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18 October 2009 @ 11:12 pm
Utena essay  
Back when I first finished watching Utena and joined the utena usenet group, I wrote a short essay on some of the themes in Utena. Anyway at some point I decided I wanted to repost such things on my journal so I searched back for it, but when I reread it it looked all horribly vague and badly written, so I ended up rewriting it entirely and it thus became much, much longer. Some of the stuff on this essay are of the painfully obvious variety, and some are me reaching a bit. It's definitely written for an audience of people who have watched the series and is quite spoilery. Anyway I hope you guys will like it. If someone feels like correcting my bad English, I won't resent it and will be quite thankful instead.

Utena's Revolution or la Fin de l'Ancien Régime Romantique

One of SKU's most fascinating feminist critique is the study of the role of power and inequity in human relationships – especially but not only romance between men and women – and the harms it cause to people. Some of it is explored through the core political concept of Princehood and Revolution.

The Prince

"This device paints the illusion of fairy tales for those with naive wishes in their hearts who say they wish something eternal existed, who say they wish the power of miracles existed. But, there's no place higher than this room. This room is the summit of Ohtori Academy, and of the world." – Akio Ohtori
We are given two images of what being a Prince means in SKU.

On the one hand we have the ideal symbolized by Dios, the Prince that was, and which Utena aspires to become. This is a romantic as well as noble figure : the Prince is both a knight in shining armor, a rescuer of damsel in distress, and even a savior who selflessly sacrifice himself to save others (at which point note that he's at his most childlike); but he's also the representation of the male love interest, the Prince Charming that sweeps a young woman off her feet and makes her into a Princess. SKU comments on how this romantic fairytale which is very much the narrative given to young girls and boys in mainstream culture ties the gender to those roles. A princess is by definition female, passive and in distress. A prince is by definition male, active and saving her. Every time people comment on Utena's desire to be a Prince by saying that she cannot because she's just a girl, the show problematize it. That's not all, Utena's Princely role is also challenged because she also desires her own Prince, which means she should be a Princess, and therefore passive, in that pink Rose Bride dress that Akio gives her in the Upside-down Castle. As if a girl cannot both be a heroine and a (heterosexual?) sexual and romantic being at the same time. This Prince however is an ideal, belonging to the realm of archetypes and stories. In the real world, there was never such a Prince.

On the other hand, we have Akio, fallen Prince, who embodies the Prince as a creature of power. Like the ideal Prince, this realist Prince is dual. Akio is both the highest authority on the campus – the Acting Chairman – and a seducer whose capacities of sexual manipulation seem endless. A Prince doesn't only refer to a character in a fairytale, it's also the figure of the autocrat, reminding us of Machiavel's essay on pragmatic statecraft. A meaning that is also underlined to us by Anthy's mention of cantarella, the poison said to have been used by the Borgias. Cesar Borgias – the historical figure that Machiavel's Prince is centered upon – and Lucrezia Borgias are a pair of siblings that is not difficult to parallel with Akio and Anthy.

The topic in SKU, however, isn't government, so this political lexicon is used in order to convey the concept of the role of power – concrete, pragmatic and abusive power – in romantic relationships, and how it is tied even at the heart of our fairy tale ideals. So the Prince isn't just the idea of a romantic savior, he's also the suzerain that demand obedience of all – a Prince knows no equal. If he wins a Princess hand in marriage, it is not just because she's beautiful, it's also because half of her father's kingdom goes with this marriage – much like Akio is Kanae's fiancé in order to wield her father's power on the campus as Acting Chairman. Our concept of romance, of personal relationship and of sexual desires, are highly unequal – even as ideal. And this inequity is, in many ways, what spurs the Duelist in action, to seek to revolutionize the world.

The Duelists : On the Origin of the Inequality of Men

"I understand. I suppose you have no choice but to revolutionize the world." – Souji Mikage
We can analyze the reasons why the Duelist fight in many interesting ways, for the purpose of this essay I want to especially look at the way it is rooted to their relationship with one important person. For Saionji his on-and-off best friend Touga; for Miki his sister Kozue; for Juri her best friend, betrayer and secret subject of love Shiori; and for Nanami, her brother Touga. In SKU all those relationships, regardless of whether they are romantic in nature, are sexualized and therefore interesting to look at from a perspective of a problematic Romantic Ancien Regime.

