Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Cockblocking Character Conundrum (CCC)

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I didn't come up with the name, but this is definitely something I think doesn't get enough recognition and that we should think about more actively as viewers of anime and other storytelling mediums.

I know I'm not the only person who has ever felt that twinge of annoyance when it comes to a specific kind of character, one that you find pointless to the progression of a story primarily because they exist, and because they get in the way of something else. That character usually is a perfectly fine character in isolation (though this can vary), and the only real thing that annoys you about them is that they get in the way of an OTP or other romantic pairing you wish to see through. This happens a lot. Not just to me personally, but in fandoms everywhere. There are countless characters who are attacked, disliked, or generally ignored because they're "annoying" and get in the way of that one couple we really want to win. We hear things like "If only X wasn't there", "Why is X being so ANNOYING?!", and "X is ruining everything". But lets think about this for a second: just why do we have to hate X so much?

This season I'm watching, like many other anibloggers, J.C. Staff's adaptation of Golden Time. I realize that there's mixed reception to the show, though I personally highly enjoy it, but my point is irrelevant to this. My problem with Golden Time lies in the Cockblock Character Conundrum, and the way I think most people perceive the characters in the series. Like most romcoms, GT offers a few choices for the lead to end up with, and as the lead this time is male, those choices are all female. The majority of my senpai seem smitten with Linda-senpai, Banri's love interest prior to acquiring amnesia though as an asexual I can't say I understand her allure very much. I can only see her as a regular character like any other, and while I like her, there's nothing overtly special about her to me that I could say would make me root for her more than Kouko or Chinami. Of the three, in fact, I prefer Kouko because I find her psychologically interesting and she's silly and blown out of proportion enough that she leaves a rather deep impression. That, of course, leaves Chinami, whom I like least, and Chinami is the one I first applied the unfortunate CCC on. Here's the problem: the moment I saw Chinami, I thought "oh no, here's the one who's going to screw EVERYTHING up" even though that actually ended up being more Linda than anyone else. Chinami hadn't done anything wrong one episode in, and hasn't up to this point half a season in; she hadn't even shown any actual interest in Banri. She just struck me as an obstacle, as that one character who would have the lead continuously thrown into misunderstandings and other confusions instead of letting him be with Kouko, the one I prefer. That didn't even come to happen, nothing even close, and yet I still had the experience of dislike at first glance. What does that say about me? About social psychology?

I have seen far too many fan reactions and experienced far too many stories to consider myself a closed off phenomenon. Something is clearly wrong with my perception of characters like Chinami, of the endless girls who are perceived as getting in the way of gay fan pairings, of all those other characters, like Naru in Eureka Seven Astral Ocean or Avril in GOSICK who annoy fans for just being there and stopping their pairings from coming to reality. It's not really a coincidence that most of those characters are girls, nor that a majority of the fans who hate them are probably girls, but that's not quite what I'm getting at. Why am I socially taught to dislike X instead of, say, Z, who is the one being indecisive about his love interest? Heck, why should I dislike ANY of them? What did Chinami or Linda ever do to me? What did Banri do?

Part of it is really just social psych. Since I've been little, I've been taught that the "temptress" is at fault for making the boy turn his head and confusing how he should feel. None of that has been overt, but rather through media, through my subconscious. Wives who are cheated on try to get revenge on the mistress first, calling her all sorts of names and dehumanizing her. It's a generalized statement, but it's true in the broad sense; I've been trained to think "the other woman", the possibility, is a threat. I can't even begin to say how stupid this construct is, and how surprised I was to find out I still have it despite actively trying to avoid falling into this kind of horrible thinking. It's partly about sexism, yes, but it's not just limited to the way women see other women. That's just the way we see it most of the time.

But the scary part about CCC is that it's taken this way of thinking and moved it to the next level. X no longer has to be the "temptress". She simply has to exist, has to be a possible option, a "maybe", and some of us are automatically aligned to dislike her. I try very hard to notice when I stupidly bring up the CCC in my character analyses. I try very hard to admonish myself; what, after all, did X ever do to deserve such wanton hate? Absolutely nothing, and in most scenarios, X is a perfectly good character on their own. The nasty thing about CCC is that it simply continues to perpetrate itself; if you end up hating characters like this, then you're promoting real life problems like casual jealousies in your relationships, the sorts of things where people never let their significant others have friends of the opposite sex, or hatred toward people you know nothing about for no real reason. Is that really an okay thing to let pass by? Personally, I don't think so, and I honestly hate it when I catch myself using the reasoning of CCC. I don't want to be the sort of viewer who hates someone for no reason.

If I hate someone, I'll find out perfectly valid reasons for doing so. They had better be stone cold murderers or manipulators on the scale of someone like Squealer from Shin Sekai Yori.


  1. Hmm interesting insight there Kairi. I agree it's a socially constructed perception and in part I think it has something to do with cognitive dissonance – we almost don't want to see any good qualities in X that might place us in an ambivalent situation, so we end up mentally morphing them into a simple catalyst of drama. I'll give you a car example, when a person can't decide between two cars, they rationally list the pros and cons of each, but once they've settled on one, the chosen becomes more appealing and the unchosen loses its appeal because we need to justify our decision. I guess when a character is predestined by its story, the other choice becomes undesirable. Well...I think there are exceptions of course, but I catch myself constantly trying to like the main character more lest of disappointment even if I can pick out a hundred things I don't like about her. Did I rant too much? haha

    And HI KAIRI xDDDD I haven't commented in a long time...>.<

    1. HI GLASS. ^-^ Nah, it's totally fine, I just unfortunately have cut down a lot on the blogging game, school is driving me nuts, and there's so much stuff to be done. T-T How have you been?

