If you hear the word “hero”, what do you all think of? Most people would probably imagine a masculine macho-man with strong muscles, like the Superman or Batman characters from American comic books. In Japan some young people would also hold this image, but surprisingly they are the minority. The kind of heroic vision most of this country’s youth hold is actually a mix between “masculinity” and “femininity”. We shall now introduce this way of thinking.
■ Are they more “effeminate”? These are the signs of a change taking place amongst Japan’s male youth
We could point out many signs which suggest that the male youth of Japan has been recently getting more “effeminate”. There are many non-traditional males who are negative about romance and who relate to the opposite sex in the same way they would towards their friends, or also guys who enjoy simply chatting in cafés together, guys who love sweets, guys who carry a parasol with them, etc. In truth, more than being “effeminate”, these are young men who take a direct interest in all “girly things”, and until now they had been less conspicuous within Japanese society. If I had to describe them, I’d say they are men with a “strong sense of femininity”, an expression which suits them perfectly. So, what kind of hero would this type of man envision?
■ A comparison of different ways of imagining heroes depending on the youth group
On this occasion, we have conducted a survey, the “Fields Yoka Survey 2016”. With this we have divided and compared a group of male youths, from the ages of high school students to men in their 20s, depending on the degree of “masculinity” or “femininity” attributed to their envisioned heroes. We presented them with both the macho and bold “masculine” ones, as well as the graceful and friendly “feminine” ones, and divided the answers in the list below depending on their level of attachment to one type or the other.
1st division I feel attached to both the “masculine” and the “feminine” types… “Hybrid type”
2th division I feel attached to the “masculine” type, and I don’t need the “feminine” one… “Masculine type”
3th division I don’t need the “masculine” type, and I feel attached to the “feminine” one… “Feminine type”
4th division I don’t need the “masculine” type nor the “feminine” type… “Negative type”
The ratio of people who chose “Hybrid type”: “Masculine type”: “Feminine type”: “Negative type” = It turned out to be 4:1:1:4.
■ Those who like the heroes of American comic books are only the “masculine types”
As a result of our analysis, we saw that the types of hero which each group of men liked were very different depending on which of the above-mentioned types they fit into. Only the “masculine type” men liked American comic book heroes such as Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, and such. “Hybrid type” men and “negative type” men liked Luffy from “ONE PIECE” or Goku from “Dragon Ball”, heroes which give a lot of importance to their friendships. It seems like those who like American comic book heroes are the minority of Japanese males.
■”Hybrid type” = the main Japanese youth from our current era
“Hybrid type” men are people who use their leisure time in very proactive ways. They like to go shopping, to the karaoke, and generally any situation where they can “go out with someone”. This attitude also affects the kinds of content they enjoy. They’re also very proactive in their relationships with family, friends and lovers, and are usually very communicative on SNS. Basically, the “hybrid type” men are probably the group which most corresponds to what we said in the opening statement about our current times being “highly feminine”.
Incidentally, the “negative type” men are not so proactive in their relationships or with their own leisure time, but the types of heroes they like are very similar to those liked by the “hybrid types”, so we could say that they probably started by thinking they identified with the “hybrid type” and later expanded their view to include the “negative type”.
■ The background and consequences of this change towards “more femininity” in Japanese male youth
The mothers who have raised today’s young men have been the first generation of women to fight for women’s rights in Japan, and this has had an effect on these youths. These young men grew up with a mother figure who wasn’t a housewife, but instead a fully working woman.
Furthermore, these children were raised by families whose economic income was split equally, by mothers who refused to wear “sexy clothing”, and where the legal names of both parents were taken into consideration.
In this generation there have even started to be TV celebrities who express their gender and sexuality in many different ways, such as KABA. or IKKO.
This environment left an influence on today’s young men, which is probably why so many of them are more feminine than before. The “Fields Yoka Survey 2016” shows that today there are less young people who consider it necessary for men and women to perform different social roles, and more people with a deeper awareness of gender-related issues. From now on, I wonder in what way will young people’s heroes change?
(Article by Toshikatsu Kawai)
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment. This article was written by the member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests that discovered from daily life.