As kids, ideally and realistically, we were taught that the prince should always be the one saving the princess and not the other way around. And even in harem genre, regardless of how pathetic the male character is, for some reason there’s always that monumental moment wherein the guy rescues the female lead. Come to think of it, it doesn’t seem natural if the prince is the one being saved by the princess. Isn’t it?
So let’s take for instance Ouran High School Host Club. Apparently, this anime isn’t going to be labelled as gender bender unless Haruhi didn’t act like a guy. Nevertheless, staying true to the fairytale structure, this reverse harem revolved around how every guy in the club tried to help, comfort, and save Haruhi. Well indeed, she chased Tamaki in order to save the club and to stop him from marrying someone he doesn’t love. However, what made it believable and idealistic was the fact that by the end of the story, Haruhi was heroically saved by Tamaki as she dramatically fell off the bridge.
If we’re going to notice, most anime followed the similar romance structure over and over. Indeed, one might say that anime is constantly bending the “laws” of genders and sexualities; however that doesn’t take away the fact that these are viewed as taboos. Aside from that, little we noticed, these fairytale stories have that spellbinding enchantment which dictates the “order” of things and what is considered as natural. Believe it or not, the magic and romance of these stories also exist even in science and highly influenced us on how we created our socially accepted ideologies of sexualities and genders.
In a nutshell, it is apparent that the validity of cultural assumptions about masculinity and femininity is strongly legitimized by science. It was said that for decades, biologists patterned the explanation of the fertilization process on a fairytale. Plus, scientific thought has been shaped by a binary world view in which sex opposes gender, male / female, mind / body…. The language of these dualisms leads to an understanding of the world in terms of opposing pairs—like husbandos and waifus.
For instance, back in high school, some biology textbooks depicted sperm as fearless warriors battling their way to an aging, passive egg that can do little but await the sturdy victor’s final, bold plunge. Aside from that, several authors exemplified how the egg’s role is likened to that of Sleeping Beauty: “a dormant bride awaiting her mate’s magic kiss, which instills the spirit that brings her to life.” Sperm, by contrast, have a “mission,” which is to “move through the female genital tract in quest of the ovum.”
In other words, this fairytale-ish unification of the egg and the sperm, presents an excellent paradigm of the embedded beliefs that influenced biology through language and metaphor. Likewise, biology naturalized and shaped these cultural assumptions and gender roles—which aren’t necessarily true—by extracting such stereotypic behaviours of who must be and what it’s like to be feminine (passive) and masculine (aggressive).
Arguably, we might find reverse harem to be more believable than harem, in most cases, because of how genders are performed—“the prince saves the princess” notion. But that’s only because if we’re going to think about it, fairytales do come true only if we conditioned ourselves to believe it and make it happen.
About the Guest Author:
A long time friend of Listless Ink, SnippetTee writes fascinating, highly intelligent, and profoundly analytic posts. It is my pleasure to bring some of that ease, style, clarity, and depth over from Lemmas and Submodalities.