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Men, masculinities and symbolic violence in recent Indonesian cinema.

According to Krishna Sen, the majority of the genres of Indonesian films are, by definition, 'about men and what the films define as men's sphere of action', and while every film has some female characters, they are 'only in subsidiary roles so that women's images and actions have a small and/or unimportant function in the narrative'. (1) As might be expected, feminist analysis of Indonesian cinema has focused on women. Meanwhile, the dominance of men has been treated as the 'norm', and portrayals of men in the media and popular culture have been seen as unproblematic, but masculinity as such has not been discussed or analysed. Commenting on Western cinema, Steve Neale observed twenty years ago that 'the images and functions of heterosexual masculinity within mainstream cinema have been left undiscussed'. (2) This is no longer the case, especially with the boom in 'men's studies' over the last fifteen years. An ever-increasing body of work has been produced regarding men and masculinities, utilising various feminist and pro-feminist perspectives. In this respect, critical study of men and men's practices in Indonesia is long overdue, and the scholarship on Indonesian gender issues has arguably suffered from the lack of a masculine perspective.

Why use film as a launching pad into an examination of conceptions of Indonesian masculinities? As Robert Connell has argued, in a society of mass communication, one of the best ways to study images of dominant forms of masculinity is through media representations in advertisements, television shows and films. (3) This is because in mass communication, representations of gender are more simplified, stylised and exaggerated than in face-to-face interactions. In Indonesia, there is no doubt that a commercialised 'society of mass communication' has already emerged: with the rise of a larger, more affluent middle class in the mid-1980s, huge, profitable press empires emerged, and several privately-owned television stations appeared in the last years of that decade. (4) In the Indonesian context, however, it is almost impossible to find any analyses that seek to examine in detail the ways in which masculinities are inscribed in genres of mass communication such as film. The sociocultural contexts underpinning such inscriptions are also equally unexplored.

On rare occasions, this gap in feminist analyses of Indonesian cinema becomes apparent, but is left undiscussed. For example, Karl Heider has taken Sen to task for concluding that in the vast majority of Indonesian films women are passive rather than active. (5) Heider utilises ethnographic research from cultures as diverse as Java, Aceh and Minangkabau to present some modifications to Sen's argument; most importantly, he contends that in the domestic arena women are at least equal to men and indeed often dominant. As Sen herself suggests later in reference to the teenage romance and drama genres, it is in what Heider terms the 'sentimental' genre of Indonesian film, which plays out in the domestic arena, that we witness the central women characters playing very strong and independent roles. (6) More importantly, according to Heider these strong women play opposite males who are usually weak: 'The men are passive, or, if active, create the disorder which must be salvaged in the end by the women.' (7) Heider observes that there are exceptions--weak or foolish women--but they are far outnumbered by weak and foolish men.

Sen responds in turn to Heider's 'cultural' analysis of gender issues in Indonesia by posing the following question: 'We need to ask, then, when the woman is represented as powerful or vocal, to what effect and in whose interest is this strength mobilised in the text?' (8) Sen argues elsewhere that any movement of women beyond the domestic sphere becomes an issue of contention within the film's narrative which can only be resolved with the restoration of the 'proper' social role of the heroine, that is, in her function as a mother within a family. (9) From a masculinist perspective, the problem with Heider's analysis is not so much his comments on women in Indonesian films, but rather the lack of an attempt to analyse in detail the ways in which Indonesian men are inscribed in such a negative fashion.

This article will attempt to redress this relative silence and instigate a discussion on men in Indonesian film and gender studies. An examination such as this is particularly important if we wish to see what sort of impact, if any, recent sociopolitical developments have made on representations of men in post-New Order transitional popular culture. Not wanting to mistake a synchronic variety of male images for diachronic change, my argument is a modest one, suggesting that changing images of men and masculinities in recent Indonesian popular culture do not constitute a new phenomenon. After all, from a historical perspective, there have always been images of men that challenge and subvert dominant hegemonic patterns of manliness. However, I will reiterate that recent social and political developments have ensured that for the sake of both women and men in Indonesia, the question of men in Indonesian gender studies needs to be addressed.

Bourdieu and symbolic violence

As with Indonesian film criticism, in Indonesian gender studies as a whole much has been written about women and their attempts to liberate themselves in the midst of the country's patriarchal gender regime. (10) However, very little consideration has been given to any efforts to free Indonesian men from the same dominant patriarchal structures--which they, of course, imposed in the first place. In Masculine domination, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues that in order to highlight the effects of masculine domination on men, the ongoing efforts to liberate women from domination 'must be accompanied by an effort to free men from the same structures which lead them to help to impose [domination]'. (11)

The theoretical approach of this article is underpinned by Bourdieu's exhortation: if we are to use the term and concept 'gender' in the Indonesian context, it must mean much more than a code for 'women's studies'. As observed by Dede Oetomo, the increasing work on gender among Indonesian academics and activists has been focused disproportionately on women: 'the term "gender" is often used as a synonym for "women" or a euphemism for "feminism" or "feminist", with men not even discussed ...; rarely if ever is the construction of masculinity discussed, let alone questioned'. (12)

This paper will attempt to break this trend and make men and masculinity in Indonesia a questioned construct, primarily through Bourdieu's notion of 'symbolic violence', which he defines as a 'gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims', a violence often exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity. In other words, symbolic violence occurs when normal human beings, male or female, are subjected to various forms of violence--being denied resources, denied a voice, treated as inferior or even feeling inferior--but because 'the dominated apply categories from the point of view of the dominant', the symbolic violence of domination is thus 'misrecognised' as 'natural'. (13) In Indonesia, for example, gender relations have been constructed in terms of symbolic violence, whereby for centuries women have been denied similar rights and opportunities to men, yet for much of this time--due to various social, religious and political pressures--women could do little to protest against their so-called inferiority.

Bourdieu explains that patriarchy, then, cannot be understood simply in terms of coercion by men over women. Rather, patriarchal domination was engendered precisely because women misrecognised the symbolic violence to which they were subjected as something that was natural. Consequently women's acceptance, or misrecognition, of symbolic violence ensured that they were responsible for reinscribing their own domination. Men too can be caught up in the imprisonment of symbolic violence. In Indonesia, even as patriarchal constructions of femininity are becoming increasingly challenged, the disregard of Indonesian gender studies for the question of men--let alone transgender categories such as banci or waria--exemplifies the indiscriminate nature of symbolic violence. (14)

The fact that much of this form of gentle and invisible violence is treated as entirely natural is not unique to Indonesia. 'I have always been astonished', Bourdieu writes in the opening lines of Masculine domination,
   by what might be called the paradox of doxa--the fact that the
   order of the world as we find it, with its one-way streets and
   its no entry signs, whether literal or figurative, its
   obligations and its penalties, is broadly respected; that there
   are not more transgressions and subversions ... or, still more
   surprisingly, that the established order, with its relations of
   domination ... ultimately perpetuates itself so easily ... and
   that the most intolerable conditions of existence can so often
   be perceived as acceptable and even natural. (15)

