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Lesbi in the metropolis: fatal attraction in an Indonesian movie from the early 1990s

Murtagh, Ben (2011) 'Lesbi in the metropolis: fatal attraction in an Indonesian movie from the early 1990s.' Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 45 (1 & 2). pp. 95-132.

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Abstract

Indonesian cinema of the early 1990s has often been noted for its lowbrow and erotic content. One film from this era, Gadis metropolis, which earned something of a reputation for its exploitation of the female body, is also notable for its lesbi, and to a lesser extent, gay storylines. This representation of alternative sexualities constitutes the particular concern of this article. The film’s producer argued that in making Gadis metropolis he sought to ‘explain the lives of lesbi’ in Indonesia. Its dominant message, however, was actually a depressing reaffirmation of popular media notions of homosexuality and of societal concerns regarding women’s sexuality generally. Analysis of contemporary press reports and reviews show that while reactions to the film initially focused on its lesbi content, by the following year it had become more of a reference for concerns about the deterioration of the quality of domestic film production. Engaging with academic studies on Western representations of female homosexuality, this article draws on the trope of the murderous, deviant lesbian while at the same time contextualising the emergence of this image in Indonesia as a continuation of popular images of the sexually licentious woman as a threat to the moral (heterosexual) order. By comparing the film’s representations of male and female homosexuality, it is shown that there was far greater concern with the policing of female sexuality than with the gay subject position. Despite the fact that female homosexuality in Gadis metropolis is principally situated within the ideological framework of the heterosexual viewer, however, this article contends that the film may simultaneously offer, at least for some lesbi and gay viewers, momentary spaces for communal identification.

Item Type: Articles
Keywords: Indonesian cinema, homosexuality, lesbianism
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia
ISSN: 08157251
Depositing User: Ben Murtagh
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2012 10:36
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/13675

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