This is not Dragon Ball Z. Or is it?

I keep tabs on the Dragon Ball Z facebook page and frequently find their material strikes a chord with me. The page reminds me of all the reasons Goku is a loveable idiot, but such an amazing individual. The page reminds me why I believe in Goku and that there is so much more to DBZ than strong men beating each other to a pulp. Dragon Ball Z has provided me with heroes who are the epitome of fall seven times, get up eight times. 

But, as I’ve mentioned previously, DBZ is not perfect. It’s sexist toward men and it’s sexist toward women. What I haven’t had much time to explore however, is that as an extension of its sexism, DBZ is also homophobic. I’ll use this image posted on the DBZ facebook page to begin my point then I’ll explain further.

To begin, this image is homophobic. Even if it weren’t connected to DBZ, it would be homophobic. In this set of images, to be gay is something you want to get rid of in yourself. It is something that can be cured where you can walk away and be “better.” Especially in the context of this image set, it is the father telling his son not to be gay, to overcome his gayness, and–even worse–that gay here is used as a generic insult. The Great Saiyaman looks stupid and poses funny, that’s so gay! Yes, the Great Saiyaman looks stupid and poses funny, but all that means is that he looks stupid and poses funny. It has nothing to do with his sexuality.

When I first saw this image I commented and said how offensive it is. I also said it’s not DBZ. However, I was quite wrong in that second statement. This image set brings to the forefront homophobia that is present in DBZ, but never discussed.

What some people may not be aware of is that homophobia (and any other form of oppressive thought and action) does not need to be as direct as someone proclaiming “I hate gays” or “homosexuality is a sin.” Most bigotry is more subtle than that, but no less harmful. Because it is silent, it is allowed to persist.

So, how is DBZ homophobic? Let’s look at the images presented of men and women. The men are all the absolute epitome of “traditional masculinity.” They are muscular, they are courageous, they take punishment in battle without complaining and they are unfaltering in their straightness. The special cases are Goku and Piccolo. Goku exists in a state of partial asexuality–though more to comment on his purity than to ever suggest he is queer. Piccolo, as an alien, is also for all purposes asexual–but more to express his alien difference than to highlight a queer identity.

Of the main male characters, Tien is the only one without a love interest and fans speculate he is in a relationship with Chiaotzu. If this is the case and Tien and Chiaotzu are the only queer characters in the show, their relationship is entirely speculative and because Chiaotzu looks and acts so different from every other character, even the hint of being gay becomes something to look askance at. If Tien and Chiaotzu were to be openly together, their queerness would be immediately visible because Chiaotzu does not look or act human. If Chiaotzu is written as a gay character he is an offensive stereotype.

As for the female characters, the few there are are unfaltering in their straightness as well. They may not always be perfect paragons of female virtue–Chi-Chi fights in DB and Bulma is a computer tech and scientist–but Chi-Chi is also introduced from the start as a love interest for Goku and Bulma’s original quest is to find the perfect boyfriend. Android 18 winds up marrying Krillin. Even Launch from DB is last seen chasing after Tien. Lesbianism is a foreign concept in the DBZ universe.

So, when the DBZ facebook page posts an image such as this:

it is actually being very honest about DBZ’s homophobia. In DBZ, being queer is speculative (at best) for the men and impossible for the women. It makes perfect sense that this image set would blatantly highlight the resistance to queers. Being queer can be the butt of jokes because there are no openly queer characters to offset the stereotypes. There is no one to defend the queer community and so to be anything but straight puts you in direct conflict with the rigid gender binary of masculine men and feminine women who only desire heterosexual relationships.

My response is that you cannot “get a little gay” and there is no way to “better” from your gayness because there was never anything to be fixed in the first place. I know I would feel better if Gohan if DBZ was not so heteronormative.

20 thoughts on “This is not Dragon Ball Z. Or is it?

