My interview on ANNCast this week focussed on Studio Ghibli and led, as talking to me occasionally does, to history, and to feminism. I suggested that anyone with a point to make or something to throw into the mix might like to post a comment on my blog. Then I got carried away with the beauty of kimono and neglected to provide a place to do that. Sorry, and thanks to Andrew for reminding me!
Hayao Miyazaki has long been known and loved for creating wonderful role models for girls: engaging, dynamic, delightful heroes able to carry the story and occupy the roles traditionally given to boys and young men. I don’t think that makes him a feminist, and, as I said in my lecture at the University of Maryland, I think he was actually doing this as part of a long-term plan to create the kind of male hero he wanted to see in anime, but couldn’t. That epic journey began with Nausicaa of the Valley of The Wind and ended with Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke. Along the way, he created a roster of unforgettable heroines, but like an anime Frankenstein he had a cunning plan – he was using them to create the conditions for his ideal hero.
So what do you think? Is Miyazaki senior a feminist? Does one have to be a feminist to create strong, dynamic female characters? And how does this place his later creations: Sen/Chihiro from Spirited Away, Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo?