This is fairly unrelated to the actual discussion on moe, but I find this acts as a fairly short, sweet, and really hammers home some of the points which surround this phenomenon. I’ll try to keep this short, since it’s really a prolonged sidetrack due to a well written post I found.
Recently, a great post was published by Noah Brand on The Good Men Project. Now, you may ask “Why am you linking to this? It seems really far off from the general discussion you’d hold”. And you’d be right. But give it a good read. And come back here when you’re done. It’s an excellent post, so I really suggest you do read over it.
I think I’ll preface the gory details by stating that I’m a liberal feminist. I believe in equality…in the notion that if a man does a job and a women does a literal identical job, then equal pay should be given to the male and the female. That has never meant every job faced should have a 50% split of male/female, because naturally males and females are different. It is through teamwork that effective teams are built and it is through realizing our own strengths and weaknesses through analysis of fact (as well as knowing when to ask for help) that we improve and better ourselves as individuals and as a society.
So, at a cursory view, I think we can notice something really, really heavy stated in this post: that there’s a fundamental belief that men act. That is their reason to life. If this is disrupted, then the reason for life, the raison d’être, if you will, is lost. And that can throw anybody for a loop. I mean, what’s the reason to life if it doesn’t have something for you to do?
This article shifts the discussion to real world dynamics, and points out how this affects how react to the topic of feminism and why, in their view, males react really defensively to the topic (as a fun note: I had a horrible time writing this. I kept using the term “we” instead of “males”. No points for guessing my sex). This occurs, again directly citing the post, because males have developed a sense that they need to act. That they need to be doing something. If they aren’t, they’re useless and have no purpose in life. Brand uses the example of a retirement home, where many retired males wonder “now what?” and seemingly vanish since they have no reason to prop themselves out of bed in the morning.
This happens a bit in shows, games, as well as is a functional part in this thing we called “moe characters”. I could probably go a full series of posts on these, but let’s focus on moe characters and moe characters alone. As I’ve noted earlier, my interpretation of moe characters is that they elicit a protective love. Why bring this up again? I can’t help but feel these two notions are connected. We have a point made that moe characters become something to protect, something to shelter and nourish. Sentences can be broken down into object and action…something is being acted on. People who love a moe character are wanting to nurture the moe character. Simply put, the people who love moe characters are acting. This lines up perfectly, since the vast majority of the viewers of moe character heavy shows are male. Consider some of the top moe heavy shows. I did a list of some of the obvious ones: K-On!, Kanon, Chobits, and Lucky*Star. All but the last are seinen shows, which mean they have a target audience of 18-30 year old males (traditionally). I expanded my search ring much larger and found that virtually all were seinen, with a few examples of shonen (younger males) (Lucky*Star, Nichijou and Azumanga Daioh), and a single shoujo example (young female) (Cardcaptor Sakura). The sample size was about 20 shows, so it certainly does feel there’s a distinct target audience, one where the effects of internalizing the roles of society begin to take effect, where you begin to really buy into the concept that you have to act this way to secure a man or act this way to attract this kind of man.
So where does this leave us? I think it leaves us with the feeling that the same feelings of protection are the same which defend traditional emotions…the ones which pop up during debates of gender roles. That, if males had nothing else to do, they’d have no purpose. Moe characters almost give a pseudo-purpose in the realm of watching the show. Viewers know they aren’t real, but they give the male viewer something to want to extend their hand to, thereby creating the emotional inroads I mention in my earlier post. The typical role of the female, decorated with the images of traditional ideal Japanese femininity, is being protected by the male.