Most people seem to not like the 8th episode of Ouran and for good reason. I’m probably going to be beating a dead horse here, but there was a particular scene in the episode that really disturbed me; and being someone who likes -perhaps even needs- to address certain ideas that pop up in popular culture, well I just had to write this post.

The fight between Haruhi and some dudes, which is the set up for everything else that happens this episode.

Now I wasn’t particularly thrilled when the boys started getting upset with Haruhi for what she did. I personally thought what Haruhi did was the right sort of thing to do when one sees people you know and like in trouble, so I was entirely with Haruhi on this issue. That said, I did give the boys credit where it is due. I mean, Haruhi can’t seem to fight, so it is understandable that they too would be worried about her in turn. Where the anime started overstepping normal worry with prejudice was when it felt the need to make gender the be all and end all of this issue. It wasn’t a problem of Haruhi being weak. Oh no, it was a problem of all girls being weak and Haruhi being a girl should be more aware of her situation. Now I’m well aware of the fact that on average males do have more muscle tissue than females, but the problem Ouran seems to be blind to is that sticking up for someone, regardless of your biological sex, is a risky business. An average person doesn’t have any fighting abilities and if they are up against a group, like Haruhi was, then I think even an average male would have problems defending himself. Even someone who is tolerably strong would have problems in fending off a group of people. I mean, let’s not delude ourselves here, outside of shounen shows and fiction, numbers are almost always the most important thing in deciding a victory in a brawl. So let’s just say I wasn’t very happy about how Ouran handled this. I was, however, willing to let it slide since Haruhi herself didn’t accept this and this sort of idea pops up all the time in the medium. I was even hopeful for awhile that this was all part of the genre deconstruction that goes on in Ouran. Oh, how wrong I was!

Everything takes a turn for the worse in the most unfortunate way possible. Ouran, being the wise show that it is, feels the need to lecture us female viewers on what exactly this danger is that Haruhi is exposing herself to (and by extension we the female viewers) when we think ourselves right in helping a fellow human being in need. Yes, I am referring to the scene with Kyoya, where he basically forcefully tries to convince Haruhi that she is in the wrong. What happens is that Kyoya basically says he’s going to rape Haruhi to show her how defenceless she really is.

Don’t worry guys. It’s suppose to be “sexy”!

Disturbing, isn’t it? And that’s just scratching the surface. The more horrid aspect of this scene is that it reinforces rape culture. If anyone has any doubt about what rape culture is about, go watch this episode because a better summary of the concept I could not even try to do myself. Kyoya, and by extension Ouran, is trying to frame the idea of rape as the fault of the victim and not the criminal. It is Haruhi who has to be mindful of being a girl. It is Haruhi who should watch her back. It is Haruhi who shouldn’t be walking down dark streets or exposing herself to danger. It is Haruhi who is in the wrong here. What Kyoya is trying to imply, by forcing Haruhi to feel threatened and defenceless, is that it is her responsibility to make sure she is never in a situation where she can be raped. That man who raped her? Well, he’s obviously not the problem. It’s Haruhi who was wearing slutty clothes. Or it was Haruhi who thought she could walk by herself at night. Or it was Haruhi who drank one too many alcoholic drinks. Or it was Haruhi who trusted her companion and put herself in a position where she was vulnerable. The blame is squarely on Haruhi. The boys of Ouran have long forgotten the boys who attacked Haruhi. Forget the fact that human beings make mistakes. Forget the fact that rape isn’t about sexual attraction and clothing has nothing to do with it. Hell, even forget the fact that even when someone tries their hardest not to find themselves in such a situation, they do and by no fault of their own. I mean, date rape is pretty normal, and I would think most human beings aren’t so paranoid or cynical that they suspect every single man or women that they have/are/will date as someone who will do harm to them. Yet, rape culture would have us believe that nope, victim is squarely to blame. Screw sympathy and understanding.

I haven’t even yet touched upon the ethical and moral problems in such an approach. I’m not talking about how it is wrong to victim blame (that is apparent enough I would hope!) But the ethical problems of forcing half the human population (perhaps even more) to have less freedom than others. In attempting to place the responsibility squarely on Haruhi (i.e. the average girl), Ouran is saying it is ok for someone like Haruhi to give up her freedom to walk alone at night. It is also ok for her to not have the freedom to wear whatever she likes (least she be “asking for it”). Furthermore, she doesn’t have the freedom to expect others to treat her with respect and dignity, so she had better not get too drunk or trust her partner when he wants to take her to his home. But it is perfectly morally acceptable for the other half of the human race to be able to hurt another human being and face no consequences. Clearly those guys who were harassing Haruhi’s female friends were justified in what they did. Clearly it is Haruhi who needs to be restricted and not those guys. Because apparently being weak and defenceless is the problem and not the fact that shit like this shouldn’t happen.

The horribleness of this becomes even more apparent when no one would ever think to suggest that a murder victim should have not walked down that dark alley, or shouldn’t have trusted that person, or shouldn’t have gotten involved with the wrong crowd, or shouldn’t have gone off to war and got themselves killed. Yet when it comes to rape, society feels it is ok to blame the victim. Ouran truly overstepped the bounds in this episode. I cannot think of an episode that has made me feel this hurt and angry in recent years. Plenty have made me feel uncomfortable, some even exasperated at their stupidity, but I haven’t felt this strongly disgusted in awhile. A shame because I thought Haruhi to be a breath of fresh air in terms of shoujo heroines. Yet the subtle message of this episode is just unforgivable. It would be one thing if Haruhi had called out Kyoya on his BS. But the show defused the tension by having her say Kyoya would gain nothing with sleeping with her and thus he won’t, prompting him to laugh and leave. This totally side-steps and in turn legitimizes what Kyoya said because no one questions it, certainly not the heroine.

I’m hoping this will be an isolated instance, but I can definitely say this episode has affected my ability to enjoy this series. It’s been on an undetermined hiatus for awhile now because I’m still not ready to go back to it just yet. Maybe the subsequent episodes can win me over, but Ouran really has an uphill battle ahead of it.

–SW

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