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'Kissing Is a Symbol of Democracy!' US Popular Culture and the Emergence of the 'New Couple' in Occupied Japan,

Thursday, February 7, 2008
5:00 AM
School of Social Work Building, Room 1636 (1080 S. University, Ann Arbor)

Abstract: Japan's defeat at the end of its fifteen years' war in 1945 saw widespread changes to the family and gender system. Women were given political rights for the first time and were recognized as independent agents at work, in the home and in their romantic relationships. Whereas war-time ideology had brought about the "death of romance" in popular culture, with the relaxation of censorship at the war's end, there was a sudden proliferation in discussion about the qualities of the 'new' or 'modern' couple and the popular press saw the rise of a range of 'experts' offering advice on the proper conduct of romance between the sexes. Rather than censor this new discourse of love and sex, in an attempt to encourage Japanese men to be more chivalrous toward women, the Occupation authorities required film-makers to develop romantic story lines (featuring hand-holding, kissing and 'dating' couples) and Hollywood movies themselves were promoted as scripts for the conduct of heterosexual romance. This presentation looks at the impact of the Occupation on Japanese ideas about heterosexual romance and relationships through an analysis of the popular culture texts published in Japan between 1946 and 1952 that are housed in the Prange Collection, held in the graduate library at the University of Michigan. Mark McLelland lectures in Sociology at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and is the 2007-08 Toytota Visiting Professor of Japanese at the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. He is best known for his work in Japanese sexual minority history and is the author of "Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan" (RoutledgeCurzon, 2000) and "Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005) and co-editor of "Genders, Transgenders and Sexualities in Japan" (Routledge, 2005) and "Queer Voices from Japan" (Lexington 2007). His project at the CJS looks at the development of new styles of Japanese heterosexual romance and coupledom in the wake of the US Occupation.