Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Toku Rant II: Why Do People Like Mako So Much? EDIT

So, when I went back and read this post I realized that I sound like a total social justice warrior idiot, which I'm not. I wrote this post a while back, and didn't publish it until last week. And sometimes when you go back and read something you wrote, you realize you made a mistake, like when you go through your old clothes and can't believe you wore some of that stuff. So I decided to edit my post, but my opinion stays the same: I don't like Mako. And remember, this is an editorial, so a lot of it is my own opinion. It's not fact.

Okay, I'm going to get something off my chest. Ready? I'm probably going to piss a lot of you off, just to warn you (Sean Akizuki and FireandHeaven27, I'm looking at you). Okay. (Takes Deep Breath). Remember in my last post, I said I didn't like the Boukengers? Well, there's another sentai character who I really hate: Mako aka Shinken Pink.

As with Sakura from Boukenger I don't hate the actress, I hate the character. Granted, a lot of the reasons why I don't like Mako is because of the fan response to the actress. They think she's the hottest thing ever, when really, she isn't as hot as they think she is--and this is coming from someone who is attracted to women as well as men. You want a beautiful sentai actress, look at Sayako Hagiwara, the actress who played DynaPink, or Ayumi Kinoshita, the actress who played DekaYellow.

Mako has done some of the meanest things ever, at least in my opinion. In addition to saying "she likes men she can fix," she dropped Shinken Blue like a hot potato as soon as he was "fixed." Also, for those of you who think that she's "good" for Takeru, that she is compatible with him, she would probably drop him as soon as he's "fixed." As well, when you look at their interactions, they seem to have a negative affect on Takeru: when you look at the episode where Takeru pushed her (which was actually kind of awesome, but remember, I'm biased). Takeru was practically catatonic in the next episodes--in fact, it was KOTOHA who got Takeru out of his funk. Hell, in the Lord Butler episode, even the narrator acknowledges that Kotoha holds a torch for Takeru. Why do people want to see Mako, who is, as FireandHeaven27 ironically says "a nosy bitch" together with someone who clearly enjoys his privacy?

But I'm not the only one who doesn't like Mako. According to susurro, a commentor on a blog post glorifying Mako:

"Also, Mako isn't as perfect as you keep saying here. Almost her only appeal as a character was her looks. If she weren't played by an attractive actress would people care how "badass" she was or want to see her get together with Takeru? No. She was only ever nice to Takeru, not the rest of her teammates - she was horrible to Ryuunosuke, hit Chiaki, ignored Genta and dismissed Kotoha when Kotoha was worried about Takeru. A tokusatsu hero is supposed to be someone exemplary, a role model to the audience - not someone who's really a horrible person but the fandom worships them just because they're 'hot.'"

But because Mako's "hot" isn't the only reason why the fandom likes her: particularly the male fandom. 

The idea occurred to me in my Genres in Television class. My professor asked us if there was anything on television today that could be considered "trash." My hand immediately shot up and said "Two and a Half Men," and everyone agreed with me. He asked the class why people watch it, then, as for a while, it was one of the highest rated shows. One of my other classmates replied "Because it's misogynistic, it has misogynistic humor. It makes men feel comfortable." Now, not all men are sexist pigs, but some of them are, and some would wish they could go back to the glory days--they do all the work, the wife greets them at home with a martini and a warm meal waiting, and doesn't complain about the fact she has no life outside being a baby-maker/mother/prisoner her own home whose only way out is bridge with the girls and going to the grocery store. Not now when women are more empowered, are making decisions not to have children and have the ability to control their bodies, wearing pants and suits, are going to colleges and using their degrees and are advancing more and more, and hold the same positions as men, and can be their bosses even.

The fact that you have a female character who wants to be a wife and mother, might entice some male viewers.

