Culture

Ozu-Tropes:

A Poetics of Japanese Mother-Son Incest Porn.

Even in this jaded age Japanese porn still makes for a subversive import, from its child-like AV models and faux reality formats to the darker realms of tentacle rape, molester fantasies and broken doll paraphilia. Within this vast floating pornotopia there is also a quiet but booming trade in incest porn, not real of course, and in fact rather vanilla in terms of content, which might go some way towards explaining why it is largely overlooked by western eyes. Interesting for a number of reasons, the mother-son variety particularly draws on a powerful social phenomenon that can be interpreted beyond the normal bounds of age-play porn. So while not completely dissociating it from the milf and cougar boneyard categories where older performers are put out to rest, mother-son incest allows for a deeper meditation on Japanese culture and a curious insight into its pornographic tradition.

Back in the 1980’s, suburban Japan was in the grip of a moral panic of sorts as a number of popular newspapers circulated stories of incest between mother and son. Contextualized as cock-blocking tactics employed by anxious middle-class moms, it seems that this was a protective strategy to dissuade hormonal teenage boys away from outside feminine distractions during important exam preparations. As with any moral panic the truth is hazy at best, but this simple reduction hit a raw nerve in a society that is both notoriously meritocratic and openly venerative of the bond between mother and son. Consequently, the scandal opened up a forum as to the lengths some mothers were willing to go to ensure their horny young bucks a successful passage through the rigid education system. Furthermore, it unearthed some long suppressed pop psychologies relating to the mother complex — or ‘maza con’ as it is known — which once fixated in the minds of Japan’s future porn producers would make for prime Freudian-style sublimated fantasy further down the line.

By way of a broader cultural context, stories of incest have been present in Japanese literature for centuries, usually in sober reflection of the country’s rural, courtly and feudal histories. During the 60’s and 70’s however, these themes took on a more oppositional and political significance, and became a referential mainstay of Japanese New Wave cinema (a trend that continues to reverberate in some of the more contemporary works of Japanese transgression). Conversely, in popular culture it is now prominent in manga and anime like never before, mostly to the design of younger readers where it is romanticized through love crushes between adolescent siblings. Naturally, the pinku eiga — or erotic film genre — has a vested interest in the topic, if only to add variety to some of its tired old tropes. Here it is generally more concerned with permutations of the sister or daughter variety, largely in service to another Japanese preoccupation, the schoolgirl kink. Nevertheless, pinku eiga still set a precedent of sorts for the mother-son category, making an important contribution towards its iconography long before it expanded and fragmented into the specialized fetish we witness today.

For those unfamiliar with pinku eigia, it is best described as Japan’s soft porn category (even though the line between it and hardcore is difficult to delineate due to antiquated censorship standards). The period between the mid 70’s and early 80’s is widely thought to be its most inventive in terms of style, storytelling and sexual excess, which was all the more surprising considering its proximity to the mainstream. In fact, during this time pinku eiga movies were the dominant domestic product, and as such operated under a stringent studio system that compelled talented directors to work under contract in the sex cinema sandbox. Small in budget and brief in running time the scope for craftsmanship remained notably wide, and as a result many excellent works were fashioned out of the top down studio requirements.

Some good examples that demonstrate the range and versatility of the genre in the incest vein include a pair of early works from now renowned filmmaker Masayuki Sue. As assistant director on Kandagawa Pervert Wars (1983) he borrowed sparingly from Hitchcock’s Rear Window to tell the story of two female roommates who — from across the way — spy on and later attempt to liberate a teenage boy from the clutches of his incestuous mother. In his acclaimed full directorial debut, The Abnormal Family (1984) he charted the sexual disintegration of a family home as part of the fall-out from the absence of its matriarchal figure. While both movies conform to all the normal dictates of the genre — namely featuring sex scenes at roughly 10 minute intervals — they also sufficiently transcend their base level to be considered satire, parody and pastiche in their own right. The Abnormal Family especially, spins an ironic and tangled web in which the youngest son coverts his older sister as well as falling into a sadomasochistic relationship with a barmaid who just happens to be the spitting image of his deceased mother and the object of affection of his grieving father. Best remembered not as a sex piece, but as an irreverent critique of Japanese family life, the movie takes aim at the codes and conventions of its most revered chronicler, the late-great director Yasujiro Ozu.

Homework Ozu style.

Hailed as the quiet Zen-master of Japanese cinema, Ozu’s slow and deliberate technique meticulously framed generational conflict, infidelity and separation in classic works like Tokyo Story (1953) and The End of Summer (1961). Cognizant that even the most hardened film snob has to concede to Ozu’s lasting influence on Japanese film, The Abnormal Family makes fair game of his distinctive tropes and subverts his formal style to provocative effect. It is with this in mind — and not withstanding an act of cultural vandalism — that the low-end stylings of hardcore incest porn may also stake a claim to Ozu’s high artistry. Indeed, by steering clear of the kinetic conventions of the modern porn era, mother-son incest particularly, is at its most effective when rejecting the hyper-reality mechanisms of p.o.v interviews and hidden camera stunts, opting instead for a classical narrative that strives for an altogether more cinematic pace and build.

