The herbivore and the salaryman - new and old masculinities in Japanese idol productions
Abstract: In this study I have examined the representation of masculinity in several recent Japanese media productions through a qualitative content analysis with a focus on discursive practices and the hegemonic and subordinate masculinity theories established by R.W. Connell. The focus of the study is Ninomiya Kazunari, an established Japanese actor and member of the five man idol group Arashi, produced by the large Japanese idol production company Johnny's Entertainment. Four main productions with Ninomiya in a main role have been studied: The Inner Chambers, GANTZ, A part-timer buys a house (for his family) and I will fly to the sky in my wheel chair (English translations). Additionally, comments and opinions on various 2-channel forums in regards to Ninomiya's perceived masculinity, or lack of same, have been studied and interpreted through a reception analysis in the cultural studies tradition. The goal has been to identify resistance and/or re-enforcement of traditional Japanese masculinities through recent depictions of a popular Japanese male idol in the media, especially in relation to hegemonic Japanese masculinity constructions like the samurai warrior and modern day salaryman. Ninomiya has played several seemingly masculine stereotypic roles, and the study attempts to identify resistance within his presentations of dominant-hegemonic masculinity, as well as his portrayals of alternative masculinities and how they risk getting incorporated into the hegemonic structures. The study shows that the soft values of Ninomiya Kazunari's persona largely translate into all the Japanese productions he features in. Messages and values presented by Arashi and Johnny's Entertainment get intertextually transferred to his story productions, attaching certain values of gentleness, sincerity and vulnerability to the face of Ninomiya regardless of which role he plays. The audience reception showed that Ninomiya as an idol and as a man is important to the way the audience perceives him in various roles. Fans and anti-fans love and hate him for the same features, showing a strong disagreement of what a ”real man” is and should be. This relates to various researchers' conclusion that contemporary Japanese hegemonic masculinity is changing and unstable, the hegemony and dominance of the modern day salaryman lifestyle called into question.
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