Idols and Otokoyaku: The Influences of Gender and Politics on Fans of Japanese Performing Arts
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AKB48 and the Takarazuka Revue are two Japanese performing arts groups with all-female casts that have been widely promoted in Japanese popular culture both domestically and abroad. Because both the Takarazuka Revue and AKB48 have been used at points to promote Japanese nationalism and conservatism and because of the extensive research regarding gender performance, production, and consumption found within each groups’ performances and audiences, I examined the political and social impact of these groups: specifically in relation to the role of women, feminism, and gender equality in Japan. I conducted an online survey of 114 fans and non-fans of the Takarazuka Revue and AKB48 to determine if and how the association with conservative and nationalist politics impacts the way audiences of Japanese popular culture view gender relations and equality in Japan. Generally speaking, audiences did seem to be somewhat influenced by the political associations of these groups, but they were most strongly impacted socially. Collectively speaking, fans most disagreed with feminist and equality initiatives not associated with conservative politics, but most disagreed with conservative and nationalist rhetoric overall. However, even amongst fans there is a gendered divide wherein male fans most disagreed with feminist and equality initiatives not associated with conservative politics, but female fans most agreed.