Homophobia in manga: some reflections on gay readers' culture in Japan
(University of Southern California)
Paper short abstract:
In this communication, I will show that Japanese gay men can find through manga 'representations of homosexuality different ways to think about and talk about their gay life and also LGBT issues in Japan, especially about homophobia related topics.
Paper long abstract:
As a media, manga is part of the phenomenon spreading stereotypes and mockery of gay people. Just as can be seen on different TV shows or series, gay characters are often used as a comic relief. A strange, but somewhat lovable pervert. A gay man is, in many ways, a clown. As such, the way homophobia is brought up changes depending on the story and the narration. However, in manga, there are different kinds of representation of homosexuality and in some niche genres, discrimination against LGBT is at the core of the plot. Most often, homosexuality does not take much space: a punchline every now and then, but subjects such as harassment or discrimination are hardly brought up. For instance, "Boy's love" manga feature stories mostly produced by, and aimed at young girls and women. The emphasis is put on male/male romance. Actually, although rejection of homosexuality can sometimes be hinted at, the story seems to erase those issues, and mostly choose not to question the "unusual" relationship between the protagonists. Yet, I will focus on another genre, called bara, and more specifically about the author Mentaiko and how Japanese gay men are reacting and speaking about it. Bara, first of all, is mostly produced by gay men for gay men. Then homosexuality could be brought up more seriously, so as to sound more real to the reader, but also to address issues that they are sensitive about. Second, bara is mostly pornographic. Pornography might seem like a drawback when trying to develop a powerful narrative tied to homosexuality. It is however a strong symbol of how a community of people got to come together, and allows for meaningful story moments where conflict is used as a fuel for sexual tension. In this communication, I will show that Japanese gay men can find through manga 'representations of homosexuality different ways to think about and talk about their gay life and also LGBT issues in Japan, especially about homophobia related topics.
Homophobia in contemporary Japan