For Bourdieu, 'doxa' is a term referring to a set of orthodox values and discourses widely regarded by the status quo as inherently true and necessary, and 'doxic acceptance' means total submission to these entirely arbitrary conditions. The seminal film Kuldesak [Cul-de-sac] (1998) can be usefully read in terms of Bourdieu's paradox of doxa. According to numerous media reports, Kuldesak is Indonesia's first-ever film independen [independent film]; and given that the New Order allowed little space for experimentation, its fresh production, focus on the underside of urban youth culture and implicit critique of the Suharto period ensured that the film was considered as cutting-edge, with some modest box-office success and popular acclaim within Indonesia. (16)

However, Bourdieu has suggested elsewhere that art fulfils social functions, and as such it is deeply embedded in relations of power. (17) Creative works, then, no matter how 'independent' or 'cutting-edge' they may appear, do not just represent the imaginings of a group of artists; they also provide a site in which social and political relations can be represented, negotiated and manipulated, either deliberately or subconsciously. By detouring through a discussion of the images of men and masculinities inscribed in a film such as Kuldesak, we can see the deceptive familiarity of the paradox of doxa, in the form of symbolic violence and masculine domination. Nevertheless, we will also see that there are, as always, efforts to resist the 'doxic acceptance' of this symbolic domination.

Marking an 'unmarked' category

Before analysing in detail the portrayal of men in films such as Kuldesak, it is relevant to note that this article is inspired by what appears to be a sense of ambivalence, bordering on contempt, towards issues of maleness or masculinity in Indonesia. As was hinted earlier, I do not think it is controversial to say that Indonesian women--and Western feminist scholars--seem unconcerned by issues related to Indonesian men and masculinities. This should be no great surprise; after all, for feminists the world over, no matter what school of feminism, the primary concern is for the needs and problems of women. (18) It is also worth observing that Indonesian men have even less to say on the matter of masculinity, and it is certainly not viewed as a problem. Searching for possible reasons, Oetomo provides us with a clue when he observes that while femininity is a marked category in contemporary Indonesia, 'masculinity is unmarked'. Indonesian men may have little call for interrogating the status of men and the social construction of masculinity, as, on paper at least, they have little to complain about. According to Oetomo:
   One can make inadequate inferences, at best, about Indonesian
   masculinity from the criticisms voiced of inequalities between
   women and men. The portrait that emerges is of men always acting
   as heads of families and as breadwinners, operating in the public
   sphere, and not being responsible for the upbringing of children
   or the sharing of household work. In the area of sexuality, one
   would infer a thinly disguised 'legendary' heterosexual
   promiscuity of men and a consistent role of men as initiators and
   dominators in heterosexual intercourse. (19)

It may not be surprising, therefore, that ambivalence on the question of Indonesian male identity prevails even as issues and practices of gender representation have been opened up for public debate in contemporary Indonesia. This is especially so in the aftermath of the New Order, when the state's homogenising conceptions of gender, and gendered roles, are undergoing a process of renegotiation. An integral part of this process is the need to redress, politically and legally, the many insidious consequences of the New Order's policies of containment and suppression of Indonesian women. It should also be noted, however, that the laws proposed and ratified as part of this aim--such as Law No. 25/2000 concerning the National Planning Program (Propenas) for 2000-04, which aims to promote gender equality and equity for women both nationally and locally, and to improve the quality and independence of women's organisations--are intended to serve the needs of women, not those of men. (20) Can these new laws, then, benefit Indonesian society as a whole?

Veiled questions such as these are frequently raised in various contexts by the writers of Spreading misandry: The teaching of contempt for men in popular culture, who argue that a culture of misogyny should not be replaced by a culture of misandry, as has emerged in the West. (21) Although the existence of such a culture in Indonesia can be illustrated with anecdotal evidence, it is hard to measure the pervasiveness of misandry through either face-to-face interactions or media representations. More importantly, muttered jokes aside, a contemptuous or misandric attitude towards Indonesian men does not appear to have captured the hearts and minds of Indonesia's long-suffering women. Nevertheless, as internal social and political developments coupled with the process of globalisation present challenges to the existing gender order in Indonesia, it can be argued that it is increasingly important to respond to an unspoken aspect of the post-New Order process of gender renegotiation, namely the question of men and masculinities.

The term 'masculinities' is used here deliberately as a recognition of the shifting of the conceptual focus of 'masculinity' to 'masculinities' in international men's studies a decade ago, led by Robert Connell, 'to encapsulate both the diversity and potential fluidity of the processes involved in men being men'. (22) Although there are suggestions that during the New Order the upper-class Javanese priyayi model of emotional self-restraint was widely deployed as an 'ideal' pattern of masculine behaviour, the ways in which men and boys in Indonesia perceive and experience manhood are far more diverse and fluid than this 'ideal', even within Java itself. (23) The particular historical context of post-Suharto Indonesia is no exception. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly evident that the 'ideal' model of masculine behaviour is exactly that, just a model. This is especially so with the growing influence of Western feminism, the increase in grassroots women's activism, the outdated nature of the New Order's dominant patriarchal gender order, the rising numbers of Indonesian women with tertiary qualifications and a desire for careers, and the large numbers of unemployed and underemployed men since the Asian economic crisis and the Bali bombings. In non-Western countries such as Brazil, the debate on men and masculinities was instigated by similar socio-economic factors, spearheaded by feminist activism. (24) In Indonesia, no 'debate' as such has occurred, but Indonesian-language men's magazines such as Men's Health are a new phenomenon, and semi-pornographic misogynist websites have appeared which explicitly promote men's interests whilst vociferously denigrating women, feminism and cowokpussy ('girly' men). (25)

Importantly, the present processes of masculinity formation appear to be no less fluid and hybrid than in the past. For example, it could be argued that constructions of hegemonic or archetypal images of Indonesian manhood as portrayed in Javanese mythology or pre-colonial history have, for centuries, been ruptured by seemingly 'alternative' visions. Examples include the bandit usurper to the throne of the thirteenth-century Javanese kingdom Singosari, Ken Arok (Angrok); the androgenous clown-god Semar; the ogre-king Cakil, and so on. Disruptions to dominant models of the masculine have continued to the present day, especially outside the 'traditional' sphere. One only needs to look at recent cigarette advertisements in magazines such as Tempo, which depict distinctly virile images of unshaven adventurers, 'macho' business executives or rural buffalo-riders. Yet below these glamorous images of 'men's men', paradoxically, is the dire warning that smoking causes impotency.

Considering how many Indonesian men smoke, it is not surprising that impotency has become such an issue, and a lucrative marketing opportunity. Spousal dissatisfaction is routinely used to promote 'energy' pills and drinks. A recent television advertisement for Pilkita, a herbal energy supplement, portrays a wife contrasting her disappointing husband--a sickly, slightly overweight man lacking in strength--with the power and might of a mythological paragon of manhood, the flying-warrior Gatotkaca of wayang shadow puppet theatre. Elsewhere, advertisements celebrating men doing typical men's things are disrupted by characteristics normally associated with the feminine. One popular advertisement for cigarettes is a Gudang Garam commercial featuring an affluent Jakarta-based man releasing a caged butcher-bird outside his holiday shack in the mountain resort of Puncak, under the approving eyes of his sophisticated girlfriend. The whitish skin, skinny build, shaved head, and golden necklace reflect a shift away from the rural muscle and brawn of rival cigarette commercials; sensitivity, vulnerability and seductiveness appear to be highlighted here. Are we witnessing the feminisation of the Indonesian man, though? Clearly the portrayal of gender in contemporary Indonesian popular culture is problematic--the gender not only of women but of men as well.

