Fighting evil AND symbolic annihilation!
In honor of Ladies Week I'd like to give a shoutout to one of my first female heroes: Sailor Moon! Growing up in a very male-centric community, it was vital to have positive female role models. Unfortunately, there weren't too many. There were a few female heroes in X-Men and Batman, but they were often outnumbered. Just look at those titles: even though female characters were included, they were never at the center of the story. Which is what made Sailor Moon so exceptional.
It's wasn't about being a token girl.
We talked a bit about representation in this card, but I don't think I spent enough time thanking this incredible series. Unlike most series, which have one (two if we're lucky) female characters with prominent roles, Sailor Moon was explicitly about women. Which meant that there wasn't one female character that had to represent the experiences of every woman ever. There were five unique characters with different personalities and experiences. They were all important.
Of course, this isn't enough.
In 1972 George Gerbner coined the term symbolic annihilation to describe the way the media is erasing the experiences of groups of people (often women, people of color, and the LGBT+ communities). Because we often learn about our culture's values and experiences though the media, excluding or minimizing the experiences of select groups of people is a way that social inequality is maintained.
“Representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation.” (Gerbner & Gross, 1976, p. 182).
It's not just about feeling excluded, though that's a huge part of it. It's being told over and over again that only certain experiences and people matter. And that others might as well be invisible. Seen and not heard. It's an incredibly damaging message.
And Sailor Moon was not having it.
The series was popular for a reason.
Girls and women want (deserve) heroes. We want to believe that our lives are worthwhile, that our struggles are real, and our dreams are worth achieving. We know that magical transformations and monsters from space aren't real. But what is real is the sense of isolation and exclusion perpetuated by the media. So when Sailor Moon uses her crystal to save the planet from doom and destruction, she's also saving all of us.