To what extent does popular culture carry possibilities of questioning norms, subverting gender stereotypes or queering normativity? Pursuing this question in case studies of three different genres: manga, animation, and TV drama, we aim to complicate the discussion on gendered media in Japan.
Popular culture is known and criticized for its often stereotypical presentation and creation of characters and plots -- and a conservative streak in a wide variety of genres is undeniable. Stylistic and technical craftsmanship aside, it is often judged to avoid posing any difficult textual questions. In this panel, we nevertheless ask to what extent popular culture carries possibilities of questioning norms, subverting stereotypes or queering normativity, and we pursue this question in case studies of three different genres: manga, animation, and TV drama. One major device for either questioning or reifying normativity is 'gender', i.e., the way in which a hegemonic gender order is either presented as unstable and untenable, or is celebrated, sometimes seemingly overturned but in the end 'restored'. For manga, common patterns such as the gender-queerness of visual depiction itself can be seen to expose and challenge gender norms, particularly in shōjo manga, whereas the 'heterosexual imperative' in such works effects narrow limitations for questioning normativity. For animation, the work of Hosoda Mamoru presents evidence for the ways in which the (not only sexual) queering of characters is used on the one hand as a means of dynamic plot development, while on the other hand its framing reifies formulations of stereotypical gender patterns. In TV drama, the recent upsurge in visibility of queer sexualities must be seen in a history of depictions of queer, and specifically lesbian desire on the small screen. However, the recent depictions are not unilaterally welcomed by queer audiences as they present diversity in ways that may reinforce stereotypes. Elaborating the queering aspects of case studies from different genres of popular media, this panel aims to complicate and to deepen the existing discussion on gendered media in Japan