Homosexuality Japan in Japan's Progressive Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2974 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

Homosexuality Japan

In "Japan's Progressive Sex: Male Homosexuality, National Competition, and the Cinema," Jonathan M. Hall (2000) connects the "gay boom" in Japanese cinema with Japanese gender construction, gender norms, and Japanese nationalism. By framing male homosexuality as a reflection of heterosexual female desire, Japanese filmmakers reflect but also substantiate cultural values and social norms. Gay male sexuality is appropriated, manipulated, and marketed in ways that are meaningful within Japanese culture but also reflective of globalization.

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Gay male imagery and themes permit the exploration of female heterosexuality and female gender identity within a patriarchal society. For instance, the heterosexual female assuages fears of male sexual predation, as the gay male is a safe friend and even safe bed partner. Hall (2000) notes that the gay male is presented as a pet for a heterosexual female. "It feels just like petting my cat," says one woman in Crea magazine (cited by Hall, 2000, p. 63). Petting her cat is not lesbian innuendo, either; it is a clear dehumanization of the gay male, who becomes nothing but an animal tool of the heterosexual female target market. Moreover, there is a cultural commentary embedded in the text. The same woman in the Crea magazine advertisement says about her gay bedfellow, "When the two of us snuggle up together, there is no disgusting feeling," (p. 63). She is reflecting a social norm and a gender imperative for heterosexual females: heterosexual relations are "disgusting," (p. 63). Whether the Crea advertisement purposefully creates or simply reflects social norms is not within the province of Hall's analysis, but the example does reveal the complex, contradictory, and complicated sexualities in Japanese popular culture.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Homosexuality Japan in Japan's Progressive Assignment

Moreover, the relationship between the heterosexual female and the gay male falls under a unique category or social classification. The woman who might be called a "hag" in the West is referred to as an okoge, "a young woman for whom an interest in and relations with gay men are paramount," (Hall, 2000, p. 64). This may suggest a de-sexualization of the heterosexual female, or of any female, as she is not interested in intimacy with someone capable of offering her sexual pleasure. Instead, her highest and deepest pleasure is to connect with a gay man. The gay man is someone who is safe, but also who does not offer the threat of lesbian identity. However, as Hall (2000) points out, the relationship is neither constrained by sex or by gender. Sex as in sexual relations are ruled out; but also, the societal constraints of gender norms are eliminated through an evaluation of the special relationship that develops between the okoge and her homosexual male friend.

Hall (2000) finds a "pedagogic purpose" to the okoge representations in the media, which is the important political dimension to Hall's (2000) overall analysis (p. 64). The pedagogic purpose is to train, teach, and socialize the heterosexual female audience. As evidence of the claim, Hall (2000) finds footnotes liberally added to magazine articles, as if explaining terms in a textbook. One of the learning objectives, according to Hall (2000) seems to be the subversion, sublimation, and transcendence of gender categories. Although Hall (2000) seems convinced that the underlying motive is not truly feminist, but "pseudo-feminist," the rhetoric does seem to be the breakdown of patriarchal norms, political institutions, and social structures. The problem is that Hall (2000) also locates the re-branding both of the gay male and of the heterosexual female squarely within consumerism: it is a marketing agenda that is problematic because it is manufactured. Thus, the representations of both gay male and heterosexual female in media reflect the appropriation of both and thus it serves only to perpetuate patriarchy in general. As Hall (2000) puts it, "Male homosexuality, in this schema, serves neither gay male nor feminist revisionings of social systems, but the proprietary standards of female virginity," (p. 66).

Critics of "gay boom" Japanese cinema point out the distinct cultural nuances and humor styles embedded in the text and subtext. In particular, Japanese "gay boom" films present homosexuality without the sexuality, in ways that are non-threatening and thus in denial of homophobia entirely. Whereas homosexuality is portrayed as having either an erotic or political dimension (or both) in American cinema, in Japan, homosexuality has a lighthearted, fluffy dimension that appeals to the virginal female in ways similar to Hello Kitty.