Feminism is about choice. You can choose your own career, your own future. Mako wants to be a wife and mother, it's what she's passionate about. And I'm pretty sure she'd be a good wife and mother. Now, Shinkenger had two other female characters who some fans either ignore, blast, or hate.  First you have Kotoha, who is a freakin powerhouse. She isn't weak, at all, and she had to grow up really fast. She's awkward off the battlefield, though, and constantly suffers from crises of confidence which mirror Takeru's. She can be shy, but she overcomes it. Throughout these series, she comes of age, becomes stronger off of the battlefield, starts to deal with her feelings for Takeru, and finally acknowledges that she is the real Shinkenyellow and not a stand-in. It seems she enjoys being a samurai, though, as it's what she's good at. In my opinion, and this is my bias, as I like strong, daring, female characters who break social norms: she's a better positive role model than Mako. But fans refer to her as weak, or "junior", or "cute", or "inexperienced," and the little sister, or the other girl. And they ignore her.

And then there's Kaoru. Kaoru kicks ass. And people instantly hated her when she declared that she wants to fight, and that she will be ShinkenRed from now on. But people forget the reason why she wanted to reclaim her position: she was tired of hiding, she was tired of being the princess being protected, and she was tired of probably living with that asshole Tanba. She wanted to fight. I know, Takeru and the team took it extremely hard, but she didn't know this was going to happen. And they also forget that she constantly hits him with her fan for being an asshole. And at the end, she pulls an extremely ballsy move by adopting Takeru. She's an amazing fighter, made an amazing entrance, and is a pleasure to see whenever she returns in the vs. movie and in Gokaiger. And she was a nice princess, she wasn't a spoiled brat.

So Kotoha is a young woman who is coming of age and is becoming stronger and ballsier, yet has a lot of flaws which makes her a more fleshed-out and real character, and Kaoru is a freaking warrior princess in a kimono. But NOOOOO they aren't the beloved characters. It's Mako. Why? Because Mako wants to be a Yamato Nadeshiko--a traditional Japanese women, a housewife, a mother, subservient. At the time, I guess male viewers were getting tired of seeing women take charge in sentai, male viewers were getting tired of seeing women either reject them, emasculate them, or hold superior positions to them, and when they saw a woman who's dream was to take the big step backwards, they couldn't help but fall in love with her.

And it's not only that: they see Mako as perfect--A woman whose only flaw on the surface seems to be her bad cooking (she has a flaw as well: obsession and fixation, but none of the Mako lovers seem to acknowledge it). Mako's whole character song is about being a freaking bride and housewife. Kotoha's character song however, is called "Bushido Girl." See the difference?

Now, why do female fans, in particular a certain group of female fans worship Mako so much to a point where it is an obsession?  Maybe it's because they believe she's "perfect." And they want to be as "perfect" as her. And they would want to be like Kotoha because she's so awkward or like Kaoru because she's such a meanie. Or maybe because they have a crush on Takeru's actor and would rather see Mako as their surrogate.

Another factor is being a lemming. Remember in my shipping mistakes article where I said one of the biggest mistakes is being a lemming--assuming that because a non-canon ship is "popular" or considered the "fan preferred shipping " on TV tropes (which is usually added by just one troper), or that has vocal fans, is the most popular/canon ship. The same can be applied to characters as well. 

 A lot of new sentai fans who aren't familiar with the shows might look at other blogs for info, particularly well-known blogs that appear on the top of your google search, and believe that said "sentai expert" is objective, and believes his or her opinion to be true. So if a popular blogger who acts as if they are speaking for the rest of the fandom shills a character they like, the new fan might believe it to be the truth, which is sadly the case with Mako. I'm not saying that new fans aren't smart, but sometimes they assume that if someone is seemingly well-versed in sentai, then they are telling the truth.

The most important thing to remember is that Shinkenger is one of the best sentai ensemble series. A lot of people will dismiss the rest of the characters as annoying or comedic relief or "mean" sans Takeru and Mako. This is partly because of the example above, and another reason is that a popular blogger refers to Shinkenger as a tribute to the popular manga Rurouni Kenshin, and even based off of it, which like Shinkenger, is about samurais. Kenshin has both a male and female lead which said blogger believed Takeru and Mako to be based off of. However, if one actually reads the premise and character summaries to Rurouni Kenshin, they'd see that it is far different from Shinkenger. It's like saying Hurricanger is a tribute to Naruto. (Hell, the only manga that was incorporated into a sentai season would be One Piece as Gokaiger, mainly with the character archetypes, but Gokaiger was it's own series too). But because said popular bloggers assertions, along with someone (probably said blogger) writing it on TV Tropes some people come to believe it to be so. And therefore they forget that Shinkenger is an ensemble series.

