In a recent interview with Parents Magazine Kristen Bell made some comments about Snow White which have been making headlines. Basically she talked about how, while reading stories to her children, she asks them to think about the implications of certain actions in fairy tales and what they mean. One particular example which is relevant to Sailor Moon, as I’ll get to shortly, is Snow White. She asks her children to consider if it’s wise to take an apple from a stranger and if it’s okay to kiss a sleeping person. Various media outlets picked up on this by saying that she is calling out older Disney films, which is surely helped by the Parents Magazine article headline “Kristen Bell Worries Disney Princesses Teach Her Daughters Bad Lessons”. In reality she is specifically speaking to fairy tales in books, many of which happen to have been adapted as Disney films. Though Snow White includes a few questionable life choices the fairy tales of the likes of Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm are ancient tales full of gruesome violence as they are products of an older and much more violent period in human history. Modern versions such as the story books we may see in stores and the Disney films we enjoy will often sanitize these to appeal to our modern sensibilities. Kristen Bell is herself the voice of Anna in Frozen, a film which sets itself apart from other Disney films by calling out tropes like marrying someone you just met, the evil queen and acts of true love coming from a newly acquainted love interest. I’ve probably watched Frozen with my daughter roughly 50 times in the past year so I’ll just stop myself from elaborating on my many thoughts on this film and its relation to other Disney classics. So much to say Kristen Bell has the privilege of having worked on a Disney film which questions the status quo of films that came before it and has a number of positive progressive messages.
All of this brings us to Sailor Moon! I’ve mentioned this time and time again and it always seems to be divisive amongst fans. The idea is that a number of non consensual kisses given to sleeping people in the series are inappropriate due to the sleeping person’s inability to give consent. I am aware of the risk of applying a modern lens to an older work as these weren’t things I thought of in the 90s but I don’t think there’s much harm in discussing these. I am certainly not calling to ban or boycott Sailor Moon but instead, as with the conversations Kristen Bell has with her children, use it as a reason to discuss issues.
Ultimately I think it may be a little simple to give a blanket statement like saying kissing someone who is sleeping is wrong. If I kiss my baby daughter or wife while they sleep this isn’t the same as kissing a stranger. People generally kiss babies when they are too young to give overt consent, though not on the mouth. There’s nothing terribly dangerous about this. That said if I try to kiss my daughter and she says no, I will respect that request and stop. The Snow White example is perhaps not such and open and shut case. It’s not that kissing a sleeping person you’ve never met without consent is okay, however, if there is a good expectation that this will cause the person to be brought out of a comma, one could easily argue that it is morally justifiable. Similarly it may be completely inappropriate to rip a stranger’s shirt off because they are attractive however in an emergency situation it is certainly justifiable to touch someone and remove a piece of their clothing in order to perform life saving intervention. An EMT of course shouldn’t be groping a patient for sexual gratification or go around kissing people they are treating. The motivation behind these actions are the important distinction here. Most adults appreciate this nuance though children may not, hence the value in talking about the stories and media you share with them.
There are two examples in Sailor Moon where a sleeping person is kissed and, to me, it does not seem appropriate. The first falls into a bit of a grey area because of reincarnation and that is the kiss following the Masquerande in the Dark Kingdom story arc of the manga and Sailor Moon Crystal which also takes place in episode 22 of the original anime, “Romance Under the Moon: Usagi’s First Kiss”. In this case Usagi accidentally drinks alcohol thinking it is juice. She passes out drunk after which Tuxedo Mask kisses her. This looks particularly creepy in the original anime as the animation in this particular episode is a bit cheap. The issue here is, as the title of the anime episode title suggests, this is Usagi’s first kiss. Had Mamoru and Usagi been in an established relationship in which this kind of exchange was commonplace enough to be considered normal and he kissed her while she slept, this would not have been the same kind of breach of etiquette however in this case no such relationship existed… well not in this lifetime. The complication of course is that Mamoru and Usagi are reincarnated versions of Endymion and Princess Serenity. They had a relationship in the past and are dealing with fragments of memories of that. In the real world if someone used this as a defense for kissing a person who was passed out drunk they would rightfully be chastised for it as reincarnation isn’t real however in Sailor Moon it’s a real thing so it’s a bit more complicated. That Usagi is herself infatuated with Tuxedo Mask doesn’t really clear him of any wrongdoing as one can’t just assume someone else’s feelings though I think this may be why people feel more comfortable about this exchange. The fact that Usagi and Mamoru ultimately do end up in a relationship makes this seem okay in but this logic only works in retrospect. Mamoru and Rei were actually in a relationship at this time, though that infidelity isn’t even factoring into my objections to this. If you’re not convinced that this is a problem then instead consider if Umino, or anyone else, had found a drunk Usagi and done the same.
