As I’m waiting for Psycho-Pass and Magi to finish loading and am considering whether to follow Shingeki no Kyojin, I thought that this will be a great time to answer some of the questions that some of you guys has asked me. それじゃ、始まります！
Q. I’d like to know the story behind how you personally/publicly first ‘became’ a fudanshi.
A: Well, I think it began when I saw Junjou Romantica when I was 18. Note that this was during the interim period after I finish high school and about to enter army so I was in this liminal stage where I’m caught between the end of one phase of my life and about to enter the next phase. At that particular time, I was devouring all forms of queer representation in media: Queer Eye, Latter Days, Eating Out and it’s all nice and good but I didn’t really like
1) How homosexuality is almost always diffused through a western, anglo-centric perspective. As a result of that, the dominant image of ‘homosexuals’ is always usually a white, middle-class male individual who usually faces some form of institutionalised oppression that is motivated by A) religious bigotry or B) misogynistic ignorance. As an asian male, living in an Asian society where Christians make up only a less than one quarter of the population, I struggle to identify how homosexuality is portrayed in the West as compared to my own personal experiences living here in my tiny little island in Asia. I also note that there is little black or latino queer representation in dominant gay discourse which is an entire different subculture from how white gay men live their lives. (Paris Is Burning is an excellent documentary on black and latino gay subculture by the way, if any of you are interested. 🙂 )
2) How homosexuality is always conceived beyond a sexual identity, but also a process of cultural formation. I’ve always pictured homosexuality as just same-sex romantic and/or sexual attraction in its purest form. However, there’s always a series of cultural baggages that is attached to homosexuality especially in Western media. For instance, how male homosexuality is conflated with effeminancy, an ability to recite Bette Davis lines by heart, a natural inclination to Broadway and theatre and how there’s always a fag hag running around in the background. I’d always find this particularly fascinating on how a sexual category can evolve into such multiplicity and convergences of cultural identities. However, I guess I had (and still have) this desire to read a nice novel or watch a movie about just two guys falling in love. Without the baggages.
And in this sense, that’s where shounen-ai comes in. Yes, granted there’s still a lot of cultural baggages as well: the seme is always masculine, tall with giant yaoi hands and the uke is always portrayed to be dainty, delicate and very feminine which is generally a reflection of how Japanese view gays in modern contexts. (Just that in Japanese society, the seme-uke relationship is known as tachi-neko.) I usually don’t like these stereotypes and I think it can be rather problematic as it perpetuates various untrue stereotypes about gay life and the power/gender dynamics within a gay relationship. But once in a while, you hit a rare story about just 2 guys falling in love with each other without any of such baggages: No.6 for instance. Zetsuen no Tempest is another.
But yes, back to Junjou Romantica! It was the first time that I’ve seen a gay anime and I thought the portrayal of that gay relationship between all three couples were so… real and honest and it’s all about navigating through a world where there’s so much hurt and betrayal and unrequited love that is unrewarded and I love how Nakamura twists it all around. That for every tear you shed, for every hurt that you experienced, it all adds up towards a certain vulnerability that allows you to become more susceptible to love, and that love will always come back to you, no matter how much you think your love that you had given is in waste. That being hurt is part of a greater journey of being in love and there is beauty in the conflation of suffering and love and that is life. 🙂
Coming soon: FAQ Part 2: On Sociology and Yaoi.