Representation of Homosexuals in Japanese TV Shows

Since I grew up in Japan and am not familiar with American media much, I decided to write about representation of homosexual people in Japanese media, specifically gay people in TV shows. Often times gay people in Japanese TV shows are associated with “onee” character. Onee refers to gay people with certain characteristics such as; very feminine way to act and talk, sexually aggressive and make many body touches, talkative and react hysterically when they are emotionally high, and often times they are in artistic and “feminine” occupation such as hair artist, nail artist or dancer. This onee character is dominant gay character in Japanese media, and almost no other representation can be found.

Due to their characteristics, their main exposure to the media is comedy show, rather than more serious programs like drama, educational or informational shows, as a comic relief. In the shows, they are object to make fun of by dominant (straight) casts. Their masculine body, in contrast to feminine character, is picked up and laughed at by them. Also, they themselves enhance the stereotype by hitting on other male casts and scare them off.

As for levels of representation, gay people in Japanese TV shows are in ridicule level. They are pretty popular and have large exposure to TV shows (although the type of shows is limited), but most of the time their character is very stereotypical and restricted to particular role: comic relief. Also, this representation is an example of symbolic annihilation because they are significantly under- and misrepresented. By limiting their role to comic relief, dominant people discriminate against gay population, and by doing so, they emphasize and ensure the superiority of dominant straight society over homosexuality.

Personally, I feel the opportunity for gay people is very limited. I don’t see any variety, or different characteristics, in representation of homosexual people, and there even is an atmosphere all over japan that they cannot confess their homosexual identity. Having lived in Japan for 18 years, I have never seen anyone who is homosexual. Probably this is wrong; I had met some homosexual people but they are just afraid of being discriminated against or made fun of due to their identity which is not dominant. There are people who admit that they are homosexual, but I think it’s only those who gained popularity and powerful voice in society. It is not easy thing to do for ordinary people to confess if they are homosexual.Image

One thought on “Representation of Homosexuals in Japanese TV Shows

  1. This is such an interesting analysis–it provides a good comparison/contrast for LGBT representations in the U.S. Your point at the end illustrates the role media may play in changing perceptions and acceptance–the lack of individuals who self-identify as LGBT in Japan is likely related to the limited media representations.

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