Porn, Nice Guys, Problems

Tenzo Gets Hugged

A ninja (Tenzo) wearing a hat and a red scarf is being hugged by a woman with blonde hair in a white shirt and blue pants. Steam is coming from his head and his scarf is standing straight out.

It’s likely I wasn’t the only one struck by the awkward inner monologue that Tenzo carried out when wandering around London with his lovely “Dame Scarred” in Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere episode six. The show had been building to this point piece by piece from her introduction as a mysterious cloaked figure way back in the first episode. As Tenzo Crossunite learns more about her, he slowly falls for her, leading to his desire to break the Testament starting with episode eight.

But let’s focus on the scene in the Tower of London. As “Dame” prattles on about the history of England and her place in it, Tenzo finds himself continually distracted by her body. The show, of course, gives a helping hand by ensuring that she gets in all manner of suggestive poses in the course of the interview (this is Horizon, after all). Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that this is typical pandering directed at the audience. But here, what’s more interesting is Tenzo’s reactions, because the show positions him in a way that we can blame this problem on how boys look at sex. Thanks to porn.

Dat Ass

A woman’s ass fills the frame in blue pants. Her long blonde braid hangs in front of it.

Tenzo’s reaction to seeing his crush in inviting positions is one of cognitive dissonance. He seems to be unable to reconcile his lust for her with his growing emotional affection; and I would posit it’s because of an objectifying sexuality on his part. Notice how each inner monologue concerns itself with a single asset or pose, and that each of these observations concerns and incites feelings of shame in our intrepid ninja. On one hand, he can’t seem to keep his eyes off her, on the other hand it makes him feel awful. I’m gonna claim that this is indicative of a problematic sexuality.

In the first season, Tenzo was part of a group of perverted students who could be frequently seen discussing the merits of women’s differing “assets” and perusing gravure magazines. While there’s nothing wrong with admiring beautiful women per se, it’s clear when we see him interact with “Dame Scarred” that his sexual desire wants to break her into pieces and consume her. But he seems vaguely aware that this is somehow wrong. This reaction could be the result of a number of conditionings that have worked to alienate him from his desire.

First, it’s worth noting that besides Toori and his Sister, most of the people in Horizon’s version of earth still have an awkward relationship with sex and love. Honda stammers when asked about it. Suzu Mukai and Nate Mitosudaira have a streak of modesty. And clearly Toori’s nakedness upsets people. In this environment, it’s not surprising that Tenzo’s unsettled by his lustful thoughts, but perhaps his problem is more acute.

See, he can’t see his lady love as both a person and an object of desire. Or, at least not at first. He eventually learns that he loves and desires her, thus pushing the series forward, but at first he has a lot of trouble. It’s striking to me that this arc matches so closely to many men and boys’ views of women, and that it conforms to concerns about the “friend zone”. The fact that current mainstream porn works so hard at dehumanizing its stars (men are also reduced to body parts to make them even less intrusive) seems to align with this problem of being unable to lust after a woman you respect.

So what does this mean? I think it means that even anime is vaguely aware that porn is NOT a comprehensive sex education. The fact that Tenzo’s arc is central to this season and that it seems so familiar should point us towards considering our own outlook towards the opposite sex, and maybe how proper education might change it.

9 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere

9 responses to “Porn, Nice Guys, Problems

  1. dm00

    Porn is a subset of what is happening. I think there is also a mind/body split in the Western tradition, going back to Plato, and having a strong presence in the Christian tradition. The mind is exalted, the body denigrated, so Tenzou is faced with conflicting forces at work on his desires.

    And isn’t Mary herself an embodiment of the reverse of this conflict? While she is not ashamed of her body, she is deeply ashamed of what her mind has caused her to do (the Testament game had her kill 300 Protestant martyrs, in imitation of her historic precedent (though it’s not clear what the nature of these deaths were — perhaps people just had to withdraw from the playing field)).

    I think there is a post about Horizon and religion to be written. It’s a weird perspective on religion, though: one that is completely intellectualized and devoid of spiritual passion.

    Technology has manifested deities in the form of entities that grant powers. Much of the communication comes in things labelled as “divine transmissions”; the IRC chat interface is festooned with crosses (among the Testament players) or Shinto toriis (among the Musashi residents); abilities to use powers (in the Testament societies) appear in message boxes labelled “Sanct”. I’m intrigued by the essentially commercial nature of the Shinto-inspired “religion” followed by many aboard the Musashi, and its contrast to the Rulebook-driven “religion” practiced by the Testament adherents (as I understand it, the Testament practice is a ritual that hopes to restore humanity’s former glory).

