Sometimes Japan can seem behind the times.
While the American entertainment world is finally waking up to the endemic nature of the casting couch with a resulting scandal that may continue in waves for a long time, there seems to be (as far as we know) zero serious discussion of the situation in Japan. The casting couch (makura eigyo) is a prevalent problem that music idols, gravure idols, models and actresses all have to deal with.
Likewise, though the last couple of years have seen the global profile of trans rights raised immensely, no similar movement has taken shape in Japan. Sure, Tokyo Rainbow Pride is bigger than ever and there have been some advances, such as unisex toilets and a few local governments offering non-binding legal recognition of same-sex couples, but no powerful politicians are debating the lack of equal rights for LGBT+. Businesses in Shinjuku’s Nichome district are also closing, squeezed out by higher rents as the area gentrifies and the lack of young people.
On the other hand, the success of otoko no ko cosplay — a kind of “easy” form of josou cross-dressing — has made elements of trans culture more mainstream. And one of the biggest celebrities in the land is a cross-dresser.
Matsuko Deluxe commands some of the largest fees and is a ubiquitous presence on TV advertising. Though no one seems to use this as a platform to really question the disparity of ordinary trans community compared to Matsuko Deluxe’s fame, it’s arguably a positive step forward overall.
We just wish Matsuko Deluxe would be more direct about discussing his sexuality and for example, important points such as whether he regards himself as a “he” or a “she” (Japanese is able to avoid gender pronouns more easily than some other languages, so this topic has not been as sensitive as in English).
But small steps, we guess. And in Japan you can have an ad like this and no one links a eye.
Matsuko Deluxe, who is gay, is here advertising a product called Pure Oral. Yes, we were all thinking it.
Pure Oral is actually a series of dental hygiene products by Kao.
But we honestly don’t think this campaign is intended to be ironic, since Dentsu and the other ad agency boffins generally have a terrible grasp of English or sensitivity towards parody — as the recent campaigns for ANA and Toshiba condemned as “racist” seem to show.
So what do you think? Do you want some of this Pure Oral experience?