  1. First, I just wanted to say that I love all of your posts. It is always lovely to find a blog that is focused around feminism, especially in analysing the culture of media (and a feminist who shares a love-dislike relationship with DBZ!) I agree with many of your points in this post, that DBZ is very much in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways, an anime/manga that is rife with sexism and homophobia to reaffirm particular ideals of gender and sexuality as normative within society.

    Keep up the great writing! Always a pleasure to read 🙂

  2. The DBZ facebook fandom is really awful and unfriendly, so I’m not surprised the image came from there.

    As for the series, there was a cringeworthy moment in the Buu Saga where Kid Trunks meets a homosexual stereotype fighter whose attracted to him at the tournament.

    Toriyama’s newest work contains a important character, the author describes as “possibly homosexual.” Though this character doesn’t show any sexual traits at all, the only thing he does is like teddy bears and other traditionally feminine things which hardly gives a sexuality at all.

      • Checking again, the stereotype character, called Otokosuki, also appeared in the manga.

        It was a work called Jaco Patrolman, it was ok, but the DragonBall references were really crammed in at the end and there were alot of contradictions.

        Also I might send an email

  3. General Blue is an openly gay character in the Japanese version (bulma correctly called him gay for not falling for her sexy show routine and it was hilarious) You really are a failed blogger for not knowing about general Blue’s gayness. (You could have just wiki’d it like everyone else who doesn’t like a show enough to watch it)

    You could have made a decent blog here by familiarizing yourself with dragon ball before talking shit about it. This post is about gayness in Dragon ball and you completely FAILED to mention a gay character from the original canon comic book. You went straight to the incorrect speculations about Tien and Chaouzu.

    If youre gonna talk about it AT LEAST GET IT RIGHT.

    • Hey man,

      Adding to the dialogue is great but calling her a “fail blogger” really isn’t. I think this person comes up with really great blog posts and regarding DBZ, does the best to her abilities in discussing a show she likes. General Blue isn’t the most well-known character and she’s doing this based on what she’s seen and thinks. I wouldn’t really say it’s “talking shit” but rather, more analyzing. I’m a big DBZ fan too but I’m not the only one who also doesn’t think it’s a perfect show.
      The topic that is being analyzed in her post is not GAYNESS itself but the portrayal of gayness. A show can have a gay character but if that character is being constantly put in a negative light and made fun of well that just shows that being gay is something that should be made fun because it’s funny to be gay. It’s like saying, “oh, you’re gay? HAHAHA!” I’m not saying General Blue is portrayed that way but I just wanted to give an example of how a show could be considered homophobic and still have gay characters. The mere presence of a gay character doesn’t mean a show isn’t homophobic and vice versa.

      Look…I’ve loved DBZ since I was a little kid but I still think it’s got its flaws like every other show. Thanks for contributing to the dialogue but let’s try not to trample on each other’s integrity in the process of sharing our opinions. So, do you agree to disagree?

  4. Im sorry but your Dragon ball blog just plain infuriates me. Stop trying to insult this beautiful show. It has cute cuddly animals that talk. How is it even hyper masculine? Because its not hyper masculine. Its masculine enough for an american audience thats why its successful. Most anime’s have feminine looking male characters which is just STRANGE.

  5. I really think you didnt read this manga. How did you NOT MENTION GENERAL BLUE!!! HES A GAY CHARACTER THAT FIGHTS WITH GOKU. HOW DID YOU OVERLOOK IT!!!!!!???????

  6. Its painfully obvious that you only trust Underwolf Yamucha to leave comments on your blog. Youre not gonna ever approve my comments no matter how calm i make them. Im actually fine as long as youre reading them because somebody has to try and get through to you. Youre acting like a communist blocking me from talking

    • Are you 13? Because 13-year olds are generally ignorant on communism and use whatever word comes in handy as an insult even if it’s not actually a bad thing, like “communist”. I’m asking because 13-year olds are still too young and don’t know many things about culture, politics, ethics and respect. If you’re around 13 years old I hope you learn all of those things when you grow up and have many civilized discussions in the future.

