On Monday 28th January the Gender and Sexuality Research Network was happy to welcome Mark Player from the University of Readings Department of Film, Theatre and Television! Having completed his degree in film production at the University of Derby, Mark has spent 9 years working on his independent research projects on Japanese film. By honing in on this expertise and adding ideas of sexuality and gender in the portal of the penis, his paper ‘Penile Code: Cartoonish Censorship and Phallic Satire in the Yakuza Films of Miike Takashi’ puts forward a fresh and cutting-edge analysis of the Yakuza film genre.
Starting with a film clip of a man revealing his, larger-than-life, censored penis, Mark assured the GSRN that there would be much more of such clips in store. The bold use of censorship, Mark informed us, speaks to the frequent censoring of genitalia within Japanese media. Such censorship follows from the legal proscription on displaying the genitals in film, animation, print etc. as per Article 175 of the Japanese Penal Code.
Despite this legislation, it is sporadically enforced, and its vague wording gives rise to much flirting with what exactly constitutes ‘censorship’. Within this climate of lax enforcement, Misshitsu, a sexually explicit hentai manga (published in 2002), was held to have fallen foul of Article 175, in what appeared an arbitrary and pointed display of legal action. After the magazines author, Yuji Suwa was arrested and convicted after pleading guilty, the trial (the first of its kind for twenty years) was said to have had a ‘chilling effect’, shrinking efforts to subvert the law.
It is within this context that Mark places his research, seeing a growth in creative censorship styles across different media platforms emerging from a restrictive environment. Techniques such as ‘mosaic censorship’, ‘blurring effects’ and ‘embedded censorship’ (often stylized effects worked into the film for satirical effect) feature increasingly, and so his paper turned to focus on a specific type of film: the Yakuza films of Takashi Miike.
Yakuza films, being targeted at the white-collar worker, the single man, portray a classic ‘man’s world’ view. Women appear as wives or prostitutes and the machismo on screen gives little opportunity for anything but bullet proof men. The 1990s resurgence of this genre was hypermasculine to the degree that we might be inclined to call them a parody of those released in the 1970s. In Miike’s parody of the machismo, we see that “the larger the penis the larger the power.”
The phallic censorship that Mark traces in the Miike films closely follows this relationship, pulling out examples from films such as Dead or Alive 2: Birds 2000. The placement of the unrealistic and absurdly sized penises (always hidden behind a screen of pixilated, mosaic censoring) reveal the power and prestige of the proud penis holder. It is frequently associated with the success of the Yakuza member, their sexual prowess and ability to pleasure women,and often used in opposition to the emasculated man, the unfortunate bearer of a realistic and human sized penis. In effort to avoid censorship, artistic portrayals of the penis increase in absurdity and hypermasculinity, at times appeared weaponised and bio-mechanical.
We would like to thank Mark for presenting his paper which was fascinating, thought-provoking and entertaining in equal measure! We wish you all the best with the paper and with your research in the future.
The GSRN will meet on Monday 18th February for Jess McIvor’s paper titled ‘Revolvers and Ostrich Feathers: Images of Women’s Militancy in Revolutionary Ireland’. Join us at 4pm in the Graduate School G08 for what we are sure will be another fantastic paper.
Faye and Amy