This was recovered from some of my old notebooks when I was still a lousy student of literature in the University of the Philippines Visayas.
I am not much of a fan of anime but fortunately still see some pleasant animations from time to time. One of the more interesting anime series I’ve seen recently is Princess, Princess, adapted from the manga of the same title written and illustrated by Mikiyo Tsuda.
Princess, Princess revolves around the lives of three students who are chosen to dress up as princesses to break the dullness in the elite boy’s school they attend. Freshmen with good looks and amiable personalities are made to act as if they really are princesses. They attend functions to encourage other students and to cheer during inter-school competitions.
The chosen male student’s assumption of a new identity as female princesses inevitably results in the tension that moves the story forward. Contemporary cultural theory posits that gender roles are never natural or inherent by virtue of one’s having a penis or a vagina.
Gender is never directly given but is rather a function of a system of language where the signifier “male” and the signifier “female” can be understood in opposition to each other. These roles are chosen for us by social strictures the moment we are born. For most subjects, these positions are sealed the moment we accept the symbolic order of law and language.
But this symbolic order is never closed. It is always open-ended. There are always fissures that escape the process of symbolization. At the edge of the symbolic there lies an impenetrable and violent materiality inexpressible in language, which makes impossible our complete integration into the symbolic order. It is this dynamic that shapes the plot of Princess, Princess.
One of the princesses begins to claim that he is the lover of the other princess. Another distanced himself from his own family thinking that his role-playing as princess might stain what he perceives as his family’s perfection. While the last princess is always on his toes, fearing that his girlfriend might find out his act of cross-dressing in school.
There is, in short castration, in the both literal sense and figurative sense widespread in much contemporary cultural theory. In The Sublime Object of Ideology, Slavoj Žižek argues that the prevailing ideology today is cynical: “People no longer believe in ideological truth; they do not take ideological propositions seriously.”
Apropos Princess, Princess, we can see the same structure at work among the students, a structure that mirrors how ideology functions today among the viewers of the show themselves. The students know very well that the princesses are just silly pretty boys, yet they still act as if they were real princess. They still enjoy and are inspired by them.