Clocking in anywhere between 60 and 120 minutes, full-length mother-son incest porn remains committed to its story arc long after other varieties have dropped all pretence in favour of the supremacy of the sexual act. Loaded with meaning and charged with expectation, it is to their own advantage that they benefit from being painted with the verisimilitude of unassuming family life. To this end they recall the slow burn poetics of Ozu’s quiet domesticity, which in turn lends a much needed credulity to the simmering pay off lurking just beneath the surface. Making good use of communal living areas, and the dining room in particular, they are discreetly paced, sparsely edited and involve minimal dialogue to ceremonious effect. Regularly employing long takes and low hanging angles, they would be even more reminiscent of Ozu’s static form were it not for the industry’s obligatory use of a roaming camera. Both creaking in its stereotype but effective in its familiarity, this timeless portrait of the Japanese home is brought forth via a simple loose association with Ozu’s imagery and style.

Typically utilizing three principle players, the father — usually in a non-pornographic role — might be seen chowing down on his food at the dining room table. A greying salary-man recently returned from work, he represents the rigid conformity of Japanese society and the authority figure from which tension and conflict will inevitably arise. The mother — variously cast as a compliant young trophy wife or stoic older milf — will be pictured fussing over food, or some other mundane chore, from which her lowly domestic and conservative status is clear. Yet still she bristles with a sexual longing, offset by the pornographic imagination for a youthful ploughing. The son — usually kitted out in school clothes — is suitably awkward and sulky. Bored and disinterested he might clash with his father to be excused from the scene, or with school work pending sent to his room. A suitable juncture at which the mother will follow in toe.

Homework hardcore style.

Typical pivots into sex, although varied in their execution, tend to play out thematically along one of two paths. Mostly it is lovingly initiated by an over-accommodating mom, but it can also be aggressively snatched by the overbearing son. In the latter, the boy might catch his mother undressing through a crack in the door, or simply set upon her in the kitchen amidst a half-hearted struggle. Unable to control his adolescent loins, it is to the weak protestations of the mother that his libidinal urge is permitted to rise to the surface. To further heighten the sensation of this particular pivot, it is usual to glimpse the father just out of sight and oblivious to proceedings. Perhaps in an adjacent room, or for the real danger freaks sound sleep in bed as the action unfolds precariously by his side. On occasion it may stray into cuckold territory but it generally avoids the melodrama of physical confrontation. Instead, a more insidious power-play takes place with the son growing more sexually proficient with each successive routine. The implication being that with every triumphant climax he moves a step closer to secretly supplanting his father via a mastery of sex.

​The most common entry into sex however, is that which accentuates over-indulgent mothering and exaggerated affection for the pedestaled son. Here the mother may accidently walk in on the masturbating boy, or ignite her curiosity by finding a porno stash in the bedroom or cum-stained underwear in the laundry basket. A classic pivot sees the mother waking her son in the morning, only to be startled when she pulls back the bed-sheets and is confronted by the strains of his morning glory. It is at this point that the two are torn by their forbidden impulses and the raging erection that stands before them. To this end, the first early fumblings are acted out with naivety and quintessential Japanese shame. Slowly they embrace the role-play of sexual awakening and maneuver discreetly into the well worn conceit of first time instruction. Customarily the action unfolds in episodic fashion, from manual and oral to the usual range of full sex — but excluding anal for sacrilegious reasons perhaps. Ideally each chapter ends in climax and facilitates costume changes and switching rooms along the way, all the while maintaining a narrative flow that not only informs the sex itself but also the spaces in between.

Either way, the women in these works display little in the way of ‘agency’ or any of the other buzzwords used by pro-porn feminists to liberate the female representation in porn. In an industry that prizes youth and doe-eyed innocence above all else, there may be some small aesthetic triumph to be had for a mother’s body, advancing in age but still beholden to an enigmatic maturity. Yet her expressions of sexual desire remain very much contained within an insular world of ‘phallocentric’ creation, one that barely extends beyond the four walls which contain the family unit.

Perhaps in the final analysis then, the strange perversity of mother-son incest lies not in its taboo subject matter, but rather in its underpinnings in conservatism and the championing of the family unit. Just as Ozu’s work has been criticized for its othering of Japanese identity and tradition, this type of porn further aligns with, and perpetuates, the same old cultural stereotypes for the benefit of its art. Outside of art, satire, parody and pastiche however — and beyond the dull investment in transgression as furthered by the intellectualised acolytes of porn — the true draw of mother-son incest lies in a psychological cognition with the ‘familiar’ — and all the root derivations that the word confers. After all, and with no suggestion beyond the purely innocent, Ozu himself lived his entire life at home with his mother and passed away only a mere two years after her death.

As an addendum, it would be near on impossible to document this material in its entirety, but by simply browsing any of the major porn streaming sites under the search terms ‘Japanese mother’ and ‘son’ it is easy to get a feel for its constituent parts. Lost in translation, their English given cyber titles run the gamut of generic description, increasingly phrased in the negative so as not to cause offence in internet porn’s new era of global community standards. ‘Mother teaches NOT her son’ is a common call to click, largely avoiding the search term ‘incest’ altogether or simply using the word ‘stepmother’ to sever any suggestion of inappropriate blood ties. But once the material is in flow there can be little doubt as to the bottom line, a fact held true by their domestic titles which when directly translated leave scant regard for Western sensitivities. Titles such as ‘Incest Mother is the Son’s Dick Sucking Puppet’ certainly demonstrates a cultural precision to the art of fetish, and their colourful and inventive packaging also reminds us that in the Japanese buyer’s market physical media is still very much in play.

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