This morning, as my wife was getting ready to head out to work, I was watching Robotech via Netflix Instant Streaming. For those of you unfamiliar with this program, it's an animated series from Japan, with the english dubbing and edition dated 1983. Basically, it's a series about an alien invasion and giant, transforming robots; pretty much par for the course as far as cartoons go.
I'm familiar with the setting and some of the characters via the old Robotech RPG
(which I played extensively, and which is why I started watching this in the first place), but this is my first time viewing the actual series itself. I'm up through episode 10 or so now, and a pattern is starting to emerge. One which my wife is noticing as well, even with her extremely limited exposure to the show (maybe 15 minutes in total, most of it this morning).
This show is rather amazingly misogynistic. Not overtly "get back in the kitchen, bitch" misogynistic, but definitely male-centric and very regressive in its portrayal of female characters.
By way of example, one of the two female characters that actually gets face time is a ranking bridge officer on the primary space ship named Lisa Hayes. She's in a position of authority, she is treated by the show as an apparently positive portrayal of successful womanhood, etc. But practically every time she speaks, it's to say something that is forcefully corrected by a male subordinate 4 seconds later while she looks sheepish. And the only time we see her anywhere but standing on the bridge behind a desk (in the role of practically a space secretary for the captain of the ship) she's in danger for some reason related to weakness or incompetence and she has to be rescued by the boyish male lead of the series.
And don't even get me started on the other female "lead"; the 16 year old beauty queen with a hero-worship complex.
The reason I brought this to D&D is this; My wife and I had something of an argument this morning over whether or not this show was worthy of being watched due to its undercurrent of anti-female themes, one in which I took the pro-Robotech side mostly out of reflexive defensiveness when I was called out for it. But in taking stock of the series I've seen so far and where it seems to be headed, I'm just not able to stomach the idea of going forward and being met with more of this sort of thing.
So the topic for debate is; Where is that line? When does an otherwise interesting or enjoyable piece of media become unpalatable due to underlying themes (be they intentional or otherwise)? Is there artistic redeeming value to works that incorporate themes that are questionable or downright offensive? Is there a difference between exploring a mindset through storytelling and pushing that mindset on the consumer?
Think about the really, really terrible stuff that is out there. Birth of a Nation, The Turner Diaries, etc. Is there a legitimate reason to consume that sort of thing for the entertainment value? Are the works of H.P. Lovecraft rendered unworthy due to their author's xenophobic views? Does it matter if those views are only indirectly implied (or not broached directly at all) rather than incorporated into the core of the work?