Elsewhere, in the field of Indonesian literature, several key novels have appeared that openly interrogate and rupture 'traditional' or archetypal Indonesian male images. For instance, in contrast to the permanent and popular male archetypes of the wayang, recent literary appropriations of the genre's mythology inscribe ambiguous and contradictory images of masculinity. Seno Gumira Ajidarma's Wisanggeni sang buronan [Wisanggeni the outlaw] symbolically--and literally--rejects the archetypal male hero of the wayang, the halus [refined] womaniser and warrior, Arjuna. Instead, Seno favours a well-rounded humanised version of Arjuna's son: Wisanggeni, a sensitive, intuitive renegade warrior. Yet in Seno's novel Wisanggeni's heroism is understated: despite his invincibility, he remains a marginal figure of opposition, with human limitations, feelings and desires. (26)

It is no coincidence that a similar male figure, also with the name Wisanggeni, emerges in Ayu Utami's highly acclaimed Saman. (27) In this novel the main male character, Wis/Saman, is a young and passionate Catholic priest, a man enthusiastically engaged in social and political issues. However, later in the novel he struggles with his repressed sexuality, and he seriously questions his faith. Ultimately he gives up his virginity to one of several predatory female friends, and due to his over-enthusiastic social activism he is forced to flee Indonesia in disgrace. Utami's Wis/Saman is a fascinating character, though for one highly regarded critic at least, his psychological characterisation is unconvincing, and he appears to be particularly flighty towards the end of the novel. These flaws could perhaps be traced to what many Indonesian male critics consider as Utami's infamous obsession with the question of female sexuality, seemingly at the expense of men. (28)

Meanwhile, although not known for being anti-male, Pramoedya Ananta Toer also displays Indonesian men in an ambiguous light. Pramoedya's Arok dedes portrays the thirteenth-century bandit Ken Arok in carefully tempered shades of grey. He is depicted as a well-educated and spiritually enlightened leader of 'the people', with a cunning sense of political instinct, yet he is also a ruthless strategist, thug and murderer. Furthermore, despite this rich characterisation, ultimately Pramoedya suggests that Arok's rebellion was carefully orchestrated by the ascendant political-religious elite at the time, the Hindu--Buddhist brahmans of East Java. (29)

Like Seno's Wisanggeni and Ayu Utami's Saman, Pramoedya's Ken Arok does not appear to be a heroic male character in the traditional mould, but rather a male 'anti-hero' commonly found in the pages of Indonesia's more avant-garde fiction. In fact, in terms of Indonesian literary history, on the whole these male figures share much in common with Pramoedya's ambivalent Minke of the Buru tetralogy, or Seno Gumira Ajidarma's self-indulgent male journalist of Jazz parfum dan insiden [Jazz, perfume and the incident], or even Iwan Simatupang's embattled male tramps in his absurdist fiction of the 1960s and 1970s. (30) In other words, they are portrayed as lukewarm, wimpy, alienated men, lacking in passion and vigour and living their lives like leaves blown in the wind. They are, on the whole, either at the mercy of the women in their lives, or subject to the dominant social and political developments of the time. In short, in contrast to 'traditional' images of Indonesian male heroes, contemporary literary representations of masculinity are as much contradictory and ambiguous as they are subversive. As we shall see in the remainder of this paper, a similar pattern has emerged in recent Indonesian cinema, suggesting that the negative portrayals of men in New Order cinema, as observed by Heider, have continued to the present day.

Kuldesak: A cinematic 'cul-de-sac'

Kuldesak began production in 1996, when the New Order regime was still going strong. However, money soon ran out after the onset of the Asian economic crisis in 1997, and, like several other films in production at the time--including Garin Nugroho's Daun di atas bantal [Leaf on a pillow], Marselli Soemarno's Sri and Slamet Rahardjo Djarot's Telegram--production came to a halt. (31) The production of Kuldesak was already under a cloud long before this: none of the directors were members of the Indonesian film union, nor did they have the required permit from the now-defunct Ministry of Information. Nevertheless, eventually a permit was issued mid-shoot, and financial help came in the form of a grant from the Hubert Bals Fund of the Rotterdam Film Festival. Even then, the cast and crew donated their services, and film equipment was supplied for free by PT Samuelson Nusantara and PT Elang Perkasa. (32) In November 1998, six months after the resignation of President Suharto, Kuldesak was screened for over three months in the high-class cinemas of the 21 Group. This in itself was an important development, due to the fact that for over ten years this leading movie theatre chain had had a strong preference for screening American films. Combined with the strict rules and regulations for film production and the popularity of sinetron (sinema elektronik, referring to soap-operas), this preference for Western films had all but extinguished the Indonesian film industry. According to Sen and Hill, the number of companies making film features for cinemas fell from 95 in 1991 to just 13 in 1994; the situation was even worse by 1998. (33)

Kuldesak was eventually viewed by 140,000 people, and in addition to up-beat reviews from major newspapers and magazines such as Kompas and Tempo, anecdotal evidence suggests that the film was very positively received. In fact, one viewer complained that the young audience was so excited and so expectant after a long wait in a queue that when the film was finally shown, the movie theatre was too raucous for anyone to hear anything! Not all responses were positive, however; according to one of the film-makers involved, Mira Lesmana, '[m]any of the older film-makers hated Kuldesak. They said it was too American.' (34)

The film itself is actually divided into four separate strands, with a different director responsible for the production of each strand. The directors include Mira Lesmana, Nan T. Achnas, Rizal Mantovani and Riri Riza, with Sentot Sahid responsible for the film's overall editing. The film begins with the story of Dina, who works in a cinema in Jakarta, and her friendship with a gay couple, Budi and Yanto. Dina has a problematic relationship with a television celebrity, Max Mollo, and later Budi copes with being abandoned by Yanto, who decides to head back to his village after a number of homophobic attacks. The second strand of the film portrays Aksan and his friend Aladin (Din), who decide that the only way they can make a film is to rob the safe of Aksan's father's VCD store. Their plan is eventually foiled by the appearance of a gang of three drunken youths, who want to steal a VCD. In the ensuing mayhem Aksan is shot. The third strand of the movie depicts the rape and kidnapping of Lina, a secretary for a psychotic crime boss, Yakob Gamarhada. Lina eventually escapes, and kills Gamarhada and his henchmen. The fourth strand of the movie details the last few hours of a teenage rebel, Andre, who commits suicide after hearing of the death of Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the American grunge band Nirvana. Although each strand of the film is set in Jakarta in 1994, there appears to be only one point at which all four strands meet: halfway through the film, a scene is set in a cinema, and the movie showing in the background is, paradoxically, Kuldesak.

