Monday, November 17, 2008

"Satsu Says"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of those shows that just doesn't seem to go away – and that's a good thing. After its series finale in 2003, the story about "one girl in all the world" turned into thousands of girls continuing to fight the good fight in comic form. As Buffy fans, we know that's not all Buffy's about. For instance there's Satsu, Buffy's latest love interest, who created controversy and some main stream media hype. With write-ups in such publications as The New York Times, the news of Buffy sleeping with a woman created some rifts in the Buffyverse, and catapulted Buffy into real world media. Unfortunately, some facets of American culture still see same sex relationships as taboo and as a declivity of American society. This begs the question, how about Japanese culture?

Homosexuality is not an unfamiliar topic for Buffy creator Joss Whedon. Willow came out in Season 4 and had two long term relationships with women. In fact, in May 2003, Buffy became the first TV show to air a lesbian sex scene. Satsu, the newest openly gay character, seems to have no shame in her sexual preference. Satsu has proclaimed her "Buffy-love" a few times, and has more of a problem sleeping with Buffy because she's her boss, than because she's a woman.

It's unclear so far in the comic if Satsu is Japanese-American or a native to the country of Japan, yet what is clear is that the character is confident and safe in her own skin. This self-awareness could be from her Japanese upbringing where homosexuality seems to be less of a hindrance than in American culture. Japanese pop-culture is filled with gay and transgendered main stream celebrities. Akihiro Miwa is a drag queen and a spokesperson for many Japanese Financial and Beauty companies. Can you imagine Citibank using Divine to promote their free checking? Anime and Manga don't shy away from gay characters either. Mr. 2 Bon Clay from One Piece comes to mind.

It isn't just pop culture. Kanako Otsuii is an openly gay assemblywoman from Osaka and in 2003, Aya Kamikawa became the first transgendered person to serve as a Tokyo municipal official. She was re-elected in 2007.

It seems that Japanese society has created a culture where sexuality is just what it is defined as, and not a meter to gage someone's moral decency. In turn, Joss Whedon has created a character who reflects societal upbringing and forces other cultures to question their views on such issues. With the recent addition of Proposition 8 in California, along with the other divisive outcomes in such places as Arizona, Arkansas and Florida, Satsu becomes a perfect example of how culture can effect the views of many, as well as the reflection of ourselves.

**This post is the first of a two-part discussion. Look out for the next installment titled, "Buffy Says".


5 comments:

Skytteflickan88 said...

I know I promised to stay away, but I saw this analyze in the NEWS-section in the top of the slayalive site and couldn't help but read it :)

A very interesting analyze I have to say. Makes me want to go to Japan and see for myself.

I have just one question; What makes you think that Satsu's japanese? Was it mentioned in the comics?

Michelle said...

Yeah it was mentioned. Also, her name is Japanese and I have read that it means "to slay, to kill".

Skytteflickan88 said...

"To slay, to kill"? I'm not sure if I want to meet her parents...

Anonymous said...

I think "Satsu" is supposed to be a diminutive for "Satsuko" which is I beleive a common-ish Japanese "feminame."

Sexuality si waht it is eevrywhere, really, and all cultures have *a* set of moral vlaues attached to it, those just differ. And politics ain't never what it really is no place no how.

-DaddyCatALSO

RabidNelson said...

Wow, you've made a rather a wild misinterpertation of Japanese culture. Here's the bottom line. In Japan, transexuals are much more openly accepted than in Western cultures and homosexuality is much less accepted. Transexuals are accepted only if they begin dating members of the opposite sex of their new sex. One of the reasons for the misinterpertation is that in the West you have people who believe that homosexuality is immoral and some who even openly hate homosexuals/bisexuals, however, in Japan, 99% of people simply don't believe homosexuality exists, so they aren't threatened by it. Gay people are just being "weird". In a society where conformity is king, homosexuality is deeply shameful, and you will not find almost any openly active gay community unless you go out of your way to find it. The only gay people I've ever met in Japan are visiting from abroad and say they learned English and got the hell out of Japan as soon as they realized they were gay. Being gay in Japan is generally considered a miserable experience.