I talked about Gankutsuou’s handling of teen crushes on adults last week, but here’s a more extensive discussion on age-gap relationships with Dee and Caitlin: the ethical, the bad, and the normalizing. Oh, and the “that doesn’t actually fall under this pernicious problem.”
(I can’t believe I forgot to bring up Yuko/Watanuki, over which I still have the longest and most exhausted sigh).
Dee: I know it helps that I had family members who engaged with media with me—who’d read/watch the stuff I did and say “Okay but you understand this is just fiction, right, and it doesn’t work like that in the real world.” And I know that not everyone has that.
I guess I just want to make it clear to our readers that the point of this conversation (and pretty much all the ones we have on AniFem) isn’t to condemn people who know these relationships are/would be unhealthy in the real world and just find them entertaining in fiction. The point is to instruct those who don’t know.
Caitlin: I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at people who demand I brand every criticism with BUT IT’S OKAY TO LIKE IT.
Dee: I understand that. But as someone who has a tendency to guilt-spiral about consuming problematic media (“who am I indirectly hurting by liking this thing?” etc.), it really helps to hear it. Figured it wouldn’t hurt to clarify that for any readers who have similar tendencies.
Vrai: That’s fair. I definitely crushed on older folks as a kid, and I get that within certain frameworks (I’ll stan for Gankutsuou every day of any week) it’s an escapist fantasy that people like. I just think it’s always worth pushing back to say “why did you write this, what do you think is worth normalizing?”
Like with Fushigi Yugi, Watase was closer to Yui and Miaka’s age when she was writing. I still think there’s then the “okay but who takes what cues from this” question, but it’s something I get—a young writer is coming from the fantasy position of the younger partner. The older a writer gets, the more I get the LOUDEST alarm bells unless I see them being very careful and thoughtful about how they’re writing.
So many cases don’t bear a lick of care or acknowledgment that the older partner is kind of inevitably predatory at a certain point (not in those two- or three-year gaps, but the notable legal and maturity separation). So to me, those age-gap stories are worth questioning basically 100% of the time because of the Piers Anthonys (CW: CSA), Marion Zimmer Bradleys (CW: CSA), and Anne Rices (CW: pedophilia apologism, animal cruelty) of the world.