In terms of content, Kuldesak is a movie distinguished by its focus on the alienation of Jakarta's bourgeois urban youth and the vulnerability of the Indonesian male subject. In fact, in many ways Kuldesak represents Indonesian men negatively. Unlike the women, most of the men are not real people at all; they are, on the whole, simply wooden caricatures who represent various models of masculinity. Each strand of the movie portrays at least two or three male characters in lead roles, but in every case the viewer is confronted with a collage of 'deviant masculinities' in contrast to 'real men', or at least men trying to be 'real men'. Significantly, it is the 'real men' who are constantly under attack, and they are often their own worst enemy.

This notion is depicted quite dramatically in one of the most surreal scenes in the movie, the dream of the 'wannabe filmmaker', Aksan. In this dream he is chased and attacked by a movie camera, which is accompanied by a few marauding rolls of film. When he wakes up, we soon learn that this is not the first time he has had this dream. In fact, his friend Aladin reiterates his belief that this recurring dream is a 'sign' that Aksan must follow his ambition to make a movie--not just any movie either, but one that will be truly Indonesian, with international acclaim.

Looking at the gender components that constitute the protagonists' looks and behaviour, it becomes quite clear at this point that Aksan is the masculine centre, under attack not only from his subconscious self but also his side-kick, Aladin. In contrast to Aksan's straightforward behaviour and placid exterior, Aladin's almost constant babble is in every respect coded as prissy, nagging, and deviant. Later, when he grabs the gun off a group of youths trying to break into the laser-disc store, his hands shake, he points the gun wildly, and he stutters and shrieks, further exaggerating his hysterical, effeminate personality. Like the campy character Ceki, who was actually holding the gun in the first place, Aladin's sexual orientation is ambiguous, and one of the girls even suggests that the two boys were 'up to something'. Ceki, meanwhile, is also a male, yet his catty and asexual repartee with his two vampish female partners in crime, not to mention his timid reaction to being disarmed, suggest that he too is hardly a representative of the movie's masculine centre.

This particular strand of the film's perspective is focused on Aksan, not the effeminate and possibly gay characters of Aladin and Ceki. Certainly Aladin dominates the dialogue, yet even as he babbles on, on a number of occasions the camera's gaze is sympathetically fixed on Aksan, with Aladin out of focus. Nevertheless, the lifeless Aksan has nothing much to say or do; perhaps, the filmmakers appear to be suggesting, this is precisely the problem with Indonesian men. Caught between archetypal yet unrealistic ideals such as the Arjunas of the past and impossible Western postfeminist images of the Sensitive New Age Guy, so-called 'men' such as Aksan are hesitant and unconvincing. Nevertheless, the privileging of Aksan's perspective reflects a dominant motif of the movie: the hierarchisation between heterosexual masculinity and its deviant 'Other'. The latter consists of gays, madmen, freaks, villains and the sexually precocious--dare I say it, feminist--women accompanying Ceki in the hold-up. Some critics found the 'berlebihan' (over-the-top) aspect of these characters acutely annoying. According to the writer of the Kompas review, 'it was these characters in particular that made the serious become trivial, and the real become surreal'. (35) However, unlike this reviewer's black-and-white description of the film's key thematic turn, Kuldesak does not set up a clear dichotomisation between these opposites; in fact, at times the oppositional masculinities intertwine in a potential conflation.

With masculinity the battleground on which this battle of identity is fought, dominant male heterosexuality is depicted as a victim as much as it is an aggressor. Aksan's desire to make a 'great' movie, in a class above the work of Indonesia's great cinematographers (including Teguh Karya, Eros Jarot and Garin Nugroho), sets up an intriguing and very self-reflexive dialectic. Rejected by his wealthy father, Aksan has no option but to steal money from his father's safe in order to finance his film. Outside the diegetic levels of Kuldesak, for several years the filmmakers involved in the production of the movie also struggled to gain permission and to raise sufficient funds. Of course, with the fall of Suharto the permissive political climate fostered boldness, creativity and experimentation. According to Katinka van Heeren,
   The unexpected fall of Suharto enabled this film [Kuldesak] to
   reach movie theatres throughout Indonesia in November 1998.
   Reformasi was reaching its peak, and many restrictions on film
   production and exhibition were not being applied. Its rebellious
   production and fresh contents and techniques set Kuldesak apart
   from both the films produced by an earlier generation and from
   the everyday soap operas on television. The press ... often
   highlighted its 'non-Indonesian' features. (36)

The 'non-Indonesian features', although not exactly an uncommon feature of Indonesian cinema, were almost certainly inspired by American Generation X filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Indeed, Generation X icons such as Tarantino's Pulp fiction (1994) and Nirvana's front-man Kurt Cobain are recurring motifs throughout the movie. For example, the target of the hold-up in the laser-disc store is a copy of Pulp fiction, one of the girls' favourite movies. Various snatches of dialogue are pure Tarantino, and at one point the soundtrack to the robbery scene is, appropriately enough, the American rockabilly country music ubiquitous to Pulp fiction. In the background of the same scene is a giant poster advertising Tarantino's Reservoir dogs, and we mustn't forget that, like Aksan and Aladin, Tarantino himself worked in a video shop before he began making films. (37) Elsewhere, we see conveniently placed books such as Douglas Rushkoff's The Gen X reader, or GenX filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's Rebel without a crew. (38)

The self-parodic references mentioned above play an important aesthetic and ideological role in Kuldesak, all the while confirming Fredric Jameson's theories regarding the lack of depth and pastiche of popular culture in the postmodern era. (39) The self-parodic and self-referential aspects of the film will be discussed in more detail shortly. The main point to make here is that, unlike Tarantino, Aksan does not succeed in his aims. Why not? Because, according to the way he is portrayed, he deserves to fail. As a symbol of heterosexual Indonesian masculinity, Aksan is quite forgettable; indeed, he is little more than a cardboard cut-out, or an actor on the stage. Meek and anonymous, he is depicted as an unrealistic dreamer. He pays the ultimate price for these character flaws: in the hold-up, he is shot, accidentally, without a single word of auger. His dying words are 'Gue cuma mau bikin film ... gue 'kan cuma pengen bikin film ...' (I just wanted to make a film ... I just wanted to make a film, you know ...).

In stark contrast to Aksan, triumphant film critics proclaim that the four young filmmakers involved with Kuldesak did not fail. (40) After all, these days the four have become leading film-makers, producing one box-office success after another, including Petualangan sherina [The adventures of Sherina] (2000) by Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza, Jelangkung (an effigy used for exorcistic rituals) (2001) by Rizal Mantovani, Pasir berbisik [Whispering sands] (2001) by Nan T Achnas, Ada apa dengan cinta? [What's up with love?] (2002) by Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza (with Rudy Soedjarwo), and Eliana Eliana (2002) by Riri Riza. On the whole, the images of men and masculinities encoded in these films are both understated and revealing. Masculine themes include the absent father (Pasir berbisik), the ups-and-downs of contemporary father--son relationships (Eliana Eliana and Ada apa dengan cinta?), domestic violence (Ada apa dengan cinta?) and the sense of aimlessness and alienation of the emerging post-New Order generation of Indonesian men (Jelangkung). Nonetheless, considering the negative portrayals of men in several other films appearing in the period after the demise of the New Order regime--such as Daun di atas bantal, Telegram and Aria Kusumadewa's Beth (2001)--questions might well be asked about the presence of a misandric worldview in post-New Order cinema. (41)

Interestingly enough, Riri Riza, when discussing his film Eliana Eliana at an Indonesian film festival in Melbourne, observed that 'some critics have said that all the male characters in my films are weak. To some extent this is true. But aren't we all weak?' (42) To test the veracity of this statement, for the moment we need not look too far beyond Kuldesak, literally the film that launched the film-making career of Riri Riza and each of the other young directors involved. An analysis of the film's other strands will provide more evidence to show that in terms of many of its gendered representations, Kuldesak really does live up to the dictionary definition (glimpsed late in the movie) of a 'cul-de-sac', a dead-end street. I will argue that Aksan is not the only male heterosexual 'hero' to hit a 'dead-end' (pun intended) in the struggle to fulfill his potential. Likewise, Aladin and Ceki are not the only 'deviant' masculinities that rupture the dominant gender discourse.

