Was I the only viewer who felt a little squeamish during the “midnight sale” scene in the final episode of Oreimo? I don’t think I demand political correctness in everything that I watch, but something about the way this played out just left a bad taste in my mouth.
To be fair, the dialog in this scene was probably an accurate depiction of how typical 17 year-old boys actually speak to each other. Then again, throughout Oreimo, Kyousuke shows himself to be anything but a typically judgmental teen. So his sudden violent rejection of his best friend, based on a short-lived misunderstanding, feels both out of character for him and somewhat against the very theme of the series itself. We’d already seen Ayase stubbornly reject her best friend Kirino simply based on her fondness for eroge games, only to come to her senses and realize that their friendship was too important to lose over such trivial matters. So it strikes me as odd how casually the series dismisses those lessons learned just for laughs in this scene.
I think what bothered me most in this scene was not the tone of the language, but the fact that its homophobic humor ultimately went unchecked. Kyousuke never comes to his senses to realize that the possibility of Agaki being gay, despite coming as a great surprise, might (gasp!) not implicitly be a terrible thing. The only “resolution” to the scene is the revelation that his friend is actually not at the sale to buy the “homo game” for himself, but for his sister, thus resolving any conflicts that would have otherwise destroyed their friendship. What a relief!
It just so happens that this week’s Entertainment Weekly features a cover story on “Gay Teens on TV,” which I haven’t read but presume to be a celebration of the burgeoning trend. Maybe our culture is finally open minded enough to acknowledge (and possibly even accept… er, maybe someday) the existence of gay teens? Unfortunately, the idealized tolerance presented on TV doesn’t quite reflect the attitudes of the average American, but at least it’s a start. If nothing else, I’d expect that a scene like this one would probably be met with widespread protests if it aired on television program in America. Are attitudes in Japan less tolerant of homosexuality than they are over here? A hundred and one “boys love” themed-series would suggest otherwise, but let’s not pretend that they represent the cultural norm, either.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with playing a misunderstanding like this one for laughs, but did it have to be so mean-spirited and driven by bigotry? Or am I being culture-centric in expecting Japanese writers and viewers to conform to my ideals of tolerance and sensitivity? And after 12 episodes that flirted with themes of incest and other social taboos, should I really be outraged by this, of all things?