Misaki and Takumi discuss matters.

One aspect of Shoujo Manga (and their adapted Shoujo Anime) which has puzzled me ever since I started branching out into more shoujo manga (and thus have a larger reference pool) is the idea of the Jerk Guy.

To be fair, this seems to occur mainly in the romantic side of shoujo stories. To be even fairer, Takumi Usui in Kaichou wa Maid-sama is nowhere near the worst example of this sort of thing; in fact, he's comparatively pretty nice. This entire rambling mostly came about because Kaichou wa Maid-sama, being close to the sort of thing I'm talking about, reminded me of it. I can't even remember what the titles that better serve as examples would be, since I seldom follow them for more than a few pages, or about half an episode.

But there is this trend that has existed for as long as I've been reading shoujo stories, which is admittedly not that long (maybe four years?). For some reason, the male love interest will be… I hesitate to use the word "abusive", because that has Connotations, but it's along those lines. His teasing of the female lead often crosses the line into the realm of outright cruelty and sadism. He treats the female lead like dirt, or something less than dirt. He uses his physical superiority to push the female lead around, often into uncomfortable situations. He generally acts cold and aloof and uncaring.

And in many cases, the female lead just accepts this. Kaichou wa Maid-sama is a less objectionable variant: Misaki objects quite strenuously, and is more than a match for most of the other cast members, and Takumi never really does anything more than moderate teasing, mostly just to see Misaki's reactions. But quite often, the female lead of the shoujo story not only tolerates the abuse from the male love interest, she actually welcomes it.

I speculate that this is the shoujo version of the tsundere: the more tsun, the more valuable the dere. In this case, instead of something like a blush and a stuttered "I-it's not like I'm doing this for you!" of the typical female version, the male version has them turning away, walking off, and tossing back a mere "hmph, do what you want". There is even less explicit acceptance of the lead character, due to… I don't know. Maybe it's less cool for men to show their emotions.

Asking around revealed that a lot of the shoujo manga readers I speak to (or at least the women; for some reason guys are reluctant to admit to reading or watching shoujo stories) are also puzzled by this sort of thing. Another theory would be akin to the whole "taming of the shrew" business that is a possible (but not primary) appeal for the tsundere: here, the female reader places herself in the role of the female lead, and is successful at "taming" the "bad boy" male love interest.

Still, the accusatory finger of feminism is often pointed at moe harem comedy shows, which usually have a rather weaker male lead.

Perhaps this is because while the Jerk Guy in shoujo romance is abusive towards the female lead character, all this is happening in-universe. It's part of the story, even if the story presents such an unbalanced relationship as being not only viable, but desirable. In male-targeted harem comedy shows, however, the objectification is done through the fourth wall, aimed at the viewers, rather than character-to-character. Somehow, this makes things more objectionable.

Or something. I don't know; I can't even explain the phenomenon of the Jerk Guy, possibly due to my possession of a Y chromosome.

At least Kaichou wa Maid-sama is significantly more light-hearted, with more assertive and strong main characters. (We'll leave aside the Three Idiots for now.) Misaki is nowhere near a doormat, and Takumi is not a complete jerk. (Later in the manga we get hints about why he's not a complete jerk.) And it helps that I don't have to give out my CHECK!Points, since there's already a character who does that job for me.

One Response to “Angsty Shirtless Bishounen”
  1. Ritz says:

    I don't really have much to say in regards, besides the fact I appreciate your superb handling and recognition of this trolled stereotype.