Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why Do You Like Old Japanese Guys, Sara Ellis?

Today is Hayao Miyazaki's 69th birthday. He is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and a great filmmaker. You don't have to be an anime fan to be familiar with his work. Look, he is also dapper:

Why should you want to bake a cake for this man? He doesn't just make beautiful animated films, he makes beautiful animated films with brave and well developed female protagonists. I'm not talking about breasts, people. Several of his protagonists are prepubescent. He even had the gall to make one of his heroes spend most of the film in the body of an old woman. Yes! They don't have to be naked or murdering people to be kickass.

Here is a man from a generation and a country where feminism is not exactly celebrated, and yet he is not afraid to tell stories with females as our main characters. When asked why his protagonists are almost always female, Miyazaki had this to say:

I don't logically plan it that way. When we compare a man in action and a girl in action, I feel girls are more gallant. If a boy is walking with a long stride, I don't think anything particular, but if a girl is walking gallantly, I feel "that's cool." Maybe that's because I'm a man, and women may think it's cool when they see a young man striding. At first, I thought "this is no longer the era of men. This is no longer the era of taigimeibun." But after ten years, I grew tired of saying that. I just say "cause I like women." That has more reality. (1994)

What?! He is also adorable, this Old Japanese Man!

You don't ever watch a Miyazaki film and think, Hmm, you know what would make this better? If the hero were a boy. The success of Twilight has explicitly shown the economic power of young women to even the most adamant naysayers. I think it is time that Hollywood, the comics industry, and media sources at large start recognizing that female characters that aren't merely girlfriends or victims aren't a niche market, or a gimmick. (Okay, Twilight is a bad lead in for that, Bella Swan is totes a weenie.)

That is why Miyazaki films are so great. His films aren't made for girls. They are made for human beings. Sometimes I think we forget that that is what girls are.

Click here for an interview with Miyazaki from when Spirited Away, my favorite of his films, was released.

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