Some Japanese television drama genres have been broadcasted continuously since the 1960s. They have been regarded as crafters of national identity that have long depicted the ideal Japanese lifestyle, imbued with normative concepts of femininity and masculinity. However, the golden age of Japanese dramas arrived in the 1990s with the so-called ‘trendy dramas’, love stories that displayed a trend towards urban, consumer-oriented, glamorous lifestyles (Lukács, 2010) that challenged the previously dominant gendered values of marriage and motherhood. Trendy dramas' popularity stems from the envisioning of the glitzy lifestyle of the Bubble Era (1986-1991) and the featuring of young, single women that were succeeding professionally. Nonetheless, it has been advocated that they continued to reinforce patriarchal choices (Itō, 2004; Saeki, 2012; Freedman, 2018). From the perspective of media anthropology, cultural, and gender studies, this paper examines how trendy dramas redefined the politics of Japanese women’s identity and the resilience of women’s selfhood. Through a diachronic exploration of the all-time popular drama Tokyo Love Story of 1991, and of its newest 2020 version, together with qualitative questionnaires and audience reactions from various media, this presentation explores the discourse entanglements between the normative ideals of femininity and the forging of the new woman in the drama. I will argue that the 1991 drama devised new gender tropes that would become a primary stepping stone towards womanhood in the Japanese lost generation, and that the once groundbreaking 1991 uninhibited, straightforward womanhood seems to have been somewhat normalized in 2020.
Minerva Terrades, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain