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January 21, 2022

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With the right to free expression in mangas comes a responsibility to protect younger audiences

While there is little argument to the assertion that literary works or films and television series should be guided by proper values, some art productions continue to provoke controversy.

Recently I have noted the exchange of acrimony over the values and world outlook, expressed or implied, in some artworks.

It all started with a vlogger called Rabbyui criticizing prejudices and negative stereotypes of women suggested in several romantic Shojo manga — Japanese comics targeting teenage girls.

The vlogger took a manga series ‘Hori san to Miyamura kun’ as an example, citing some dialogue in it such as “timid as a girl.”

She also discussed details or plots in other manga or animated television series. These were fine at first glance, but close scrutiny shows up the stereotypes underlying them, suggesting descriptions intended for women to be essentially deprecatory.

Since these works exert a subtle, often imperceptible, influence on readers and viewers, their messages, when amplified through art, are not something trivial and should be subject to effective regulation.

When this view was expressed in a post on Weibo, there was both agreement and disagreement.

Some commentators insist that there should be no taboos in art, as all ideas expressed in literature and art, by affording us alternative views, are good for us to learn holistically about the real world. The audience should make their own judgement.

“Family, education, environment, friends and our own life experience are what shape our values, world views and mindset. And we must stop holding a few works of fiction culpable,” one netizen said in a post that attracted more than a thousand likes.

Significantly, the mangas she mentioned were actually quite popular for their romantic storylines and charismatic characters.

“Fiction is just fiction,” another comment said. “Most readers like us just enjoy the stories for entertainment and there’s no need to be too fastidious about subtle innuendos.”

But there needs to be a proper balance between the two, as many other people pointed out.

Mature adults who have developed values of their own may not be so susceptible to the corrosive influence of a few books and TV shows.

But for impressionable youth, proper education and inculcation of correct values should be a higher priority.

Given the difference of impact on adults and young people in their formative years, a rating system that legally determines the suitability of creative works for people in different age groups might be a solution.


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