Naruto is Gay: Projections of Homoerotic Interpretations onto Narrative Hegemony in Archetypical Trios

In the complicated dynamics of decisions to project narrative relationships into erotic relationships in the form of fanfiction, the dynamics of aesthetics and classical compatibility may come to mind as a methodology for creating such relationships, however, by looking at the archetypical concept of the “trio” (two contrasting male protagonists with one sole female protagonist) in Naruto, Kingdom Hearts, and Attack on Titan, we can see that the dynamics of the duality of appropriation in fanfiction and resistive exploration and representation define erotic relationships based upon the objectification of male bodies via strong power dynamics, narrative underdevelopment, and abusive relationships. These dynamics then subvert other relationships within the narrative. Through this phenomenon, we can get a better understanding of the representation of media through fanfiction and projection of personal motivations into these fictions in relation to all to common trio archetypes, and the dually appropriative, resistive-to-normaitivty creative process of fanfiction writers to construct a communally sourced narrative that projects the canon onto the new based upon the dynamics of characters within a story and how these map to the configurations desired by the folk creative body of fanfiction writers. This archetype is common in many forms of literature, but can be most visibly exemplified by Japanese media in the past 10 years, where it has been extremely prevalent as a method to create multiple “main characters” that are intended to be equally important.

As primary sources with which to exemplify the dynamics of the archetypical characters in this paper, I’ve selected three scenes from Kingdom Hearts, Naruto, and Attack on Titan, naturally.

As the example for Attack on Titan, I’ve chosen a scene in which Eren is suspected of being a titan in human form by the military and is being threatened to be executed. Mikasa and Armin come to his side to try to vouch for him, but they are threatened too. The scene turns very dramatic very fast, with Eren having flashbacks to memories he doesn’t quite understand of his dead father, among other things, and he begins to understand his abilities. The main nuances of this scene are that normative gender roles (especially for the world war-like aesthetics of the story) are subverted very heavily, as Mikasa lifts Eren over her shoulder to try to protect him, and Armin is still there by their side, as they all frantically try to save themselves and each other, until the last moment before a cannon is fired upon them, and Eren partially turns into a Titan to defend all of them.


(3:18 – 7:25)

As particular examples of where some of the qualities of these architypes can be seen, I’ve chosen a scene where Sora is reunited with Riku and Kairi. In this scene, Sora greets Kairi with an awkward stuttering and inability to speak a sentence, along with an awkward hug, whereas his reuniting with Riku (which takes the form of Sora realizing that Riku is there with him, but not in a physical form that he recognized as him) and he breaks down to his knees, holding Riku’s hand and crying, saying “I looked for you” (it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this difference is even campy)

For the example of Naruto, I have chosen a well-known scene towards the beginning of the series where Naruto is in a classroom, squatting on a table in front of Sasuke (whether this is to intimidate him, or examine him is vauge), but he gets knocked over, and accidentally kisses Sasuke (to the dismay of the girls in the class, including Sakura). It is impossible to not call this scene a strong example of camp in the series, because the situation is just too absurd not to.

Kingdom Hearts Naruto Attack on Titan
Axel/Roxas – 40% Sasuke/Naruto – 44% Levi/Eren – 46%
Riku/Sora – 34% Kakashi/Iruka – 19% Marco/Jean – 21%
Kairi/Sora – 10% Sasuke/Sakura – 17% Levi/Erwin – 17%
Kairi/Riku/Sora – 8% Naruto/Hinata – 12% Historia/Ymir – 9%
Demyx/Zexion – 7% Sakura/Kakashi – 8% Armin/Eren – 7%

To gauge how fans create original content from these media, I’ve used the database of Archive of Our Own, a popular website to post fanfiction of numerous different series, often being in the thousands of submissions for particularly popular narratives. Using this database, we can not only gauge how popular fanfiction is for any particular series, but also see accurately the exact numbers of submissions, including submissions under specific tags. For our purposes, we’ll be looking at the tags for particular “ships”, or relationships that are tagged for any particular submission, which conveniently list the numbers of submissions for that particular tag. With this system, I’ve put together the relative proportions of particular “ships” in the top 5 tags of each series. (I’ve chosen to only look at the top 5, rather than the top 10, for instance, as there is a quick drop off of when the less popular tags get closer together in popularity and focus on more difficult to explain pairings of secondary characters)


Brienza, Casey. “Sociological Perspectives on Japanese Manga in America.” Sociology Compass 8, no. 5 (2014): 468-77. doi:10.1111/soc4.12158.

