I read an odd entry in my Twitter feed the other morning. Not unusual for a forum dedicated to misinformed celebrity rants and the beekeepers that idolize them, but what struck me about this tweet was that it came from the account of Hayao Miyazaki, He that is Deus in the Machina at Ghibli Studios, and dare I say… a generally uplifting and motivational Twitterer. Bear in mind the Japanese language is composed of ideographs, so 140 characters can read like an American paragraph. Nonetheless, this morning I read this:
They say it’s over for animation in Japan. When we look for new hires only women respond, and I get the feeling that we’re done for. In our last hurrah we borrow from outside staff (i.e. outsource), but soon we won’t be able to do that forever.
OK, now mind you, Miyazaki’s been talking a lot about the end of anime on Twitter lately. Sort of the same way people are decrying the end of print publishing. He’s not giving up on animation but suggesting it might be best to face up to the fleeting nature of all things. Yes, his micro-wisdoms border on sermonic.
So what I found interesting in this tweet was the casual observation that a sign of decline was that only women are responding to job solicits. He wasn’t trying to say anything about women. He was saying it’s over for Japanese animation. The bit about women was just a bit, but the mumble was deafening.
So I mustered some courage and replied to him.
I didn’t get a response per se… A few hours later, I saw this in my feed:
A five-part transcript of the whole statement from which he’d excerpted the top line earlier in the morning. The full statement is from a lengthy interview in Eiga pia (Movie Peer) magazine
They say it’s over for animation in Japan. When we look for new hires only women respond, and I get the feeling that we’re done for. In our last hurrah we’ll borrow from outside staff, to lend a hand but we can’t do that forever.
These are not reasons for me to take production to China. I don’t want to deplete Japan in that way. So, what do we do?
(Ghibli Studios) has been resolved to rowing the boat altogether as a team and giving it our all, while everyone around us is jet-propelled with new technology and running at full-speed. We still illustrate with pen and paper. I say we continue to give this our all, together.
I counter the point some make that we’re in an age where you’ll find women driving buses by asking if it’s ok to have women all over cotton mills. (LOL)
I think it would be great to see a female animation director, but as far as Ghibli’s concerned, I can’t think of a single one for us. So what about newcomers? Well, I believe women are incredibly fast-learners and self-starters. If you look at men, even today, they develop much slower.
I’ll cut to the chase: What do I see in the full statement? More obfuscation of the glass ceiling, but a genuine interest in seeing it shattered.
The first part of his quintweet is sort of unfortunate as there’s not doubt about it. He just said: women in the employment queue bum me out. Chauvnism is colorblind, deaf, and a little obnoxious, but well, let’s see what else he’s saying.
In Part 2 of the quintweet, Miyazaki calls out the harsh realities of competing with China for animators and technology. It’s a problem in just about every industry outside of the People’s Republic. From textile manufacturing to bootlegging Apple retail, we the people of everywhere else is kung-fucked. I empathize as my bootleg Apple store doesn’t stand a chance against theirs.
In Part 3 Miyazaki explains how Ghibli’s work is a labor of love. As much a labor as the biggest animation production company in Japan whose American distributor is Disney (one of the biggest media companies in the world) can be. Though it is really beautiful that they work in analog. I mean that. No one watches Pixar to see peach-shaped marhsmallow humanoids. No, we fell with the kid from Up because he was part of a good story.
Part 4 is as baffling as it is evocative to me. Miyazaki’s recapitulating his point about evening the status by playing devil’s advocate to some truism that “women are even driving buses now.” I’ve never thought of it that way, but (thinking…) yeah I guess it’s sort of a man’s world behind that huge steering wheel in Japan. In New York City I think every third bus driver I’ve encountered has been female but it just goes to show… Strange where we engender jobs, isn’t it?
Moreover, to counter the observation on female bus drivers by suggesting labor-equality can turn be flipped and end us up with sweatshops full of women begs the question… has Miyazaki picked up a newspaper in the last decade? These cotton mills ARE populated by women. This statement is what baffled me most particularly. Cotton mills? I’m hoping it’s
lost in translation. Hoping cotton mills is Japanese for Dick Shop. And yet…
there is no mistaking “LOL” which I’m positive is the correct translation of (laughter):
My conclusion from Part 4 of the Quintweet is that for Miyazaki, status quo is an issue that starts with the basic tenet that women do work at all. Amazing to think the studio responsible for so many phenomenal heroins doesn’t think women actually earn their keep in modern professions. Actually I take that back. Nausicaa is an animist warrior; Chihiro and Ponyo are both children, as are Totoro’s neighbors. The closest thing to a working professional woman in Ghibli films is a witch who delivers packages from a bakery. [Note: I LOVE all these films and still think primary, secondary and all tertiary female characters could categorically kick every female animated Disney character in the proverbial “Pocahontas”.]
And finally, Part 5. “Show me the women!” he says. Damn straight. And this is the variable that changes my perspective on the entire argument against his seeming indifference to the glass ceiling. Women are fast learners. Men are comparatively late-bloomers. Get a leg up, women! Get out of the cotton mills, stop driving all those buses and start rowing this boat to nowhere.