Grunge and madness: Resisting symbolic violence

The strand depicting Andre, a long-haired hard-rocking 'metal' fan, also presents a view of dominant masculinity under attack. Paradoxically, Andre can be considered as an embodiment both of a subversive discourse of masculinity and of Indonesia's dominant elite. He is, after all, a spoilt rich kid with too much time and money on his hands. On his birthday we learn via a telephone answering machine that Andre's mother is flying off to Tokyo for a business meeting, and Andre is told to use his credit card for anything he needs. In the background, we see cable TV, complete with video player and remote control. However, despite his wealthy background, we soon learn that Andre is no goody-two-shoes. For example, his cluttered room is decorated with huge posters of Kurt Cobain and James Dean. Furthermore, when he does wear a shirt, it is a Cobain T-shirt, underneath a Cobainesque cardigan. The grungy hard rock of Indonesia's Nirvana tribute band is blaring out of the stereo; the nose-rings, heroin shoot-up scars and long, unkempt hair complete the picture. Later, after Andre drunkenly celebrates his birthday at a bar for heavy-metal fans, we witness his reaction to a cable broadcast (in English) announcing the suicide of Kurt Cobain. This particular moment in history--5 April 1994--is arguably one of the defining moments of Generation X. It is also a defining moment for Andre; he commits suicide not long after. (43)

It could be argued that the close association between Andre and Kurt Cobain is perhaps the point at which Kuldesak most successfully resists symbolic violence, in particular the violence of New Order patriarchy. To some extent Andre's flight into the world of grunge and heavy metal--inspired no doubt by a sense of anxiety about his own behaviour and societal expectations of what he is meant to be both as a man and an Indonesian citizen--subverts the very constructions of categories such as gender and sex. By escaping dominant masculinity, and also the potentially threatening demands of feminism, Andre presents a rebellious Cobain-like model of alternative masculinity. The grunge rock of the early 1990s, spearheaded by Nirvana, is characterised by a specifically male adolescent narcissism, and it was very much concerned with finding a way to define one's masculinity. According to Frank Lay,
   Even if Grunge rockers like Nirvana's Kurt Cobain were not
   explicitly presented as a new kind of male rock persona, they
   have nonetheless come to impersonate the new type of man, torn
   angrily between hegemonic masculinity and the 'new men' of the
   1970s, and, most of all, the unreachable ideal man of the
   'post-feminist' era, incorporating all extremes, the macho and
   the softie. (44)

Lay is speaking of the American context here, but the parallels with contemporary Indonesia are self-evident. More importantly, does Andre's alternative masculinity a la Cobain really subvert symbolic violence? Or does he, along the lines of Bourdieu's thesis, fall into the same trap as some feminists whose subversions against the masculine status quo are produced and restrained through the very structures of power through which emancipation is fought, and are therefore just as likely to perpetuate the social relations of domination between the sexes? (45) The fact that Andre is written out of the script without any rational explanation suggests that the latter thesis holds sway here. However, as with the portrayal of Aksan, the self-reflexivity of Andre's strand of the film implies that the makers of Kuldesak are indeed searching furiously for a way to undermine the performative constructions and patterns that produce and reproduce domination.

In what way is Andre's strand self-reflexive? To answer this, we must return again to the film's key motif, the hierarchisation between dominant heterosexual masculinity and its deviant Other. Shadowing Andre's straight characterisation and his unchallenged position as the narrative centre, we find the mad soothsayer, Hariolus. Andre has known the hunch-backed Hariolus for many years, and each time they meet on the streets, Andre's fortune is told. Andre is not totally convinced, and he even believes that each time he meets Hariolus, bad luck is sure to follow. When Hariolus predicts that Andre will find a package after his night out which will irrevocably change his life, Andre is intrigued but ultimately dismissive of his jovial, happy-go-lucky friend. With an owl perched on Hariolus' shoulder, the keen insight inspired by his synthesis of madness and animalism is in stark contrast to Andre's 'rebel without a cause' urban angst.

Significantly, the self-reflexivity embedded in this strand of the movie lies in the pivotal figure of Hariolus. Played superbly by Indonesia's leading hip-hop rapper, Iwa K, Hariolus presents some of his predictions rap-style, and we see that his haunt is outside a shopping centre named 'K'. At one point we see a close-up of Hariolus laughing maniacally--as madmen do--underneath a giant neon 'K' sign; the in-joke is that the 'K' sign refers to the fact that he is played by none other than Iwa K. It is significant to consider that in analysing Iwa K's influential cameo, one is reminded of Foucault's argument that madness, 'insofar as it partook of animal ferocity, preserved man from the dangers of disease; it afforded him an invulnerability, similar to that which nature, in its foresight, had provided for animals'. (46) If Andre's ambivalence (and suicide) can be used as a mirror for the uncertainty surrounding the status of the Indonesian male, then Iwa K's fluid identity (half actor/half rapper, half mad/half genius) can be used as an alternative trope of masculinity. Even if his character does not totally subvert the underlying structures and mechanisms of masculine domination, at the very least Iwa K is at the symbolic avant-garde, and he provides us with a self-conscious symbolic rupture. This has been, of course, the social and performative role of madmen, buffoons and clowns throughout the history of humankind. Indonesia is no exception; such is the prestige of wayang clowns such as Semar and his sons that they are often considered as the guardians of truth and justice.

In the other strands of the movie, madmen also play an important role. In the next narrative to be discussed, the rape and kidnapping of Lina, we are confronted with the antithesis of Hariolus' good-natured madness: the insanity of the New Order businessman and gangster boss, Yakob Gamarhada. The following discussion will argue that unlike the other strands of Kuldesak, in this strand the hegemonic masculine centre is threatened by a very traditional adversary: femininity. It is also contended that if Yakob Gamarhada can be compared to the dominant patriarchal figure of the New Order era--Suharto himself--then in the post-New Order era, traditional models of hegemonic masculinity appear to be monolithic dinosaurs.

Violence and masculinity

In Masculine domination Bourdieu insists that men are also prisoners, and insidious victims, of the dominant gender regime:
   Male privilege is also a trap, and it has its negative side in the
   permanent tension and contention, sometimes verging on the absurd,
   imposed on every man by the duty to assert his manliness in all
   circumstances ... Manliness, understood as sexual or social
   reproductive capacity, but also as the capacity to fight and to
   exercise violence ... is first and foremost a duty.

