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Istana kecantikan: the first Indonesian gay movie

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This article discusses the first Indonesian film to deal with specifically gay rather than waria (male to female transvestites) subjectivities. The 1980s was a period that saw growing public consciousness of the gay subject position, and the release of this film in 1988 may be seen as the first cinematic attempt to react to this new level of awareness. For this reason, it can be argued that the film says as much about Indonesian perceptions of the gay world as it does about the reality of life as a gay man in Jakarta. The movie has been criticized for its pessimism and negativity regarding the portrayal of gay life in Indonesia, the main character being imprisoned for murder in the final scene. This stands in contrast with more upbeat representations in the recent film, Arisan. However, despite a generally pessimistic ending, the film's portrayal of homosexuality is perhaps more complex, particularly with regard to how family, friends and even psychiatrists relate to the principal gay character. This article argues that rather than the lead character's homosexuality being the reason for his eventual demise, it is his perceived hypocrisy that leads to his ultimate incarceration.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • South East Asia Research publishes articles based on original research or fieldwork on all aspects of South East Asia within the disciplines of archaeology, art history, economics, geography, history, language and literature, law, music, political science, social anthropology and religious studies. This peer-reviewed journal is published four times per year by IP Publishing in cooperation with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). SOAS is the leading centre in this field in Europe and one of the most prestigious centres of South East Asian Studies in the world.

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