It’s time for Takarazuka.
What is Takarazuka?
- the greatest mistake the capitalist patriarchy has ever made, and the greatest gift it’s ever given us.
- gay, so awesomely gay, but I can’t really explain how???
- good, clean, family fun! no knowledge of Japanese is even required to enjoy the awesomeness of these plays.
Instructions for creating Takarazuka:
1. Gather all of the gayest men you’ve ever met.
2. Compel them to design, direct, write the gayest musical ever to be staged.
3. For the plot, borrow a storyline from another medium, preferably something incredibly long. Condense it into an hour and a half at most.
4. When the plot doesn’t make sense, add a musical number.
5. Train a bunch of hot Japanese women at the strictest drama school in the world. Have them play all of the roles. Instruct half of them to play men on stage and act as men in real life.
7. Your train company profits! People blame you for encouraging immorality and hot lesbian antics while you insist you’re training the girls to be good wives, wise mothers.
8. All of the fans end up being women; they become fanatically obsessed with the male-role players. Repressed Japanese lesbianism: 1, Patriarchy: 0. or like, .5 or something, I don’t know.
In this video, we have a woman playing a man and a woman playing a woman who crossdresses as a man (SO SHE CAN BE MARIE ANTOINETTE’S BODY GUARD. THEY’RE IN VERSAILLES, WTF. But, no, seriously Rose of Versailles is awesome.) So they’re a female-female couple playing a male-female couple that within the narrative could be perceived as a male-male couple. CONFUSED? NOT MAKING SENSE? TIME FOR A MUSICAL NUMBER.
Just found this through random tumblr browsing. I know this is an old post, but… it is gold. Seriously.
I know there’s a lot of gay fans of Takarazuka. I have absolutely no problem with this. I know Takarazuka can have homoerotic readings. I have no problem with this. It’s one of the reasons why I like it. It has a lot of subversive potential and breaks lots of heterosexist molds (while simultaneously enforcing a butt-ton…not being able to marry while in the company’s employ, “finishing-school” and all that).
But we need to allow all kinds of readings.
I do have a problem with all the “assumptions” (no matter how tongue in cheek, jokes can reinforce negative ideology better than anything else can since people can fob it off as “humor”) that just because the creators have made something we don’t expect from ourselves or another culture, it must mean they’re gay. WTF is that kind of reasoning? Also the assumption that there can’t be interactions between women that aren’t colored by homoerotic desire. Or that all fans are clearly repressed lesbians because they’re OMG watching women fake-kiss. That’s an extremely black and white and frankly binary way of envisioning gender, sexuality and gender roles. Isn’t it more subversive and challenging if its not only gay audiences but STRAIGHT audiences and everything else sideways and upside down of those orientations that find something refreshing and liberating in Takarazuka?
I know there’s going to be someone who is like “CAN’T YOU TAKE A JOKE?” but as I said, our own unquestioned prejudices come out clearest when we do and say things to be “funny”.
I think all in all, I just have a problem with all the ITS GAAAAAAAAAAY (::insert GAAAAAAAY seal here:: ) humor that’s been going around lately. Anytime that pops up I just raise my eyebrows and wonder if the poster knows what they’re really doing when their point fingers at ANYTHING that challenges heterosexism or patriarchal hegemony and go GAAAAAAAAAAY. It’s pretty much very similar to the attitude of someone pointing at a butch woman or a man wearing pink and going “GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY”. Put down your name calling and pigeon-holing finger, please.
Takarazuka is what it is. Yes, there are remarkable manifestations of butch/femme interactions here. Yes, it can be read as homoerotic. Yes, a lot of the actresses and the fans are probably somewhere along the spectrum towards gayness. I know for a fact that a lot of fans DO identify as gay and it’s great to have some kind of well-established medium that they can relate to in that regard. But let’s allow other interpretations. Everyone has their own reasons for loving Takarazuka, you don’t have to be gay to do so. The actresses don’t have to be gay to create lovely characters and stories on the stage. The creators don’t have to be gay to make Takarazuka happen either. Let’s just revel in the fact that it exists and that yes, we can use it as a potent tool to challenge patriarchal hegemony just as long as we don’t start falling into the same hegemonistic traps when we talk about ‘Zuka.
Other than that, yes, RAAA, FIGHT THE POWAH.
Some of those points would be less questionable IMO if they used ‘camp’ rather than ‘gay’. I think a lot of elements of what constitues campness fits Takarazuka shows very well. It’s ostentatious, exaggerated, and full of friviolity and artifice.
While I do find a lot of the original post to be pretty funny, I agree totally with the points being made here. Especially the accusation that the creators of the shows must be gay. Because I highly doubt that and I see no evidence of it. The shows are made to be targeted at a female audience and they just know how to gear towards their fans’ tastes.
And I do agree “camp” would express it better but a lot of non-Europeans don’t even know what that word means. I even have to admit I didn’t until about a year ago or so.
Wow, had no idea that old post had inspired all this discussion! It was meant as a joke and I in no way meant that all creators / fans of Takarazuka must be gay. “Camp” is more exactly what I going for; I was referring to the visual aesthetic of Takarazuka rather than the actual sexual orientation of anyone involved. The “tongue in cheek” post above was framed as an explanation of Takarazuka for an audience unfamiliar with it for whom the camp aesthetic of Broadway musicals and drag shows would be the best/nearest reference, i.e. picture the campiest thing you’ve ever seen and make it 50x campier and then also fill it only with ladies so no one can escape the queer reading, etc.
My point (and my understanding of Takarazuka in general) was that a theatre company that started as an attempt by men heavily entrenched in the patriarchy/kyriarchy to make money (with a veneer of making the girls into “good wives, wise mothers” to make the whole thing appropriate for Taishô society) ended up accidentally being an incredibly radical form of queer expression. Independent of the actual sexual orientations of the people involved, which I would not presume to make judgments on, I would argue that Takarazuka is an essentially queer artform, though the participants and fans run the spectrum of being blissfully unaware of this to reveling in it (in my experience, which is based 100% on Japanese fans, so I don’t know how the Western fandom measures up.) Japan obviously has a long tradition of single-gender theatre, which makes the queer possibilities of Takarazuka less unusual in the context of the theatrical tradition and yet more radical in that it’s an entirely feminine performance of romance acted out exclusively by women.
I apologize for any offense given by the original post and I will think more carefully about my terminology and my jokes from now on. Thank you everyone for your respectful discussion and please, continue on as you like.