There isn’t a single thing “romantic” about Domestic Violence and Partner Abuse. Not one, solitary thing.
That’s why it puzzles me when people have “Harley and Joker” #relationshipgoals. Anyone who knows the background of the love affair between the Clown Prince of Crime, and the gifted, former psychologist Dr. Harleen Quinzel, are fully aware of how cruel, abusive, manipulative, and downright violent he is towards her. And when she did leave him, he stalked her until she relented and finally returned to him.
People who have never been in an abusive relationship judge and criticize Harley for not staying away. The mindset is: “If she goes back to him, she deserves every, single, horrible thing that happens to her. What a stupid bitch.”
Up until last year, I agreed with those sentiments. Vehemently. Not only in regards to Harley, but of any person who stayed with an abusive partner. Now I see how much of a hypocrite I truly was, not just for judging others, but because of my own experience with abuse, both as a receiver and perpetrator.
Yet, I’m grateful to my violent ex because had it not been for my experiences with him, I’d have probably never had my eyes opened to what it must have been like for the good men, family, and friends that once put up with my abusive ways. I wouldn’t have made the changes necessary to correct myself and atone for my actions or learned what I won’t allow have done to myself.
Unfortunately, the theme of “enduring is endearing” regarding abusive relationships is a far too common thing found in both reality and fiction. In this instance, I’m referring to the very first Manga I’d ever read, Hot Gimmick.
In my Anime and Manga Therapy article, I briefly touched upon this inexplicably popular shoujo manga (“girls comics”) that follows the tragic love life of protagonist Hatsumi, and her relationships with her two, abusive boyfriends: Childhood best friend and first love, the famous cover model, Azusa Odagiri and Ryoki Tachibana, Hatsumi’s childhood-turned-adulthood abuser and tormentor to whom she gets engaged at the end of the twelve book series.
In essence, Hot Gimmick’s overall message to its readers is this:
It doesn’t matter if your boyfriend is an emotionally, psychologically, physically, and sexually abusive subhuman who tries multiple times to rape you (Ryoki) or have you gangraped (Azusa), beneath the jerkass exterior lies a sad, and lonely little boy with a heart of gold who is horribly, horribly misunderstood.
As someone who is still recovering from the emotional and psychological torment done to me by my extremely violent and dangerous ex-boyfriend, re-reading Hot Gimmick left a very, very bitter taste in my mouth.
While the thirteen or fourteen-year-old me once cheered and praised the ending of the series that ends with the hapless heroine Hatsumi making wedding plans with the glasses-wearing equivalent of Draco Malfoy, going back through the series as an adult paints a disturbing picture of an abusive relationship that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon (if at all).
The abuse depicted is not exactly shocking given Ryoki and Hatsumi’s very first interaction as children was anything but harmless. In an unnatural display of five-year-old jealousy, possessiveness, and rage, Ryoki pushed Hatsumi down a flight of concrete steps and nearly killed her before they were even in Kindergarten (and even then, it’s Azusa who comes to her rescue).
With Azusa (or “that gangbanging sonfabitch” as per Ryoki’s petname for him), it’s worth noting he has experienced some childhood sexual trauma of his own (as opposed to Ryoki, who initially just wants to use Hatsumi sexually as his “goodbye virginity practice toy” to impress his large-chested college girlfriend).
After Azusa’s mother’s affair was revealed, they were labeled outcasts and forced to return to his mother’s familial home where they were treated just as bad. During middle school, his snotty female cousin forced herself onto Azusa despite his protests. She wanted to make her friends jealous because he was so attractive.
When they got busted, she turned right around and blamed Azusa, saying he forced himself onto her, which leads him to unjustly receive the beat down of a lifetime.
Both Ryoki and Azusa are the physical manifestations of Affluenza and Rape Culture, and were they actually people, they’d be the cretins we’d see on Fox News who are charged with the crime of rape, but walks away scot-free because of their “promising future”, or because “they’re such good boys”.
I’m not sure which is more disconcerting: the fact that as the series progresses, Hatsumi eventually begins to warm up to Ryoki and his rapey ways; how she continues to try and fix Azusa (pre and post gangrape attempts); or as the readers, we begin to feel sympathy for both men due to their terrible childhoods just like Hatsumi does.
Just in case you were wondering what genre of comic this series is supposed to be, it’s listed as a romantic comedy.
Maybe I missed the joke, but to reiterate my earlier point, there is absolutely nothing funny, endearing, or romantic about romanticized partner abuse, anymore than the trope of rape is to further female character development.
Up next: Hot Gimmick S
Androgynous AltModel (and Pokemon Master) Jacqueline-Elizabeth (AKA Kurosune of the SuicideGirls, and Cosplay Deviants) was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, developed a lifelong love of reading and writing at ages two and three, and started playing video games when she was six.
Upon moving to Los Angeles, California, Jacqueline scored her first writing gig as Nerdy But Flirty (run by gaming legend SarahTheRebel and later passed down to Kelsey’s Marquet), and later recruited by the Jace Hall Show (now TwinGalaxiesLive!) as also not only their first black writer, but their first female one as well.
Her interests include writing, reading manga, gaming, watching anime, cosplaying, increasing her number of tattoos, and rainy days in bed journaling.