uses consist of 14 year old girls sans make up and short skirts. This image is meant to show the viewer that real life 14 year old girls aren’t sexualized like Sailor Moon. Or, at least, not sexualized in a way that would tantalize a hetero dude’s boner.

Images of real life 14 year old girls ring an image of Sailor Moon transforming.

Nostalgia Critic shows us what real 14 year olds look like.

Repeat after me: You can’t tell what a girl’s sexual history is by looking at her.
Repeat after me: You can’t tell what a girl’s sexual history is by looking at her.
Repeat after me: You can’t tell what a girl’s sexual history is by looking at her.

Nostalgia Critic comments that the problem with the sexualization of girls in media is that it doesn’t teach young people about real life sexuality and merely profits off of said sexualization. But here’s the problem. When you describe a girl in a short skirt and heeled boots as a “slut,” you are making a huge assumption about that girl’s sexuality based on only what you see–not on any actual first-hand knowledge.

What’s really happening here is that Nostalgia Critic is just re-enforcing the same old sexist belief that girls are to blame for a dude’s behavior, not the dude himself. If only Sailor Moon didn’t wear such a short skirt! Then! And only then, nobody would call her a slut! This don’t-blame-the-dude game continues with Nostalgia Critic suggesting that we blame Japan instead. Japan is the “creepy” and “kinky” one, you see, because the age of consent there is 13–it’s not Nostalgia Critic calling 14 year olds “sluts” or seeing their transformations as a “strip tease.”

It’s too bad that Nostalgia Critic didn’t review America’s consent laws. Although the average age of consent is 16, America also has similar close-in-age-exceptions as those in Japan. And surprise, surprise, some states allow for 14 year olds to have sex with teens who are only 2 – 4 years older than them. However, here’s the thing about laws. Their existence or lack thereof isn’t some smoking gun. For example, America has laws criminalizing rape, but that doesn’t stop people from arguing that an 11 year old victim “dressed older than her age.” Or, when rapists are convicted, people still blame the victim. Japan may have a club where you can pay to sexually harass young woman in school girl outfits, but you can do the same in America and just hope the woman can’t or won’t come after you.

But if you haven’t been convinced yet that you should be blaming Sailor Moon’s sartorial choices or sexually deviant Japan instead of, say, Nostaglia Critic, he tells us he just didn’t know how old they were–because they look sexy.

Nostalgia Critic: …why did I put her in my top 11 hottest animated women list? I didn’t know! I swear I didn’t know! Look at the way they’re drawn man! I thought they were in college or at very least late high school! Wouldn’t you have made that guess? C’mon! Look at the way they’re showing them off! I swear officer–I mean–audience! I had no idea their real age.

At the risk of taking this waaaaay too seriously, I just want to remind our friendly viewers at home that in a court of law, you actually can’t use the “I didn’t know her real age” defense. 

An older white dude throws up his hands above the words "Just Sayin'"

But before you can reach for your Captain Picard facepalm pics, Nostaglia Critic would like to give us one last reason why you shouldn’t blame him for sexualizing teen girls in mini skirts: his penis, like all heterosexual teen penises, is a metaphorical gun to his head.

A gun sits in front of a dude's crotch, pointing up towards his face.

Metaphorical penis gun.

Penises don’t force anyone to use the word “slut.” This may seem funny and inconsequential to some people, but in real life, people pretty much believe this. This video is a great piece of evidence of how we believe, as a society, that male sexuality is aggressive and uncontrollable–and thus, any dude can’t be held accountable for his actions. While some people may think that this is just a joke, this belief has real consequences in our lives. In 2010, a young girl was repeatedly raped and videotaped by multiple boys and men and people commented: she did wear sexy clothing, you know.

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.–March 8th, 2011, nytimes.com 

I’m not sure why dressing like a 20 year old or wearing “sexy” clothing makes rape inevitable. But I suppose we just need to remember that seeing a girl or woman dressed sexy is like your penis putting a gun against your head. Then, this senseless violence probably makes more “sense.”