      That's true too, once you've made your choice you just kind of have to stick to it. But you don't necessarily have to hate the car option 2 to choose option 1, right?

    2. I've been a part time job, and working on my grad school application and catching up on reading (I feel like I haven't gotten any real reading done since uni) =/.. Haven't had much time for anime and this season feels quite lacklustre. I'm kind of happy undergrad is'm sure you share the same sentiment of wanting it to finish asap. How have YOU been? How's your concussion?

      Well, you don't have to hate your option 2, but it becomes less appealing in comparison to option 1 – it's the irrational logic that "I chose this, so it must somehow be better and I must come up with reasons to support my choice or else I'm going to drive myself mad by thinking why I didn't choose option 2". The reasons can be superficial. Also, I guess we want to cheer for a couple who can result in something, and the other option is usually predestined to fail in the story..=/..I would like to see an exception of that though.

    3. I see, yeah, it's far too easy to fall out of the habit of reading and studying. T-T I actually feel kind of the same about this season, even though there's so many shows, there's only a couple I'm really enjoying. Oh yeah, I can't wait to get out of here, just a year and a half left. @_@ I'm doing alright, my concussion is nearly done wreaking havoc on my ability to concentrate. Lots of schoolwork, working on trying to get the VN I was working on back in the game, and my boyfriend is also visiting me next week so I have to get a shit ton of work out of the way so I can just spend time with him. >.< Other than that, I am feeling a lot better.

      That's true, and definitely happens in some occasions. I think I have seen the misdirectional couple happen from time to time, yeah, but it's so so rare. I think it's important to be aware when you do start with the CCC though, it's not a really good thing to use when deciding which people you like. @_@

    4. I think for the first time in ages, I like the summer shows better than the fall ones. The Winter looks pretty good though, and we have two Bones series on the table, besides a million other things they seem to be working on this year.

      I hope you are successfully finishing up your work...xD Don't be like me, I procrastinate to the best of my ability. You can get ur bf to do your work for ya lolll Kidding, I'm sure he appreciates the fact you working your ass off just to make time for him.

  2. I have read this post twice and I have been thinking before commenting (took time due to lack of time :P)
    yet I kinda lost you at the second half of this..write up. and I am not even sure I understood the whole terminology you used here (I have problem to grasp what CCC is, sorry, probably my fault) but let's start with the first part and move on.

    "just why do we have to hate X so much?"
    "why should I dislike ANY of them? What did Chinami or Linda ever do to me? What did Banri do?"

    who says we hate or dislike?is it that way?what if it's about who we like more?
    sometimes we love more X. we identify with X more than the others, maybe he(ok or she) stimulate some feelings in us more than the others.
    after all, in one's life, someone has friends, some closer more than the others, right?is that mean he isn't a friend of the others?
    moreover, you said you do dislike Chinami when she's interrupting with your favorite Kouko, but that's also a matter of preferability, because you like Kouko more, you tend to prefer her. I don't think it actually means you hate X (let's put Chinami aside 'cause there is a chance you hate her?THO I doubt it's that strong). it depends on situation.
    I am sure you are somehow enjoyed Chinami in other circumstances.

    besides, isn't it subjective?we all differ in the way we percept. memories, experiences, knowledge making our cognition and perception slightly (sometimes more than just slightly) different.
    I think it's totally fine to have a character you like more. even to dislike characters in some situations, or just not liking them 'cause they don't appeal.
    for some characters you wanna see more screen-time and its development because the character is more appeal in your eyes. what's wrong with that?
    if it is become a matter of choice between 2 or's different. I wouldn't stick with the car's choice analogy..but that is for another time.

    in that matter, I liked the comparison of Squealer. he is a great example for someone you should HATE. by the meaning of the word. why is that?probably because there are some lines in our society which we can't cross that roughly.
    yet even in his case, you can't deny that somehow it was human's fault.
    I don't want to dig deeper with that, especially with Squealer 'cause there is alot to see for and against. it's a matter for shinsekai.
    but it's hugeeeeeeeeeeee different in terms of values and perception of romcom.
    our everyday life are more flexible in those matters of love, hate, like or dislike. those concepts have a wider space and overlapping between them.

    it came out quite long, and I am not sure it's really what you meant, but I hope you can find some insight here. it was interesting THO, maybe you can enlighten me more (:

  3. This is pretty much how I live my life, I don't hate characters unless they give me a reason to hate them. I never hate characters because they get in the way of a pairing. I mean Safu in No. 6 was one of my favorite characters, but the entire fandom hates her because she messes up the whole Nezumi/Shion thing in their minds.

    As for the Linda fascination, being demisexual myself, it's certainly not a sexual thing. She's just eerily captivating. I can't put my finger on why, but there's something about her...some sort of je ne se qua that can't really be explained that kicked in the minute she first appeared, and hasn't gone away yet...I wish I could better explain it, but I can't.