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The Male Gaze: Dateline’s Sexist Sailor Moon Report

Mars, Venus, Moon, Jupiter and Mercury stand, smiling, ready to attack

This past week this video turned up on my Facebook news feed. It’s a compilation of clips about Sailor Moon–some of which I had never seen before. The very first clip, which is about 4 minutes in length, is an old Dateline  special–a weekly “news magazine” program that airs in the evenings here in the States.

While to the average viewer this clip may seem innocuous, there’s a lot of sexist and racist bullshit going on here. Let’s walk through this together, shall we?

The clip begins with Jane Pauley setting the tone–Christmas is right around the corner, so what will the next must-have toy be? The company that brought us the wildly popular Power Rangers has a new superhero, Sailor Moon. Will Sailor Moon be the next must-have toy? (This clip probably aired in November or December 1995. Sailor Moon first aired in the States that September).

Lucky Severson, our reporter, begins his piece explaining how the Japanese make one out of three cars Americans drive as well as our cameras and TVs etc. Here’s your first clue that this piece really isn’t about Sailor Moon or if it will become the next must-have toy. This is about stoking American anxiety over how the Japanese are kicking our butts and taking our jobs. (Kinda like how American worry about China now.) Notice how he says “They’ve invaded our toy industry.” Oh those Japanese conquerors! Watch out! Sailor Moon is coming for you and your pocketbook next! Then he introduces Sailor Moon:

“And now, heads up! This blonde bombshell and her girlfriends have invaded the US. She’s called Sailor Moon.”

I can’t even tell you how much it enrages me that this reporter chose to introduce a female superhero with the phase “blonde bombshell.”

Excuse me, I need a gif for this.

Tyra Banks has laser eyes and lightning mouth

I mean, we can talk about how sexy or beautiful Sailor Moon is until the cows come home, but notice how the sexual desirablity of the Power Rangers are NOT remarked upon. No, that would probably be too “gay.” He’s a heterosexual dude, so, he has to sexualize a young woman or people will forget he’s a hetero dude! Remember folks, the most important thing about Sailor Moon is that she’s a blonde bombshell. She’s a metaphorical weapon of mass destruction with her sexuality. Her sexuality has become the most important element in this report. And the reporter has made it so.

Severson goes on to say that Sailor Moon is “the latest hot item from the brain factory of this man, Makoto Yamashina, the president of Bandai.” Notice how he introduces Mr. Yamashina as “this man” and not “blonde bombshell.” Hm. Now I’m not particularly keen on how  Severson makes it sounds like Sailor Moon has just sprung from the genius of Makoto Yamashina. Mr. Yamashina is just one person among many that brought Sailor Moon to life, but ok, carry on. Bandai is apparently the “biggest threat to the American toy industry in memory.” *eyeroll*

The reporters are at the International Toy Fair in Tokyo. We see a woman put on a pink head band with Chibi Moon’s odangos. She whips it off and mouths “oh shit” when she sees the camera. Lady, you are hilarious and I would like to give you a high five!

Severson explains that Bandai is 3rd largest toy manufacturer in the world and that Japan is a “comic crazed” country. So far, not a lot of explanation about why Sailor Moon is so popular. In fact, the first question that is posed is how the Japanese show has been *changed* for an American audience. Mr. Yamashina explains the costumes are the same, the content is the same, but the voice actors are different.

At this point, Severson again introduces to us “blonde Sailor Moon and her girlfriends” and it’s here I realize this is the *second* time Severson has referred to the sailor guardians as Sailor Moon’s “girlfriends.” He doesn’t call them soldiers; he doesn’t call them superheroes. He doesn’t even call them sailor scouts. Way to fucking minimize their importance, dude. It’s not like they fight evil bad guys or sacrifice their lives or anything! No, just “girlfriends” who are probably just going to go out shopping or something!

