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The phrase “Everything is political” has gone from an obscure term which originated in the late 1960s to something of a rallying cry for those who consider themselves to be on the left. The phrase has especially picked up a lot of value in recent years, as we have arrived at a political era in which people’s identities are more and more become a source of contention, and are sometimes even leading to violence.
For those who are unaware, while its exact origins are unknown, the phrase’s creation is generally credited to Carol Hanisch, an American activist who fought for women’s issues, and in 1969 joined the Women’s Liberation Front, an organization which was considered radical by the political establishment at the time. In an essay of hers which was later retitled “, The Personal is Political,” Hanisch describes her journey at the Women’s Liberation Front and how it was difficult to get other members of the group to agree that problems such as how men treated their wives, how much money a woman makes compared to her husband, and abortion were more than just personal ones. During the period of second-wave feminism, Hanisch and others like her managed to start a whole new conversation about what exactly was worth getting involved over.
Fast forward to today and, while many of the problems that second-wave feminists dealt with in their time have largely been solved, it seems like a large number of new problems have come to take their place. Rape on college campuses has become increasingly common, Revenge Porn, while having been dealt with by a few places on the state level, still goes largely unpunished, Sexual Harassment is still a problem in many workplaces, including in Hollywood and at large media corporations, as demonstrated by #Metoo, and while men are still more likely to commit suicide then women, the rate among women has increased about 50 percent over the past two decades. Now, I am three paragraphs into this article already and haven’t mentioned any Chinese cartoons yet so you might be wondering: What does any of this have to do with anime?
Well, a lot actually. In his TEDx talk titled, “Everything we do and don’t do is political,” Zachary Baiel stresses the importance of community involvement by using his own community of Lafayette, Indiana as an example. He further goes on to point out how many changes in his community only happened when people decided to get involved, like how a local biking group managed to get actual legislation passed on the city level by getting signatures for a petition and then getting it to their city council representative. Michael Toland put it well in his piece titled “Everything is Political” When he said “If your someone who takes the time to volunteer, you’re most likely volunteering with an organization with which your values align… Each of these decisions affects our communities, working to improve them.” Now, we may not gather together every month to meet with our local representative or hang out at the local library, but anime is a community.
Of course, everyone in the community watches anime, but we also converse online through various forums and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. Some of us write for blogs, make YouTube videos, and work in journalism related to the community. Sometimes we even take a break from our screens to go out into the real world and enjoy the many wonders that wait at anime conventions. There are so many ways in which people enjoy being a part of this wonderful little slice of the world that we as fans have carved out for ourselves, many even that I did not mention.
It is also important to recognize that our community is a diverse one. There are anime fans all around the globe of many different races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and genders. Every possible flavor of human being has been joined together by a strange addiction to Japanese animation, to anime. And it is not just the community itself that is diverse. Anime, for being more or less its own medium within animation, has many varying genres and subgenres for fans to explore. Wanna watch a show about giant robots? We have that. A dramatic romance? Got that too. A Slice of Life Comedy? Anime has you covered. Each of these diverse genres can also encompass a wide-ranging set of ideas on many topics, from big inherently political shows like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and its exploration of military dictatorships to the much more subtle politics of shows like Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai which is often underlined by a mental health epidemic. The reality is that all anime is going to have an political message because there are many aspects of life that we don’t often consider that are also political.
Take just the place where you live as an example. If you have a house, that means you probably got a loan in order to pay for it. The interest rate you got on that loan is directly affected by your country’s monetary policy. The electrical work, plumbing, and material used to build the house are all affected by regulations to ensure that it is safe. If you have an apartment, the rent you are charged and the cost of your utilities are affected by any rent controls that are passed by the local government. Also, the quality of your drinking water is also affected largely by your cities regulation. As much as we might not like it to be, everything is politics.
However, this does not mean that everything has to be viewed as politics. Sure, every show will have them, but that does not mean that you are required to engage in a shows politics if you enjoy it for other reasons. Even a show as universally enjoyed as Naruto has politics that explore the responsibility one has to their community, but even I have to admit that most of the time I am just there for the action.
What I am advocating for is not a constant political debate, but rather that we engage our entertainment critically, and ask ourselves why it is we enjoy certain shows. I am not even asking people to change their political viewpoints, necessarily. It is important, however, to recognize certain brands of reactionary politics that seek to make other people feel bad about their identity because those who engage in said reactionary politics feel like their own is somehow under attack. As a community, we should be united in making sure that everyone feels welcomed so that we can all get together in watching anime and solving the real problems, like why Crunchyroll is really bad at picking nominees for the Anime Awards.
Its been a while since I’ve written something on the longer side, and this was something that I personally felt like I needed to write. Just want to add, I know the Anituber Zeria did a video with a very similar topic, but I didn’t find out about it until after I finished writing this, so apologies about that. You can watch their video here.
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