Boxes and Grunts: Staging self-censorship and the limits of excess


Boxes and Grunts: Staging self-censorship and the limits of excess

The use of ‘bleeps’ is a common trope of self-censorship in entertainment television that facilitates the image of personalities and comedians speaking candidly. Censorable speech includes not only speech acts containing explicit language, but also ‘scandalous talk’; sections of entertaining banter in which the names of personalities and entertainers are explicitly mentioned. In Japanese media, in-house manuals regiment the editing of explicit and discriminatory language whereas concern for privacy and defamation laws regiments the use of personal images and reference to individuals in media broadcasts.

In this presentation, Dr Maree examine the practice of overlaying ‘tennis grunts’ and text boxes to ‘bleep out’ speech acts performed by queer/queen personality Matsuko Deluxe in the late-night television show Matsuko no heya (Matsuko’s Room; Fuji Television Network [FNS], 2009-2011). Unlike its contemporaries, Matsuko no heya (MNH) contains very little text-on-screen. The ‘bleeps’ and ‘boxes’ introduced to mask problematic speech, therefore, appear as traces of post-production editing. At the meta-level there is repeated reference to production processes, and the question of how to deal with speech deemed to be ‘unusable’ is openly discussed. Regimentation of selected talk reinforces Matsuko’s image as a sharp-tongued, honest-speaking and entertaining personality. In the context of Matsuko’s media persona, and wider representations of queer/queen talk in mainstream media, use of self-censorship technologies position the queer/queen style as excessive and always already exceeding the limits of respectability.


  • Dr Claire Maree
    Dr Claire Maree, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne