Demi-chan and Heteronormativity

Anime can be pretty amazing. You hear about a show called “Interviews with Monster Girls,” and think to yourself, “well, that can’t possibly be a show worth watching.” While that is an absolutely understandable reaction to such a title, it couldn’t possibly be further from the truth. Interviews with Monster Girls, or “Demi-chan” as I will refer to it from here on out, is a creative depiction of the experiences of the marginalized and misunderstood members of our society. If you’ve read anything on the show already, or if you’ve watched it yourself, you’ve probably already figured that out. As soon as a demi-human welfare agency was mentioned in the first episode, I was like, “anime, I’m sorry I ever doubted you.”

I think plenty has been said already about Hikari, the hyperactive vampire. Other blogs are finding this show just as fascinating as I am. Nevertheless, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on her. As a matter of fact, that is the perfect way to describe this show. It is thought provoking. Hikari’s interview draws comparisons to those marginalized by race, disability and sexuality, but don’t worry, Hikari’s not about to let any of those things drag her down. Takahashi-sensei opens up the interview by pulling out a book about Vampires and asking Hikari how many of the attributes outlined in the mythology of vampires are true. This question essentially equates stereotypes with mythology, and Hikari proceeds to confirm and deny various claims from the book. She states that she loves garlic, a clear parallel to racial stereotypes, and she states that she does receive some blood from the government on a monthly basis. I think the subtlest point made in this part of the interview is when Hikari agrees that a stake through her heart would probably kill her. Takahahi-sensei provides the punchline by pointing out that it would probably kill him too, the point being that we have more in common that we realize. Stereotypes that we attribute to minorities might very well hold true for us all.

One name that popped into my head toward the end of this episode was Vivienne Westwood. You see, Vivienne Westwood was into BDSM. That’s not something most people would feel comfortable sharing with their peers, but why shouldn’t it be? Kinks are considered sinful and degenerate, but everybody has them, and they may very well be a part of who we are. There are so many ways in which people are and can be marginalized. The idea that somebody would be marginalized for their kinks doesn’t immediately occur to you because, knowing the potential that information has to damage us socially, we never think to share them outside the bedroom. Vivienne Westwood integrated kinks like BDSM into the world of fashion in London in the late 1970’s. Back then, the punk subculture was at its peak, and Vivienne’s boutique, which was called SEX, pioneered punk fashion with things like bondage pants, which required the wearer to hop in order to get around. The point is that Vivienne Westwood, her models, like Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux, and the rest of London’s punks championed a greater degree of sexual expression.

Vampires always carry sexual connotations, and I think that’s one of many important ways of understanding Hikari. Hikari’s interview takes a short detour into a discussion of the sexual implications of her vampiric tendencies and desires. People can be marginalized by sexual orientation, and that’s not news to anybody, but there’s no reason someone ought to be treated differently for their kinks. I’m not crazy right? Women especially can be ridiculed just for promiscuity. My conclusion is that Demi-chan is making a case for a greater integration of sexuality into our understanding of human identity. In an ideal world, we would not go through life assuming that everyone we meet is heterosexual unless we are told otherwise. This is called heteronormativity, and most people are conditioned by their upbringing to assume a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity based on their biological sex. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world that isn’t dominated by heteronormativity. It’s a struggle not to default to the assumption that everyone in the room is heterosexual, but we ought to try our best in order to make our world a more welcoming place.

I have many more thoughts to share on this wonderful show, but I don’t want to lose your attention so I’ll leave it at this for today with one final note I have to make. I can predict one particular objection to that argument, and it is not one that I can risk not addressing. I am not promoting sexual abuse, pedophilia or any other criminal sexual practices.

7 thoughts on “Demi-chan and Heteronormativity

  1. Before watching this show, I also had really low expectations of it, but it blew me away. I didn’t know a show can be both so relaxing and thought-provoking at the same time.

    I had similar ideas with yours about disability and racism, but you put them in words far better than I could have (and I never equated myths with stereotypes or noticed that “subtlest point” you mentioned). I never thought about sexuality, though. But now that I think of it, Hikari *does* show some homosexual tendencies with how she thinks about the snow girl, and she also seems to be sex-positive with all her sexual jokes, especially in the second episode (the last time I found a non-ecchi show this sex-positive was Kokoro Connect (which, incidentally, is a great show about personal identity (sorry for the shameless plug (I think I have too many parentheses)))).

    And what exactly are you talking about with your last sentence? I don’t see any hint of sexual abuse or criminal sexual practices in this show, and the MC teacher is clearly not pedophiliac.

    By the way, did you really have to name your blog like that? I don’t want the cancer of the semi-colons to spread to blog names.

    P.S. FIRST COMMENT OF THE BLOG!!!!!!!1!!!!!!1!! LOL

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    1. To answer your question, I don’t think Takahashi-sensei is a pedophile. I only added that disclaimer at the end because pedophilia is often associated with deviation from sexual norms, but its not the kind of unconventional sexual practice that I’m trying to advocate openness toward. Also I love Kokoro Connect as well, I thought that was an awesome show.
      Also, the semicolon was actually suggested by a Monogatari fan I keep in contact with over Facebook, the idea being that its a Steins;Gate reference. However, I think I’ll probably end up changing it because two separate words with capital letters will probably look sexier. And anime blogs are all about looking sexy.

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  2. I liked this piece, but I can’t really see Demi-chan as deconstructing heteronormativity. While it may be the case that Takanashi acts in ways that may be considered homosexual, so do most fraternities in their initiation rituals. Heck, most anime in general includes some kind of affection between underage girls as fanservice, so in the context of the anime industry I would say that this is simply perpetuation of existing tropes of women and/or fetishization (though I, too, am desperate enough to take any kind of representation I can get). I do still think Demi-chan does a good job of handling discrimination though, particularly episode 4 (which I’m writing a post on actually).

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