the_sun_is_up: Panty looking excited, with her hand on Stocking's abdomen. (psg - PEEKABOO PEEKABOO PEEKABOO)
[personal profile] the_sun_is_up
So yet another person on my flist has gotten hooked on Avatar, and when I heard about this, I experienced the usual confusing mixture of "Yaaaay Avatar is the best ever!" and "Gaaaaah PTSD memories of Avatar fandom's horribleness!" And while discussing the show, the topic of shipping naturally came up, as did the topic of age gaps. Of course I'm referring to how a lot of Avatar fans, mostly Zutara shippers but some other people as well, were creeped out by the fact that Aang is 12 and Katara is 14 and they're the main romance of the show.

And I guess I understand this in theory. But especially now that I've been in fandom for a long time and am looking back on this in hindsight, I have a hard time empathizing with the "ewww age gap" argument because, well, let's be real here: I have seen and shipped waaaaay more questionable things than "12-year-old boy + his 14-year-old female best friend."

The current example that leaps to mind is a series I've recently gotten hooked on which oddly enough has a very similar shipwar situation to Avatar fandom. In this series, the main canon romance and the ship that is by far the most popular in the fandom is between the heroine and the angsty brooding bad-boy jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold villain-who-isn't-really-that-bad guy. Yeah, it has a similar appeal to Zutara. But unlike either of the main ships in Avatar fandom, this relationship is extremely sexually charged. The guy in this equation acts much like a male Femme Fatale, constantly teasing and flustering the heroine, invading her personal space, making suggestive remarks, licking her ice cream cone, tricking her into thinking he's going to whisper seductively in her ear and then chomping her ear instead, etc. He's like the male equivalent of that stock anime chick who's always glomping the male lead and shoving his face in her boobs. Whenever he's around the heroine, his whole attitude just drips with seduction, and even though she tries to act all impervious, he's very good at getting under her skin.

How old are these characters? The girl is 12. The guy is 17.

Ohhhhhh snap.

Yeah, I'm talking about Shugo Chara. And for the record, I ship it whole-heartedly, in spite of the "CALLING CHRIS HANSEN" aspect. But you see what I mean, right? It's pretty hard for me to take the "Katara/Aang age gap is icky" crowd seriously at this late stage when I'm busy being distracted by Amu and Ikuto being LOLWRONG in every single scene they share. A 12-year-old and a 14-year-old holding hands and occasionally kissing each other on the cheek looks pretty vanilla to me when compared to a lot of the other ships I've seen in various fandoms and canons, and especially when compared to Miss Elementary Schooler and her cat-eared high-school-aged boy-toy.

I guess the gist of this post is a) my years in fandom have drastically decreased my ability to be weirded out by things and b) I really need to talk about Shugo Chara and how it is the most brilliant piece of female-oriented fanservice ever.

Date: 2012-02-29 06:54 am (UTC)
nenena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nenena
I think a significant difference, though, is that Amu is probably among the least twelve-year-old-like twelve-year-old character ever - her character design, her outfits, her behavior and personality, and even her voice read like those of a teenager, not of an elementary school student. Which again is part of the wish-fulfillment fantasy of Shugo Chara. The show may be aimed at young girls and the heroine may be technically the age of her target audience, but she sure looks and acts a lot older, and finds herself in a lot more adult situations. (And this is really no different than most of the YA books with female protagonists that I read when I was in elementary school, too. And that's definitely true for the most popular YA literature for girls today.) So it's really not too much of a mental stretch to ship her with a high school-aged boy.

I think the reason why Aang being shipped with Katara squicks so many people is because Aang is so obviously prepubescent, with emphasis on the pre-. He actually looks like a little boy, he acts like a kid, and his voice hasn't even frickin' dropped yet. It's really, really hard to imagine somebody like Aang in a relationship because he is actually a child. While in contrast to Aang, Amu dresses, sounds, acts, and looks like a older teenager.

So I think a lot of it has to do with how the characters are represented. Aang is still very much a young child whereas Amu is not, despite the fact that technically she's "supposed" to be 12 years old.

Date: 2012-02-29 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] blendery
IA with your points about Aang being presented as a really childish character (which is not a bad thing since he is a child). But I also feel that in comparison Katara was presented as really mature character, the sensible mother figure of the group, so to at least me she always seemed way older than 14 year old and much more like an adult. So I always felt bit squicked by Kataang because the mental age cap between those two felt much bigger than two years.

Date: 2012-02-29 04:40 pm (UTC)
nenena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nenena
Agreed completely. And it's not just true for Aang and Katara either; IRL two years may be barely a gap at all between two adults, but it can be a huge difference between a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. Or between a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old, etc.

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