I’ve been inspired by various posts on genetic miscegenation, “hybrid vigor,” and racial identity-
but frankly I have nothing of interest to say about genetic miscegenation, so I’m going to ignore my blogosphere and go off on several tangents.
Specifically, I’m going to use the multi-racial characters of Cyber-City Oedo 808 to explain history in several thousand of the most ill-chosen words you have ever had the misfortune to read, Gentle Reader. My post won’t actually address any actual GENETIC miscegenation, but it will touch on cultural imitation, which is kind of analogous to miscegenation.
Rather than enduring my meandering attempt to explain racial stereotypes in terms of anime, you might want to watch the first OVA of Cyber-City Oedo 808 instead. I guarantee that it’s more coherent than my essay. Be sure to turn on captions in your language, but listen to the original Japanese voice actors.
If you’re not willing to watch any more anime, you might as well read the essay.
The argument goes like this:
1 – The characters in the anime are extremely recognizable, in part because of use of racial stereotypes. But these racial stereotypes are just what the viewers expect to see, not reality.
2 – (As William Graham Sumner taught,) humans organize their lives in terms of recognizable ingroups and outgroups. Humans stereotype everything to reduce experience to recognizable patterns.
3 – Human history is likewise composed of recognizable stereotypes rather than perfectly verifiable facts. The racial stereotypes in history are just what the students of history expect to see, not reality.
4 – We must try to transcend our stereotypes.
First you should look at some screenshots and understand the characters.
Sengoku, the obvious heroic protagonist, is is an extroverted, charismatic alcohol-drinker who is interested in witty banter and human personalities. He is a mixture – 80% Mongoloid with 10% Europoid and 5% Negroid genes. He has mass appeal – a large cross-section of the Japanese audience can identify with him. He is mostly like a hard-driving, masculine Japanese man of the 1980s. His crimes include murder, assault, weapons possession, disturbing the peace, endangering public welfare, forgery of currency, bonds, and data, computer-fraud, database violation, and resisting arrest. He is pursued by an ideal potential wife, but he plays hard-to-get; he is an ideal military officer, politician, or celebrity. Japanese sci-fi fans who feel stable and fairly comfortable in Japanese society, but who feel tormented by unsatisfied ambition, will identify with him. His action sequences resemble those of a two-fisted, duster-wearing gunslinger more than those of a two-fisted film-noir Knight In Sour Armor.
Yanagawa – with 59% Mongoloid and 38% Europoid genes – might be mistaken for a female gymnast or acrobat, because he wears cosmetics in a “visual-kei” style, but his voice is deep, his demeanor is masculine, and his allusions to astrology seem to be more like medieval fatalism than feminized pop-culture astrology. His white hair and red eyes mark him as a “god of death” stereotype; possibly the Europoid ancestry was included in his character simply to make his “god of death” albinism more plausible. His crimes include murder, assault, forgery of currency, bonds, and data, forgery of identification, embezzlement, damage to public property, space flight violations, and other criminal law and regulatory violations. His action sequences resemble the one-on-one duels, gravity-defying leaps, erotic-poetic dalliances, and narrow escapes of the “chivalrous ninja” stereotype that Japan’s theaters have been refining for centuries.
Gabimaru – with 60% Mongoloid, 10% Europoid, 20% Negroid genes – is a “dekabutsu” “genius bruiser” with cybernetic eyes and an introverted personality, good with technology and overt violence. He is not suited for intrigue, gaudy displays of subtle social dominance, or hedonism. His crimes include murder, assault, destruction of public and private property, weapons possession, disturbing the peace, and violations against city bylaws and criminal regulations. The story includes hints that he is a widely-read, multi-lingual deep thinker. His personality is easy-going, loyal to comrades, and self-sacrificing – an ideal soldier or team-mate. Overly-bookish, under-socialized sci-fi fans, perhaps burdened with thick spectacles, who have a taste for physical brawling, but not for insults, will identify with him. His action sequences resemble block-buster action movies, right down to the John-Woo-style white doves and Jerry-Bruckheimer-style vehicle crashes.
Sengoku, the 80% Mongoloid, appeals to the kind of Japanese man who feels that Japanese virtues would be good enough if only they were pushed forcefully. His Europoid and Negroid genes indicate that charismatic forcefulness. The fact that he is not a 99% pure Mongoloid underscores the sci-fi atmosphere; it suggests that essentially Japanese masculinity will persist even if 900 years of high tech civilization have led to some amount of interbreeding. Yanagawa, the 59% Mongoloid, is a beautiful “chivalrous ninja.” His 38% Europoid admixture appeals to the large segment of the Japanese audience that considers “whites” attractive and wouldn’t mind interbreeding with them. Gabimaru, the 20% Negroid, appeals to the stereotype of that all blacks are two-meter-tall ultra-heavy-weight male boxers; this stereotype is easy to sell in Japan, especially to audiences who mostly see male blacks on television, and who never see female blacks.
Second, you should understand ethnocentricity from an anthropologist’s standpoint, as a matter of ingroup and outgroup. Regardless of whether humans are genetically related, we tend to live in groups, tribes, hunting-bands, etc. We tend to believe that the people we live with are somehow part of us, even if there is no genetic or historical evidence to that effect. Humans are loyal to their kin – but most kinship relationships are based on imagination, not blood or marriage.
Thus when people with white skin regard themselves as a “white race,” it’s just an imaginary distinction, just like the many disparate East Asian races that get lumped together into a supposed “Han race.” From a genetic standpoint, white people are too diverse for one category. Finns, Turks, Jews, Saxons, and Icelanders are too diverse to be considered a “race.”