All of those relationships have suffered a degradation in time from a moment the Duelist remember with rose tinted glasses; and because of that are a cause of much frustration. They feel like they lack power, control on the other person who are so dear to them. One of the main reason they fight in the Duels is to try to get back to power to be equal – or superior – to this person.

This is most clear with Saionji, which outright tells us he needs Anthy and Eternity in order to catch up to Touga and sooth his inferiority complex. Nanami also clearly feels that Touga is escaping her and that she needs to duel to maintain a close relationship to him and continue feeling superior to all the girls Touga sleeps with. And despite her own impressive standing and usual self confident, Juri also doesn't feel like she is up to even confess her love to Shiori. Miki never quite avows himself that he's searching for a Kozue substitute in Anthy, but the fact that Kozue's sex adventures are outside of his control and disapproval, and the fact he decides to duel in order to prevent Anthy from being similarly outside of his control certainly fits the theme.

The frustration from inequality in relationship is even more obvious in the Black Rose Duelists. They all (aside from Kanae) have a relationship to one of the Duelist who are clearly, to them, special, superior people they cannot quite reach. Kozue cannot maintain a close relationship to her brother so turn to antagonizing him on purpose in order to retain his attention; Shiori feels inferior to Juri which is the reason why she tried to get a man she thought Juri wanted in the first place, and finding out Juri actually was in love with her doesn't help out; Tsuwabuki is too young compared to Nanami and not quite to the comparison with Touga; Wakaba never feels quite as special as Saionji, Utena or Anthy; Keiko is just one of the girls in love with Touga and constantly humiliated and used by Nanami.

Mikage as well, fell in love with Tokiko, but found out she was out of his reach when he witnessed Akio kissing her. As for Ruka, he clearly knows he has no chance with Juri and mainly wants to even the field for her by releasing the power Shiori has over her.

We're left with Touga, who's he one character whose reasons for dueling are never really explored. In the Shadow Girls Play his reasons are merely given as 'the Power of Revolutionize the World'; power, nakedly and without delusions of it being anything else. I'm inclined to see the part of the SKU movie which shows Touga as a child raped by his adoptive father as canon for the SKU series because it ties in interestingly with Touga's later attitude to sex as a mean of power (both in how he expresses his power over the girls in the campus, and how he seeks more power from Akio by sleeping with him) as well as his being already so cynical as a child when he finds Utena in the coffin. In any case, Touga's quite clear about wanting power, more power, regardless of his already quite elevated status, whether it is because he feels entitled to it or some kind of inner wound.

So the Duelists fight for power, for control, and the Prize they all seek would be for them a mean to regain the power they feel they've lost over this one person, a way to rekindle a more equal relationship. Many of the problems in inequity in their relationships can also be rooted in problematic gender and romantic models : for example Saionji never feels as strong and in control as the traditional male role assigns him to be, which he overcompensates by being so aggressive and abusive to Anthy. All the Duelist in their various ways, project this desire for power onto Anthy. The Rose Bride, because she is submissive to the Victor and because she is the key to unlock the Power of Dios.

The Rose Bride

"Girls...girls are all like the Bride of the Rose in the end." – Anthy Himemiya
a. Princesses & Witches

The figure of Anthy the Rose Bride is probably the most fascinating and complex of SKU. Like the Prince, the Rose Bride is a dual creature, but unlike the Prince, she isn't divided between a fairytale and a realistic role, instead her two aspects reflect the contradiction of the role of women as it is constructed by society, Madonna and Whore : idealized as long as she complies to a specific submissive role which does not allow conflict, reviled as a manipulative temptress anytime she tries to claim agency for herself; and always defined through the lens of the sexual desire men feel for her.

On first aboard, the Rose Bride is like a princess – except without any of the perks – she is the damsel awaiting rescue, the prize to be won by dashing Duelists, she is passive, polite, obedient and quiet in demeanor, beautiful of course, bonding with plants and animals like a Disney Princess, good with cleaning and keeping the room tidy but not, the one exception, good with cooking – probably because cooking is even more strongly a reminder of the role of the Witch always at her cauldron so that when Anthy cooks she unleashes a curse. The Rose Bride however doesn't enjoy any respect for her status and doesn't have any authority of her own like a princess would. She is a mockery of the role of Princess. This is both because Anthy herself is mocking the Princesses that used to take the Rose Prince away and because Anthy is ever to be punished as the Witch.

