SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Murtagh, Ben (2011) 'Gay, lesbi and waria audiences in Indonesia: watching homosexuality on screen.' Indonesia and the Malay World, 39 (115). pp. 391-415.

Full text not available from this repository.


Since the fall of President Suharto in 1998, Indonesian cinema has been noted for its concern with the representation of gay and lesbi sexualities. However, even during the New Order (1966–1998) a small number of films were produced which represented non-normative genders and sexualities. To date there has been no research on how Indonesia’s sexual minorities respond to representations of themselves in film. Drawing on a number of focus groups conducted with gay, lesbi and waria Indonesians in Surabaya in 2008, this article examines the variety of responses and discussions that arose from watching Wahyu Sihombing’s 1988 film Istana kecantikan (Palace of beauty). These responses are contextualised by examining the press reports of the film when it was screened at the 1988 Indonesian Film Festival. While this film has recently been disparaged by film-literate critics as being depressing and homophobic, this article demonstrates that it was still seen as meaningful to many of the gay and waria focus group participants. The more film-literate discussants however, particularly from the lesbi group, responded to the film far less positively. Whilst informing the researcher as to the possible variety of meanings that audiences might draw from the film, this research method also highlights the potential role that viewing such films may play in prompting gay, lesbi and waria individuals to think about their own identities in new ways.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Indonesia, Homosexuality, Film, Audiences
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia
ISSN: 13639811
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2011 14:47
Related URLs: (Publisher URL)

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item