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Does Sailor Moon Promote Fat Hatred?

Kim Kardashain wears a black outfit with shorts and low neckline. She sticks out her hip.Beyonce has blonde hair and wears a short top and panties. She's sticking out her butt.Kate Upton stands in white panties and white winter jacket.

Kim Kardashian. Beyonce. Kate Upton. These women epitomize the beauty ideal in the United States–light skinned, thin, no tattoos or piercings, preferably blonde hair, big boobs and big butt—and no fat anywhere else. According to the ANAD, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. So why should we care about this? Because eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. No only does our beauty ideal severely limit our concept of health and beauty, but our obsession of keeping women small and delicate literally kills.

Knowing that, how does Sailor Moon do with body image?

A anime picture with all the guardians. They are all thin.

Well, it’s not its strong suit as you can see. I mean, it is called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. And, by Takeuchi’s own admission, she loves supermodels. So, Sailor Moon upholds a lot of beauty ideals–light skin, no piercing or tattoos, blonde hair–their boobs and butts aren’t huge, but everyone of these characters are thin. Sailor Moon definitely sends the message that to be a pretty guardian, you need to be thin.

Moreover, the anime has a serious case of “ugly pretty” going on. The people closest to Usagi–Tuxedo Mask, Luna, and Chibiusa–all complain that Usagi is “too fat.” The anime tries to pass this off as a joke, but I think they are pretty poor jokes. I mean, really, “Hey you’re fat!” is not a joke, let alone a funny one!

The anime tackles fatness early on in the series–episode 4 of season one–to be exact. In this episode, everyone including Usagi wants to be thin and the Bad Guys are obviously exploiting that to take their energy. Sailor Moon doesn’t fight against the dream of being thin, but she does fight against those who take advantage of that desire. (Now if only Sailor Moon would take on the diet pill companies that would be cool!)

In Chapter 9 of the Sailor V manga, Sailor V vs Devleene, Devleene makes delicious chocolate so that she can steal their energy at a diet spa. Not only does Artemis say “I don’t want to see a fat Sailor V!” but Minako ends up exclaiming “I’d rather die than see a fat Sailor V!” Oh boy. (I’m beginning to understand why Sailor V wasn’t released in the States until now. -_-;;) In fact, at the end of the chapter, Phantom Ace arrives with a special “candy” that magically melts away the fat the young women have gained from Devleene’s chocolate.

Despite all this, Sailor Moon fans have been inspired by these characters to feel better about themselves. Makoto, Sailor Jupiter, may not be fat, but she has an atypical body type. She is taller than your average Japanese girl–and in Japan, you don’t want to stick out. We may think of being tall and thin as being a requirement for being a supermodel, but femininity often means women must be shorter than men—being too tall means you are masculine. One young woman on the fuckyeahfatpositive tumblr was inspired to cosplay as Sailor Jupiter. The cosplayer, Lauren, explains how Sailor Jupiter inspired her:

I said a big “fuck you” to fat cosplay bashers and cosplayed as my favorite Sailor Moon character, Sailor Jupiter.  Not because I thought I looked the most like her out of the characters, or because I liked the colors she wears, but because I identify with the character herself.  Although she isn’t fat, she gets picked on for her physical appearance.  She’s immensely tall, to the point that she has to wear a different school uniform than everyone else because they don’t have one that fits her.  (That one is uncomfortably familiar as it has happened to me more than once at school AND work). People pick on her for her height, and for being “unusually muscular for a girl.”  People are reluctant to make friends with her, thinking she looks “mean” because she’s big. She struggles with the masculinity/femininity binary just like I do, feeling she has to over-feminize herself to counteract her physical appearance and tomboyish tastes.  She hates bullies, having been bullied a lot herself.  She doesn’t take shit from them, often protecting other marginalized people from them.  Like me, she tries her best to always be accepting since a lot of people don’t accept her.  She’s unwaveringly loyal to her friends and fiercely protective of them, which I admire.  Each character in the show is supposed to embody a value, and hers is courage.  She does what needs to be done and what’s right regardless of what’s going to happen to her, what people say about it, or what they think of her.  I figured I’d take a page out of her book and do the damn cosplay because it doesn’t matter what I look like, or what she’s drawn like, it matters what we’re all like (as someone else put it on this blog a few weeks ago) on the fucked-up inside.

A fat white woman stands stoically in a Sailor Jupiter costume

Isn’t she awesome? Rock on!

So, in summary, does Sailor Moon promote fat hatred? On one hand, a main theme of Sailor Moon seems to be one of inclusion–that girls who are too tall or too chubby can be beautiful too. On the other hand, all of the pretty guardians are thin. Sailor Moon does not discourage the dream of being thin, but aims to punish those who use this dream to harm girls.

