A Second Look: Cultural Bias & The Way of the Househusband
Our latest nerdy deep dive centered around the new Netflix Anime series The Way of the Househusband, based on the original manga by Kousuke Oono. There are a few interesting tidbits to know about this series—with me personally and the series itself.
First off, I proudly call myself a Day One fan here, but that’s really a pure coincidence. I am an avid manga fan and try to stay up to date on the latest series. In my best attempt to read the first volumes being adapted into English, I subscribe to a shipment box that delivers three new entries regularly. I just so happened to receive The Way of the Househusband in a box and was instantly hooked. Admittedly, this happens more often than not—this pattern also led to a passionate binge-reading of Rent-a-Girlfriend and Fly Me To The Moon.
Nevertheless, I have kept up-to-date with Househusband and was thrilled for an anime adaptation. When Netflix dropped the trailer not too long ago, I was among the many diehard fans who kept supporting the project. Sure, the animation in the trailer is a bit strange, but I was certain that they would improve upon it in the actual release.
Well, they didn’t.
If you’ve somehow missed the uproar on the Internet, the artistic vision behind Househusband has raised more than a few eyebrows. To be frank, it looks a bit like an amateur animator on YouTube who is experimenting with panel editing directly from the source material. At times, it resembles an animatic that one would use to pitch the show to a big-wig like Netflix. Either way, it doesn’t look finished. Kind of like that one time in college when I rendered a project as 1080i instead of 1080p. It’s just… off.
I’d be lying if I said that the show hasn’t still grown on me. The source material is nearly copied in this production. The jokes, timing, translation—they are virtually identical. Which is a good thing in my humble opinion. It’s a wildly popular series for a reason.
Househusband is constantly subverting our expectations. At first, it’s jarring. We fall for the joke and laugh at ourselves out of embarrassment. However, as we grow accustomed to the structure of the joke, we begin to transition from laughing at ourselves to laughing at the foolish characters in the show who are falling for the joke to which we once were held victim. It’s not exactly right, but I like to think of this as a certain kind of scapegoating.
Imagine, if you will, a particular video of yourself doing something embarrassingly hilarious. Mine is a video of me getting knocked over by a sledder in the snow after not diving out of the way of it’s obvious trajectory. Instead of diving out of the way, I chose to yell the phrase, “Abort! Abort!” to the individual on the sled. I believed that they would sooner listen to my demand than my own legs reflexively leap to safely.
Unfortunately, I got it half-right.
The person, in fact, would sooner listen to my demand than my own legs. The only problem is—neither happened. So, instead of the person listening or my legs leaping, I was knocked to the ground by the object in motion which, of course, remained in motion until hitting me.
Needless to say, I wasn’t laughing then. No one got hurt—Thank God—but it was a particularly stressful situation. My college friends, who were filming the whole thing, had no trouble finding the humor and laughing the whole time. And they are probably still laughing about it right now. Are your ears burning, Michael?
All of this is to say that I am now able to watch that video and laugh every time—first, because it’s hilarious and, second, because it’s no longer me that’s experiencing the stress.
But wait, you just said that it was you.
Well, of course, it was me in the video but it isn’t currently me. I’m me.
Right here and now—this current presence—this is me. The me writing this blog is the current me, but the me reading this blog is also the current me, which means that when I am the reader I am no longer the current writer. If I’m writing this right now, I’m currently me. But if I’m reading this right now, then I’m reading another me writing.
Confused yet? Me too.
So, what’s the point behind me pointing out this paradox and leading you to an existential crisis? It’s the same sad reason that we are able to laugh at The Way of the Househusband.
This series sets us up with a startling example of cultural bias. It’s the same reason I know that I do have a racist bone in my body. It’s the same reason I am sexist in certain scenarios. We all possess cultural bias on different levels.
Yes, I do mean all of us. No one is totally without bias. It’s just not possible.
Rather than present us with the harsh cultural bias of sexism and racism, Househusband presents us with a fairly ubiquitous bias—Yakuza or mafia types. We all have a certain image in our head when we picture this stereotype. We know how they dress, how they smell, how they act. These are examples of cultural bias that we just have within us; we don’t get to choose our biases.
What can we choose, then? Easy—we can control our response. It’s kind of the whole point of the show.
The first step of controlling our response to bias is seeing the thing. We have to see what’s there and that’s what stories like these are so good at doing. I didn’t know I had a natural bias to tattoos. I like tattoos, but whenever Tatsu comes out with a full upper body tat—I’m naturally intimidated. This is a bias I have. Someone with a full upper body tattoo is not someone I feel comfortable around. I make base assumptions about them.
Are they in a gang?
Are they easily angered?
Are they armed?
This isn’t fair to Tatsu who is (no longer) any of those things.
So, now I know my bias exists—what next? After we acknowledge our bias, there are options available, but the most obvious one with regards to Househusband is exposure. We have to expose ourselves to contrary examples of that bias frequently until it proves our assumptions false.
I’m not saying go and hang out in a Yakuza-owned dive bar in Kasumigaseki or by frequenting the onsen in Tokyo. (But maybe?)
I would suggest doing exactly like we are doing: consuming popular media. Sure, I doubt there are too many ex-Yakuza members exactly like Tatsu—he’s obviously a caricature—but by consuming this kind of media, we at least begin to see the possibility of our assumptions being mistaken.
Keep exposing yourself to contrary examples for long enough and it will eventually begin to crack that assumption you’ve built. Sometimes it’s a harder nut to crack than we might expect. Biases are ingrained in who we are. It can often feel like we are rooting around in our spiritual ribcage trying to find a bad organ.
After we break through that wall, we will then enter into the third step of the paradigm—witnessing. I don’t mean the street preacher yelling into a megaphone—side note… why do they yell into a megaphone? It’s just plain counterintuitive. Talk normally into a voice amplifier or naturally amplify by yelling if you don’t have an augmentation device. Anyway—witnessing!
Once we see our bias and break through that bias, we will enter into an important step where we begin to witness that bias in the lives of others. We will see how we used to respond. And, likely, it will make us cringe.
This is why we laugh at Househusband. The mangaka presents us with absurd examples of juxtaposition and we laugh at how the others react to Tatsu. But, let’s not forget: this is how we once reacted to Tatsu. Remember how I called this scapegoating earlier? This is what I meant. We laugh because we put this fictional person in the role of the ‘One Who Has Bias’ and make them out to be the jester for our enjoyment. But the hard truth is that we are one in the same. Or at least, we were the same.
Remember my video of the sledding incident? That was me, but it’s not me any longer.
In the same way, the me who had bias before is no longer the me I am now. Now that I have seen my bias, acknowledged it, and proven it to be mistaken, I am a totally different person from who I used to be. I no longer need the scapegoat. I can look at who I used to be and laugh (or cringe) and be proud of who I am today.
We are never without bias. It always exists on some level. But we can get better at it. We can take steps forward and proudly say that we are not who we used to be.
I’m thankful that shows like this exist. I’m thankful for reminders that we are not better than anyone else. I’m thankful for reminders that I can be a better person than who I was yesterday. I’m thankful for reminders that who I was yesterday is no longer who I am today.
So, I guess the question to answer now is: who are you? Are you better than you were yesterday? We never stop growing, learning, moving—so, which way are you growing, what is that you are learning, and where are you moving toward? My wish is that we are growing humbly, learning carefully, and moving faithfully towards a better sort of personhood.
And remember, no matter who you are or where you’ve been, these three things remain true.
God loves you. We love you. You matter.
Until next time, be boldly blessed.