As a writer, I have personally run into some really nasty arguments by fellow writers and readers trying to defend sexist texts and media. But probably one of the most common excuses is “historical accuracy.” This kind of response is given to defend all kinds of horrible writing, half baked “research”pieces and outright racism and sexism. But when it’s broken down, it’s an excuse that holds less water than a thimble.
As I mentioned briefly in my review of Joker Game, a very sexist comment by a lead character at the very end left a rather bad taste in my mouth. The line was the leader of the spy devision speaking to his subordinate after closing a case: “Do you know why we only hire men? Because women kill even when it isn’t necessary, for foolish reasons like love and hate.”
My issue with the above quote should be very obvious. However, this is where many would gleefully chime in with, “But it was in the past! During WWII and that’s how people viewed women so it’s accurate!”
That is a lazyass excuse for a sexist show.
You see, while there have been toxic opinions about women on and off for hundreds of years, this particular show was written in today’s world. On one side, they had no reason to have any character voice this viewpoint. It was unnecessary. It added nothing to the story besides making the main heroic mastermind a sexist jerk. And on the other end, if they felt they HAD to include a line that is clearly sexist by today’s standards, they should have shown through the female characters of the show that the statement wasn’t true and that the man who said such was blindly wrong (characters can be wrong, including heroic ones and I’m all for that). But that’s not what occurred. Once the line was spoken I mentally went over every female character in the show. There aren’t many. And, sadly, they are all lead completely by emotions. Not a single one puts their personal feelings aside for the sake of their country/mission. The men in the show, on the other hand, are shown to be capable of both. Many are led by emotion, but some do sacrifice all emotion and personal agenda for their country. And there in lies my big issue with this show (besides the fact that they couldn’t keep to one MC).
See, when your media takes place during an era where a group is discriminated against, you need to take care to make it clear that such sentiments are not true. Yes, women have been seen in a bad light by many throughout history and by many today. But it’s not true. Women are just as capable as men as soldiers, spies and formidable enemies not led by impulsive actions. And if this show had made that clear by having such female characters present, we could then write off the old windbag’s quote as his personal opinion and that such an opinion is trash. But by having all the women in the anime live up to such a sexist statement, this show, a modern creation, establishes that the statement is seen as truth as it is all that exists in that world. In other words, it makes this show sexist in nature.
Again, it’s ok to have incorrect viewpoints and assholes in your stories. But just be very clear in your writing, through other characters, world building or confrontations, that such views are incorrect. Otherwise you run the risk of appearing to justify those sexist agendas.