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“Crying Girl” DVD makes me cry, but not for the obvious reason

April 21, 2010

image by Amuse Soft Entertainment

You may have already heard about “Crying Girl” DVD, released in Japan last month.  It features 11 young Japanese actresses, crying over real-life dramas they’ve had.  And…that’s about it.  The DVD is being marketed toward Japanese men, either for sexual or ego enjoyment purposes.

While I’m not really surprised that this DVD exists, given the wide rage of fetishes out there especially when it comes to viewing women as victims or vulnerable (just because I’m not surprised doesn’t mean I don’t find that problematic), I’m really bothered by the lack of criticism it’s receiving from bloggers and news outlets, where it’s gotten any coverage at all.

It’s been highlighted (in English-language blogs) as just one more “WTF, Japan” idiosyncrasy, that also provides a fleeting glimpse into a gender status quo that most Westerners are taking for granted.

Steve Levenstein over at the blog Inventor Spot posted a somewhat cynical take of the DVD but nonetheless concluded, “it seems that men in Japan need to have their “conquering instinct” stoked up, and the way to do this is by watching beautiful women cry. Yep, in a nutshell: men feel stronger after experiencing the weakness of women. But hey – Japan is a different culture and Crying Girl just underlines that fact.”

Notes Marie Claire, “the film pitches itself as a self-help tool to empower men and stir up their ‘macho instincts’ by showing the ‘vulnerability’ of women.”

Levenstein notes, smartly or perhaps cheekily, that if a self-help tool for empowering men…which utilized women as props to do so…were marketed in the US,  “you’ll earn yourself a swift kick in the, er, nutshells.”  Yet it’s OK to condone that dynamic in Japan.  Maybe he didn’t feel empowered to take a feminist critique?

Posts didn’t ask questions about the deeper why that this DVD existed or whether they were doing something helpful by advertising it.  Instead of being “culturally sensitive,” or culturally insensitive in a tongue in cheek way which is what I think most of the blogs that posted about it sought to be (“hey – Japan is a different culture…”), such coverage is participating in the perpetuation of Western stereotypes about Japanese women as meek and submissive.

Most irksome to me was the surprising coverage this stupid DVD got in the May issue of Marie Claire, in the “Bulletin” section, which usually highlights relevant and progressive, pro-woman new items.  Along side informative and helpful bits about DC’s wack anti-prostitution initiative — which could get you arrested for carrying more than three condoms – and the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill (happy birthday old friend!), was a toothless review-slash-apology for “Crying Girls.”

I think the author wanted to highlight it more as an oddity than anything else, but by not putting any kind of critique on the DVD, it came off as condoning, or presuming a status quo in Japan: “the 63-minute sobfest promises that men won’t be able to resist the ‘pure tears and running noses’ and ‘sad sexy voices’ of the women reliving their misery. Whatever turns you on, right?”

It’s also a convenient way to “otherize” a taboo and make yourself feel more normal – pointing and saying, hey look how weird Japanese men are, they’re into crying women.  Meanwhile child pornography and other disturbing fetishes are alive and well in the US and all over the world.

Marie Claire interviews a Japanese psychologist who confirms: “Japanese women are getting more powerful by the day, and men are experiencing a deep malaise of inadequacy.’ Anyone need a tissue?”  And that’s where the article ends.  Instead of making the newsy bit about how women in Japan are “getting more powerful by the day,” the story is the misogynistic prop that men need to make themselves feel better.

This was the exact same mis-reading of a potentially feminist storyline that I posted about in January.  The New York Times spun potentially good news – women are earning more – into an androcentric tale of female victimhood: mean are marrying women for their money.  Why does androcentrism seems to be more newsworthy than feminism… is feminism a trope or something nowadays?

Anyway, I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but I wish that either this DVD wasn’t mentioned at all, or if it was – it was critiqued in a more thoughtful way.  Instead of wasting ink describing how eleven women are crying to make business men feel macho, let’s use our ink to talk about the under-sung work of Japanese feminists, and important regional groups like the Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center.

And if you’re thinking of ordering this ridiculous DVD, instead buy Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism.  Then you’ll really learn something about the Japanese woman…as she speaks for herself.