One last thing I’d like to point out, since we’re taking about sexy clothing and all. In the flashback, the hypersexual 14 year old Nostaglia Critic with a metaphorical penis gun wears a black t-shirt and blue jeans. Remember when Nostaglia Critic showed us pictures of real 14 year old girls? You know, the ones wearing t-shirts and blue jeans? The ones who were decidedly not sexy? Again, it’s perfect example of how we as a society view male sexuality and female sexuality–dudes are hypersexual beings no matter how they dress, but female sexuality only exists when a woman or girl wears something sexy. That, of course, is completely illogical, but I doubt our patriarchal society wants to hear that.

Nostalgia Critic stands holding a remote wearing a black t-shirt and pimples on his face. Images of real life 14 year old girls ring an image of Sailor Moon transforming.

Thankfully, at this point, after a few drinks, Nostalgia Critic moves on–but not quite. He notes again, how stupid Sailor Moon is, the censorship of Sailor Neptune and Uranus’s lesbian relationship and a lack of physical fighting. But not without making more pot shots about Sailor Moon’s outfit which is basically “a bathing suit with napkin covering the crotch” and that Japan is totally cool with Sailor Moon “showing off her goodies to the world” if she lifts her leg even a centimeter. Nostaglia Critic chalks this up to “cultural differences” and admitting that America has produced much worse things like toddlers dressed as Madonna. But it’s waaaay too little, waaaay too late.

Unfortunately for Nostalgia Critic and this video, victim blaming and sexualization aren’t merely cultural differences–they’re are behaviors we find in any patriarchal, xenophobic society that doesn’t want to be held accountable for its own horrible behavior. And if there’s one thing worth remembering about this video, that would be it.

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • GK July 2, 2014, 7:50 pm

    What really gets me is…this is one of his more popular reviews and people. LIKE THIS? I don’t get it!

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee July 9, 2014, 1:54 pm

      I would guess it’s popular for all the wrong reasons…

  • Donteatacowman July 7, 2014, 12:59 pm

    I’m a big Critic fan (just saw his panel at a con, actually!) but yeah, this wasn’t one of his best moments. I think I commented something along these lines on his video. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s supporting rape culture, but I would say he’s obviously ignorant about a lot of these issues. Particularly, I did think it was a bit gross how he took a pretty standard cool-outfit transformation sequence and assumed it was created to be sexualized–even though the target audience was young girls. Finding it sexy is fine (she’s not real, it’s not statutory anything), but unironically assuming it was drawn specifically for people like you to find it sexy is really egocentric and does indeed have some unfortunate implications.

    Most of the reason I’m commenting, though, is because I actually am a lesbian. And no, in my opinion, that sequence was definitely not a strip tease. :/

  • David Foster July 22, 2014, 10:02 am

    I am a teenaged male and I write for the Sailor Moon fandom, and I’m something of a fan. I think there are a lot of problems with the anime, but the manga is pretty awesome, and I like the world it hints at and the character building. I do have some problems with how it portrays guys as weak, but nothing unforgivable.

    As a male, I have to wonder if someone reversed the nostalgia critic’s digestive tract, because he had **** coming out of his mouth and was talking out his @$$ at the same time. Are all his works like that? For that matter, did he even watch any of the series at all? He missed a lot of stuff.

    The biggest thing I think people don’t mention enough, though, is the context. For most intents and purposes Sailor Moon was the first Magical Girl WARRIOR series, and it created a lot of what we find in the genre today, much like Treasure Island did with pirate stories. An average (or arguably below average) girl gets magical powers and meets similar girls, and instead of using them to see if the guy she likes likes or back or grant people’s silly wishes, she uses them to blow up monsters. I’m not ashamed that I think that’s awesome.

    And no matter how much Usagi whined and groaned, got tied up and attacked, flunked her tests, and got yelled at, she never gave up and quit. For me, her defining moment (and I haven’t read it in a while so some details may be wrong) is fighting Rubeus, where Rubeus has her in a gravity ray turned on so high she’s sunk a few inches into the ground. And she stands up and says that she’s going to protect Chibi anyway.
    Same thing when she thinks Mamoru is purposefully not talking to her before she finds out Galaxia took him. She fights the Sailor Animates despite going through an emotional crisis. But I think I’ve got off-topic, if I ever had one.

