If they did it to Cutie Honey and Fujiko Mine, they can do it to Wonder Woman. I’m talking about the kawaii treatment, which works like a kiss of death to bad-ass super-heroines in Japanese pop culture.
Like Wonder Woman, Cutie Honey and Fujiko were butt-kicking superstars in an openly discriminating, rigidly patriarchal society. But when the two characters made the leap from the pages of their respective mangas to live action on the big screen, the kawaii factor was employed, turning them into demure sexpots. What happened? Marketing, that’s what. Or studio executives who refused to budge from the notion that audiences don’t want to see a female character that’s too assertive.
In an interesting culture clash last week, Japanese fans of amekomi (American comics) have expressed their deep displeasure at Warner Brothers Japan’s online trailer for “Wonder Woman.” It didn’t help that the narration was done by Kotono Mitsuishi, who voices the character of teenage anime heroine Sailor Moon, as she makes three main points: 1. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) grew up on an island entirely populated by women and has therefore never been with a man; 2. Wonder Woman has never known love (alluding to the first point); 3. Wonder Woman is adorably clueless (because of the first and second points?).
Japanese fans took to social media to call the trailer “saitei” (the pits), pointing out the glaring differences between the mature, feminist discussion surrounding “Wonder Woman” overseas and how she’s being reduced to a naive male fantasy (cue the batting eyelashes) in Japan.
“This is what happens when a polished, sophisticated story like this goes through the Japan filter — it just turns into trash,” tweeted one enraged fan. Another tweeted: “We’re not the bigoted, ignorant audience that these studios think. We deserve better and so does Wonder Woman.”
Warner Brothers Japan got the message — to an extent. The official theatrical trailer has toned down the “clueless” element and the voiceover narration is now male (uhh, problematic?), but the kawaii factor lingers. Honestly, it’s about time female action heroes in Japan are liberated from such stereotypes and are allowed to own who they are — which is what “Wonder Woman” is all about.
If you can gets past the trailer, the film is a formidably fun experience. More than one tweet vowed not to see the movie in protest, but that would be self-defeating. Witness the confident direction employed by Patty Jenkins, and see “Wonder Woman” for its beautifully written female characters — courtesy of a writing team consisting of four men.
“Wonder Woman” opens in cinemas nationwide on Aug. 25.