      Look, man, this blogger (cherylsconfections) loves DBZ. Just because you like something or because it’s something so popular as Dragon Ball it doesn’t mean that you, a fan or not, can’t criticize it. Dragon Ball Z is not perfect and we know it, and we accept it. There are things we don’t like, there are problems with it, and we talk about them, we don’t want to ignore them because we know they’re wrong. I love DBZ too but I find its glaring sexism and homophobia very unsettling and unfortunate. It’s a shame that one of my favorite series of all time has such problems.

      You can defend it blindly and attack this blogger all you want but that would be just choosing to deny such obvious issues. Even if your favorite anime has few but big flaws you can still like it, while analyzing and judging it in a respectful and realistic way. To be honest, as you ignore the problem DBZ has with sexism and homophobia and attack cherylsconfections with no valid reason you sound a bit like those childish DBZ and Naruto fanboys who fight with each other on the Internet as if only one of them was the “true religion” and ignore any flaw their favorite anime has while making up reasons to attack the other anime.

      Honestly, I don’t know if you’re still a kid or if you’re already an adult but either way I hope you mature.

  7. In response to all of Dan the Man’s comments:

    For someone who claims I am an ignorant communist with a blog that you find infuriating, you leave a lot of comments. I am only posting the ones that are relevant to the topic at hand and the comments that are the least bigoted.

    It doesn’t matter to me whether you believe me or not, but DBZ is very close to my heart. And it pains me when media that I love is sexist and homophobic. I am not sure you fully understood the point of my post. I was not insulting DBZ, but critiquing the show’s offensive look at queer identities. You are correct, I did not remember General Blue, but he actually illustrates my point clearly. He is a gay stereotype and, as you commented, it is funny when he doesn’t fall for Bulma.

    This is my critique: queerness should never be a joke or a personality trait as it is with General Blue. It is more than offensive. It is hateful. If you wish to continue to comment please understand my post first as it is simple courtesy.

    I hope you reasonably believe you have ´´gotten through to me“ because I can now honestly say I must be doing something right to engender such a response.

    • whats the point of your blog ? nothing is perfect, DBZ included , and it is also because of the flaws that we love it so much, please dont make a youtube video about this or try to sue the manga :O I would die ! we do not have a lot left, everything is being politically corrected and it is a LIVING NIGHTMARE . you think its homophobic ? DEAL WITH IT and leave DBZ ALONE .

      • I agree that nothing is perfect, but to sit around and say that we cannot make change is to accept injustice. I will not “deal with” DBZ’s homophobia or “leave DBZ alone” because it is up to fans to point out the flaws of the show so that mangas now and in the future can be made better and more inclusive for a range of gender and sexual identities. There needs to be hope for the future of the industry.

      • What’s the point of your comment? What’s the point of thinking? What’s the point of analyzing? I hope you realize that many kids who are misunderstood and stand on the sidelines of what society deems as “normal” are the ones going through the LIVING NIGHTMARE. She’s not shoving her ideas down your throat. No one is! I’m not either, I just want you to know that we all have the right to think (or not) think deeply about the things we deal with daily in life. Believe it or not, there are people who are gay and are embarrassed to talk about who they are because apparently society thinks their entire existence is a joke. So please take your own advice and DEAL WITH IT and leave her comments regarding DBZ ALONE if you’re not going to contribute intellectually to the dialogue.

  8. ps : as a lesbian or whatever you should realize the media power you hold today, and how a small thing you say can change everything for everyone else ! i repeat leave DBZ alone , we dont want it to be remade or whatever

    • PS: if you are trying to insult me by calling me a lesbian, I am sorry but you are incorrect and it is also not insulting. If you would look, the name of my blog is asexual feminist. Please refer to my sexuality as asexual in the future. Thank you. Also, please tell me what this media power is that I supposedly have because I know a lot of queer groups which could really use that information.

  9. I wonder why shows have to conform to pc maybe the writer doesnt support gays big deal its his show. He doesnt say wether he does or not but he should never be forced into something hes not apart of

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