Narrowly defined, Fan Service refers to creators of a Manga or Anime fulfilling the anticipated desire of (usually male) fans to see sexually arousing portrayals of a popular (usually female) character; this is invariably broadened to include any passing woman. Delivery tends to be unsubtle, from the creepiness of the panty shot to the plot-stalling insertion of a beach or swimming-pool episode; similarly, in action stories, women are liable to find themselves attacked at their most inadequately clad moments, such as taking a shower or changing for bed – though these circumstances also apply to the surprise phone call.
Easy to ridicule, Fan Service raises serious concerns: aside from the general charge of its objectification of women, it specifically undermines any attempt to portray them as possessing their own agency, as if the audience has to be reassured that even the most competent women still requires vindication from the male gaze.
Fan Service is common to most forms of the visual arts (though the anime and manga genres' readiness to include young girls within their scope render them more problematic). Naturally Sex is a legitimate topic for creativity, but needs to be understood in a broader cultural context: attempts to counter feminist criticism of Fan Service by pointing to examples of male characters being similarly treated ignore the truism that these media play out in unequal societies strongly favouring the one-legged chromosome.
The definition of Fan Service can also be broadened to include treats designed for fans that, though not sexual, are delivered in a similar manner, such as the lingering, loving pan across a Spaceship or other Technology, as often seen in genre sf Cinema or Television. One early example is the prolonged shot of the Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Such a wider view might also cover those presentation styles referred to as, for example, food porn or Torture porn. Also relevant here are written Tuckerisms (which see) and media "easter eggs" hidden for freeze-framing or as background detail, as these also target the devoted fan. [SP]
see also: Feminism; Top o Nerae; Women in SF.
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