Bourdieu goes on to say that the problem with exalting manliness, besides its tacit encouragement of violence, lies in its dark side, what he calls 'the fears and anxiety aroused by femininity'. (47) This in turn engenders symbolic violence, especially in men searching for a sense of masculine identity. In Kuldesak the dominant males always have a point of vulnerability, such as Aksan's need to prove himself by making a movie or Andre's obsession with Kurt Cobain. Both of these points of vulnerability can be linked with the search for a sense of manliness or male identity. In Lina's strand of the movie, it becomes apparent that Yakob Gamarhada's point of vulnerability is his thirst for domination, especially over young women. Paradoxically, it is this vulnerability that leads him into a world of violence--against women in particular--where he can utilise visible signs of masculinity, such as subservient henchmen and high-powered handguns.

The climax of Kuldesak is a smorgasbord of gun shooting and bloodshed. In an analysis of the various images of masculinity in Pulp fiction, Brandt observes that,
   The constant gun shooting that characterises male behaviour in
   [the film] points simultaneously to the defense of masculinity
   through the hard-boiled heroes and to the 'homoerotic associations
   of the images of bodily penetration that are so common in the
   action genre'. (48)

This is an interesting observation, but in the case of Kuldesak several important modifications need to be made. First of all, in each case where a dominant male (i.e. Aksan, Andre, Gamarhada) finds himself on the wrong side of a bullet, his model of masculinity is apparently not worth defending. Secondly, in Kuldesak it is (mostly) women shooting men, and vice versa--not, as in Pulp fiction, men shooting men. In this sense the gun shooting can be more closely associated with feminist incursions into the male body. When Lina is kidnapped, she breaks free, and after arming herself with a handgun she has little hesitation in shooting several gangsters, culminating in the death of Gamarhada himself. For Gamarhada, death comes as a punishment for his sexual perversion, and his death is also in one important sense a site of liberation for Indonesian women as a whole. His blood-splattered body falls down on top of an Indonesian-English dictionary, conveniently opened to the page listing 'kuldesak'. At this point, it is overwhelmingly clear that Gamarhada's 'dead-end' model of hegemonic masculinity is no longer acceptable, especially in these more enlightened times.

Despite Lina's heroics, Bourdieu's theory of symbolic violence would suggest that her victory does little to successfully challenge male domination, as she is forced to fight Gamarhada on his terms. By using a handgun, Lina misrecognises the tool of her own physical and symbolic violence, thus reinscribing her domination. It is no coincidence that feminists seldom refer to violence as a justifiable means of creating a new gender order, yet I would argue that Lina's character does indeed fulfil Bourdieu's call to attack the underlying constructions of domination. As Bourdieu himself observes, in order to challenge the very effects of domination, 'one has to take the risk of seeming to justify the established order by bringing to light the properties through which the dominated (women, manual workers, etc.), as domination has made them, may contribute to their own domination'. (49)

Through the use of parody, Lina brings to light the New Order's key mechanism for perpetuating the domination of Indonesian women and the Indonesian people as a whole: physical aggression. In other words, by wielding a handgun so skillfully and effectively--and magically surviving a hail of bullets unscathed--Lina caricatures the chief legacy of New Order patriarchy, that is, violence as a legitimate mechanism of domination. As if to emphasise this point, one of Gamarhada's gangsters goes cross-eyed staring at Lina's oncoming bullet, just before it hits him between the eyes. The sense of parody is heightened by the fact that this image is in slow motion, followed by what sounds like splattered brains falling on the ground. However, does parody truly expose the flawed notion of masculinity that lies at the basis of male identity politics, especially in the case of the New Order patriarchy, propped up as it was through the power of the shotgun? Parody, as John Fried points out, 'is a double-edged sword. It also protects and reinforces the very "norm" it seeks to disclose' (50) Thus while Lina's segment of the movie might exaggerate and parody male violence, this self-awareness is almost indistinguishable from plain old-fashioned heterosexual paranoia, where trying to prove one's manliness in response to the feminine threat is merely a reflection of an insecure sense of masculine identity.

Homosexuality and identity

The last strand of Kuldesak to be discussed concerns the relationship between Dina and her homosexual neighbours, Budi and Yanto. The significance of this strand lies in the status of 'homosexuality' in contemporary Indonesian culture. Dede Oetomo observes that in the 1980s the Indonesian media began to highlight, and sensationalise, homosexuality. (51) According to Oetomo, this media focus, coupled with the drive against HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, has created a new understanding of gender and sexuality in contemporary Indonesia. However, since the fall of Suharto homophobic attacks are on the increase, just as homosexual groups have become more visible. Bourdieu's observations on gays and lesbians are quite helpful here. He asserts that homosexuals suffer from a particular form of symbolic domination: social stigmatisation. 'As in some kinds of racism', he writes,
   this symbolic domination takes the form of a denial of public,
   visible existence. Oppression in the form of 'invisibilization'
   comes through a refusal of legitimate, public existence, i.e. of
   an existence that is known and recognized, especially by law, and
   through a stigmatization which never appears more clearly than
   when the movement claims visibility. It is then explicitly invited
   to return to the 'discretion' or dissimulation that it is
   ordinarily required to observe. (52)

Kuldesak presents a similar pattern. The fact that this film's depiction of homosexuality includes the first man-to-man kissing scene in the history of Indonesian cinema is surely a reflection of the growing visibility of the Indonesian gay movement. Yet accompanying this new openness towards homosexuality is the awareness that homophobia runs deep. Twice Budi is attacked by homophobic youths as a direct consequence of his sexuality. After one of the attacks, obviously shaken, Yanto decides to leave both Budi and Jakarta. In this way his return to the village is a literal embodiment of the process of hegemonic exclusion labelled by some Western film scholars as 'symbolic annihilation', and referred to by Bourdieu as 'invisibilisation'. (53)

It is clear that Yanto's fate fits Bourdieu's definition of symbolic violence in that 'the dominated tend to adopt the dominant point of view on themselves'. (54) In this case, Yanto appears to believe that perhaps his heterosexual persecutors are correct--that his sexuality is deviant and therefore he must escape the shame and humiliation that his sexual experience and orientation must entail. His return to his family is also a rejection of the urban gay lifestyle, where friendship has replaced the familial bonds underlying the conservative morality of Indonesia's heterosexual society. According to Justin Wyatt, 'for gay people, friendship becomes a fluid category that helps to create social networks and community', (55) Therefore, where (as for many gay people) friendship is also kinship, for Budi to lose Yanto is also to lose a sense of family.