Brienza gives us an a theoretical framework with which we can see that fanfiction is a discursive process through which to explore cathartic projections of homoeroticism to resist normative, commercially guided media, as well as a way for the (predominantly straight women) fanfiction writers to project the object of desire onto exclusively men in erotic situations, and avoid the objectification of women

Dennis, Jeffery P. “Drawing Desire: Male Youth and Homoerotic Fan Art.” Journal of LGBT Youth 7, no. 1 (2010): 6-28. doi:10.1080/19361650903507734.

Jeffrey P. Dennis articulates the work of many scholars that “Ethnographic interviews with the writers reveal that most are heterosexual girls and women, using the male pairings to fantasize about erotic desire without female competition. This is to say that the male pairings construct a space of interpretations where women in the readership can fantacize about men without the context of the objectification or power dynamics with and between women, but rather with a pure sense of interaction between male characters as the replaced objects of desire that are intra-acting under this scheme of an alternative.

Green, Joshua, and Henry Jenkins. “Spreadable Media: How Audiences Create Value and Meaning in a Networked Economy.” The Handbook of Media Audiences, 2011, 109-27. doi:10.1002/9781444340525.ch5.

Henry Jenkins, the former director of media studies at MIT gives us a jumping off point for the motivations of readership to produce fanfiction at all, in the form of a succinct quote that he has reinforced time and time again: “Fanfiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk”

McHarry, Mark, Antonia Levi, and Dru Pagliassotti. Boys Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-cultural Fandom of the Genre. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, Publishers, 2010.

In Chapter 4 of Boys Love Manga, Mark John Isola unifies the motivations of fanfiction writers with the consequences of their actions, in the form of a duality that the production of homoerotic fan fiction by predominantly straight women as a way to resist the normative narratives of heteroerotic patriarchy and project the object of desire solely to men is inseparable from the consequence that this action produces an appropriation of the lived experiences of gay men into an unreal, unlived, sterilized version of homoeroticism that complicates, misrepresents, and warps the perceptions and developments of queer identities.

 The Final Product

Theatrical Capital Without Theatrical Meaning in This Is America

Childish Gambino’s music video This Is America comes as an immediate shock to anyone who sees it. From the guitarist shot execution-style at the beginning to the chorus getting mowed down at the hands of Gambino with an assault rifle, mirroring the mas murder at a Charleston church, the video very deliberately focuses on the constant violence against black bodies while awkwardly juxtaposing it behind entertainment and black art. Gambino’s point is shocking and provoking, but provoking of what? The video has many many layers of imagery to focus on the objectification of black bodies, from the fact that the entire video is shot within a warehouse (referencing the direct commodification of all that are trapped within the warehouse), to the confederate pants that Gambino wears, to the (referencing the close proximity to the end of slavery), to the Jim Crow-era exaggeration of black features that Gambino portrays in himself, black objectification is pervasive awkwardly throughout the entire video, to show that the facts of reality when laid bare are very awkward. However, where does the theme go beyond this?Image result for this is america

The video portrays blatant violence against black bodies, obviously as a point to provoke and shock the viewer, but further than that, where does it go? Gambino also uses the dancing of himself and black children as an awkward juxtaposition of two things that we are wildly saturated with: violence against black bodies and entertainment from black bodies. Both being strong forms of objectification that he is highlighting. The main relation being that the entertainment ironically overshadows the violence. Is the use of violence as a creative tool by Gambino complicit, or the point itself? Whatever direction that critiques of This Is America go, they all seem to converge at the possible analysis that this is the point; he’s his use of tactics that are common in popular media, though exaggerated, is the point he is trying to make. A critique of this overall creative method lies in a difficult space between Raquel Gates’s point, “[…] this focus on the alleged impact of reality TV on young people is a coping mechanism aimed at alienating feelings of helplessness or frustration in a world where structural racism still has material and political effects by assuring black people that the end of racism and oppression is as close as one “good” black character on television.” and Audre Lorde’s statement, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”; that is to say that the critique of Gambino’s theatrical toolbox being in bulk violence and objectification could simply be grasping at a portrayal that has negligible effects, or it could be validly pointing out a poor performance that could otherwise get across the same themes without using the same tools of sterilized black culture and bodies and the violences against them as theatrical capital. As a perspective of where similar themes are being portrayed, but in a very different emotional light, we’ll look at Flying Lotus’s Never Gonna Catch Me feat. Kendrick Lamar.

In this music video, the scene shifts shots by way of subject-to-subject transitions, all within the same scene, but giving the viewer a sense of omnipotent viewership of the scene of a small church, where a funeral of two black children is being held. As expected of Hiro Murai, the scene is surreal, by omitting sounds of the scene itself, but only using the sound of the song; there is no ambiance. The scene breaks its solid mood of mourning when the two children wake up. They start dancing, in an awkward juxtaposition of the moods of dancing, happy children, in a church full of family and friends mourning their deaths, where the mourners are completely unaware.

