Feminist Book Review,  Media & Pop Culture Book Review

The Monstrous-Feminine in Contemporary Japanese Popular Culture

The Monstrous-Feminine in Contemporary Japanese Popular CultureTitle: The Monstrous-Feminine in Contemporary Japanese Popular Culture
Author: Raechel Dumas
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
First Published: June 1, 2018
Pages: 230
Genres: Feminism, Gender Studies, Pop Culture
Format: PDF
Source: University Library
Rating: ★★★


This book explores the monstrous-feminine in Japanese popular culture, produced from the late years of the 1980s through to the new millennium. Raechel Dumas examines the role of female monsters in selected works of fiction, manga, film, and video games, offering a trans-genre, trans-media analysis of this enduring trope. The book focuses on several iterations of the monstrous-feminine in contemporary Japan: the self-replicating shōjo in horror, monstrous mothers in science fiction, female ghosts and suburban hauntings in cinema, female monsters and public violence in survival horror games, and the rebellious female body in mytho-fiction. Situating the titles examined here amid discourses of crisis that have materialized in contemporary Japan, Dumas illuminates the ambivalent pleasure of the monstrous-feminine as a trope that both articulates anxieties centered on shifting configurations of subjectivity and nationhood, and elaborates novel possibilities for identity negotiation and social formation in a period marked by dramatic change.

My Review:

The monstrous-feminine resurfaces as a potent threat to the patriarchal order, revealing the futility of mechanisms designed to delimit and constrain female bodies and behaviors.Feminist theory and Japanese horror media, two of my favorite things all wrapped up in one book. I couldn’t help but pick this book up, the premise sounded incredibly interesting and as a research topic, it is. As far as reading though, it is definitely an academic text because this book is meaty. Dumas covers a number of both popular and lesser-known pieces of Japanese literature and video game. She covers a wide range of media types and analyzes the social commentaries contained within each work and links it to Japanese history and social anxieties. For the media I had already read, watched, or played, it was a delight to think about those works on a deeper level. For the rest of the works mentioned, my interest was piqued.

Despite the insightful dialogue about the monstrous-feminine in Japanese horror, it is important to note that this is an academic text, and the writing can be dense, dry, and overlong. Dumas gets sidetracked frequently and it makes the text difficult to follow, it is not a light read. When the author does pull all of her scattered pieces together, her essays are sharp, insightful, and incredibly relevant. Chapter three in particular, which focused on evolutionary science fiction classics Parasite Eve and Queen of K’n-Yan stood out. I cannot recommend this book as a casual read, but it is a great analysis for readers interested in further studying the topic of feminism in horror media.

Trigger Warning: Descriptions of Rape, Homophobia, Violence, Forced Impregnation

I’m a Filipino American blogger, historian, and lazy writer. I enjoy books, video games, anime/manga, and smoking hookah.

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