The fact that the homosexual element of Kuldesak is ultimately subject to societal 'invisibilisation' suggests that the contrast between a traditional view of 'deviant' homosexuality versus 'dominant' heterosexuality is posited and endorsed. Even when the gay couple are on screen, expressions of sexuality other than their much-discussed kiss are either rather chaste or kept off-screen, and both Budi and Yanto remain mute about their feelings for each other and their gayness. Having said this, it could also be argued that Budi's friendship with Dina is an act of symbolic subversion. One problem with defending an argument such as this, however, is that the subversive characteristic of Budi's friendship with Dina is not immediately recognisable. This is especially so after Yanto abandons Budi. When Dina attempts to comfort Budi, he angrily turns on her, telling her that she is just living in a 'dunia khayalan', a 'dream world' of the Max Mollo TV show. As with so many other characters in this film, Dina's 'normality' is challenged by her obsession with the bizarre antics of Max Mollo, a particularly deviant representation of masculinity. Mollo is a live-wire TV personality and pantomime artist, although he uses an exaggerated form of Indonesian to liven up his act somewhat. From time to time Mollo appears in the cinema at which the besotted Dina works, and they conduct a silent but touching romance. Budi, however, attacks Dina because she reminds him of Yanto--that is, a person not willing to face reality. Yet not long afterward, the two embrace each other emotionally but chastely.

It can be argued that Budi and Dina's blurring of the line between gay and straight hints at the possibility for a larger assimilation of gay culture into dominant Indonesian society. More importantly, the subversive nature of the scene lies in the fact that the couple are no longer defined in terms of their sexuality--they are two people who love each other in their own way. They are also two broken people; their dreams are shattered. However, through this self-awareness they develop new understanding of their personal realities. For example, Budi alludes to his traumatic childhood, and he voices his doubts regarding Yanto. In the last scene of the movie Dina rejects her cinema job, and parodies Max Mollo himself, which is as cathartic as it is subversive. In this sense, the warm reconciliation between Budi and Dina is not only an act of symbolic subversion, but also an attempt to fight symbolic violence on an even deeper level. According to Bourdieu,
   For it is true that the action of symbolic subversion, if it wants
   to be realistic, cannot draw the line at symbolic breaks--even if,
   like some aesthetic provocations, they are effective in suspending
   self-evidences. To accomplish a durable change in representations,
   it must perform and impose a durable transformation of the
   internalized categories (schemes of thought) which, through
   upbringing and education, confer the status of self-evident,
   necessary, undisputed natural reality, within the scope of their
   validity, on the social categories that they produce. (56)

By refusing to submit to the dominant norm--like Lina, and also like the mad Hariolus--Dina and Budi go beyond a mere symbolic break. They challenge not only the 'schemes of thought' of the status quo, but also their own 'internalised categories'. Just as Hariolus' madness is also a site of perception and insight, and Lina's capture and subjectification is also a site for parodic subversion, Budi's homosexuality and Dina's obsession with Max Mollo are transcended and transformed. This is not to say that any of these characters totally escape their domination, their madness, their homosexuality, etc.--or even want to. Rather, by undergoing self-reflexive representational transformation to varying degrees, they no longer accept domination as an 'undisputed natural category'. In the Indonesian context, this is, perhaps, the first step towards generating a more liberated sense of social order.


Just as the Indonesian nation has found itself in a deep crisis in the years following the fall of Suharto, as a constructed category the Indonesian 'man' is also undergoing a period of fluidity. Cultural icons such as the landmark film Kuldesak suggest that the contemporary image of the Indonesian male is torn between outdated and archetypal images and 'alternative' or non-traditional masculinities. The alternatives themselves, as seen in recent fiction, television advertisements and cinema, are contradictory and ambiguous.

However, contradiction and ambiguity do not necessarily appear to be entirely negative characteristics. This article has suggested that even apparently 'dead-end' masculinities--such as Andre, the rebellious grunge rebel--are also encoded as symbolic breaks with the dominant image of Indonesian heterosexual masculinity. Furthermore, even when contrasted unfavourably with Andre, the mad Hariolus is also able to undermine dominant heterosexual images of the Indonesian man. Despite many contradictions and the paradoxes of self-reflexivity, these symbolic ruptures are extremely important, as they highlight and question the outdated nature of conservative patriarchal stereotypes--such as the New Order thug Yakob Gamarhada--as well as the physical and symbolic violence involved in establishing and perpetuating patriarchal dominance. Through the questioning of gendered power, Kuldesak both refuses and challenges the New Order's monolithic and patriarchal consciousness, the imprint of which will no doubt affect Indonesians for many years to come.

Finally, the contradictory and hybrid nature of Indonesian maleness says much about the realities of contemporary Indonesian life. With the fall of Suharto, and the disappointment of leaders such as Habibie, Gus Dur and Megawati, it appears that the days of a unifying, all-conquering, male hero a la Sukarno--who often likened himself to the heroic Bima or Gatotkaca of the wayang--are long gone. However, with the opening up of a sense of democratic space for Indonesian filmmakers (and for all Indonesians, in fact) new voices can be heard. In fact, the multiple perspectives and ideological contradictoriness of deeply political films such as Kuldesak reflect what is so exciting and daunting about Indonesia today--the emergence of so many identities that have been suppressed for too long. It remains to be seen, however, whether discussion of Indonesian male identity is to play a key role in Indonesia's ongoing process of social, cultural and political renegotiation.

I am very grateful to Lauren Bain, Laine Berman, Keith Foulcher and the two anonymous JSEAS reviewers in particular for their helpful comments in the writing of this article; any shortcomings or errors remain my responsibility.

(1) Krishna Sen, 'Repression and resistance: Interpretations of the feminine in New Order cinema', in Culture and society in New Order Indonesia, ed. Virginia Hooker (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 116-33.

(2) Steve Neale, 'Masculinity as spectacle: Reflections on men and mainstream cinema', Screen, 24, 6 (1983): 2-16.

(3) Robert Connell, Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987).

(4) Michael Bodden, 'Satuan-satuan kecil and uncomfortable improvisations in the late night of the New Order: Democratization, postmodernism and postcoloniality', in Clearing a space: Postcolonial readings of modern Indonesian literature, ed. Keith Foulcher and Tony Day (Leiden: KITLV Press, 2002), pp. 293-324.

(5) Karl G. Heider, Indonesian cinema: National culture on screen (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991.

(6) Krishna Sen, Indonesian cinema: Framing the New Order (London: Zed Books Ltd, 1994).

(7) Heider, Indonesian cinema, p. 121.

(8) Sen, Indonesian cinema, p. 135.

(9) Sen, 'Repression and resistance'.

(10) See, for example, Tineke Hellwig, In the shadow of change: Of women in Indonesian literature (Berkeley: University of California Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies, 1994); Fantasizing the feminine in Indonesia, ed. Laurie J. Sears (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1996); and Women in Indonesia: Gender, equity and development, ed. Kathryn Robinson and Sharon Bessell (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2002).

(11) Pierre Bourdieu, Masculine domination, tr. Richard Nice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), p. 114.

(12) Dede Oetomo, 'Masculinity in Indonesia: Genders, sexualities, and identities in a changing society', in Framing the sexual subject: The politics of gender, sexuality, and power, ed. Richard Parker et al. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), p. 46.

(13) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, pp. 1-2 (gentle violence) and 35 (misrecognised).

(14) Banci or waria have been defined by Boellstorff as persons who regard themselves as belonging to a 'male-to-female, transvestite subject-position'; Tom Boellstorff, 'Gay and lesbi subjectivities, national belonging and the new Indonesia', in Robinson and Bessell ed, Women in Indonesia, pp. 92-9.

