So recently there was a big to-do over on the ANN forums about Belldandy and the stereotypes of women in general. Now, just for some background the Oh My Goddess OVA was the first anime series I watched (back in the good ole year of 1996) so I have some fond memories of it.
What people kept bringing up is this idea that Belldandy is a stereotype. In particular the stereotype of the nuclear housewife, who stayed home and made sure the chores were done and was the proverbial doormat for her husband.
And honestly, it bugs me for two reasons. First humans think in stereotypes. When I say, “mailman” in America, it immedeately summons up a picture of a guy lugging around a big bag of mail as he struts down the street in his blue polyester pants and his striped shirt. Not a few years ago, it would have also summoned up the picture of workplace shootings. We have stereotypes for everything, what a rose should look like, what a person should wear in the workplace, etc, etc. These extend to words like trailer trash, geeks, nerds and yes… otaku.
Second fiction is filled with these stereotypes. Mokoto Kusinagi from GitS:Standalone Complex is a classic street samurai; Faye Valentine, a femme fatale; Shinji Ikari, the anti-hero; Amaro Rey, the boy pilot. This list goes on. These archetypes pervade fiction and can get more general than the ones I put out. Let’s face it, Vash the Stampede, Claus Valca and Ayato Kamina are all classic heroes on a quest.
So calling Belldandy a stereotype is missing the point. The first question that has to be asked is, “Does she make sense in the world?” My answer is yes. I mean she decides to leave the heavens to become Keichi’s girlfriend. She fills an idealized role of girlfriend, becoming a cipher to Keichi. To be fair, it wouldn’t be my ideal girlfriend, but on the other hand it DOES make sense given the world we have provided for us.
So the question that people should ask themselves when they’re watching this series is what does Oh My Goddess (and its TV counterpart) say about love? Does it say that self-sacrifice is a integral part of love? Or does it say that too much self-sacrifice will end up being taken for granted? Even if the show is simply nerd wish-fufillment, there is an underlying message there. And that is what people need to ask themselves about. Not whether one particular character, taken out of context, is stereotypical.
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