Saturday, 6 March 2010

Miyazaki's Feminism

Sophie Hatter: Howl's Moving Castle (which I reviewed earlier, I know:) has captured my mind to the point of addiction. I have to muse on why I like it so much, so bear with me.

First of all, it's about a woman growing old suddenly. Sophie is a 19 yr old who suddenly has to deal with being 90 yrs old (from a jealous competitor's curse). Miyazaki turned 64 that year, and a lot of his own struggle with aging might have lent it the remarkable depth of character the heroine displays - the pluck of youth with the determination and will of the old.

Aging is like that - you can't feel it on the inside, so you're youthful forever, but one day someone wakes you up, usually a jealous competitor, and tells you that you're old and you begin to see it - first in panic, then with a shifting awareness, on and off. Miyazaki seems to know this well and Sophie's age shifts around with how she feels throughout the movie.

Sophie's in love with a younger man now, Howl, and that love takes away the years that the curse brought, until she's youthful as always with all the confidence of an old woman. But, here's the thing that I think made the difference, Howl - and Turniphead, Markel and Calcifer - loved her as an old lady, talk to her as if he could see only her ageless soul no matter how she looks.

This is how we love our parents and friends and animal companions - timelessly. And obviously, this is how every man has to be 'in love' for a lifetime (in marriage, romance, relationship) because this is what is called 'love' - it's eternal and unchanging. Love is the dance of Life through us.

Miyazaki's Women: There is a wonderful feminism in all Miyazaki's works - he makes no overtures to childish viewers who want superficial, continuous prettiness, helplessness and neediness in women, unlike the misogynist Walt Disney (Almost all of Walt Disney's older/ugly women are evil, as if he was saying, for a woman, beauty/youth equals goodness. bah.). Miyazaki's women have real personalities, complexities and contradictions. There are old women with young hearts who fall in love with younger men (Sophie, Witch of the West), who have powerful positions in government for their wisdom and magic (Sulimen), who smoke, yell and get mad; women who are mechanical geniuses (Fio), the young women who speak their mind and bully men (ex-brothel-workers in Irontown), who are ambitious for themselves to rule the world (Lady Eboshi), the ones who love animals and hate humans (Princess Mononoke) - these are all real women because I know someone who's like each of them in my own world. And finally, there's a sisterhood, which is very real between women anywhere, an empathy. Miyazaki perhaps knows women from observation, but he sees them with his heart.:-)

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