(15) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, p. 1.

(16) For a discussion of the broader context for the film, see Krishna Sen and David Hill, Media, culture and politics in Indonesia (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2000). Despite passing references to its underground production and the lack of state authorisation, it is not entirely clear on what grounds the Indonesian press and discussion groups labelled Kuldesak as 'independent'. Nevertheless, the fact that it broke all the rules for film production under the New Order ensured that, in the words of Katinka van Heeren, 'there was something special about the film'; see Katinka van Heeren, 'The case of Beth: Monopolies and alternative networks for the screening of films in Indonesia in transition', paper presented at IIAS Workshop on Globalizing Media and Local Society in Indonesia, Leiden, 2002.

(17) Pierre Bourdieu, Distinctions: A social critique of the judgement of taste, tr. Richard Nice (London: Routledge, 2002), p. 7.

(18) Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young, Spreading misandry: The teaching of contempt for men in popular culture (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2001).

(19) Oetomo, 'Masculinity in Indonesia', pp. 46 ('unmarked') and 57 (quotation).

(20) Soedarti Surbakti, 'Gender mainstreaming and sex disaggregated data', in Robinson and Bessell ed, Women in Indonesia, pp. 209-18.

(21) Nathanson and Young, Spreading misandry.

(22) Bob Pease and Keith Pringle, 'Introduction: Studying men's practices and gender relations in a global context', in A man's world? Changing men's practices in a globalised world, ed. Bob Pease and Keith Pringle (London: Zed Books, 2001), p. 2.

(23) Harry Aveling, Secrets need words: Indonesian poetry, 1966-1998 (Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 2001), p. 162.

(24) Benedito Medrado et al., 'Masculinities in Brazil: The case of Brazilian television advertisements', in Pease and Pringle ed, A man's world?, pp. 163-76.

(25) See, for example, URL:

(26) Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Wisanggeni sang buronan (Yogyakarta: Yayasan Bentang Budaya, 2000).

(27) Ayu Utami, Saman (Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 1998).

(28) Y. B. Mangunwijaya, 'Menyambut roman Saman', Kompas, 5 April 1998; see also, for instance, the comments by male critics in Barbara Hatley, 'New directions in Indonesian women's writing? The novel Saman', Asian Studies Review, 23, 4 (1999): 449-60.

(29) Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Ken Arok (Jakarta: Hasta Mitra, 1999).

(30) See, among others, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Bumi manusia (Jakarta: Hasta Mitra, 1980); Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Jazz, parfum dan insiden (Yogyakarta: Yayasan Bentang Budaya, 1996); and Iwan Simatupang, Ziarah (Jakarta: Djembatan, 1969).

(31) These films were eventually completed and released in Indonesia in 1998 and 1999, after the resignation of President Suharto in May 1998.

(32) 'Kuldesak: Keterserpihan anak muda', Kompas, 5 Dec. 1998; on the earlier problems see 'Current trends in the Indonesian cinema', URL:

(33) Sen and Hill, Media, culture and politics, p. 137; the industry's problems are mentioned in van Heeren, 'The case of Beth', p. 4.

(34) The movie-goer's observation is from Amelia Fyfield (personal communication, Oct. 2002). The quotation and 140,000 figure are found in Amir Muhammad, 'Smorgasboard: Lesson from Indonesia', URL:

(35) 'Kuldesak: Keterserpihan anak muda'; the original phrase is 'Tokoh-tokoh inilah yang membuat yang serius menjadi tidak serius, yang riil menjadi maya'.

(36) Katinka van Heeren, 'Revolution of hope: Independent films are young, free and radical', Inside Indonesia, 70 (2002), URL: http:/

(37) Jami Bernard, Quentin Tarantino: The man and his movies (London: HarperCollins, 1995), pp. 44-67.

(38) Douglas Rushkoff, The Gen X reader (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994); Robert Rodriguez, Rebel without a crew (New York: Plume, 1996).

(39) Fredric Jameson, 'Postmodernism and consumer society', in Postmodern culture, ed. Hal Foster (London/Sydney: Pluto Press, 1985), pp. 111-25.

(40) See, for example, 'Kuldesak: Keterserpihan anak muda'.

(41) Daun di atas bantal depicts the bleak lives of male street-kids in Yogyakarta, who are both victims and perpetrators of violence. Their fear and mistrust of each other, and their yearning for a mother's love, highlight their lack of confidence in the male domain, not to mention their failure to develop an adult sense of masculinity. Telegram depicts a rough-and-ready journalist who is haunted by his wife's death yet in the midst of his sorrow is reinvigorated by the innocent presence of his adopted daughter. This does not, however, transform him from a 'bad man' to a 'good man'; despite his sense of responsibility, he is promiscuous, moody and prone to acts of irrationality. Beth, a love story set in a mental institution, is overrun by evil, insane or psychotic male characters; the women, on the other hand, appear to be merely innocent victims. This is a somewhat polarised description, however, and there are notable exceptions.

(42) Comments made during audience questions after the screening of his film Eliana, Eliana, Melbourne, Oct. 2002.

(43) Laine Berman (personal communication, Aug. 2002) observes that Andre's suicide foreshadowed the suicide of the actor who played him, Ryan Hidayat, also known as Dayat. According to Berman, 'Dayat was also a heavy intravenous drug user who, just like Kurt Cobain and just like his character in the film, really did blow his own brains out, although the rave reviews the film has gotten never mention these uncomfortable, real-life facts.'

(44) Frank Lay, '"Sometimes we wonder who the real men are"--Masculinity and contemporary popular music', in Subverting masculinity: Hegemonic and alternative versions of masculinity in contemporary culture, ed. Russell West and Frank Lay (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000), pp. 22746. See also Greg Wahl, Narrating punk: Masculinity, genealogy, patriarchy, URL: http:/

(45) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, p. 116.

(46) Michel Foucault, Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the Age of Reason (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), tr. Richard Howard, p. 75.

(47) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, pp. 50-1 ; emphasis in the original.

(48) Stefan Brandt, 'American culture X: Identity, homosexuality, and the search for a new American hero', in West and Lay ed, Subverting masculinity, pp. 67-93.

(49) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, p. 114.

(50) John Fried with Pat Dowell, 'Pulp friction: Two shots at Quentin Tarantino's Pulp fiction', Cineaste, 21, 3 (1995): 4-5.

(51) Dede Oetomo, 'Gay men in the reformasi era', Inside Indonesia, 66 (2001): 11-12.

(52) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, p. 119.

(53) On 'symbolic annihilation' see Robert Hanke, 'Redesigning men: Hegemonic masculinity in transition', in Men, masculinity and the media, ed. Steve Craig (London: Sage Publications, 1992), pp. 185-98.

(54) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, p. 119.

(55) Justin Wyatt, 'Identity, queerness, and homosocial bonding: The case of Swingers', in Masculinity: Bodies, movies, culture, ed. Peter Lehman (New York: Roufledge, 2001), pp. 51-65.

(56) Bourdieu, Masculine domination, p. 121.

Marshall Clark is a lecturer in the School of Asian Languages and Studies at the University of Tasmania, Australia. He may be contacted at
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Date:Feb 1, 2004
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