In the Rose Tale we are told Anthy is the Witch because "women who can't be princesses have no choice but to become witches", in other words, all women who are not wanted, desired, seen as good enough by men, are to be seen as dangerous, spiteful, malevolent creatures. All women who do not comfort to the role that patriarchal society would give to them as women, are to be rejected and punished, aren't worth considering for anything else. A Witch is still seen as powerful, but in fairy tales she only ever uses it in jealous way against the younger princess; she never uses power in order to rule the land like the dark aspect of the Prince, only to deprive others of what they think is legitimately theirs – like the Princesses think the Prince is theirs. She has power, but only as a threat – so that the people are justified to punish her endlessly. Anthy being the Witch in SKU, is an expression of her being the ultimate scapegoat. She's the Witch, she poisons wells and cast curses. Everything that goes bad is always her fault, and she's always, endlessly being punished for it, slapped by almost everyone on Ohtori and suffering the pain of the Thousand Swords of Hatred. Anthy isn't innocent, she does act in small and big acts of malice to get back at the people she doesn't like. She targets Nanami, especially, who is so Princess-like and similar to Anthy in many ways; and she manipulates the Duelists in order to orchestrate the duels alongside Akio; but most of the hostility she receives goes well beyond and happens before any of her petty acts. For women, as well, if they sidestep outside of the role society give them, they are punished way beyond the harm their infractions may have caused. And when something wrong happens to them, society is quick to ask 'what did you do to deserve it?' instead of blaming the perpetrator.

b. Exchanges of Women

Alongside those dual aspects of the Rose Bride, what is the most unique, specific aspect of the Rose Bride is that she is won in the Duels. In other word, the Rose Bride is constantly passed from Duelist to Duelist, without stated regard for her own will, to become Bride of whoever is strongest this time.
This also is a reflection of the role women are given in society. In the field of Anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss in The Elementary Structures of Kinship talks about how one of the universal structure of culture is defining how women are exchanged by family groups along specific rules creating kinship systems. The necessity to exchange women is the origin of the taboo of incest : women need to be unavailable to their own brothers so they can be free to be given as wives to another family group. And by creating those ties, other things, ideas and goods, dowries and bride price, are exchanged between family groups : alliances of power and wealth are thus created. Historically, this has been especially true amongst members of the class of power, aristocrats and princes.

Thus the Rose Bride is always given, by Akio, to the Duelist with promise of a luxurious dowry in the form of the Prize they hope to win, in order to help him manipulate them. Like Lucrezia Borgia, who was betrothed twice before she was thirteen and wedded three times in order to advance the political ambitions of her menfolks. Many rumors also cast Lucrezia in a very Witch-like role, with suspicion of poisoning her husbands; and many rumors of incest also surround her.

The way men are exchanging women for their own profit and power is underlined a few ways in SKU through the series : as already mentioned, there is Kanae, who is given by her father to Akio, resulting in Akio's position of power in the Campus. Nanami also, when Touga plays the role of giving her the ring to make her a Duelist, pimping her to Akio's games in order to advance his goal of winning against Utena. The way Saionji's rivalry with Touga expresses itself by focusing on Anthy, also, is a reminder of this objectification of the Rose Bride as a prize : Saionji seeks to win Anthy because she's a proof of status and power.

Obviously the tie to the incest taboo isn't to be taken literally with Anthy, who plays the role of Rose Bride at the same time as she is still sexually involved with her bother unbeknown to her Victor. However the role that the motif of incest in SKU can still be better understood by this idea. In all three pair of incestuous or pseudo-incestuous siblings, the natural bond between the two siblings precludes on them joining with other people. Anthy prevented Dios from risking himself for the Princesses. Nanami looks up to Touga as the ideal man, and therefore no other men can compare; and in return she shows herself very possessive of Touga. Kozue is jealous of Miki as well, and uses Miki's own less conscious jealousy in order to maintain some control on him while all her boyfriends have no importance to her heart. Only if they let go of this sexual possessiveness toward their sibling can they start forming connection with other people in society. This is formulating in a very Freudian way, the girls fixate on their elder brothers as an ideal of manhood – of Princehood – to play with the idea of romance before moving to the real thing, at least with Nanami, the least truly incestuous of the sisters. For Kozue, who rejects her parents' authority and the idea of society ("we're wild animals"), this is a more difficult step to make. This also echoes the imagery of the chick and the egg, and of the necessity of growing up into adulthood that also underlay a lot of the thematic of SKU, although this is a bit beyond the scope of this essay.

