Small commentaries is a new segment on Psycho-cinematography. The main purpose of this segment is to provide commentary on Japanese culture, media, news, … . This often rather crude commentary aims to instigate discussion. The commentary is thus more a question than an answer. So if you want to reply, critique or corroborate my writings please do.
Zentai: Hokkyoku Nigo (North Pole No. 2)
“By day, she is a mild-mannered office clerk whose modest make-up and conservative hairstyle allow her to blend in with any crowd. By night, she dresses in a skin-tight, all-in-one Spandex body suit that covers everything — including her eyes — and sits in bars, alone but liberated, she believes, from the judgment of others. “With my face covered, I cannot eat or drink like other customers,” said the woman, who is in her 20s and says her name is Hokkyoku Nigo (North Pole No. 2). “I have led my life always worrying about what other people think of me. They say I look cute, gentle, childish or naive,” she said, her lips ruffling the tight, red shiny material. ‘I always felt suffocated by that. But wearing this, I am just a person in a full body suit’ (Ozawa, 2014, April 17)”.
Before I give my modest commentary on Hokkyoku Nigo’s speech, I invite you to watch the Tokyo Zentai Club video below.
This video nicely introduces the questions and ideas about Zentai I want to bring up here. First of all, the Zentai suit redefines the relation between the wearer and the others. Psychoanalytically we could even hypothesize that it redefines the relation between the I (the wearer) and the Other (others, Language, …).
But how does this full body suit redefine the relation between I and the other(s)? In my opinion, departing from the video and the speech of Hokkyoku Nigo, it changes social interaction by adjusting, fixing the gaze; i.e. the watching and the being watched. And subsequently the ‘fixed’ gaze treats the speech of others.
Is what Hokkyoku Nigo tells us not the indication that the function of Zentai for her is nothing other than the treating of the hurtful influence of the speech and gaze of others. She explains the suffocating effects the speech of other people (They say I look cute, gentle, childish or naïve (…) I always felt suffocated by that”). I do not think it’s the ’judging’ speech of others per se that’s problematic for her, but the fact that this speech reveals the fact that she’s been looked at. The suit, in her case, should be seen as an answer that treats the suffocating gaze and the corresponding suffocating speech.
There’s another effect a Zentai suit could elicitate, an effect that concerns the act of looking at a person in a full body suit. A person in a full body suit has the possibility to deregulate the act of ‘being looked at’. If you felt uneasy – and not because of the erotic undertone of the video, while watching the video above, the most likely cause is the very possibility of the Zentai suit to redefine the relation between the I (the person who looks) and the other (the person in the Zentai suit). It even seems to redefine the inherent interplay of the gaze in social interaction.
Seeing a person in a full body suit doesn’t negate the gaze and it doesn’t annihilate the act of looking. On the contrary, the more obvious effect is that a person in a full body suit, being a peculiar presence, attracts the gazes of others. In the light of Hokkyoku Nigo’s speech, this seems rather strange. But it’s important to emphasize that the way one looks at a person in a Zentai suit is different, because the looking is subjected to the rewritten social exchange of gazes. One possible effect that this rewritten social exchange could entail, is the diminishing of the urge of people to comment on that person.
So Zentai seems to have the possibility of functioning as a defense against the gaze, a gaze that is nevertheless still present, and silencing the ‘suffocating’ speech of others. But this is but one of the possible functions Zentai can have.
Nevertheless a lot of questions remain. If we say Zentai changes social interactions – our humble assumption, which kind of changes does the presence of a person in a full body suit entail in conversations? Is there a difference between a conversation of two people in zentai suits and a conversation of two people, without suits? And what about the sexual fetish function of Zentai?
If someone is willing to share his own Zentai experiences anonymously, you can always contact me: just click here.
Ozawa, H. (2014/04/17). ‘Zentai’ fans search for identity in fetish suits. The Japan Times. Retrieved on 10/04/2014 from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/17/national/full-body-suits-give-identity-freedom-to-japans-zentai-festish-fans/#.U4npw_l_t8F