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.

6 Aging Matters: Sexuality Minority Youth, Middle-Aged, and Elderly

  Everyone experiences the process of aging. However, the nature of the experience is certainly not uniform. Differences in the process can arise as a result of attributes such as gender, sexual orientation, economic disadvantage, race, class, and disability, or combinations of these attributes. How are old age and youth depicted in films and television dramas?
  It is said that Japanese films began to depict old age after the Second World War. Post-war Japanese films such as Broken Drum (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1949) and Tokyo Story successfully depicted old age via the theme of families that survived the Second World War. However, since the mid-1950s, when the period of high growth in Japan began, young audiences were attracted to Shintaro Ishihara’s Taiyozoku films, and the 1960s coming-of-age films typified by the work of Sayuri Yoshinaga. Interest in youth and old age can also be seen in television dramas, and various works in the “home drama” genre, in particular, have been the subject of widespread relevant discussion.
  The portrayal of old age and youth has not strayed far from the norms of heterosexuality. For example, on the assumption that the “home drama” is the forerunner of the coming-of-age film that focuses on love between a man and a woman, the audience or viewers are inculcated with values that position marriage to a member of the opposite sex, creation of a home, and growing old with your family and spouse, as the correct life course that someone “ought” to choose as they grow up. While it is true that not all coming-of-age films and home dramas present marriage and family as the ultimate goal of happiness, we should remain aware that, as the gender and sexuality norms that point to this kind of life course are reproduced and strengthened via Japanese visual media, the ageing experienced by some kinds of people is being ignored.
  Japan became an aging society in 1994, and in 2007, entered the territory of a super-aged society, with elderly people comprising more than 21% of the total population. Although, against a context of a super-aged society, films and television dramas on the theme of physical frailty and dementia have increased, works depicting sexual minorities in middle and old age such as EDEN (Masaharu Take, 2012) and Sato Family’s Breakfast, Suzuki Family’s Dinner (2013) are still rare. However, perhaps in response to the popularity of so-called kirakira (literally “sparkling”) coming-of-age films targeting a conventional female teenage audience, there has been a notable collection of works focused on the experience of young members of sexual minorities. If we filter the portrayal of sexual minorities through the lenses of old age and youth, what kind of imbalance in portrayal will be highlighted and whose existence will we find has been denied?