Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ethnocentrism & Xenophobia: Anime & Manga in America

Ethnocentrism & Xenophobia: Anime & Manga in America

One of the things that continually bugs me is the skewed way in which many people approach Japanese animation & manga. I mean how many times after naming anime & manga as interests have you received responses of along the lines of "tentacle porn? or "it’s that 'hen-thai' stuff right?". These kind of responses simply make me cringe and at times almost fear to mention my love for anime and manga to others.

The American media does nothing to remedy this with its ethnocentric view of anything foreign fanning every American parent’s xenophobia and fear of the unknown. How is the media ethnocentric? The mainstream media has the tendency to look at the world from the perspective of American culture and failing to account for cultural relativity.

It is natural to compare something new to something that is familiar to us I understand but after they put their ‘spin’ on things you often end up with distorted headlines such as “Anime that's not child's play” as was on one local paper. What was originally an article discussing Ukiyo-e, a genre of Japanese woodblock prints, and Shunga, erotic artwork, from the Edo period is twisted into the subtitle “Pokemon, Hello Kitty, tentacle porn? We out why sexually explicit cartoons are so popular in Japan”. Such is the nature of many American reporters that after reporting that manga is a growing market, one worth over $180 million, and a passing comment about there being many genres they jump right into “hentai” & “lolicon” not even giving notice to the Shonen & Shujo genres that make up Viz’s monthly manga-zines.

People naturally compare something new to them to something familiar. When comparing cultures that is called Ethnocentrism. People naturally fear the unknown and when that concerns strangers and something foreign that is called Xenophobia. Both of these are very prevalent in America. Anime and manga are being imported from a foreign country and culture so it is natural one must approach it with an open mind to accept or understand it. That is not something the American media has been famous for over the years so I guess their reactions are to be expected. As anime/manga continues to grow here in American I hope we can one day we can move past these the images of “hentai”, “tenticle porn”, and “lolicon” and approach this import from the land of the rising sun with an open mind and eventual acceptance.

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