c. Goddess of fertility

In general, women's sexuality must be controlled by men, whether it is her father, brothers or husband, in order to control the flow of power that comes from them. In SKU, sex is never just a cigar, it's always a mean to gain power onto someone. All manipulations in SKU are heavily tied to seduction, from relatively innocent ones, to more nefarious power plays. Touga, Mikage, Ruka, Kozue and Akio especially all use their sex appeal in order to control both women and men, and seduce characters or taunt them into doing what they want them to do. So does Anthy, of course, under order of Akio.

Anthy's power as sexual, and the Power of Dios tied to her, is reinforced through the series in many ways, but the most frequent one is the entering the Duel arena sequence, which is a series of symbols about female sexuality. The Forbidden Forest looks like an inverted female pubis; the gate which must be open by turning it wet; the spiral stairs reminding us of a strand of DNA (especially obvious in the second ED); and the dual arena which is suggestive of labia seen from profile. All the roses and the many motives of roses in the series are also, of course, a symbol for female sexuality and genitals. In many ways this indicates that under the guise of Dios, Eternity, Shining Things, Miracles that the Duelists get distracted with, the real goal of the Duels are the Rose Gate (and the Gate requires water, no phallic sword, to be opened), Anthy, the power of women's sexuality.

Woman's sexuality is a source of power because without it there is no reproduction. A Prince is one because he is born from another Prince, and he seeks a Princess so they'll live happily ever after and more importantly, will have many children one of which will one day inherit the kingdom. Without childbirth, there is no dynasty of Princes, and in an anthropological vision as well, the system of inheritance, determining who's a legitimate heir for wealth and status is essential to society's structures. Therefore men must control women's sexuality, much like Akio must control the Rose Bride in order to keep playing everyone like puppets on the campus.

In SKU this is only hinted at, the most direct way in which the story addresses the idea is the episode Nanami's Egg, a lengthy metaphor of a girl's first menstruation which also addresses girl facing the responsibility of motherhood in the way Nanami deals with the egg, considering both nurturing it with joy and care, and abandoning it when her brother reacts negatively to the possibility of her being a teenage mother. Actually Touga's reactions in Nanami's Egg – besides hysterically hypocritical – very much address the way men seek to control women's sexuality as capacity of reproduction : forbidding Nanami to express a lesbian sexuality that would prevent her from the reproductive role assigned by Patriarchal society; but also forbidding Nanami from reproduction outside the norm of a marriage-alliance decided by the men. The episode also ties the whole event to the idea of reincarnation, which thematically opposes the idea of Eternity, the stasis of the coffin that the Duelist seek to maintain and escape from at the same time and which, in the end, we learn is Anthy's punishment : eternal pain. In the entering the duel arena sequence, also, while the images are of yonic symbols, the lyrics talk mainly of the idea of reproduction, birth and death :
Birth records
Baptismal records
Death records
My own birth,
Absolute birth,
A wet-nurse and a midwife in a dark desert
Beyond the Rose Gate is Anthy's own power of fertility, in other word, her power of growth. Growing roses and growing beyond an egg into adulthood. Not the Eternity of immobility, but the continuity of cycles of evolutions and revolutions.


"It's alright now. Please go on playing make-believe 'Prince' in this comfortable little coffin forever. But I must go." – Anthy Himemiya
Like 'Prince', revolution is a word with a highly political tonality. Unlike 'Prince', it does not remind us of anything related to fairytale and romance, so it stands even more at odd in the context of the series, mystifying the viewer and begging for an explanation. The French frequently used in SKU, as well as the 18th century style of the Student Council uniforms, and even the rose and gender bending motifs all play to bring in mind the famous old manga Roses of Versailles set during the French Revolution of 1789. Thematically, Roses of Versailles also plays onto the problem of love between people of different social standing, and the way that women are alienated and oppressed in society and either forced into alliances not of their choosing for dynastic reasons, or forced to discard the role of a woman altogether with their desire for love along the way. The main characters eventually love in spite of societal barriers they face, but all die tragically in the revolution that destroys the old order of the world.