Hiro Murai Flying Lotus Never Catch Me The children shift from dancing to running, as they run from their own caskets, in a way like children running from an obligation, like a normal church service, rather than their own funeral. They’re having fun, celebrating their lives, giving the viewer an unexpected emotional experience out of this normally grim scene. As the children run away from the funeral, the scene opens up to the outside of the church, where they’re able to dance and enjoy the sunlight, with other black children, in a normal, happy neighborhood setting. The scene is now completely happy, with no reference to the previously grim scene that the children were just in, that is until they run to steal the hearse that was meant for them. As they steal the hearse, they’re still happy, celebrating their lives, and triumphing over the death that just loomed over them. The last shot, highlighting this the most, is the boy in the passenger seat of the hearse that was meant to transport him to his grave, feeling the wind in his face and smiling as he rides away.


Obviously, Flying Lotus’s music video has a much more uplifting, freeing overall message than Gambino’s video, however still juxtaposing the same elements, but in very different ways. The theme is still there: we must reconcile constant, unnatural deaths of innocent black bodies, but how each artist copes with the deaths are very different. Gambino’s video is full of shocking depictions of the deaths themselves, inciting discomfort and even rage, whereas the Flying Lotus video highlights the triumphs over death, or even specifically despite death. Flying Lotus gives us a celebration of life, and Childish Gambino gives us a disavowal of the environment that allows the death to happen in the first place, both being different stages of grief. Flying Lotus, however, gives us more to the theme than just simply the injustice of these deaths while children can have fun and dance. Flying Lotus’s music video is a celebration of life and the beauty that freedom in culture and life can create, all while using the same method of juxtaposing death with dance. Does Gambino have a point? Yes, of course, just as rage at a funeral can be just, but dwelling on this rage and going no further in the theme than simply highlighting fear and injustice is further perpetuating the injustice that has been done to the people that are being mourned and the more who will be mourned. Gambino shows us the deaths that must be mourned, thus being complicit in the mass bombardment of exposure to violence against black bodies, whereas Flying Lotus highlights the obvious injustice (simply in the form of the deaths of children) and pushes us further to celebrate the freedom  and beauty in life to triumph over death.

White Brotherhood: The Privileged Control of the Past and Future of Collective Memory

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP can be views as the same coin upon which the two sides of Notes of a Signifyin Snap! Queen by Marlon Riggs and Forgetting ACT UP by Alex Juhasz lie. One tells the story of a gay black man’s journey through life and into academia and journalism, only to be rejected by a societal brotherhood that he’s realized only wishes for his to conform or die, while Juhasz’s work shows a similarly somber view of the act of archival of ACT UP and the remembrance of ACT UP itself. At the center of both can lie this documentary of what happened in the span of time covered in the film’s lens.

Riggs’s piece gives a histrical-biographical account of the 90s and living as a black gay man. As he recalls the experience of entering Harvard, studying history, then going on to realize journalism, and seeing around him black men, gay men, but no black gay men to speak of. This develops his sense of alienation from the culture of Harvard, having to don a mask of the “Silent Black Macho” to get by as what he can pass as by his appearance alone: a “hidden” intellectual, within a black body, using this stereotype as a defense to not be branded as something worse than what is already labeled in his skin.

Riggs’s experiences of academia was further alienated as he pursued journalism, hoping to study “the evolution of the depiction of male homosexuality in American fiction and poetry”, but was told at every turn by professors that they were “not experts” in the subject, and therefore did not want to touch it. He could only find a graduate student willing to work with him in his interests, and thus realized that there were levels of “allowance” in academia to which you could go against the grain of academic conformism, and he was too far out at the margins, for those with academic power to want to touch his intellectual curiosities. This discovery, or rather rediscovery of the brotherhood of academia that is a brotherhood of whiteness that he saw anyway mirrors the work of ACT UP, such that the bureaucratic levels of the FDA, CDC, and the federal government generally had levels of “allowance” to what they could pay attention, and dying gay people were too far outside of the brotherhood of business as usual, so suddenly everyone tasked (as were their jobs) with treating the AIDS epidemic were “not experts”, where the people at teh center of the issues had to become the experts.

