Broken motherland, national allegories, and transnational female hysteria in postwar Japanese and Korean Melodrama
This article explores possible influences of Americanization on postwar Japanese and Korean melodramas by focusing on the tropes of sexually liberated and exploited women such as the Pan-pan and Yanggongju (prostitutes groomed for American soldiers in both Japan and Korea). In comparison with Hollywood maternal melodramas, Japanese and Korean maternal melodramas not only represent women’s social participation and their romantic love or sexual liberation but also inscribe imbalances arising from U.S. military culture by employing women’s bodies as metonymic victims of their respective nations. I examine the ways in which Tragedy of Japan (1953) and The Body Confession (1964) transform Hollywood motifs into its own vernacular cultural modes to show ambivalent status of the prostitute mother by embodying both a repulsion and fascination toward Americanization. I also tend to the affective moment by which both films go beyond national allegories in which the prostitute mother is victimized by the biopolitical complicity between domestic sexual norms and American militarism. In the frame of melodrama as the self-reflexive mode and the hysteric’s imaginary, films disturb gender roles in that it exposes the contradictions of a dominant ideology. Women’s contaminated bodies not only act as victimized and shameful nations, but also grasp their own affect such as hysteria. This essay aims to provide new theoretical and historical tools for analyzing Japanese and Korean national cinema, focusing on gender issues over inter-Asian perspectives.
Pan-pan; Yanggongju; maternal melodrama; liberation of body; national allegories; biopolitical victim; self-reflexivity of melodrama; female hysteria; East Asian feminism; comparative film studies
Minhwa Ahn completed her Ph.D. in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Minnesota and served as Postdoctoral Researcher of Transnational Korean Studies, UC San Diego until the end of August, 2017. She is an Adjunct Professor at Korea National University of Arts. Her dissertation is on the comparative studies between Korean and Japanese film during and after the U.S. Occupation Period (1945-1970’s). Ms. Ahn has published book chapters and articles regarding East Asian cinemas in Korean and English in such publications as Reality and Cultural Studies (2018), Journal of Popular Narrative (2018) and Journal of North-East Asian Cultures (2019).