so one of my housemates is big into anime and somehow this translates into me watching season one of sailor moon, the japaneese version with subtitles. it's cute, more or less, in that whiney school girl saves the world and her classmates kinda way.
i'm about for or five episodes in, rather enjoying the formula that allows me to know what's coming and thus truly veg, and suddenly usagi (sailor moon) is slumped on the bathroom floor crying her eyes out over having gained weight. now, all of a sudden, i'm leaning forward in my seat waiting to see how this plays out. not really interested in the idea of how the episode would go but in how the show, so obviously aimed at pre-teen girls, would handle the idea of body image and weight loss. i have to say, the show did not disappoint my expectations... which is bad since i was expecting the worst.
her brother teases her, her father tells her it's healthy for growing girls to be a little chubby, and her mom lets her know that it's true but all the same if she's really worried about it she could go on a diet. the worst part is the talking cat that is part friend and part mentor who draws a picture of a very round usagi and tells her this is what she'll look like in six months time. which of course makes the poor girl freak out, and begin to "diet". i say diet in quotes because her idea is to just stop eating. which her friends at school encourage because, as the token fat one states, thin girls are so much prettier than fat ones.
suddenly the girls all hear about a new gym that just opened up and promises weight loss in just one session, and beautiful thinness in just three. of course it's just a plot by the bad guys to steal the energy of young women, but the girls rush in on the promise of beauty and thinness. or maybe thinness and beauty. either way they're equated one with the other. so the girls slave on stationary bikes, free weights and rowing machines with beefcake instructors egging them on. once the girls have all but exhausted themselves it's off to the "shapely ray" for some relaxation and to help with their goals. so here's the evil plan bit, but the girls come out weighing less and all manner of excited, especially when they get told how much thinner and how much more beautiful they all look.
meanwhile unsagi still hasn't eaten and collapses in from of the video game arcade. she's helped by the young man she currently has a crush on, and he tells her she doesn't need a diet. he likes chubby girls. which gives the poor thing some kind of permission to eat. not that this new found acceptance lasts beyond the first few dumplings because both the cat and the dark haired stranger she keeps running into both confirm that she's just going to get really fat if she doesn't stop eating.
meanwhile the evil gym owner muses with his evil ruler about how stupid these women are. he says something to the effect of these women and young girls are willing to kill themselves just to be thin, how pathetic. this is really the only part in the whole episode where anything is said about how unhealthy and how dangerous this kind of thinking can be. even the idea that men like the "chubby look" gets laughed off as not the norm and besides chubby is sort of ok but fat is never ok. of course in the end sailor moon defeats the bad guys and save her friends and teacher, but the message is very clear.
thin is beautiful. fat is not acceptable. chubby is only ok for some and most men don't like it. there's no mention of health, no mention of how bad it is to starve yourself, no affirmations of any kind. just this push to be thin, and how monstrous it is to toy with a girls dream of being thin.
there's talk in the fat/size acceptance world about the subversive nature of the this thin=beauty myth. but this was anything but subversive. now, i have no idea if this episode aired in the usa and no idea about eating disorders in japan, but i can imagine what this would do to a young woman who has gained weight prior to a growth spurt. or just in general. and i found myself begin that thought process of self evaluation that says my stomach isn't flat enough and my hips are too big. i shouldn't have been surprised but i was, at least a little. but i think the fact that i could recognize the seeds of that kiltered thinking is a sign of progress.
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