Hall's (2000) methodology in "Japan's Progressive Sex: Male Homosexuality, National Competition, and the Cinema" is primarily to evaluate Japanese visual culture via the modes and methods of media criticism, symbolic interactionism, and the history of consciousness, which is the author's area of specialization. Issues related to globalization, colonization, post-colonization, and cultural appropriation are central to the discussion. The author is careful also to point out the trouble with providing an analysis like this for a Western (mainly American) readership, even though its source material is Japanese, and is therefore not being viewed from a Japanese perspective at all given the author's admittedly Anglo-American identity. The author evaluates several Japanese films in detail, but also includes ample references to other elements and ancillary media that reflect similar themes related to the "gay boom" in Japanese popular culture and pornography. Hall (2000) outlines the primary audience of the article as a binary readership because the analysis consists of film studies and also of queer studies. In terms of film studies, the article fits in with the corpus of literature developed since the mid-twentieth century related to the depiction of Japanese sexuality in Japanese cinema. The author briefly mentions New Wave Japanese cinema as a predecessor to the "gay boom. As a queer studies inquiry, "Japan's Progressive Sex: Male Homosexuality, National Competition, and the Cinema" also provides insight into how the media navigates social hierarchies and informs gender identity. Hall (2000) remains summarily concerned with the overlap between nation and sexuality (p. 33).

When viewed as a transnational element, the Japanese "gay boom" is a pastiche of sexualities, gender roles, gender identities, and gender norms. Okoge and other films that are under scrutiny in this report were produced in the 1990s, which was according to Hall (2000) the heyday of Japanese gay cinema produced primarily for commercial reasons. Hall (2000) calls Okoge "the central text of the gay boom cinema," (p. 33-34). The film touches upon male homosexuality in ways unconventional from a Japanese perspective, especially given the subversion of traditional family values and gender roles. Furthermore, Hall (2000) locates the heterosexual female within Okoge, and provides a core critique of Japanese gendered realities. In addition to Okoge, Hall (2000) discusses Kirakira hikaru (Twinkle, 1992), and 800 tsu? rappu ranna-zu (800 Two Lap Runners, 1994). These films arrived on a wave of what can be called a consumer trend toward gay imagery and themes, which were started and popularized by an issue of Crea, a women's fashion magazine. The issue of Crea called Gei runessansu (Gay Renaissance) presented gay male identity and culture as a trend. It was thus as a trend that the gay boom cinema emerged.

The film Okoge is chosen not only for its content, but also for its commodification as a globally marketed cinema artifact. Being exported may have legitimized Okoge, and also by extent, the themes embedded in the movie. Those themes are reflective of Japanese cultural values and norms related to gender and sexuality, but at the time Okoge was produced, its filmmakers had already been influenced by American cultural values and norms related to homosexuality and gender. Thus influenced by American and also European gender and sexuality identities, Japanese cinema digested the elements appropriate for its market and regurgitated a body of work that is being reflexively analyzed by American authors like Hall (2000). Using digestive diction is purposefully reflexive also of Hall's (2000) statement related to "dislodging this constipation, I also hope to join Rofel's cautioning project," (p. 33). Clearly, there is a process of cultural consumption, digestion, absorption, and regurgitation occurring, which may or may not have nutritional value.

Hall (2000) does not focus on the closet as a metaphor, but does discuss Japanese versions of a closeted identity. If visibility, openness, and cultural transformation are the goals of the American politics of the closet, then the closet may have different and more complicated meanings for Japanese society. Western projections onto Japanese society invariably run up against contradictions that cannot be navigated or resolved with a American mindset. Without the Japanese linguistic, symbolic, or cultural framework, it is impossible to interpret accurately the media in question. All interpretations are colored by a cultural lens. The closet is one of the most American motifs to be unearthed in the Japanese gay boom. Whether to project upon Japan an aura of sexual repression, sexual promiscuity, or sexual progressiveness depends on the viewer. Typically, Asian cinema in general is viewed as a nationalist emblem that presents sexual norms as national norms. The closet is integral to sexual norms, as heterosexual marriage, family structure, and childrearing are tantamount to personal pleasure and self-satisfaction from… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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