Mental Health and Workers’ Rights in the Workplace
In the Netflix anime series, Aggretsuko, we follow the lead as she tries to balance her work, her life, her relationship status, and her mental health. All of which made this anime highly relatable in today’s modern workplace. My Aggretsuko Review mainly delves into how this anime accurately portrays a female working-class person.
This is more of a critique of society and its work culture. Unlike my other write-ups like my Fumetsu no anata e review which deals more with the philosophy of life and immortality which is also, by far, my most read article yet. But if you don’t want an existential dread but want some lift-me-up article, I highly suggest you find strength with my Quotes from One Piece Anime.
Retsuko, the Protagonist of this series, is a young red panda struggling to find purpose in her daily life. For some oddball reason, she, however, reminds me of an Adult Version of Hello Kitty. The Kitty, but with life struggles and burdens weighing down on her.
The Series, however, has to be hands-down one of the most Adult-theme Anime series I have seen so far. Just to be clear–I don’t mean ‘Hentai’, but one that has to do with work, culture, society, and mental health.
Modern Workplace Atmosphere
So the modern workplace, and by this, I am mainly referring to Shillong–Meghalaya work culture since it’s where I am. And I don’t know if perhaps it’s similar to the work culture elsewhere. Regardless, the need ‘to have’ or ‘to attain’ economic stability, one has to forgo ideas of happiness or dignity of work. If we are to look for Job satisfaction, living wages, friendly and Growth-oriented work environment, then we are looking at an impossible dream. Something that will never happen… well, at least not yet.
In Shillong especially, Officers and Elites of society treat their staff and co-workers like dirt. They’d rather buy their pedigree pets’ expensive food than give scraps to their employees. This Anime also shows bits of that in the workplace. A PIG as a Boss, How Relatable!!
Retsuko, the everyday office worker like many young and fresh worker enter the workplace hopeful and excited. Starting a new life as an employee and then it gets as real as it can. The anime then shows her five years later, struggling to drag herself to work. We also see how a worker tries to handle the stress of the work environment. Retsuko’s way is to go to the toilet and rage out to some Death Metal songs. Heck!! Maybe the only answer to workplace stress is to rage out to some Metal Music. That’s the answer we all are searching for!
Cycle of Modern Life
Retsuko’s life is all too familiar to workers here. In each short episode, the storyline is painfully relatable as frustrating. This despair is what the majority of “lower” rank employees would feel on a daily basis.
Even now, in 2021, a year after the pandemic, frontline workers and others are still facing discrimination and their importance not recognised.
In Aggretsuko, the boss is—literally—a sexist pig, and workplace harassment is portrayed very well even in this anime. While we cannot control the various personalities in the workplace, there are definitely some things that are non-negotiable. No one should tolerate or accept any type of harassment or abuse in the workplace. Women and even men alike, in the workplace, must oppose things like Lewd comments and Macho Jokes. But sadly, that does not happen (especially in Meghalaya). The forces of toxic masculinity and objectification of women still reign supreme even in the Workplace.
We see in the Anime that while signing up for a yoga class, Retsuko runs into two powerful women she sees at work, Washimi and Gori. These women are in positions of power and they help her deal with workplace harassment and abuse. Although they are successful and powerful, they also have to disguise their real self in the workplace or work environment. The sacrifice of their own mental health and wellbeing just to stay on top of the corporate hierarchy. But for Retsuko, such important ‘nakama’s’ she can look up to for support is the reason we need more women in leading positions in the workplace and how changes can be made in the workplace environment.
All people have a set of defence mechanisms that are either inherent or taught by observational learning to conformist ideas. Society has hammered these into each individual, which we rely on when we feel our integrity is at risk. Or when we want to fit in and not be termed as “the aggressor”.
Science of Sublimation
Sublimation is the quintessential high-functioning defense mechanism. According to Anna Freud – the founder of child psychoanalysis, a contributor to the ego and adolescent psychology. The one who provided clear explanations of the ego’s defense mechanisms in her book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936) – represents the ability to substitute an intense emotion (for example, anger) with an activity that is socially acceptable. For Retsuko, Death Metal Karaoke is that sublimation and for all the workers oppressed, they probably have their own take.
Her death metal songs are an outlet to her frustrations and anger that she keeps bottled up from the pressure of work and societal expectations. They show how unhappy Retsuko is with her life, but as a form of self-expression, allowed her to continue her disguised as a well-mannered female employee whose behaviour and actions are acceptable by these unwritten rules of society.
The creators of Aggretsuko were, in my opinion, able to show important themes of mental health, work-life balance, feminism, and the negative consequences of power dynamics. The Anime also shows what it means to enter adulthood and to come to terms with its responsibilities. Albeit somewhat toxic, but realistic workplace environment while being true to yourself and not give up clinging to any remnants of hope that you have.
Aggretsuko effortlessly masks serious topics with a facade of humor and it unpacks various sorts of workplace harassment. It did so for the viewers to dissect and continuously feel queasiness because of how relatable it can be.
It is okay to be angry about discrimination and harassment. And I hope that the younger generation continues to challenge old mindsets. It is not okay to continue being in an environment that suppresses growth and happiness. They do not have to accept the ill-treatment of workers by the management, whether in the government sector, private, or even religious sector.
I hope Retsuko unites her comrades and fights back against the company and the corporate world. So shall we, as workers, unite and also demand for a better work environment. An environment that caters to living wages, job security, mental wellbeing of its workers, and we shall become people who cannot be exploited so easily.
At the end of the day, Aggretsuko completely reinvents the image of the average working woman. By doing so, Aggretsuko has done something revolutionary in the simplest and wittingly humorous way. The show is able to challenge workplace dynamics while also acknowledging that all women are unique and interesting. By acknowledging that, the show is able to relate and hopefully gives hope to women in the workplace to not allow blanket statements of what a working woman is or should be.
Also, since I’m a counsellor by profession, I’d love nothing more than to interact and help people as much as I can. So don’t be afraid to leave a message on my Instagram or facebook. In case you’ve had enough of your workplace and wanted to talk to someone about it.
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