With this in mind, I believe that Revolution in SKU refers to the idea of unmaking the romantic ideal of relationships based upon the conceits of Princes and a Princesses; and forging a new, more equal ideal for romantic relationships and friendships. The concept of Prince is revealed as an utter failure, both in ideal and in reality. It was a failure in Dios because people overly relied onto his capacities as a Prince to solve their smallest problems to the point of driving him near death with exhaustion whereupon Anthy had to step in to remove him. It is a failure in Akio because no matter how seductive he is, he is manipulative, selfish and abusive. It is also a failure in Utena. Her initial attempt at Princedom, she eventually admits was conceited : in order to feel noble and cool as a Prince, she needed Anthy as a Rose Bride, as someone subservient and needing rescuing, but without realizing Anthy's real need and pain throughout. When she really steps up selflessly to be a Prince to Anthy and manages this way to open the Rose Gate, she still fails to grab Anthy's hand.

Yet Utena succeeds, not as a Prince, but as a Revolutionary, by inspiring Anthy to step up herself out of her subservient role as the Rose Bride and save herself. Thus, together they destroy the archetype of the Prince and the Princess and are on their way to create a new, more equal ideal as friends and soulmates. Their example also manages to help all the Duellists break from their fixation on their idealized memories and move on toward smashing their own coffins. This is the Revolution in SKU.

-- All quotes and screencaps from the Empty Movement website.
Tone: gloomygloomy
Tune: Regina Spektor - Hotel Song
Les divagations de Neljaflo_nelja on October 18th, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC)
Ah, comme j'adore cette série !
Je suis en train de la revoir, d'ailleurs.

Je n'avais jamais remarqué le parallèle avec Cesare et Lucrezia Borgia avant que tu me le dises, mais ça me semble complètement évident, maintenant. ^^
(Je suis d'accord avec le reste aussi, mais c'est des réflexions que je m'étais déjà faites pour la plupart, même si j'allais moins loin. Tandis que ça, je n'y avais jamais pensé)
Anne-Elisa: creepy anthyetrangere on October 18th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Quelle excellente idée ^^ est ce que tu as recupéré les version remastérisées? Je suis toujours en train de les dl moi (tellement long...)

Ouais rien de bien révolutionnaire mais je suis contente que le parallèle Borgia soit nouveau au moins pour toi ^^ en fait si j'avais une meilleur connaisance de ses personnages historiques j'aurais pu en faire plus peut etre XD
(this is not a subj) - flo_nelja on October 18th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 18th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
baseball with elephants? bah!: utena: black rosekeelieinblack on October 18th, 2009 09:52 pm (UTC)
Ahhh, I wish I had the brain-power right now to comment on this at least semi-intelligently. *sadface*

Well-done, though! It was an interesting read and I hadn't seen the original essay, so I'm glad you edited/reposted it. :)
Anne-Elisa: kozueetrangere on October 18th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
I don't think anyone but darksumomo and maybe a couple of people at in the rose garden have seen it XDDD

and thank you.

Edited at 2009-10-18 09:54 pm (UTC)
(this is not a subj) - darksumomo on October 18th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 18th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - darksumomo on October 19th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 19th, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Noir: juri/ruka by primordialiconsla_vie_noire on October 18th, 2009 11:09 pm (UTC)
Wow. This was really, really amzing, I will come bacl with thoughs once my brain isn't so dead.

Watanuki is too young compared to Nanami

Did you mean Tsuwabuki? Because you gave me one hell of an mental image. XD
Noirla_vie_noire on October 18th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
... Yeah, I didn't even need to say my brain was dead, the way I write cover it for me.
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 18th, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
twhitesakura: With Love - Eroicatwhitesakura on October 19th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
I remember being blown away by all the metaphors in Utena the first time I watched it. I never thought about them as deeply as this though. It's always refreshing to read a well thought-out analysis. Thanks for sharing!
Anne-Elisa: genderfucketrangere on October 19th, 2009 12:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it ^^
Ysabet: Witch (yumeiro)umadoshi on October 19th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
I really, really need to rewatch Utena sometime. ^_^ This was a really good read, and I'm trying to remember whether I read the original version back on afu. (I think I must have, but it's all kind of blurred into "lots of interesting stuff" in my memory. I still kind of miss usenet, even though I was a complete lurker.)
Anne-Elisa: interestingetrangere on October 19th, 2009 12:58 pm (UTC)
Haha, Utena should be always rewatched regularly :) lots of bloggers are rewatching/watching it right now because of the recent remastered works actually. Which is fun!

