What are some of your favorite meme-quotes and characters? Is it Tamaki calling himself Daddy in Ouran High School Host Club? Is it Ed’s refusal to be called a half-pint bean sprout midget in FMA/FMAB? Is it “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH” from Dragon Ball Z?
In case you haven’t looked at the title, one of my personal faves is Joseph Joestar, the iconic American JoJo, and his isms: oh no, oh my god, holy shit and son of a bitch.
And while we can, as most do, write this off as silly slap-stick comic relief, I invite us to consider some deeper frequencies resonating here. We’ve got to question at some point why to convey the character in this manner and risk making them look like mere caricatures.
This series is interesting to me in the way it blends magical realism. Think about it: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is very specific about the uses of time and space throughout the series. Despite being this science-fiction / fantasy story about blood masks, vampires, and soul fighters called “stands”, much of the setting is hyper-realistic to our world. JBA doesn’t hesitate in including multiple and varying cultures, including and apart from our JoJos: we get the original Proper English Boy with Johnathan, the over-the-top obnoxious American with Joseph, the Ice Cold Chillness of Japanese Jotaro, as well as others. Each with his own character quirks and quotes.
Joseph isn’t just funny; he’s fun. Everything about this character is so over-the-top, it borderlines on absurd. From his youth to his seniority, JoJo embodies a rare kind of silliness. He’s not afraid to be a complete fool or goofball, and perhaps that’s why he’s such an endearing and lovable character.
You can check out some of the catchphrases here in this comp:
*may include spoilers*
These catchphrases are said in English, despite watching in Japanese, and adds realism for JoJo as an American. They usually convey shock, fear, pain, disgust or anger with an emphasis on overreacting, making mountains out of mole hills and jumping to conclusions.
His excessive use of profanity rejects the upstanding morals previously imposed and embodied by his English grandfather, Johnathan. On the contrary, Joseph is a complete foil to his JoJo predecessor: he’s insensitive, perverted and petty. He swears like a sailor.
The use of curse words exposes America’s lack of consideration for others, or brazen self-centered attitude. It demonstrates a lack of maturity, despite Joseph being an old man and grandfather. This is a metaphor for America’s own immaturity as a young yet powerful country.
Furthermore, these instances are often times after a mistake. His inability to tolerate failure encapsulates America’s own infatuation with winning and being the “best”. These childish outbursts are similar to that of an adult temper-tantrum in the face of loss or things not going his way.
Religion & Blasphemy
If you’re not interested in hearing the satire on American usage of “God” and religion from a semi-Christian/Catholic perspective, feel free to skip this section. (:
Let’s talk about the third commandment, since that’s what makes this language offensive to some folks. If you’ve not read much of the bible, it basically means to treat the names of God with reverence. This can be broken down into insulting or showing contempt or a lack of reverence for God, claiming the attributes of God for a man, or to suggest all men are divine.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
–Exodus 20:7, ESV
That all being said, context matters.
There’s a question as to when using the term “God” is worthy. We’re taught not to judge worth, that we cannot judge worth. And if we’re talking honestly, there are no human context which can add enough worth: even when we talk about a God with reverence, we never do it justice and we can never glorify enough or be able to accurately convey God.
I’m trying to say that if there’s no human context in which God can really be used or expressed with accuracy or enough reverence, then using it as a satire to inform humanity of their cultural norms (and how those cultural norms act in complete contradiction to God’s teachings), is a good use of it.
When I was in the UK I told people I was from Canada because I didn’t want to get branded as a loud American. That, and I didn’t want to deal with talking about Trump. When people eventually found out I was from the States, they would say “Oh but you’re so quiet” or “wow, you’re not obnoxious at all though”.
In regards to the show, the “blasphemous phrases” are used only for his character. While it could just be for comic relief, I read it as a social satire on American hyperbole, and specifically, American hyperbole on religion (e.g. God) in inappropriate ways. How often do we possibly offend others (including God) by being obnoxious? A lot. How often do we claim God or Jesus or the Bible as (false) evidence to justify our social agendas or political propaganda? JoJo’s constant use of these phrases force viewers to question themselves and/or America’s ambivalence to religious sacredness.
Joseph is a macho dude. He’s oozing testosterone and competitiveness. He has an explosive personality, a short fuse to match his short patience and he relies on violence and aggression to solve all of his problems. Perhaps that’s why his particular stand is so insightful: Hermit Purple isn’t a fighting stand. Actually, as far as stands go, it’s pretty bloody useless. Instead, JoJo must rely on others to do the fighting and protecting.
Hero Archetype & Cowardice
While he’s genuinely profane, Joseph wants to come off as a hero. He wants to be smooth. Perhaps out of naivety, he continually risks his life to save weaker individuals, or those he cares about.
Even his habit of predicting what his rivals will say demonstrates a yearning for superpowers, or to be all-knowing. But we must question whether that’s all there is to JoJo’s silliness. Are we laughing at his opponent as he is? Or are we laughing at him? It’s an important distinction to make, and I argue it’s the latter. Which makes me question: is he actually taking what he says seriously? Or is this all a huge satire and rebellion of the tropes he’s supposedly representing. Again, I’m arguing for the latter here.
Yup. When a big bad who’s stronger than him shows up, he has no problems with turning tail and leaving asap. Would a true hero do this? Or is he, wearing a heroic skin, mocking the American glorification and idolization of hero-type figures?
Later on, Joseph admits to collecting comic books, again referencing his infatuation with and desire to be a hero. However, he’s again showing his cowardice— his fear of pain, death and loss.
Vulnerability, Pain & Emotion
He’s a character who shows us all of his emotions. Unlike the stoic Jotaro, Joseph embraces his intense emotions. For example, he hesitate in sobbing at the death of a loved one.
Positive Masculinity and Brotherhood
Not only does Jojo embody the American tendency to embody your emotions in an overwhelming manner, he does so in a way that subverts gender norms and stereotypes. One of my favorite things about this series is that it gives a big F.U. to toxic masculinity. The relationships between men are supportive, filled to the brim with camaraderie, yes, but more importantly, there’s an emphasis on vulnerability. These are men who care and love each other deeply, without constantly slapping a “no homo” on their friendship and bonds.
That’s all for this one!
Watch on, Annieme-niac!