Even with that in mind, we can’t just throw up our hands and refuse to think about anthropology, so we have to go back to the basics, namely the research of two Yanks:
and one Brit:
Sumner defined ethnocentrism as “the technical name for the view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it.” Merton elucidated the notion of the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” And Dunbar introduced the famous “Dunbar Number,” a.k.a. the Monkeysphere Limit. People inside the Monkeysphere get the benefit of the doubt; they are at the center of everything, and everyone else is rated with reference to them. People outside the Monkeysphere aren’t really people – they are hostile outsiders.
We evolved to be tribal thinkers; we were evolved to use stereotypes in a stereotype-friendly society. We still use stereotypes in all of our thinking, even though we no longer live in paleolithic tribes which were genetically and culturally coherent. Thus when we think about race, we think in terms of our Monkeysphere’s culture. But our Monkeysphere is not necessarily genetically or even culturally coherent.
Now that we have reviewed the Monkeysphere, I hope the relevance of Cyber City Oedo 808’s characters is a little more apparent. Those characters are identifiable. The viewer can put them into his Monkeysphere, at least as long as the viewer is watching the show. The stereotypes are refined to be easily digestible, like highly processed junk food.
Third, you should realize – no one really knows how old civilization is.
We can guess it started in Mesopotamia, several millennia before Christ.
We can guess that the Yellow Emperor really lived three millennia before Christ.
But the fact is no one really has a good argument.
There are many archaeological claims that are difficult to prove and difficult to falsify. So when I read sober Ph.D.s who argue that some or all of the ancient Egyptians were white-skinned Europoids, I shrug and say that more research is needed. Claims that flying saucers built the pyramids go into the same file: I don’t have good evidence, I’m not satisfied with the evidence offered by the proponents of such theories – I withhold judgement for now.
So if we limit ourselves to archaeology that has some reasonable degree of justification, we can summarize the contributions of various races as follows:
The Sumerians and “Aryans” were probably blue-eyed; the Sumerians had cities, religion, and civilization; the “Aryans” were probably an offshoot of the Iranians, and they probably didn’t call their genetic group “Aryans.”
Regardless of when the “Aryans” originated, we know of their contributions after they miscegenated with the Dravidians to make the Indian civilization, which invented a great deal of mathematics and built various advanced empires. The famous “Damascus steel” was actually invented in India around 300 BCE.
The Chinese invented and applied many practical technologies – multi-shot crossbows (4th century BCE), mass-produced printed books, magnetic compasses. They even invented some impractical things, such as gunpowder, which makes a very unpleasant-tasting longevity potion but is pretty good for fireworks. China did borrow mathematics, religion, and philosophy from India, but I’ve never seen anyone successfully argue that the Chinese can’t invent technology.
The ancient Greeks were blue-eyed, and they were very willing to learn from foreign cultures such as Egypt and even Persia and India. The extent of their practical technology is still disputed by the Antikythera enthusiasts on the one hand and the historians on the other. No one disputes that Greek culture has always treasured literacy, but oddly, most self-identified white people are completely ignorant of the Byzantine Roman Empire and its many contributions to science!
Most European scholars like to scoff at the many technological achievements of the medieval Muslims, and they emphasize that the Byzantine Greeks deserve some credit for so-called Islamic technology. I love the Byzantines, but I still admire the medieval Muslims. Their clockwork automata were even more impressive than the corresponding Japanese devices.
(The gif below should be an animated picture of a clockwork Japanese robot from pre-modern times, but it may not show up properly in many browsers, and I am not going to put in the necessary effort to fix it, so you can try clicking it to see if that will convince your browser to play it properly.)
The European High Middle Ages were a time of high civilization, and the Renaissance deserves special mention for its re-discovery of natural science from magic. Note that the European scientific revolution was influenced by foreign ideas, including Chinese ideas!
Europeans often laud themselves for scientific discoveries that Chinese people had perfected centuries earlier. Around 1776, Volta discovered methane after reading a paper by Ben Franklin; this is trumpeted as an earth-shattering accomplishment. That’s not really impressive when you consider that Chinese people had perfected portable natural-gas stoves almost 1000 years earlier. Let me point out two things that the Europeans did really well – the physics of electricity and the chemistry of radioactive materials. So they’ve got that goin’ for them, which is nice.
After looking at the entire known history of science and technology, I fail to detect any sustained period of white superiority longer than 250 years. The period from 1770 to 1970 was a pretty good time for white scientists, and the 1969 moon landing was a neat little publicity stunt, but it’s not like they have functioning moon bases. Maybe I’m horribly limited by my biases and stereotypes, ad I just can’t give white people the credit they deserve.
4 – In conclusion, the writer has rambled on for too long and reasoned too loosely to come to any significant conclusion, so let us end with a truism. We are hobbled by our stereotypes, but we cannot function without them. Like Sumner, we can try to transcend our ethnocentricity, and that is a noble struggle, but we shouldn’t get too upset if we fail.
Now, in the title, I promised that I would write 2000 words about sex and retro anime.
Well, frankly, if you need more sex in your anime, you probably need to re-watch Space Adventure Cobra. It was made back in the days when animated eyes were somewhat closer to normal human sizes. I guess the current owners of the rights have recently re-released it.
And if you need to watch inter-racial romance, you probably should be watching Unbreakable Machine Doll. If anyone hands out awards for anime shows that glorify inter-racial romance, this show will win first place for this season. Note that the blue-eyed boy is supposed to be 100% Japanese.
But in fact the animators are still very much in love with the exotic neo-Japonisme visual aesthetic, as can be seen from the closing:
You may want to allow Youtube to buffer that clip thoroughly; it’s much less impressive if the tempo is thrown off by network lag.