Homosexuality, Visual Kei and Fanservice
The definition of Visual Kei as we (should) know it: a movement among Japanese musicians that is characterized by the use of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes and often, but not always, coupled with androgynous aesthetics.
This is not just about visual kei though; what visual kei means and what it entails or does not entail. This is about the well-known fanservice that the fandoms of many bands enjoy.
The question here is, do these fans understand why it is done?
The Meaning Behind Visual Kei
It needs to be admitted that there are a number of people that get into this style of music for such fanservice. It also needs to be admitted that even amongst the most hardcore fans of visual kei people still don’t know why fanservice is done!
Like most trends of any kind, especially in rather confined societies, visual kei was started as a form of honest expression. In a time when everyone was much like the person beside them and people were afraid to put certain feelings and parts of their identity out into the open visual kei was there to start breaking down the walls of limitations that the Japanese youth were being plagued with. While there are obvious influences on the fashion of visual kei, starting from metal bands and glam metal bands in the west, the image that was to be portrayed was a little different from the ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ look of their counterparts.
Although visual kei has developed and become more refined as the years have gone on since its start in the 1980s there are elements that are, without a doubt, still represented. That is that you like what you like and that anything can be beautiful as long as it’s honest. A person who chose to be part of the visual kei movement became blind to gender, age-restrictions, and other such limits and could feel free to express themselves in the manner they wanted and they could be accepted by a mass of other people who did the same.
There were no presets of ‘I’m a man; I can’t wear that’ or ‘I’m a ‘rock artist’; I can’t write that kind of music’. That was all non-existant in a movement that hoped to give people more of the freedom they deserved.
So what does all this have to do with homosexuality? How did all the fanservice start?
A Kiss of…
As far back in the 1980s, a lot more than now, two men together was thought to be ‘wrong’, ‘sissy-like’ and other such all too familiar insults. This was the same with make-up, dresses, revealing clothing, long hair and so on. With visual kei’s aim for freedom fanservice was, in a way, to say that ‘we will do these things and we will be honest about it, but it doesn’t change the fact that we can rock and be cool.’ They were trying to change this idea that feminine appearances, or a man holding onto another man, was something to be ashamed of and that they were less ‘rock’ if they did these things.
Thus, the aim of their on-stage affection towards each other was to begin opening up more doors for a generation of youth who wanted to be more honest about their identity and to show everyone that to give love and receive love was what was most important.
The reasoning behind fanservice these days is not all too different from their origin, though its meaning has gotten lost over the years as sexual orientation no longer remained such a taboo subject. Quite opposite actually; the growing acceptance of the behaviour as well as the appeal of it caused it to continue to occur throughout the culture.
Band members are also very close most of the time, especially indie bands. You have to be in order to be able to share the majority of your time touring with them, or in the studio, or practice. These people get very close and because of what they are supporting is now even easier for them to feel like they can do these things.
Of course, tragically, there are a lot of people that look at bands just for their attractiveness or how they are slashed together but there are also plenty of them that are in love with their music and are thrilled for what they stand up for; that the way you look and what you do is just the way you want to be, and that you shouldn’t be ashamed for it.