I've stated how important Kotoha and Kaoru were for the series. Ryuu (I suck at spelling his name) will be blasted for being over-the-top and annoying or comedic relief. Okay, he can't help the over-the-top part. He's a kabuki actor. Even his pose is a kabuki pose. Kabuki can be over-the-top at times. Ryuu acts like a kabuki actor. And he is loyal. Really loyal. So loyal that you'd want him as your best friend or even as your boyfriend or partner. I've never seen a character that loyal before. And he kicks ass and is an amazing dancer.

Chiaki's journey is humbling. He learns about humility, he learns about being part of a team. He learns how to use his inexperience, his playfulness, his bravery, his unconventional way of looking at the world to his advantage. And he kicks ass. As well, I like his relationship with Kotoha. He acts like a protective older brother to her. A lot of people see it as romance, I see it as a guy who is protecting the youngest member of the team, who doesn't need protection, and as someone who owes it to her for being kind of a jerk to her.

Genta is extremely loyal as well, matching Ryuu's. He's creative like Chiaki. Sure he's a little too enthusiastic, but this guy loves being a samurai! He takes actual joy out of it. And he brings some positiveness to the team and allows Takeru to start to open up. Plus, he had to learn how to do modjikara (I'm spelling it wrong, I know) on his own, without having the ability, and was able to create his own henshin device. Yeah, he can be a little shrill but he's more than just "comedic relief."

Each character is the hero and heroine of the series. Remember that. Shinkenger did what sentai is at it's best: an ensemble series.

The more and more I think about it Yasuko Kobayashi is one of my favorite sentai writers, someone who I will go to the ends of the Earth to defend. She wrote Kamen Rider Den-O, my favorite Kamen Rider series. She is great with twists, suspense, characters, and yes, storytelling. And as someone who is studying to be a television writer, and is a woman, she's kind of a hero for me--especially in Japan, where the system is still patriarchal. In one article I read, women are forgoing marriage because people expect them to stop working (and some women still need to make a living) and be a full-time mom.

So those of you who know about my love of Yasuko Kobayashi might bring up the fact that Mako is her creation, so I need to like her. Well, some of my favorite writers have created characters that I've hated. Matthew Weiner, the creator of one of my favorite TV series Mad Men created the frigid unsympathetic bitch known as Betty Draper (later Francis).

At first you feel sympathy for Betty, her husband is cheating on her, and she has some issues of her own. But then, by season three, you lose all sympathy for her and are totally okay with the fact her husband is cheating on her, and Weiner wants you to be sympathetic towards her, so does her actress January Jones. Betty is a horrible mother to Sally, her and Don's oldest daughter who around that time was, like, nine. Betty is unpleasant period. You hate her more in season 4, and then kind of stop hating her in season five, and season six, because she undergoes a redemption--although she still is a crappy mother.

Ron D Moore wrote Battlestar Galactica, one of the best sci-fi series that proves that sci-fi isn't outdated, and can be used to explain modern issues and philosophy, especially on TV. It's an awesome show. With tons of awesome characters. Except one. Cally. A nebbish deckhand who, actually I can't tell you too much because it will spoil too much. But watch Battlestar Galactica, because it's awesome.

I guess Yasuko wanted to show how women have a choice and balance out the motivation, or maybe she wanted to comment on how conservative values affect Japanese women, or maybe there was pressure from executives. But I still like her. She's made some other mistakes (Go-busters), but not every Sentai series is flawless, and not every writer is flawless. They sometimes have a bad season.

So why do people like Mako: because of looks, self-insertion, the fact she wants to be a wife and mother, and the swaying of a few vocal fans of her.

I can't really give any advice, to most of those fans, but to the new sentai fans: a popular blogger's opinion isn't set in stone, and my opinion isn't set in stone. Watch the series yourself and making your own opinions. You may like Mako or hate her.

Well, that's my post. I know, it's an extremely unpopular opinion, but sometimes, it's okay to have an opinion that's different than what some people believe to be the fandom consensus. So, go ahead, hate on me. But you Mako lovers have expressed why you love her so much. I have as much a right to discuss why I dislike her. But, hey, at least she's just a character. And I treat her like a character.