The Other Side of Lost in Translation


Gays in Japanese Media

< Black Lizard > (1968)
Starring Akihiro Maruyama(Miwa)
Japan's most Famous Drag Queen

Some Gaijins are surprised to see some,
not many but more than a few, gay or gayish TV personalities on Japanese TV shows.
Some of them are comedians, some are actors/singers,
some are commentators, some are critics,
some are choreographers, some are flower srrangement artists
yes, you see them much more than on American TV shows.

However, this does not mean that they are more liberated than in U.S., not at all.

A few years ago, I was watching Ed Sullivan show on PBS and shocked to see a female impersonator was doing "Judy Garland."
Even today, you rarely see any drag queens on a primetime network TV show.
Then how could that be possible in '60s before the '70s gay movement??
I was puzzled,
but eventually I realized that he was not a drag queen
but a female impersonator.

This guy was introduced as a female impersonator,
and impersonated Judy Garland,
surprisingly he sang well, not lip-synched as today's drag queens.
He was a man who had a special skill to impersonate Judy Garland,
not supposed to be a drag Queen,
therefore his sexuality was not question.
That's why he could be on the National network show in '60s.

Despite of the fact that there have been so many protests to improve their situations from gay community throughout '70s to the present day, there are a very few celebrities who came out as gay and a network TV do not have much gay themes shows and they are usually comedies if you find them, like "Will and Grace."

Why are comedies Okay?
Because if they are funny, someone you can laugh about,
it is easier to accept them than a strong, intelligent and handsome,
who can be threatening to a mojority who is White in this society.
In other words, you better be a novelty if you like to be accepted by the majority.

Peter aka Shinosuke Ikehata

Easily I can count 13-14 of them,
who sell "bing gay" in Japanese showbiz.
And all of them are either drag queens or very feminin types
I do not say all of them are sell-out
but most certainly they are stereo types
and that's why they are accepted.
They are mosdef novelties,
they are not the people who can threaten
the Japanese traditional value of family and social structure.

I have to mention that this does not include
Onnagata of Kabuki which is a Japanese traditional theatre,
where men do female roles.
Probably one reason
some drag queens can be accepted by Japanese media
is that Japan has a long history of gender bending in their showbiz.
Yet, asking them about their sexuality has been a big taboo.
They can do that as long as their sexuality is not in question.

There are many Japanese male celebrities
who got rumores to be gay,
and as they are musculine types,
they will never come out
because they know that would be ends of their career.

Tamasaburo Bando
The biggest star of Onnagata, Kabuki's actor who specialized in female roles

In every aspect, well, probably besides issues of recycle,
Japanese have a very low awareness on any social issues
compared to Americans.
And when it comes to a gay issue and a woman's issue,
they are more than 30 years behind.
Because almost nobody protest about them.
I do not say nothing
because I do remember some womanlib activities in late '70s in Japan.
Also I heard there was some gaylib activity in '90s as well,
which probably was inspired by AIDS activism of U.S.
However, they faded away eventually just like any American trens
Japanese love to immitate.

Carousel Maki
She was even in a '70s str8 porn film.
Who saw it?, who knows!

In Japan, violent gay bashing does not happen very often,
but being gay is something you rather hind in order to fit in.
Actually, if you are a gaijin,
you are already different because of your skin color,
being gay does not add much more,
especially Japanese have a stereo type images of
the western countries filled with gays,
which means they are not going to fall off from their chairs
if you tell them you are gay.
However, you still better not say about it if you become a teacher,
especially in rural areas.

Peter / Shinosuke Ikehata

Ai Haruna
Japan's Newest Drag Sensation

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