Satoshi Kon’s 1997 film Perfect Blue offers a nuanced discussion of feminism that is still relevant to modern audiences.
A good psychological thriller takes viewers on a twisty twist that makes them question everything they thought to be certain, and Perfect blue does it masterfully. Directed by Satoshi Kon in 1997, Perfect blue has taken on the mantle of an animated classic and has its place among the Japanese works that influence Hollywood.
The film follows Mima, a young pop idol who decides to try her hand at acting in an attempt to advance in her career. However, she is not entitled to a clean break. The idol world breeds its own unique toxicity, which is evidenced by Mima fans who are unhappy with the implications of her change. Even Rumi, Mima’s manager, fears that Mima will lose her fabricated innocence. This dissatisfaction stems from a deeper desire for control. Instead of letting Mima grow up and do what she wants, people complain that she won’t always be the one to they or they want it to be.
In the entertainment industry, image is everything, and this is especially true for women. Loss of image can mean the loss of an entire career. Young women, especially idols whose images are carefully crafted, are encouraged to portray a sweet innocence that makes them pleasing to the masses. Those who break with this image are often faced with crowds of judgment and denounced by Puritan critics. It’s enough to drive any girl – like Mima – crazy.
Perfect blueMima’s feminism becomes more evident when it comes to Mima’s stalker, who ends up attacking her, and a particular scene that she is forced to act for a movie. In the film, Mima manages to play a role, her character is sexually assaulted, and the scene is played out in an intense amount of detail. The simulated act of violence highlights glaring issues when it comes to violence against women, but it also highlights less obvious feminist issues.
Rumi’s main qualms with the scene is that it will deal a fatal blow to Mima’s perfect image. However, the idea that sexual assault can diminish a woman’s perceived worth in any way is very problematic. The film’s nuanced handling of this conversation forces audiences to grapple with their own feminist beliefs.
With his shrewd and shocking turn, Perfect blue also addresses an often overlooked feminist issue: women working against other women. The main antagonist of the film turns out to be none other than Rumi, the woman who was supposed to protect and guide Mima. Instead, she tries to control Mima and live vicariously through the vulnerable girl, resorting to murder when things don’t go her way. Rumi is proof that violence against women can come from any angle, and Perfect blue spares no one in his criticisms of society.
Perfect blue tackles a wide range of pressing topics, from obsessive consumerism to mental health, but its feminist undertones are particularly striking even today. For this and other reason, Satoshi Kon’s film is a timeless classic that will stay fresh for years to come.
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