He goes on to explain how these “power rangers” can be “sweet and innocent” in one minute and “tough and sexy” the next. Again, there’s no analysis why Sailor Moon is beloved in Japan or why children in North America might like it. We just get his observations that they are both “sweet and innocent” one minute and “tough and sexy” the next. He couldn’t have interviewed some fans? Too much work? I love reading fans’ thoughts and feelings about Sailor Moon and one common refrain is that the show is great because there are a several different heroines to like. If you don’t like Sailor Moon, no biggie, there are Sailors Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter who are all different from each other. Is this explained? No. All we get is two opposing ideas “sweet and innocent” and “tough and sexy.”

Anyway, so Severson’s next question is “Why is Sailor Moon blonde? I’ve never seen any blonde Japanese girls.” Now, I’m sure at some point all Western fans of anime have had this question. But again, instead of delving more into why Sailor Moon is popular, the reporter decides to take this report into WOW ISN’T JAPAN WEIRD territory. *eye roll* Mr. Yamashina responds that having blonde hair is a dream that Japanese girls have. There’s a lot that could be said here–that Japan is influenced by Western beauty standards or that anime has been heavily influenced by American animation–namely, Disney. Of course, this isn’t remarked upon at all which makes a blonde Sailor Moon all the more “weird.”

About 3 minutes into the clip, we finally get to meet the creator of Sailor Moon, a young college grad, Naoko Takeuchi. Oh wait, excuse me, NEOKI TAKEUCHI. He manages pronounce Makoto Yamashina’s name correctly, but slaughters Naoko Takeuchi’s name. REALLY?!

Where’s my angry GIF?!

Tyra Banks has laser eyes and lightning mouth

He goes on to say that Neoki Takeuchi doesn’t have to worry her pretty little head about anything since she’s a millionaire now–oh, should she drive her Ferrari or Porche today? Which is news to me because being a manga artist on a hit series is HARD WORK. Heck, Hiro Mashima of Fairy Tail fame had to pull 19 hour days so he could come to New York City Comic Con.

But what’s really sad, is that he claims that Naoko is “worried” about the changes they’ll make to the American version of Sailor Moon. Which I’m sure she was, but he goes on to say “toning down her sexuality. She’ll be wearing more clothes and the TV show won’t have the sexual banter of the Japanese version” implying that Naoko is worried about *that.* This is really disappointing because Naoko wasn’t always happy about the choices made for the Japanese version—she has said it has a “slight male perspective.”

It’s true the Japanese version had some incredibly sexualized banter (Esmeraude: You girls are flat chested! Sailor Jupiter: We’re not flat chest, we’re just perky you old hag! Anne Lee: *jaw drops*). However, I’m really confused at his claim that Sailor Moon will be wearing “more clothes.” Is he referring to the SuperS opening which is playing on the screen as he says this? Where Sailor Moon looks like a naked Barbie doll? *eye roll* It never ceases to amaze me how people will see a short skirt and promptly FREAK THE HELL OUT.

For example, despite the short skirt, Sailor Moon’s outfit still covers more skin than Wonder Woman’s iconic outfit.

A woman with knee high red boots and wearing a star spangled outfit which looks like a bathing suit.

 

Moreover, Xena: Warrior Princess first aired in September 1995 just like Sailor Moon–AND wears a similar outfit. What, did he not have time to clutch his pearls over this?

Xena and Gabrielle stand with Argo, the horse.

 

In summary, this Dateline report on Sailor Moon is straight up an alarmist piece about how “scary” Japan is going to take your money, jobs and sexualize your daughter. Thank you Male Gaze! Jane Pauley ends the report trying to allay our fears, that in reality, Holiday Barbie is the most popular toy for girls this year. Here’s what 1995 Holiday Barbie looks like:

A blonde barbie wears a long beauitufl green dress with a holly berry motif

But of course, it’s the blonde and sexualized Sailor Moon from Japan that we have to worry about. Indeed. /sarcasm

 

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