This seems to have been a concern for someone at DiC when the original Sailor Moon anime was first dubbed. Episode 22 was heavily edited for a number of reasons, including adding some backwards footage to make it appear as if Serena went back and took the stairs instead of falling off the balcony. In this particular there is no alcoholic punch, Serena never gets drunk and never passes out. The “first kiss” between her and Tuxedo Mask doesn’t really take place. The scene is shown but a voice over by Tuxedo Mask states that it’s simply his dream. So much to say it’s generally considered okay to kiss pretty much anyone in your dream. As a result of this the first on screen kiss for the Sailor Moon English dub takes place in Sailor Moon R right before Rini drops in from the future. This momentous occasion is spoiled by an awkward joke about Darien tasting peanut butter and getting stuck.
Next we have a series of kisses from Sailor Moon S The Movie. These are fresh in my mind having just watched the recently released Blu-Ray release of the film. Many fans would have seen the film in theatres this summer. In this film Luna falls in love with a human. After asking Usagi what a kiss tastes like she takes advantage of Kakeru, the source of her affection, by kissing him while he is asleep. There is no past life relationship between Luna and Kakeru. In fact Kakeru himself has a love interest in Himeko. This isn’t cool! Kakeru does not consent to the act and is in no state to do so. The situation is a bit complicated by the fact that Luna is a cat. I have cats and I have been known to kiss them on occasion. Dogs enjoy licking people’s faces and this is generally not considered to be some violation or assault, but then dogs are animals without human intelligence. Luna is a cat, yes, but a cat who essentially has a human equivalent mind. As an aside there is very little that resembles consent in the animal kingdom as most sexual interactions are forced. This is more or less true of humans until recent history as well, but we’ve come a long way and we should all be glad to live in a world where a person’s autonomy is respected. This isn’t the only kiss in the film as Luna later kisses Kakeru while she is in human form and the two fly around space for a while. Kakeru may believe this surreal experience to be a dream but it is real and Luna doesn’t ask if it is okay to kiss him, but he is awake and he doesn’t back away. This is probably similar to how a lot of human on human kisses take place so I won’t harp on that one too much. In the 90s I don’t think anyone would bat an eye at this but in 2018 some people might take issue with such behaviour.
There are a few Snow White style kisses in the series. The first takes place during Sailor Moon R episode 69 “Awaken the Sleeping Beauty: Mamoru’s Distress” in which Sailor Moon is very much trapped in a Snow White style sleep which Mamoru wakes her up of with a kiss. Something similar occurs in Sailor Moon R The Movie when Sailor Moon literally dies, again, but can be healed through the nectar of the Kisesian Flower. Mamoru sucks up the nectar and gives it to Sailor Moon in a kiss. In both cases this resembles Snow White in that it is a necessary life saving intervention but, unlike in the story of Snow White, Mamoru and Usagi have an established relationship when this happens.
Snow White style kiss that never quite happened however is the kiss between An and Mamoru in Sailor Moon R episode 56 “Steal a Kiss from Mamoru! An’s Project Snow White”. In this episode An orchestrates things so that she will play Snow White in a play and get a chance to kiss Mamoru, who is playing Prince Charming. Things don’t go as planned however as her attempt to kiss him during rehearsal fails and the play is cut short by an attack by a Cardian summoned by none other than her brother lover.
Finally we have the kiss between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Moon in the manga and Sailor Moon Crystal. This a sort of surprise kiss that Sailor Moon doesn’t expect and doesn’t have time to consent to one way or another. This in turn opens up the story to all sorts of interesting questions about sexuality which are quite worthwhile but it’s something I felt was worth pointing out.
All said I think Kristen Bell’s attitude of simply wanting to discuss what she’s reading with her children to be completely reasonable. She’s hardly arguing that Snow White is responsible for all of the ills of society and banning them in her household but rather finding a way to allow her children to consume media which she might not be totally okay with all while using it as a way to start a conversation about a serious topic. This isn’t quite the same attitude that Keira Knightley has, as her recent appearance on Ellen illustrated. She bans certain movies in her house, even some she quite enjoys, such as the Little Mermaid, because she’s concerned they might present a negative message. Far be it for me to tell someone else how to raise their kids! If this works for her than so be it. When I watch The Little Mermaid with my daughter I keep in mind the simple lesson this movie teaches. Don’t make a deal with a Sea Witch to get something you can get from your daddy for free if you’d just learn to communicate. I don’t think Disney is too upset about this either. If it bothers them they can wipe away their tears with some of that Pirates money.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you believe some of these kisses are inappropriate? Am I just overreacting and applying a modern lens to a harmless story? Leave a comment with your thoughts.