What do you think? Has Sailor Moon helped you feel better about your body image or has it reenforced negative feelings?

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Adrianne September 2, 2013, 3:38 pm

    While I think its great you are bringing these questions into light I feel like you completely glossed over the episode you used for your example.

    In that episode in both the English and the Japanese versions when Usagi complains about the weight she’s gained EVERYONE tries to tell her not to worry about it and to just watch her eating habits (good tips in general).

    Then when she almost faints, again in both versions she is told that what she is doing, starving herself and exercising like crazy is not healthy.

    I mean even the bad guy calls them stupid for being so obsessed with their appearance.

    I think what this episode does is actually poke fun at the stereotypical teenager trying to follow what TV & media says is what’s beautiful. And we really cant forget that these episodes were made more than 20 years ago. While many of the same problems remain with the concepts of beauty, I would still like to think we have evolved somewhat since then.

    I’ve been watching Sailor Moon since I was a teenager and I am currently in my 30’s. I show it to my young daughter and I have no concerns that its going to warp her body image. Personally the thought never even crossed my mind growing up. If anything Sailor Moon teaches that there is inherent good and beauty inside you no matter who you are or what you look like.

    While body image is still a very important issue that needs to be addressed, lumping Sailor Moon into that category with Barbie Dolls and every other bad stereotype just doesn’t seem fair or accurate.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee September 2, 2013, 4:19 pm

      Thank you for your perspective! Yeah, I think I need to do a comparison of the English and Japanese versions of episode 4. I think that would be very interesting.

      I do think Sailor Moon can be lumped into Barbie Dolls (Blonde hair, blue eyes, thin), but that said, Sailor Moon does a lot more than sit around and look pretty! 🙂

  • Healer September 4, 2013, 6:57 pm

    Yes, there are a couple of issues with the series. I think fans may have a hard time accepting that, because for them they gathered more positive than negative, but it’s still a valid issue. This issue is not my biggest complaint (the author’s apparent misandry and extremely disrespectful treatment of foreign deities that others worship is by far the most mortifying part for me), but, I do think it looks like the author herself does have some issues surrounding weight, beauty, and appearance, and I do believe this came through in the Sailor V plot and in parts of the BSSM series. It is certainly specified that the characters must all be pretty or beautiful. At the same time, Usagi is always eating, and often being called fat, but is never drawn looking anything but thin! And the author did say in her new magazine interview that she specifically refused to add any characters that were overweight, etc. So yes, I think those issues are present in the series due to the personal feelings of the author and are worth discussing.

  • Zulimar November 26, 2013, 2:09 am

    I wish that society would not judge the outer appearance, but rather see inside. Unfortunately, the media’s writers and artists only make this worse by portraying characters in a stereotypical view of “beautiful” rather than creating a variety of characters of all shapes and sizes that look real. Not perfect, not polished, not stick-thin, but real.

    May I just say that Lauren, the Jupiter cosplayer mentioned in this article, is amazing? She’s a beautiful girl (with gorgeous legs, too!) and she’s got a personality to match.

    I would pick as a friend and role model a REAL person with a beautiful personal than a PERFECT person with a fake personality any day.

    No one is perfect until you learn to love them.

  • Konrad Nikiel June 10, 2014, 3:21 pm

    Well, I, and if you don’t want to listen male, my female colleague (not girlfriend), who can be called a really liberated, don’t understand why feminists defends fat people. I don’t talk only about fat women, fat men are disgusting in the same way. In this moment I think You can call me some kind of fascists, but in reality, only reason that people are fat, is lazinness not any sickness, the same with dyslexia and other imaginated diseases today. If someone wants to be beautiful, it’s easy to do. Besides women shouldn’t be beautiful noble lady for males, but for herself, like for example Chibiusa would, I hope You will understand what I’m talking about, because it’s hard to me express what I mean in english, which isn’t my native language.

    It’s the same situation with Mamoru/Tuxedo, He is created as ideal man for japanese girls, slim, tall, mysterious guy who support his princess.

    Well, this person was hated, but I think it might be that male part of fandom which was jealous, that women wants handsome prince on white horse not fat and lazy losers, but I think it should works in both sides. You can call me sexist, but I don’t think that any woman wants fat ugly boyfriend, and “”apperance doesn’t matter” is the myth from abrahamic religions. About pills which “help” to burn fat, I must admit that I agree with that point, medicine nowadays is more poisonous and harmful than helpful, maybe Sailor V chapter with deVleene, is good example that everything can be achieved with hard work, not by shortcut.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee June 11, 2014, 2:37 pm

      Hi Konrad, assertions that I don’t want to listen to males is inappropriate. I have responded to you and your comments and if you feel that you are not “listened to”, you do not have to comment here.