Cross-posted with Feminist Review

6 Comments
  1. G.Kay Bishop permalink
    April 21, 2010 9:25 am

    The Western world has its version of stoking male hormonal response with every horror and action flick in which a female is portrayed as a helpless screaming victim. How much nicer it is that Japanese men get their vasopressin activated by a reality show confidential confession.

    Because you notice that Western men pay to see blood, gore, rape, impalement (c.f. Sharpe’s revenge, on tv no less) and sexual slavery of women (in real life and in movies) among even less savory forms of slasher flick fantasy porn fests in which women are all waxed hairless and only men are heroic. And the Bond girl always dies. Hint to all you ungentle gents of the movie world: your Freudian slips are showing.

    It would appear that the men who control the movie-making industries cannot bear to imagine even one woman in a situation of danger responding with calm courage and fierce determination to survive. Nature red in tooth and claw has no more terrifying sight than a mother defending her offspring. Where are the movies that show a motherly, matronly woman defeating a much larger, more powerful enemy by the sheer blind ferocity of her attack?

    Where are the movies celebrating women’s strength, power, rational intelligence street cunning, and quirky humor? Where are the movies about women in lifelike situations using the powers of speech, shaming, and scorn to tame unruly and unworthy men? Where is Boxcar Betty with her big biceps?

    And that’s just the power of one woman–what about the power of women in groups?

    Where is the Dirty Dozen of tough street-wise women who carry off a caper? Made (for once) with superb character actresses who carry substantial amounts of bulk and muscle on their bones and an array of weapons at their disposal. Where is the Ocean’s 13 of women who carry off a multimillion-dollar heist by hooker, bookkeeper and crooker? Where, for that matter, is a decent remake of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes according to Anita Loo’s suggestion that the modern version should be called Gentlemen Prefer Gentlemen. A musical comedy about certain Legislative Elements taken for all they are worth by a pair of trans and cis con artists would be equally hilarious and topical. Bollywood–are you listening?

    And where is the other class of movies: the ones where women relate to other women? Like pioneer white women who actually got along with Native American women and helped each other out. Where is the movie about Emma Goldman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Where is the anime of Herland?

    These need not be big budget blockbusters. Small films delivered via internet-based niche marketing could turn a tidy profit. Even in Hollywood’s heyday, a steady stream of “women’s films” and tearjerkers made bread-and-butter profits. And with digital cameras, actresses no longer need to starve themselves to look good in the Procrustean distortion of the 4:3 lens.

    Do not expect men to break free of their hormonal condition. Testosterone is a hard task-master; very few men are able to subdue its power over their imaginations. Those who manage it are generally in service to others, and have no energy left to reform popular culture.

    Do not expect women to make these films. Women do not control the money and the studios. Do not expect women to boycott or “girlcott” the films that show women as helpless victims. Women also have their hormonal imperatives: to subsume self to please others.

    But maybe–just maybe–the global intiative to give girls cameras to record their own stories will creat a generationo f filmakers. Maybe they will be the ones to produce a slew of mini-flicks that can satisfy a more womanly taste in fiction.

  2. April 21, 2010 1:08 pm

    I didn’t exactly understand what the problem is with such videos.

    Why do the actresses talk about their private dramas? I assume they do it voluntarily.

    And what about the men who watch it? I don’t know what’s the background. Perhaps they have special problems if there is a pathological background.

    But even if there would be a pathological background what is exactly the problem?

    I don’t really understand it. But I would like to know it.

  3. April 30, 2010 2:34 pm

    This article runs under the headline sexism in the media.

    Why is this video sexist?

    I don’t understand it.

    I would be grateful if the author could tell me.

    What is really problematic about this video?

    • April 30, 2010 3:18 pm

      Captain Kirk,
      You honestly don’t see what’s wrong with exploiting these young women’s emotions? It’s just another form of porn. And downright disturbing. Apparently, one of the girls is crying because she found out her friend got breast cancer. You honestly, don’t know see what’s wrong with making a profit off of that?

      And you can’t assume that they just volunteered to be a part of this; nobody knows what anybody’s situation is. All this is is some male power trip at its worst.

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