Management: If you check my Ask.fm page, you may have run into these pieces before. Recently, I’ve realized I’ve been writing pretty much weekly mini-essay responses on Ask.fm, and since there’s no way to actually search or intelligently archive that text, they’re essentially sinking into a vast ocean of nothing. So I’ll be slowly archiving the more interesting or fully articulated pieces here, and I figured I might as well start with something that’s probably nearing its expiration date – Mahouka criticism.
How do you feel about the idea that Mahouka is an ode to Objectivism?
That it is. 100%. Not even a question.
Mahouka’s social philosophy is “I’m only put down because this society doesn’t recognize my real talents – if this school’s society were fair, I’d be on top.” This is how a lot of unhappy teenagers think – they rationalize their issues, whatever they may be, as the fault of an unfair, arbitrary society. This is why Objectivism is popular among teenagers – to people who both see themselves as superior and can’t recognize their own advantages, the thought of a society where “everyone succeeds according to their actual ability” is comforting.
Mahouka takes this “I’m secretly special!” fantasy to its logical, political extreme. Its society is allegedly a meritocracy, and its protagonists support that – they’re not actually inferior, they’ve just been incorrectly judged by a system they do think is fundamentally just. These characters, like Mahouka’s actual author, can’t see that people arguing against this system do so because they believe it’s an incredibly naive and self-gratifying denial of the nature of systemic advantages, along with a fundamentally inhumane view of what society’s role should be. Instead, they just assume that others deny the system because they’re jealous, or because they don’t want to work hard, or because they want to watch the whole world burn. The very inability to see other perspectives that leads such people to Objectivism (or its modern parallel, libertarianism) also makes them incapable of understanding why others wouldn’t champion such a system.
As well as incapable of seeing the show’s politics, for that matter. Because they agree with the show’s incredibly specific, warped worldview, they don’t see it as “political” at all. They see it as the way the world is.
Thoughts on the opinions you sometimes see which go like “it doesn’t matter what messages are contained in the media which we consume because it doesn’t translate to the real world”?
Of course it doesn’t! Neither do the messages of our parents, our peers, or our larger culture – nothing influences us unless we want it to! That’s also why there are no such things as moral fables, political satires, narrative propaganda, or advertising.
Oh wait, that’s all bullshit and so is this argument.
Granted, that doesn’t mean we should ban media we find questionable – we should just be aware of our own media, and not mindlessly consume. It’s perfectly reasonable to say “yeah, I think this show has some shitty messages, but it’s still a fun ride, so overall I enjoy it.”
Why do you hate Mahouka and why does that make you a bad person?
I don’t hate it. It’s a juvenile power fantasy that embraces politics I find indicative of a very ignorant and destructive worldview, so I feel inclined to talk about that, but I don’t hate it and I’m fine with people liking it. Most posts about Mahouka seem to just be pointing this stuff out, and my first post in particular was intended to say “enjoying this stuff is fine, but be aware of what messages your media may contain.” I like plenty of stuff that I still have some problems with – I think almost everyone does.
People have been getting super mad about this because of The Problem of Fandom, basically – they can’t abide people having problems with the shows they like, because they identify far too closely with those shows, and consider any criticism of those shows a personal attack. This is especially true of Mahouka, which specifically says stuff like “You’re right, the world doesn’t understand your talents, if the world were fair you’d be rewarded” – it actively encourages a lack of self-reflection. I think media’s power to make people feel understood and empowered is a Good Thing, but being unable to separate yourself from your media is not – it means you’re unable to question what you’re consuming, and that’s what these posts are all about demonstrating.