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The Girls that Never End: Self-Replicating Shojo in Contemporary Japanese Horror

October 19, 2017
05:00 PM - 07:00 PM

Dr. Raechel Dumas
San Diego State University
Classics and Humanities
Assistant Professor

Monstrous femininities have long been a staple of Japanese culture, from mytho-historical texts through medieval Buddhist fiction, early modern theater through the modern horror landscape. If any one archetype can be said to most potently exemplify contemporary Japan’s enduring preoccupation with the monstrous feminine, it is that of the shōjo, or adolescent girl, whose innocuous exterior veils her frightening duplicity. This talk examines a phenomenon that I term “simulacratic girls” in reference to the profusion of self-replicating shōjo that have come to haunt the contemporary Japanese horror landscape. Situating this trope against intensifying media focus on female adolescent identities during the tumultuous 1990s, I explore the monstrous shōjo in two texts that have captured the local and global imaginations. I begin with a discussion of Itō Junji’s manga Tomie, honing in on the titular antagonist’s capacity for monstrous self-proliferation as a metaphor for the dissolution of patriarchal power structures, as well as for the rise of a technology-driven schema of desire, in contemporary Japan. Subsequently, I consider the simulacratic shōjo of Kōji Suzuki’s novel Ring (along with its film adaptation), which combines the enduring trope of the female specter with the more recently conceived motif of technology gone awry. In doing so, I challenge the rhetoric of repression and return that has been widely deployed to account for the enduring presence of the monstrous-feminine in contemporary Japan to examine more affirmatively Ring’s casting of the visual field as a topography of postmodern subjectivity and desire, as well as its suggestion of the urgency of an enhanced historical consciousness for a nation seeking to process both its catastrophic past and the uncertainty of its future.

Category: Lectures