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Abstract

My dissertation explores the first two decades of the history of Japanese television (1953-1973) with a focus on entertainment programs. During the period of allied occupation (1945-1952) a new wave of entertainment genres such as serial dramas, quiz shows and audience-participation talent shows were introduced to Japanese radio by SCAP/GHQ and NHK programmers working in tandem. With the start of television broadcasting in 1953, these new entertainment shows proliferated to an unprecedented degree and began to mesmerize Japanese viewers. However, some of these programs were highly criticized as violent, obscene and nonsensical comedies that lacked any redeeming content. Many Japanese worried that children in particular were vulnerable to the harmful influences that the “vulgar” entertainment shows created. This concern about television’s social responsibility was widely shared across the global television culture as television became an important part of viewers’ everyday lives and reconstruction of state societies after the World War II.,While television critics expressed their dissatisfaction about the state of entertainment programming, the Japanese government made use of this controversy of “vulgar” television as a pretext to enhance its censorial authority over broadcasting in order to quash opposition to the government’s policies and to articulate Japan’s place in the Cold War. In the meantime, a number of scholars proposed alternative thoughts on “vulgarity” in television, arguing that amateur participants and their explosive bodily images in “vulgar” television shows represented ordinary people’s vitality in their everyday lives and stood as a new source of popular political energy that would contribute to Japan’s postwar democracy. While this alternative view celebrated the virtue of participatory democracy and seemingly raised questions about the Japanese government’s involvement in global Cold War culture that stressed the moral values of containment, it ultimately subscribed to the ideological effort of the “free world,” putting an emphasis on letting public enjoy the maximum amount of liberty through the expression of mass media. In conclusion, the “vulgar” entertainment in the early years of Japanese television can be understood in the cultural context of Japan’s involvement in Cold War in which different values of capitalist society were articulated through the expression of mass media.

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