Historically Hot: Reimagining Beauty from Japan’s Past

  • Thursday, February 9, 2017 • 4:00 pm
  • Busch Hall, Room 18

February 9, 2017 | 4:00pm
Busch Hall, Room 18

Laura Miller, The Ei’ichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Professorship in Japanese Studies and Professor of Anthropology, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Who was considered to be a beautiful man or a gorgeous woman in the ancient period? What did an attractive Edo period samurai or courtesan look like? When contemporary popular culture producers set out to create manga, anime, film and TV programs set in historical eras, they often find that the beauty standards of long ago are quite different from contemporary reader and viewer expectations. Rather than try to represent historically accurate appearance, artists and writers meld some aspects of historic fashion with ideal Heisei era hairstyles and body aesthetics. This talk will survey a number reimagined historical figures represented by actors or drawn characters who reflect today’s beauty ideology rather than those of the periods they are portraying. Expediency and consumer demands are served up as the rationale for most ahistorical costuming. Although these representations reflect creative engagement with history, they also reassure us that our own notions of beauty are natural ones, rather than historically contingent portraits.

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