enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


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?