    Just one last thing–that penis with a gun thing? Total. Bull. At age 16 I was a fan of the show, but quite honestly squicked by the thought of being personally turned on by the characters, no matter their actions or state of dress. It’s guys like him, especially with access to the mass media, that give the male gender a bad name.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee July 25, 2014, 8:29 pm

      I watched a few of his other videos and his formula is “watch something and tell the audience how stupid it is.” So, in some ways, Sailor Moon got the standard Nostalgia Critic treatment, but it’s too bad most of the focus was on Sailor Moon’s sexuality.

      And yeah, it’s a bummer that he didn’t watch more episodes. He harps a lot on “formulas” in his video, but back in the day, that was one thing that was different about Japanese animation from American cartoons–they had actual story arcs.

  • Dawn July 29, 2014, 3:50 pm

    I really hate how he obsessed over the supposed sexuality of the transformation sequences, and I say this as both a Sailor Moon fan and a Nostalgia Critic fan. I mean, when he critiques other cartoons he focuses on things like plot holes, animation errors, dumb dialog, etc. I mean, considering there is a lot of things like that in the dub of Sailor Moon, he had a lot of material to work with. But noooooo, he focused on the transformation sequences and made his worst review to date IMO.

    Also, he’s admitted that he doesn’t watch anime, which only made the review worse. At least when he reviewed the Digimon movie he brought an anime fan, JesuOtaku, onto the show to review it with him, and he should have done that for Sailor Moon as well.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee July 30, 2014, 2:10 pm

      I feel ya. It’s funny, so many people make a big deal about the transformation sequences yet no mention that Darien is actually a college student dating a 14 year old?

      And yeah, it’s really disappointing that he didn’t bring in another fan–or as others have pointed out, Nostalgia Chick. I mean, I imagine the whole point is about the nostalgia, not watching something for the first time. :/

      • Dragoon August 4, 2014, 4:41 am

        “I feel ya. It’s funny, so many people make a big deal about the transformation sequences yet no mention that Darien is actually a college student dating a 14 year old?”

        Aye, in the manga he is a high school student so I wonder why they altered his age yet changed the same sex couple to being related.

  • Dragoon August 4, 2014, 4:39 am

    I think the only real thing I agree with when it comes to his review is that Usagi is an actual idiot and very klutzy just as she is in the manga.

    she gets better as time goes on but in the brain department sadly she actually is lacking.

    though I don’t like how he knocked the voices being in English(Or whatever langue the show is being shown in) and the rest of the ‘world’ around ‘em is still in their native langue.

    Though to be honest I like their native langue over it being in english, that and the voice acting of the English actors are more meh than anything else.

    one more point I do like to touch on is the amount of blabbering they do after changing, as I deem them changing is actually much faster just ‘drawn out’ for the show.

    When they are talking and wasting so much time is normally where any normal enemy would attack and take them out.

    Crystal is even worse of an offender when it comes to their long winded intros.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee August 5, 2014, 2:18 am

      Have you ever read the book Warriors of Legend? It talks about how the long-winded introductions are a rip-off of samurai introductions.

  • Sadie August 10, 2014, 6:32 pm

    If the author’s argument is that young girls should feel empowered because an average girl is being transformed into something “glamorous,” fine, but why isn’t Superman glamorous? Why isn’t Batman? Oh, right, men who fight crime need to be macho and tough, but girls need to be feminine and dainty, and, above all, pwetty. My God above, a woman who fights crime that is muscular and someone male readers/viewers wouldn’t want to sleep with? Fuck that! Say what you want, all criticism of this episode comes from men. As a woman, I saw his review and honestly thought he was very respectful to women in his views. He clearly felt how good the girls looked in stripper gear had nothing whatsoever to do with how well they fought crime.

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