Oooh, I wonder if you read the original, it was back in 2005 (I wasn't exactly active on afu for a long time XD). I also miss usenet a bit, it was an interesting medium technically for discussions and neither blogs, forums or social networks really replace entirely what it offered. Of course now we have pretty icons & layouts. Yay icons!
(this is not a subj) - umadoshi on October 19th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 19th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - umadoshi on October 20th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 20th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Sakanagi: Utenasakanagi on October 19th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
*applause* That really is a good essay, and the things you've said make sense. I think I'll have to re-read it again, and I'm afraid I don't have any relevant thoughtful observations to make, but it just goes to show how interesting Utena is to analyse. There are a bunch of different ways of looking at it.

Yet Utena succeeds, not as a Prince, but as a Revolutionary, by inspiring Anthy to step up herself out of her subservient role as the Rose Bride and save herself.

This is the thing I like the very best about the series. It never gets old. ♥ That's why SKU has one of the best endings out of any anime, IMO.
Anne-Elisa: creepy anthyetrangere on October 19th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your kind words ^^
Yeah I really love how multifaceted and deep Utena is, for analysis purpose, there's just so many things!!

I love the ending. I find it incredibly uplifting. At the same time many people find it tragic and bitter-sweet and they're right too!! Such a great finale.
sophisticated catchy: tsuzuki -- secret aaaaasian mancatiechu on October 19th, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
Magnificent essay!
Anne-Elisa: squeeetrangere on October 20th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you ♥
the artist formerly known as pojymatitablu on October 19th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
Aaah, I clicked on the link at roselinedcoffin straight away without even realizing it was you! Awesome essay!
Anne-Elisa: schemingetrangere on October 20th, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC)
lol good thing I spammed then! Thank you :D
mystickeeper: Perverse Fairy Tale: Utenamystickeeper on October 20th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this essay.

Please write many more!
Anne-Elisa: *g*etrangere on October 20th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for kind words, encouragement, and for linking to it ♥ you put a big smile on my face.

Friended you because we seem to share a ridiculously high amount of fandoms and interests ^_^
(this is not a subj) - mystickeeper on October 20th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Sole Sakuma: pride & prejudicesolesakuma on October 20th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
Someday, I'll get around to watch Utena.
Anne-Elisa: creepy anthyetrangere on October 20th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)
You should. Definitely. :D
berylia: Squee victorian lesbiansberylia on October 20th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
Et voilà, maintenant j'ai envie de revoir Utena...
Cet essai était vraiment très intéressant et profond et la réflexion sur le pouvoir et la structure de l'oeuvre me donne vraiment envie de revoir la série pour illustrer tout ça.
Anne-Elisa: blushetrangere on October 20th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
Hehehe, mission accomplie :)

Merci, contente que tu l'ai aimé ^^
(this is not a subj) - berylia on October 20th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 20th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - berylia on October 20th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 21st, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - berylia on October 21st, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - etrangere on October 21st, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(this is not a subj) - berylia on October 22nd, 2009 04:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
nylorac15: Merurunylorac15 on October 20th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
Followed mystickeeper's link. Wow, amazing work. I saw Utena in high school so unfortunately a lot of the symbolism soared right over my head. Now whenever I watch it again I'll have a cheat guide. ^_^

Your english is also quite good. I understood all of your points with no trouble. You tend not to pluralize words, though, which never really affected the meaning but reads a little awkwardly.

Also, under The Rose Bride: b. Exchanges of Women, you have a double-negative that I think reverses your intent.
The necessity to exchange women is the origin of the taboo of incest : women need to not be unavailable to their own brothers so they can be free to be given as wives to another family group.
Did you mean to say that women should not be available? Or did I misread?

