UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Queer japanese cinema : a rich and diverse cultural history’s challenge to hegemonic ideologies of gender and sexuality Ferguson, Joshua M.


There is a rich and diverse corpus of queer Japanese cinema that relates to Japan’s pre-modern cultural specificities around and apropos of male-male sexuality and non-normative genders. A significant amount of academic work has explored and articulated Japan’s queer past; however, Japan’s queer cinema has largely been ignored and/or overlooked. The first chapter provides my anthropological foundation for male-male sexuality in the samurai class and queer gendered embodiments through the bishōnen and onnagata. In the second chapter, I explore the West’s (particularly, America’s) ideological influence on Japan in terms of gender and sexuality. This Western influence managed to obliterate Japan’s queer cultural history. This chapter will investigate the reason behind Japan’s assimilation of Western ideologies in relation to gender and sexuality. In the third chapter, I construct a theoretical model that examines how the cinematic apparatus works to maintain normative ideologies on gender and sexuality. I term this model the Gendered Sexuality Ideological Cinematic Apparatus (GSICA) and employ Foucault, Althusser and Butler as critical philosophers that offer tools in the construction of the GSICA. The GSICA is a key theory because it works to elucidate the meaning behind Japan’s cinematic representation of male-male sexuality and non-normative gender. I examine four generic categories in Japanese cinema: samurai jidaigeki, samurai shin jidaigeki, yakuza gendaigeki and shin yakuza gendaigeki. I argue that these films, in representing specific time periods, work to either repudiate cultural history and/or represent it explicitly in relation to the time period which the film depicts. These representations allude to an intense queer representational and cultural struggle in Japanese cinema. It is time for the recognition of queer Japanese cinemas. These films illustrate the resilient sense of Japanese culture(s) via a (re)connection with ideologies of gender and sexuality that existed prior to Japan’s modernization and assimilation of Western ideological frameworks.

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