The (Not So) Subtle Modern Day Sexualisation of Asian Women
In recent times, western-produced media has faced growing demand for representation and language that offers a holistic and politically correct representation of racial minorities. The cinema and television industries have made progress in this regard by giving more room for all Asian casts and production teams involved in many projects. Most notably, we can look at movies like Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell, which have been well received by audience and critics alike.
While it is easy to gloss over the star-studded representation of Asian women on the big screen, emerging new media are not exempt from the trend in the sexualization of Asian Women. Japanese-produced animated series, known as Anime, has grown to be quite popular in the USA. Estimates for anime viewers in the USA stand at 23% of the total population. This form of media is known for its vast variety of genres and storylines that span multiple seasons. However, the depiction of female characters in anime is constructed keeping “fan service” in mind, i.e. female characters have their bodies drawn in a way that pleases the sexual fantasies of the male audience and often acts in ways that convey some sexual innuendo.
Originally, anime was created for its domestic audience but its rising global appeal, as well as perceived superiority of Western culture, gave rise to the conception of characters with euro-centric features. When anime entered the USA media landscape, it coincided well with the country’s history of reducing Asian women to passive sexual beings on screen. Inspired by the sexual appeal of female anime characters, celebrities like Doja Cat and Belle Delphine have become increasingly popular.
Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini, known as Doja Cat, is one of the best-known voices in pop music in 2021. Her songs have a record of going viral on the popular social media app Tiktok, she then capitalizes on this trend by producing music videos that are colorful, fun, and sensual. The music video for one of her viral songs, “Like That”, pays homage to one of the oldest and most iconic anime shows, “Sailor Moon”. In the music video, there are several instances when his character changes to a digital character that is stylized with the fanservice component in mind.
Besides Doja Cat, another case where this caricature of female anime characters comes alive is that of Belle Delphine. At 21 years old is the highest paid porn actress with just two films to her name. Delphine’s appeal to her target audience comes from the online persona she has created of herself as a real-life anime girl, who was able to earn the status of a millionaire by selling selfies of her ahegao face. In July 2019, Delphine exploited the anime trope of taking baths in a sexual and fetishizing manner, when she notably sold out bottles of her bathwater in just 3 days. The character she plays in her video and photo content online adopts the persona of a sexualized “child” borrowing cosplay costumes from well-known anime shows.