      • Konrad Nikiel June 11, 2014, 4:45 pm

        You said in this response that you would want to see those questions on Shojopower, so I inserted them here, but there are more people who want to join the discussion, that’s why I left “You” as plural geared toward female readers of Shojopower, who have other (or the same) point of view than me.

  • 0Bunai0 September 24, 2014, 12:51 am

    I find it interesting that you started the article with this: >>>Kim Kardashian. Beyonce. Kate Upton. These women epitomize the beauty ideal in the United States–light skinned, thin, no tattoos or piercings, preferably blonde hair, big boobs and big butt.<<<

    Considering that these women, particularly women of color such as Kim and Beyonce, are ridiculed for their more larger / curvy features compared to their white counterparts who will always hold 'the ideal' by default. Women who are indeed more curvy and darker skin are still a rare sight on a magazine cover.

    As for the subject, you never address Japanese culture in relation to body image. In Japan you are "expected" to be a certain way by just existing (the "We are this way because we are Japanese"), while in North America there is actually a lot more freedom over body types regardless of the negativity. Even though the US has tried to marginalize what beauty is through commercialism over the years, overall you can appreciate that a good chunk of the US has no problem rejecting this and telling companies that their pushy tactics aren't appreciated.

    As for Sailor Moon promoting fat hatred. It is a no, though I can't say much for the first anime which made it a point to go the opposite of Naoko's message many a time. The characters are the way they are and are tied to their culture of origin.

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee September 27, 2014, 8:17 pm

      Oh I agree–different communities have different ideals–for example, high end fashion magazines like Vogue are much more interested in extremely pale skin, and small boobs and butts. I chose these ladies cuz I felt they are much more indicative of the general population rather than the small subset who reads/makes Vogue. (Also, I think it’s important to point out that Kim Kardashian is not a WOC, she’s Armenian. But that’s a great example of how beauty ideals inform our perceptions of race.)

      And yes, certainly there’s more leeway when it comes to weight in the United States, but at the end of the day it’s an issue that both American and Japanese girls deal with.

  • z January 24, 2015, 1:27 am

    Really my personal opinion is that you are obsessing over Sailor Moon promoting bodily love/hate too much. Not everything is about superficial things like appearance. I personally love Sailor Moon, Usagi is my favorite character, because she is far from perfect, at times she can be very insecure and fearful, but she overcomes this with personal strength. She can also be a bit immature for 14yrs old, but she’s beautiful and when I mean beautiful I mean her heart is beautiful. She understands what it means to love your friends and be a loyal friend, in many ways she promotes female to female love and friendship. As a little girl I used to feel like Usagi/Serena/ Sailor Moon was my friend because her character in the show is so human and truly feels like a friend. Who gives a crap if she’s depicted as slender it’s not a bad thing to be thin if your healthy, people really have to stop hating on petite women. I feel that this petite slender women hate bashing thing has a lot to do with bigger women’s insecurities. If your bigger and your comfortable the way you are, cool love your body, but if your bigger and your uncomfortable and insecure being bigger don’t pick on the smaller women because you don’t feel good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being in shape, there’s nothing taboo about being healthy and slender. Grow up and grow some confidence.
    Love,
    A proud slender and petite woman <3

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee January 27, 2015, 1:49 pm

      I’m pretty slender myself, but that’s the unfortunate thing about body issues–even if you have the “perfect body”, people can still think you’re fat. I’ve had loved ones in my life say very mean things to me and I’m a healthy, active person. In the 90s anime, Usagi is slender, but she deals with gaining weight and loved ones calling her fat. I really relate to Usagi in that way.

  • Chi Chi March 30, 2015, 9:10 pm

    Anna Lee

    Can I just say how happy I am that people like you exist?
    AND NOW I WILL RANT >:)
    I hate how poorly people react to critical analyses of their childhood tv shows, I mean seriously! it’s the exact same reaction that you get when people try to explain some of the underlying issues in Disney GRRRR…. We idolize and glorify every aspect of our childhood SO MUCH that we refuse to accept or even acknowledge any type of criticism of it, whether it be constructive or not. Why people choose to live in ignorance is way beyond me.

    Wonderful article by the way, you really hit the nail on the head!^^
    *claps happily*

    • Anne Lee Anne Lee March 31, 2015, 2:06 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, I think constructive criticism is necessary—I don’t think people realize how much of our entertainment is actually created from this criticism.

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