#6 Change is Bad and You Should Feel Bad (Oregairu Zoku)

My high school years were spent drifting across several groups of friends when lunch time came around. Though several of them were far too diverse to be pigeonholed into one category of clique, two of these groups stood out to me: One was full of straight-laced academic overachievers while the other group comprised mostly of deadbeats. This comparison I’m going to make is not for the purpose of putting down one group over the other, thankfully because I’ve been around both groups long enough to care about them as individuals. There’s just something about their group dynamics, however, that interests me. Especially in how they treated threats to the status quo.

The straight-laced group had one girl who, by no conscious choice of her own, had specific speech and behavioral mannerisms that were just funny to hear. This transformed her into a frequent butt of our jokes. Seeing as she wasn’t complaining about the negative attention, we figured she was ultimately okay with what was happening. After all, if there’s nothing stopping you from doing something fun, it becomes a habit. Memetic, even. This went on for several months.¬†One day, she breaks down. Hard. After weeks worth of jokes at her expense, she started to believe that we were seriously making fun of her. Obviously, that wasn’t true, but thinking back at that moment it certainly seemed true. None of us disliked her presence in the group and several of us definitely qualified as her best friends. For her, however, what does it matter what we think if we didn’t show it? All she saw was targeted harassment. She even asked for us to stop a couple of times before she snapped, and no one really cared enough to actually stop. The harmful nature of our jokes were finally brought to light, and it was a very uncomfortable truth to take in. We ended up having a discussion as a group. We apologized to her and promised we didn’t do it again. We stayed friends and that would never change to this day.

The deadbeat group had one boy who was extremely sheltered growing up and had very… unique ideas about how the world worked. Usually it was just weird things like how different colored M&Ms actually didn’t taste different from each other, or odd understandings of how American History worked. Sometimes it delved into the realm of politics or, even worse, his opinions on videogames. We spared no expense making fun of those moments. Once, early on into the process, he asked why we would do this to him, since it honestly confused him why his friends would go so far as to make fun of how he was raised. Sure, he realizes that his upbringing wasn’t the most ideal, but it was still his upbringing to bear. The group was very blunt about why, explaining that it’s the things he says that are funny and not he himself. They all hung out together during lunchtime, after school, and in each others’ homes, and he certainly was not excluded from any of these outings. He’s welcome in the group not because he’s a clown but instead because he’s a good person despite his unfortunate circumstances, and that the rest of the group, me included, would be very sad if he were to leave. Satisfied with this answer, he never had to bring it up again.

I can’t quite imagine what that boy and girl felt when they brought up those issues. Did they think we only kept them around as a punching bag? Did they have suspicions about how we saw them as a friend? Situations like this threaten the current status quo. Since no one questioned the ethics of singling out one person to frequently make fun of at their expense, it just became something we did. The deadbeat group caught it early and deftly clarified the situation, causing no more problems of that kind in the future. The straight-laced group was well-meaning in their harassment, but didn’t really make the effort to demonstrate that they valued the girl as a person until she finally said something about it. Yet the response was immediate, feelings were shared, and relationships were mended. Just like that. No arbitration required. No feelings permanently hurt.

My point in terms of talking about Oregairu is that I never did identify with the kinds of group dynamics this show talks about. I have never encountered anyone in my high school life who consciously, seriously, feared the mere idea of change within the group. Much less a whole group of people in the same classroom. Sure, my friends and I would stop and think about it sometimes, but only when the threat is more than just an implication. These kids seem to think everything is crumbling at the foundations when nothing has actually happened.

I have no idea why a school would let a club that specializes in interstudent conflict resolution be run by a pair of sociopaths. I’m legitimately baffled that their methods work, that people concede that it works, and that people would continue coming in for help after all the damage they cause. I’m confused as to how these people resort to such tactics when they could just, you know, talk about it with the actual parties involved. To a person whose high school life has been more heavily influenced by healthy lines of communication, these sorts of high school stories feel alien.

Maybe that’s why I get so agitated about this show these days, as well as the numerous essays that showed up after each episode aired. After seeing a series finale where everyone just agrees to remain in the status quo again, I realize that all the obtuse language and philosophies this show spends so much time on are essentially an excuse for insecurity, cowardice, and self-hatred. Every single major character in this show is a terrible person, rife with ulterior motives and lacking in sincerity. This would not have been so much of a problem for me if it had been restricted to, say, two or three characters. However, when I’m shown that nearly everyone involved in the story seems to think and feel the exact same way, all that remains in my heart is disbelief.

Addendum

  • a.k.a. my boiling hot take on oregairu
  • i still think its a good show okay
  • im apparently just at a disadvantage in terms of believing any of this shit is possible in real life.
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2 comments

  1. You’re not the only one who doesn’t feel there’s a solid foundation to OreGairu. the show has a lot of interesting takes on youth, but they rely on a situation that always felt artificial to me, and so when the show started treating it as natural in the second season, I lost my connection with the cast and, consequently, with the important moments that all the essays ended up being written about.

  2. It’s rare to meet people who analyzed Oregairu in deep like this. I think I’m lucky to find out your post.

    Maybe writer wanted to present how people/humans are not different much. Everyone don’t want to be lonely and try to use some glue so they can stay in peaceful area longer. Actually I am angry a bit with that certain character who always think people around him are bad this & that. And show no mercy sometimes to announce he can change the world, other people can’t. But when he knows he can’t continue the triangle relationship but ends up maintain that status so he can live in happy group, so he will not be lonely anymore.

    When Haruno caught trio they are playing bad game, he just give some gentle excuse for himself that he never face situation like this before. I can’t believe he can find some gentle excuse when he himself did something wrong, but when other people did that, he can review they are wrong this and that.

    I got your feeling when you mentioned that the finale scenes where they agree to maintain status quo like Hayato’s group. I feel disappointed when I realized this too. But I know this situation will not last long, because trio decide to find the way to reach the better path. That’s why my despair decrease.

    I hope you will not be in despair to this Oregairu. So if you are curious in feelings or thoughts of characters in Oregairu, you can read my analysis in my blog. I hope my work can help you more or less. :3

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