Some of my earliest memories of Asian influence in the media are from the animated television show “Sailor Moon”. The show was about young women in Japan who had secret identities and fought off evildoers. They had special powers derived by each planet in our solar system and had to save the world from evil all the while leading normal lives and going to school.
I could tell this was a Japanese show because of the type of anime animations. The main characters, even though they were drawn as white girls, were living in Tokyo I believe and going to a Japanese school. Sometime they would show signs or use the Japanese characters in the background to show that the setting was in fact in a Japanese city.
Many times anime shows that become more internationally known have main characters that look more western. This show for example, had I believe no Asian looking characters. Everyone, even though living in Japan, looked whiter. It makes you wonder if why they chose to draw the characters the way they did, and if maybe it was because this look would sell more. It is a common theme in media about profitability of leading Asian roles. We discussed this idea in class when we were talking about Wen Ho Lee who wasn’t offered the female lead in film because of her ethnicity. Even though she spoke perfect English, she still wasn’t offered the roles because of the fear she couldn’t sell as well as the other actresses.
I see “Sailor Moon” now as a problematic towards racial growth. It sometimes feels like the creators idealize the western look. I know that if you actually go to Japan, women will opt for eyelid surgery to widen their eyes. I think this media representation translates over to how that culture perceives beauty. I mean it is even really popular among Asian countries to lighten their skin color for a more ‘white’ look. I just think it is unfortunate how often through the media Asians create characters or fashions that are more western instead of showing off their beauty.
Throughout the show they main characters do follow the model minority image. Most of the girls are focused in their studies and are known to do well in school. Only the main character of the show, Sailor Moon, isn’t good a school. One of the girls is even known as the most studious one throughout the entire school let alone just their group of friends. They also show clips of Sailor Mars who studies martial arts and ancient scriptures. This is another way to show such obvious stereotypes of the Japanese. As a young viewer, this is how I believed Tokyo would be like, I thought people often did go to the Dojo and practice martial arts or put most of their energies toward education. These were the images the animators thought were important to create in order for the audience to get a feel of authenticity of the characters, or at least a controlled image authenticity.