Skip Beat! is one of those highly addicting series that’s hard to put down. Funny and drama-filled, it follows Kyoko, a young woman who decides to get into showbiz to best the rising star guy who used her good nature and threw her away. Some day I’d love to write a review on the series in general, but today I want to focus on something in particular: how interactions between women are presented. As I watch or read Skip Beat!, I have noticed that on her quest to rise up the ranks of stardom, Kyoko frequently is met by adversaries who try their best to trample her. Those adversaries are usually women. This alone doesn’t necessarily bother me; getting into showbiz is extremely difficult so, it makes sense that rivalry occurs. What bothers me is that these female rivalries are very reminiscent of mean girl behavior between women frequently portrayed in fiction and that those rivalries make up a majority of female interactions in the series.
From very early on in the series, Kyoko is faced with mean girl behavior. First, Kyoko meets Kanae (a.k.a. Moko) at an audition, where Moko is snide and hostile toward her for no other reason besides that she thinks Kyoko seems too ordinary and is competing against her. Soon after that, Kyoko is assigned to assist Ruriko, an up and coming actress who is spoiled and refuses to work with others yet puts up a nice face initially. She singles Kyoko out from the beginning as someone to use and bully, but her jealousy grows when Kyoko receives attention from popular actor, Ren Tsugura, whom Ruriko likes. Then there is Erika, who is not only spoiled but also a daughter of a big time businessman who used her family’s power to get herself the best roles and thwart any potential rivals. On top of all these rivals, nameless girls are constantly taking jibes at Kyoko, too.
But is this trend of female rivalry in Skip Beat! that much different from rivalry trends in other manga? In shonen (boys’) manga, the hero often has plenty of rivals of the same gender. One of the best examples of this is Naruto. Naruto starts off as an outcast who is disregarded by his peers and even made fun of. But as he gets stronger and proves himself repeatedly, he slowly begins to win the support of those peers. This set up is similar to what is seen in Skip Beat!. Kyoko is often underestimated by peers, but once she proves her acting skills and confronts the rivals in question, the girls at least acknowledge her and many even come to like her. Ruriko’s “battle” with Kyoko makes her realize how much she really loves acting and that she needs to compromise to work with others. Erika decides to stop relying on her family name to get roles but use only her own skills. Some rivals, like Moko, even become friends with Kyoko. This last bit is especially important because it allows readers/viewers to see character depth and development beyond the initial mean girl attitude and shows positive female relationships. Once friends, Kyoko and Moko help and support each other, breaking from the generally catty behavior shown of other young women.
Perhaps the trouble lies in the fact that many of the interactions between young women, rival or not, are coated with displays of the jealous, nasty, sneaky, and cutthroat behavior, even though there are some good female friendships. This is enforced with comments about Kyoko and Moko’s previous attempts at friendship: Moko says that the reason she never made female friends was because they gossip about/backstab others and and Kyoko always wanted female friends, but was shunned by the girls at her school for simply being close to a popular guy. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of how girls behave among each other. While mean girls do exist and work well for a drama, it is a shame that fiction continuously focuses strongly on the negative because it creates the idea that mean girls are around every corner and overshadows healthy female interactions and friendships. So, it’s not just Skip Beat! but the combination of so many representations of mean girls in fiction that’s the real problem.
Luckily, Skip Beat! does have some positive female interactions as well and provides a heroine who doesn’t let anything defeat her. There also seem to be less mean girl scenarios as the series has progressed. So, don’t let my musings about female interactions stop you from giving either the manga or anime a try if you haven’t already! For those of you who follow the series, what do you think about how female interactions are portrayed? Do they contribute to mean girl stereotypes or is it just another drama filled with rivalry?