Re censorship etc.
Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow
Sun Dec 20 09:04:33 EST 1998
John Dougill wrote:
>>From a more personal angle, I simply don't think that any culture in
>which used high-school girls' panties are sold at stores, where SM and
>rape fantasy is a major part of the porn industry, where chikan is a
>genre in itself, where tosatsu (hidden camera shots of women undressing
>which are being sold in video stores) is running rampant, etc., is free
>of sexual hang-ups....
>I don't understand the logic of this. It appears that the writer is the
>one who feels uncomfortable. Surely then it is the writer who has the
>hang-ups...If homosexuality makes you feel uncomfortable, who has the
>hang-ups - you or the homosexual?
As the co-owner of the list, I should warn you about your use of language
here. Personal attacks are a no-no on this unmoderated list. Accusing
another member of having hang-ups is a borderline case, but I must
emphasize to all that we must remain civil in our use of language or
KineJapan will lose what, I hope, is its current high level of
discussion. Please refrain from such usage in the future.
As for the statement that I am uncomfortable with homosexuality, I
haven't the slightest idea how you got that from my original statement.
My original post didn't even mention homosexuality. Please read my posts
more carefully before commenting on them.
>If the assertion of the writer is against sexual harassment, then I do not
>have any argument. But as I understood it, we were discussing sexuality in
>fantasy i.e. on film and in manga. The suggestion that a country has
>more sexual hang-ups because of its rich fantasy life as compared to a
>culture (America, say) where statistics for real life violence and sexual
>violence are immeasurably higher seems altogether peculiar, not to say
>perverse. I may be wrong, but I have the feeling that the Japanese are
>being criticised here because their fantasies are different - and as
>Orientalists we all know that the Other is always worse. Personally
>speaking, I have found Japanese attitudes to be refreshingly honest
>compared with the hypocrisy that reigns in the West. The Christian and
>puritan legacies are still all too evident in the readiness of some to
>condemn what they neither like nor understand.
I second Birgit's astute analysis of the problems in this statement.
Clearly the crucial issue here is the question of how much we can suppose
about a culture by looking at its representations. If we took a simple
realist view of cultural representations, the Japanese would surely seem
quite messed up indeed. But as many people have pointed out on this list
and elsewhere (Fred Schodt, Ian Buruma), it is clear that there "seem" to
be more representations of violence and "aberrant" sexuality in movies
and manga than there are in "real" Japanese life. Many argue that such a
"rich fantasy life" may serve as the perpetual "letting off of steam"
that keeps Japanese society so peaceful.
I've always had problems with that argument, first because I don't think
Japanese society is as peaceful as it supposedly seems. The examples
from my post, a rather crude list but somewhat serviceable, includes
quite a number of cases from "real" life. Chikan are not just a genre,
they are a real social problem (as many of my femal friends here can tell
you), as is tosatsu. Rape is also a major issue, especially date rape,
which is only now becoming a topic of discussion. Also, only the tip of
the iceberg of domestic violence, especially towards children (including
parental rape of children), has been seen (the Mainichi has been bravely
reporting this this year).
Second, if a "rich fantasy life" supposedly lets off steam, then
shouldn't the US have fewer sex crimes because its pornography is less
censored than Japan? Comparing cultures to teapots, or even
psychological entities, is always a problematic proposition.
While I don't endorse this position, I must also emphasize that there is
a long history of discourse that says the exact opposite about Japanese
film and manga: i.e., that such representations are responsible for
whatever LACK of harmony Japan is suffering. This, of course, is the
discourse of PTA groups and censors, but I should stress that this
argument has been gaining force in the media in the last few years.
Especially the recent spate of youth violence (the Kobe killings, etc.)
has been strongly linked in such discourse to violence in manga, movies,
and video games and that is one reason Eirin recently toughened its
stance towards violence. One can safely say a dominant view of youth in
the media is that "they have no grasp of reality because they live on a
world of manga and video games." While I don't agree with this, this is
a discourse with a strong and undeniable presence.
What then are we to make of these representations? When confronted with
some posters asserting a healthier "real" Japan, I just wanted to point
out some alternative realities. Part of my goal was also just to try to
complicate broad-sweeping generalizations about Japan or the US, which I
rarely find productive.
But I also wanted to argue that we shouldn't simply just write off all
representations as "harmless fantasies" that have no effects, social,
cultural, or discursive, at all. This is a sticky problem which I don't
have the time to get into here (tomorrow's class preparations await!),
but if we accept even the statement that texts have ideological effects,
that reality is always also a discursive reality, that discourse has a
powerful role in shaping culture, then we do need to pay attention to how
representations are articulating categories like sexuality and violence.
That does not mean those representations are directly "causing" or
"reflecting" behavior; rather that they, like my examples from manga,
embody certain articulations of the discourse of sexuality that need to
be taken into account when doing cultural analysis. If anything, I was
merely asking people to avoid broad-sweeping statements about Japan or
about any other culture without doing precise analysis of the texts and
I've enjoyed this discussion and hope it continues. Let's just keep it
Yokohama National University
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