Those are my only complaints, though, and they're both very small. It was excellent overall.
Anne-Elisa: omg yayetrangere on October 20th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it ^^

And thank you so much for the correction. You're right, i didn't mean the double negative x_x I'll try to correct some of the absence of pluralization as well... thanks!!
organicfantasy: Opposites Attractorganicfantasy on October 23rd, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
I love well written Utena essays, and this is just lovely!
Anne-Elisa: creepy anthyetrangere on November 16th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for saying so ♥
pingback_botpingback_bot on November 12th, 2009 07:10 am (UTC)
One day I will write meta such as this!
User mystickeeper referenced to your post from One day I will write meta such as this! saying: [...] A magnificent Revolutionary Girl Utena essay! One of Shojo Kakumei Utena's most fascinating feminist critique is the study of the role of power and inequity in human relationships – especially but not only romance between men and women – ... [...]
radishface: Utena ☞ onisamaaaaaradishface on January 24th, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
This was such an insightful and well-thought-out analysis of SKU's thematic mechanics. I just re-watched the series again after eight years and this pretty much solidifies all the abstract ideas floating around in my head... kudos for such a job well done! I'll come back to read often. :)
Anne-Elisa: aloneetrangere on February 4th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for saying so! I'm glad you liked it ^^
m.: Saturn - Believemaelicia on April 4th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
Cet essai est brillant et impressionant. Il éclaire toutes ces intuitions (et attentes) que j'avais en commençant à écouter SKU. (J'en suis au troisième arc, mais j'ai "triché" en lisant quelques spoilers sur ce qui va se passer... j'essaie quand même de me garder quelques secrets importants, alors attention!)

J'étais appréhensive (comme je le suis toujours avec beaucoup de trucs) à l'écouter, car je redoute toujours l'usage du concept de "révolution" (l'ont-ils bien compris? etc.), surtout avec le contexte ici très Ancien Régime de la Princesse et du Prince, mais surtout du duel, puisque je me demandais "mais pourquoi le duel? le duel est mort bien avant la Révolution, déjà l'Ancien Régime l'avait déclaré illégal...". (Bien voilà! Il est le symbole de l'Ancien Régime non policé! C'était devant mes yeux.) Mais la déconstruction féministe des genres, des rôles et des relations m'a poussé à continuer. La profondeur de la série me fascine (y compris le surréalisme, les montages des images et flashbacks qui sont brillants (ex. le premier duel de Juri, lorsque son sabre retombe). Mais ton essai me fascine aussi! D'où vient ton concept d'Ancien Régime Romantique? Car c'est un concept fantastique. En effet, le rêve de l'Ancien Régime a survécu, est très présent et très fort de nos jours (le Marie Antoinette de Sofia Coppola le montre bien), mais la critique hé, mais n'oublions pas que c'est inégalitaire semble rare. (Du moins, selon ce que j'ai vu, et selon ma perspective, mais je suis pessimiste.) J'aime comment ton essai me fait voir et résumer simplement que, oui, SKU, c'est la mort de cette illusion de romance inégalitaire (que les personnages nourrissent tous) et la redécouverte de l'égalité... et de la romance révolutionnaire, ou la tentative d'en créer une ex nihilo, car ce travail est à peine commencé et loin d'être achevé. Mon Dieu comme je sais comment cette dernière (la romance révolutionnaire) est compliquée à créer...! Ma panne d'inspiration dans mon not!fandom et OTP en sont la preuve... Ton essai me fait voir, entre autres, l'origine de ma panne d'inspiration. >___> /unasked-for-TMI.

Je ne croyais pas la possibilité militante toujours ouverte dans le pomo. L'an dernier, j'ai eu un séminaire sur les courants d'interprétations historiques et idéologiques et en arrivant au postmodernisme, nous en étions tous au comble du désespoir, avec le concept de "fin" -- fin de l'histoire, fin des révolutions, fin du militantisme. SKU prouve que c'est toujours possible.

Bon, ok, j'arrête ici. XDD
silver_sandals: girls kissingsilver_sandals on March 20th, 2011 07:23 am (UTC)
Oh, this is so brilliant, and there are several things in here I definitely didn't catch before. Particularly Touga, the gate, and the word 'revolution', that's really good, wow. Aaaaand now I'm going to have to rewatch it and read the lyrics for the duel music more carefully, oh no. XD
Anne-Elisaetrangere on March 20th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :D
silver_sandals: girls kissingsilver_sandals on March 20th, 2011 07:45 am (UTC)
And now you've got me thinking about it all some more! I hope you won't mind me sharing my thoughts. What you said about the concept of revolution really resonates with me, but it also made me think of the other things in the series that didn't seem to fit with the fairy tale theme: most obviously Akio's car and the accompanying music. Those scenes are my favorite for that reason.

