The Femme Fatale and the Exotic Queer within Shinya Tuskamoto's Tetsuo: Gender as Narrative Tool within an Allegory for Post WWII Japan's Industrialized Identity Crisis

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Anthos, Vol: 3, Issue: 1, Page: 55-61

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Walters, Nickolus
Portland State University Library
Horror films; Feature films -- Japan; Science fiction -- Criticism and interpretation; Film and Media Studies
article description
Within Shinya Tsukamoto’s seminal independent horror masterpiece Tetsuo, the viewer’s perceptions of reality and the present are distorted within a temporally disjointed blend of horrific fantasy and banal existence; this instability reflects the vocal and subconscious critiques of historical ontological truths exhibited within the emergent transnational genres of Japanese cyberpunk and American Avant-pop ideologies of the late 1980’s. Author Takayuki Tatsumi uses Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo to illustrate the emergence of the "Japanoid," a technologically driven fusion of American and Japanese post-war identity best understood as a manifestation of Donna Haraway's socio-political "cyborg." Tatsumi strongly advises avoiding interpretation through a "queer" lens, proposing that the use of “cyborg” and scrap iron serve as an analogy for the stratification and integration of disenfranchised post WWII Okinawan “scrap apaches.” However, Tetsuo’s prominent homoerotic elements cannot be ignored. Arguably, The film presents as blatantly non-heteronormative; to ignore queerness and instead focus solely on Tatsumi's definition of "identity" ignores the meaning of masculinity in a patriarchal culture, rendering an incomplete (post)colonial reading. A queer reading clarifies Tsukamoto's take on the contemporary disenfranchisement of the so-called "Japanoid" identity that Tatsumi embraces. Within Tetsuo, representation of woman as femme fatale and an overt queering of masculinity problematize the traditional heteronormative Japanese identity.