Juhasz’s piece on the remembrance and misremembrance of ACT UP serves as a similar discovery of the actions of the white brotherhood intelligentsia, in the opposite direction in time; where Riggs’ experiences illuminate the actions of the brotherhood to preserve the past, Juhasz’ work illuminates the work of the brotherhood to maintain a hold on the future. In Forgetting ACT UP, Juhasz illuminates the perspectives of ACT UP (mostly in the sense of their past actions) and shows that many representations of ACT UP not only forget the more grassroots level work by activists (the smaller actions like community education), but also forget the actions of people of color within the movement. This collective lack of archival of the work of activists of color is of course heavily coupled to the fact that grassroots actions were heavily carried out by people of color, whereas the “sexier” (=whiter) actions of protest and ACTing UP were far more representative of white activists. Juhasz even from the beginning shares a perspective that veteran activists often did not recognize the majority of people at ACT UP meetings when the movement gained heavy traction. The exciting, emotional work was very often done by white, educated, gay activists, whereas the more grassroots, dangerous, possibly even less consequential work was done by people of color, and was thus forgotten in the eyes of documentaries like United in Anger, where most of the representation of activism was activism in the form of these more heated, controversial demonstrations, rather than smaller actions of education or civil disobedience. In the wake of the upheaval of the makeup of activism, fewer veterans appeared at ACT UP meetings, and the movement a the superficial, but most visible level was overwhelmingly privileged.

Opposing Expressions of the Erotic: Four Women and The Woman’s Movie

From the perspectives we can take from Audre Lorde’s The Uses of the Erotic, we can view these two pieces, The Woman’s Film and  Four Women as two opposing ways to express the erotic.

The Woman’s Film builds up an air of revolution and revolutionary speech, in a direct implementation of the ideas of Lorde, slowly progressing the film into the use of more and more revolutionary speech, relating to Lorde’s thesis in the form of gradually releasing “the erotic” from the interviewees of the film, a statement on the nature of revolution and/or revolutionary speech: that it must be done gradually. In The Woman’s Film, less revolutionary, more commonly articulated thoughts fade into and blend with more revolutionary speech (even blatantly advocating violent revolution in response to the violence against women and minorities). In this way, The Woman’s Film presents a vision against the spontaneity of eroticism, for the sake of avoiding alienation of audiences. However, this does not mean that The Woman’s Film avoids the heaviest parts of revolutionary speech from women altogether. It still presents a narrative of radical speech that is still representative of the full expression of radical thought by oppressed women; eroticism to the fullest extent of radicalism.

Four Women, on the other hand, expresses eroticism as radical expression in the form of a much more artistic vision, which is often more linked to the vector of erotic expression as sexuality, especially in the form of dance. Four Women combines many forms of expression deeply linked to the erotic: powerfully vocally-based soul music, solo dance, solo dance, artistically deliberate use of color in cinematography, and even the intrinsic nature of the lyrics themselves. The vocals of Nina Simone are deeply powerful (as expected of a powerful singer of her calibre) and express power from the strong voice that is put behind each note and verse, plunging the audience into the depths of the singer’s most intimate feelings, a form of intimacy that breaks through layers upon layers of repression of deeper expression as articulated by Lorde. The solo dance is especially expressive of deeper emotions, as the dancer is sharing their expression directly with the audience an expression similar to The Woman’s Film‘s form of interview; a solitary act of defiance and expression. The use of color in Four Women visually brings the audience deep into the intimate setting as well, as the film is s

Four Women is set in a deep red background, with the dancer backlit to focus on the dancer’s silhouette

et on a deep red background, accentuating the silhouettes of the dancer to intentionally focus on the flowing, morphing form of the dancer. The lyrics further express the intrinsic, erotically expressive film, as they tell of the most readily perceived and readily caricatured features of women as they are compartmentalized into their race, yet are still individuals, as Simone’s lyrics focus on the features of the women (“My skin is black/My arms are long/My hair is woolly[…]My skin is yellow/My hair is long[…]My skin is tan/My hair is fine”), but gives the women names, or at least names that they are perceived as (“My name is Aunt Sarah/My name is Saffronia/My name is Sweet Thing/My name is Peaches”). Julie Dash expressed the lyrics through the choreography and performance of L. Martina Young, as four different women, expressing radical, erotic, intimate dances that each persona represents. Though the dancer is just one woman, she expresses the deepest, most radical, yet intuitive thoughts of many women. Lorde would respond to this as an attempt to capture—through Simone’s Four Women—the subverted experiences of many women in the form of an explosively erotic performance (a method of releasing the suppressed erotic singularity that Lorde describes as cathartic and even necessary).

Ultimately, Four Women and The Woman’s Film both attempt to express that which is erotic, the subverted, the repressed, but the very radical of many women at once; the former through the artistic expression of a group of women, and the latter through the narrative/verbal expression of a group of women. Both of which express ideas to be representative of many, but one gradually and the other explosively.