Zoe L

Zoe L

Armed with a BFA in Creative Writing, I love exploring feminist themes and queerness in media—particularly shoujo manga, danmei, and literature.

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    Latest Topics

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    Coding, Bait, and Representation: Different Forms of Queer Media

    Analyze different ways that queerness has been tackled in literature over time, with particular attention paid to the shift in recent years away from queer coded characters to queer characters whose sexuality/queerness is explicitly stated and explored in the text. One of the most direct ways to look at this is through fairy tales. Many fairy tales when read through a queer lens reveal a rich queer subtext, even if they were not written with this intention. On the other side of the token, in modern times it’s common to write explicitly queer retellings of fairy tales, which bring that subtext to the forefront and make it textual, rather than regulating it to a subtextual reading. (This could be applied to storytelling as a whole, but it would be useful to narrow it down to one specific medium like classic vs contemporary literature. It could also have examples from TV & anime/manga).

    An article on this topic could also spend time on queerbaiting, which in some ways occupies a unique middle ground: characters that are queer coded enough for queer viewers to find them compelling and therefore a profitable audience, but not so explicitly queer that the writers ever have to commit to that reading (the show Supernatural comes up a lot as an example in these sorts of conversations). With many stories, it is worthwhile to go back and read them through a queer lens due to them containing rich queer subtext that wasn’t able to be made explicit in the time it was written (Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and the Awakening by Kate Chopin comes to mind). However, when it comes to modern stories where censorship is less of a valid obstacle, this reliance on queer coding without explicit confirmation becomes baiting when done intentionally. (There is plenty of grey area when it comes to unintentional queer coding and where that line is drawn.)

    Additionally, this could also explore which types of queer characters are most needed in media today. While queer coding in classic literature is very important to look back on, now that explicit queer narratives ARE more normalized, it feels reductive to go back to storytelling that keeps all of its queerness beneath the surface. Nevertheless, a counterpoint to this push for explicit queer narratives would be that, at times, this type of storytelling can become heavy handed. It may be an issue where everyone’s ideal form of queer representation is subjective.

    • I think it's also worth noting that queerbaiting is often referred to as a marketing tactic - some media will sell the story as being queer, but not actually show this during the piece itself (eg a social media account posting a pride month post featuring a character or two, but these character's queerness doesn't actually get mentioned in the piece of media at all). It's a term that gets a lot of use, and some people seem to use it in very different ways with different meanings. Regardless, I do like this topic idea. – AnnieEM 9 months ago
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    Latest Comments

    Zoe L

    Great point about how muddy these conversations get. On the one hand, we know that demographic terms don’t constitute genre—shoujo, for example, isn’t all just romcoms and can tackle subject matter that’s just as dark or serious as a shonen series. On the other hand, even across different genres, we end up acknowledging and agreeing upon trends and tropes that are consistent within each demographic. It poses the question of how demographics can be NOT defined by genre and yet have very recognizable genre conventions, whether in art style or content. I think you have a good point that a move toward more genre-focused classification would be helpful. However, with that we end up losing progress in other ways; for example, shoujosei being written primarily by women and for women is a huge draw of the demographic, and doing away with demographic distinctions could negatively impact that.

    Marketing vs. Genre in Manga - How They Can Get Confused
    Zoe L

    Love how you contrasted Animal Crossing and Stardew. I played AC a lot during the pandemic, but fell off of it once I got back into a regular in-person job since I was never around to actually play during the right times of day. I just started playing Stardew recently, and while it definitely is more stressful because of how quickly days pass, I think I prefer it for that reason—waiting around for time to pass in AC is usually what caused me to fall out of it since I never wanted to time travel. I love how in Stardew I can just go to sleep and skip to the next day if I’ve tended my crops and there’s nothing else I want to do.

    I also think it’s super interesting with both of these games that, even though they are escapist in how they’re relaxing and cozy, there’s an ingrained sense of routine and repetition to them. Even in our escapist fantasies, so many of us find comfort in gameplay that mimics our real lives—having to earn money, make purchases, complete daily monotonous tasks. Seeking out that pattern even in our escapism is a little bit fascinating. Thanks for a great article!

    The Cozy Escapism of Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley
    Zoe L

    This is a fantastic explanation of what makes Denii such a compelling protagonist! Admittedly I tend to prefer a lot of female-centric shoujo and josei series, but I’m so glad I gave Chainsaw Man a chance as it’s a truly captivating, heart wrenching story. Denji is a huge part of that; I never thought I would get so invested in the happiness of a character whose main goal in life is getting to touch some boobs… but my god, CSM really made that happen. I think it’s because there’s something so human about Denji, and the circumstances of his impoverished life make it clear that, while he expresses it in a crude way, he really has such a deep desire for intimacy and connection in any form—and it’s so easy to root for him in his pursuit of that, since it’s highly relatable at its core. I really hope we get more shonen MCs like Denji in the future. Excellent article!

    Chainsaw Man and the New Shonen Protagonist