    Even their language reflects a difference: assent is either “Testament” (derived from the Book) or “Judgment” (derived by the workings of the individual mind?).

    I put “religion” in scare-quotes because, in Horizon it all has the elements of a game (albeit one with seemingly very high stakes).

    This show “began” (well, in episode five or so) with a conscious act intended to precipitate a crisis that would force people change the rules of the game (the destruction of Mikawa).

    • the_patches

      So, two things:

      1. I figured I’d examine Tenzo from inside his own character instead of as a cog in the greater workings of Horizon’s thematic machinations. Mostly because it allows for better feminist analysis, but also because what I actually like about the show is the character development moreso than the completely bizarre plot.

      2. Remember that the “Testament” is ACUTALLY some kind of half-assed history text not a religious document per se. True, there are some strong faith and liturgical elements, but the Testament still seems like a recipe instead of a religious guideline.

      But that’s neither here nor there! This post is about porn! Talk about porn!

      • dm00

        W-e-l-l, but aren’t a lot of religious texts “some kind of half-assed history” when viewed from outside the tradition?

        As to porn, I got nothin’. Maybe it’s just me, but this show seems an exercise in de-sensitizing the male gaze. Or it seemed that way until this episode came along and turned it all up to 11 (not the porn so much as the trinkets for the male gaze). Up to 12 in high-definition, even.

    • redball

      A post on religion in Horizon… We’ve got that.

      http://theclassiestanime.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/colloquium-kyoukai-senjou-no-horizon-5-6/

      Though I must admit that we aren’t being very comprehensive in that post. The religious implications and interactions in Horizon are quite varied in nature so it’s difficult to cover them all without making a post seem as cluttered as the episodes do.

  2. redball

    It’s probably worth noting that Tenzo’s entire attitude marginalizes Mary’s role in the relationship. This is somewhat cliche in anime. What matters is his internal conflict over whether he should objectify or love her, and her feelings are largely an afterthought, or worse they are assumed.

    • the_patches

      Oh, that’s certainly true.

      In abstract, I’m not against asymmetrical relationships (because they’re bound to happen as part of life), it’s more how he can’t reconcile his respect for her with his desire for her (at first). That’s more problematic than whether he considers how she might feel–at least at that point in the story.

      True, him rescuing her is maybe overstepping (depending on how he reads what she says to him), but that’s less what I’m talking about. :)

      MOREOVER, objectifying porn indicates that there is no second person in the relationship, which is also part of what Tenzo seems to be struggling against.

  3. Stef

    So where do you think the feeling of shame for lusting after someone you have emotions for comes from? Porn? Or, by extrapolating from dmoo’s comment, from Western religions?

    You’re right on with the parallel with reality. I can’t count the number of times I heard people from all situations discuss how “the friend zone” is sacred ground none shall cross. And the subsequent “upgraded friendship” term that seems to be here to justify the violation of said “friend zone”. And the inferred bro-code “Thou shall not lust for another bro’s bitch, cos that’s not cool, bro”. Good times.

    • the_patches

      Thanks for your comment! ^_^

      I don’t know where the underlying problem with sex comes from in the world of Horizon. Given how nutty the world’s sense of religion is, it’s hard to claim it’s entirely from there so, I’m just not going to answer that one. :3 What is true, however, is that Tenzo’s consistent focus on Mary’s assets as opposed to her matches closely to the way our current mainstream porn depicts its subjects (just watch some and really notice what you’re looking at. :D).

      As to the “friend zone” and “bro-code”, these things are problematic, and do–to some extent, but not not entirely–come from a version of sexuality that doesn’t see desire as something you have towards people, but objects instead. The idea that you can’t be sexually attracted to or involved with your friends is anathema to pan-sexuals. And the bro-code itself also assumes that women can’t be trusted with their own dating decisions (the focus is on ruining the guy’s relationship, and his girlfriend/squeeze/wife is left out of the calculation).

      • Stef

        I doubt the writers thought this through, and any meta commentary is certainly unintentional. But we can certainly deconstruct it for ourselves. And what’s more telling of the author than what he doesn’t control(or maybe they do, but their subscribing to that vision is equally telling)?

        Yeah, those terminologies could stem from contradicting sources(the objectification of women, and being told that lust is bad, all coming from mass-media, misguided/misunderstood feminism and -yes- religion) all mixing together into a guilt inducing, hypocritical mess of a value system. This deserves a column or two. Interesting stuff.

        And this is the first time I’ve been told to watch porn for educational purposes. Maybe next time will be in Human Anatomy class.

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