As my anime-watching buddy would be able to tell you, I have pretty well-defined tastes when it comes to character archetypes. For example, if we’re watching an anime and a Cool Distant Senpai walks onto the screen, she’ll give a kind of nod and say, “Look, it’s your new favorite character.”
(This is pretty consistent: Honoka from Madoka*Magica, Satsuki from Kill La Kill, Erina from Shokugeki no Soma… there’s a very, very long list of Favorite Female Characters in my arsenal who follow this basic archetype.)
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have much of an issue with my… consistency in favorite characters. Except that I have another favorite archetype that’s much more problematic.
The Asshole Who Can’t Take a Hint.
The first male character of this type I was especially fond of was Kouga from Inuyasha, the first anime I watched. Kouga serves as the primary “love rival” for the titular character, constantly following around Inuyasha’s love interest, Kagome, and referring to her as his woman.
There’s kind of a lot of problematic elements in that paragraph already, but there’s another pretty important thing that makes it even worse.
Kagome has exactly zero interest in Kouga.
She doesn’t indicate romantic interest in him. The rest of the cast can tell — including Kouga’s super-jealous fiance — that Kagome is obsessively in love with Inuyasha. Even when Kagome has doubts about whether or not Inuyasha loves her, she never even considers Kouga as a romantic partner. Yet he continues to pursue her anyway.
This is another common trope that shows up throughout anime — and in American media, as well. (Gaston is one of my favorite Disney villains of all time.) And the thing is, in real life, I can’t stand guys who’re too pushy and can’t pick up on disinterest.
My preferences in fiction and fact are incredibly far apart, but that’s one reason to look at my preferences in fiction even more closely. What exactly do I like so much about characters like Kouga and Gaston, anyway? Why do I keep feeding a monster of misogyny in entertainment?
When I think about it, though, one of my favorite things about this character archetype is the fact that these guys never get their girl. They relentlessly pursue women who are emotionally unavailable, and despite their arrogance, they’re destined to come in second place.
In our second annual Problematic Favorite issue, we explore some of the most problematic things we love: characters we love despite their inherent issues, flawed fandoms, series with problems we shouldn’t ignore. And this month — even more than usual — we won’t ignore it at all.
Feliza Casano is the editor of Girls in Capes has a reputation among her friends for being a bit of a Cool Distant Senpai. In her approximate 2.3 hours of free time each month, she loves watching anime, reading science fiction, and working on her novels-in-progress. Keep up with her antics at felizacasano.com and follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.