enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


5 Japanese Media and the LGBTQ+ Community in the New Millennium

  If we track the development of queer films as distributed in Japan since the end of the 20th century, there has been steady progress toward the current situation in 2020 whereby sexual minorities have gained more visibility. Behind these changes lie movements in society regarding the lives and rights of sexual minorities. Film culture has played an important role in supporting these social movements while simultaneously diversifying in terms of shooting medium and screening format. Audiences and filmmakers belonging to the LGBTQ+ community release and appreciate films via independent cinemas, film festivals, VHS/DVD/Blu-ray, or digital release, and the formation of queer cinema culture also seems strongly linked to the development of social media. That said, in mainstream film culture in Japan and overseas, sexual minorities still have a marginal existence, and it is hoped that more works that express various sexualities and gender identities will be produced.
  After the so-called “gay boom” of the 1990s and the rise of film festivals specializing in queer and LGBT films, how have sexual minorities and intimacy between people of the same sex been depicted in the media space in the 2000s and thereafter? With regard to relevant television dramas, in the so-called “gay boom” of the 1990s, gay men were depicted in Dosokai (1993) and Asunaro Hakusho (1993) and, from the 2000s, transgender people were depicted in Kinpachi Sensei (2001), Watashi ga watashi de aru tame ni (2006) and Life As a Girl (2018), etc., and lesbians were depicted in Transit Girls (2015) and Kotaki kyodai to shiku hakku (2020), etc. In addition, drama series have occasionally had single episodes with sexual minority storylines.
  Meanwhile, the film industry has also released various relevant works. These are often part of a transmedia strategy, and many works where the main character is a sexual minority or where affection between people of the same sex is depicted are based on novels, shojo manga (graphic novels aimed at teenage girls) or boys love manga (graphic novels depicting romance between young men mainly aimed at a female audience). Since the onset of the so-called “LGBT boom” noticeable in Japan from 2012, the number of relevant works has gradually increased. However, apart from a few works such Sato Family’s Breakfast, Suzuki Family’s Dinner (2013), and Farewell Song (Akihiko Shiota, 2019), the majority concentrate on the portrayal of gay men, and it is necessary to consider the causes of this imbalance in portrayal. Furthermore, although the sexual orientation of the filmmaker is immaterial to the production of works depicting sexual minorities, we should not overlook the fact that currently few filmmakers are openly gay.