You said so many things about Akio as a fairy tale construct that I hadn't thought of before. But Akio to me always seemed like someone who had grown out of the fairy tale, who had become a very adult menace, representing the fears of adulthood and of growing up. The children, because they haven't grown up yet, can only interpret him through the fairy tale structure they've been fed, and he abuses this to manipulate them, the same way it's implied he's manipulating all of reality at Ohtori.

This kind of ties into Touga and his mysterious motivation. He's Utena's false Prince. He's not a true prince because he's human, so he has flaws and also the possibility of redemption, unlike Akio. He wants to be Utena's prince, and doesn't realize the falseness of the idea, so he doesn't recognize the falseness of Akio himself. I'd like to think Touga wanted to revolutionize the world to free himself and Utena from something he only vaguely knew existed, but maybe that's giving him too much credit. He does seem to be the only character who really does want to grow up, who isn't clinging on to the past.

Er, ignore me if this is all obvious. I'm really just rambling to myself now.
Anne-Elisaetrangere on March 20th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
but it also made me think of the other things in the series that didn't seem to fit with the fairy tale theme: most obviously Akio's car and the accompanying music. Those scenes are my favorite for that reason.
Haha, yeah those scenes are awesome.

But Akio to me always seemed like someone who had grown out of the fairy tale, who had become a very adult menace, representing the fears of adulthood and of growing up.
Yes, Akio's a very complex character from the PoV of the adult / childhood dichotomy. He's the main adult character, he represents all that is glamorous and predatory about adulthood. He is power, seduction, mastery, knowledge children don't understand yet (especially sexual knowledge). He is also the loss of innocence, the fall from paradise that adulthood represents, the cynical shell left behind after the childlike Dios dies.
At the same time, Akio is fake, he's pathetic and ridiculous. The adulthood he pretends to is all powder for the eyes, illusory miracle. A big red car shaped like a penis? That's adulthood? Yeah, right. Akio is like, the 30 year old guy who really doesn't want to grow up, he knows his life as an adult is lame, so he hangs out with children because when he's with them, he's more powerful and cool in comparison, he can dazzle them, and he feels like he can be closer to what he used to be when he was a child (and he was the cool Prince Dios). He doesn't actually want to be that again, because being Dios wasn't actually so cool. He just wants to use the memory of being Dios, an idealised memory, to assert his power over the other kids.

He wants to be Utena's prince, and doesn't realize the falseness of the idea, so he doesn't recognize the falseness of Akio himself. I'd like to think Touga wanted to revolutionize the world to free himself and Utena from something he only vaguely knew existed, but maybe that's giving him too much credit. He does seem to be the only character who really does want to grow up, who isn't clinging on to the past.
That sounds like it makes sense. (It works well with how Touga is characterised in other version of Utena, the manga & the movie, too).
I think Touga is the only characters we don't see having illusion about his memories, so you're right the only one who isn't clinging to the past; but he does still think Akio is the only possibility of adulthood : being an abuser. He'd rather be that than being a vulnerable child; but through the course of the series he realises that it's not that simple either, and he ends up wanting to genuinely help Utena, even though clumsily.

I don't think it's obvious at all!! I do plan to make another essay sometimes (who knows when though!) about the theme of time, memory & growing up in Utena, but they are articulated in a very complicated & subtle way!
(this is not a subj) - silver_sandals on March 25th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
alienass: Excited Arielalienass on September 3rd, 2013 11:45 am (UTC)
Hi! Wow, this was amazing! I really like how you develop the ideas and explain the main topics. I haven't realized that it's true that at the end what opens the door to revolution is not a phallic symbol but water and how this ties to women's sexuality. It's been a while since you wrote this but you say that "Anthy isn't innocent, she does act in small and big acts of malice to get back at the people she doesn't like. She targets Nanami, especially, who is so Princess-like and similar to Anthy in many ways;" Can you give some example of Anthy's acts of malice? I think I know what you mean but I want to be sure.

Have a very nice day!