Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: Constructing gay, lesbi and waria identities on screen, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema

Constructing gay, lesbi and waria identities on screen, 1st Edition

By Ben Murtagh


202 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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Indonesia has a long and rich tradition of homosexual and transgender cultures, and the past 40 years in particular has seen an increased visibility of sexual minorities in the country, which has been reflected through film and popular culture. This book examines how representations of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals and communities have developed in Indonesian cinema during this period. The book first explores Indonesian engagement with waria (male-to-female transgender) identities and the emerging representation of gay and lesbi Indonesians during Suharto’s New Order regime (1966-98), before going on to the reimagining of these positions following the fall of the New Order, a period which saw the rebirth of the film industry with a new generation of directors, producers and actors. Using original interview research and focus groups with gay, lesbi and waria identified Indonesians, alongside the films themselves and a wealth of archival sources, the book contrasts the ways in which transgendered lives are actually lived with their representations on screen.


"In revealing the richness and contestability of gender and sexuality in Indonesia Murtagh’s book is a triumph."

-Sharyn Graham Davies, Auckland University of Technology

"…I strongly urge you, dear reader, to enjoy this text yourself. We are now in an era where the study of internet technologies, particularly social media (like Facebook) and smartphones, has moved to centre stage. This is appropriate (and reflected in my own research) but it behooves us to remember that the earlier technologies of film and television remain incredibly relevant. They shaped the historical context of current digital cultures in Indonesia and beyond, and have moved into those cultures as key content to be viewed, circulated and commented upon. It is precisely in such times of transformation that historical context is so important. GSIC will take a well-deserved place as a canonical analysis of gay, lesbi and waria-related cinema in modern Indonesia. We cannot understand contemporary Indonesia without the insights Murtagh provides."

Tom Boellstorff

Asian Journal of Social Science 43 (2015) 515–531

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Wadam, Waria and the Story of a Man who Became a Woman: Non-normative Genders in the 1970s 3. The First Indonesian Gay Movie: Gay men in the cinema of the 1980s 4. Lesbi in the Metropolis: Stories of sex and salvation in Indonesian cinema of the 1990s 5. Modern Gay Men and Fear of the Queer Unwanted: Positive images from the Reform Era 6. Old Concerns in a New Era? Images of lesbi in the new millennium 7. A Proliferation of Storylines: Alternative masculinities in mainstream cinema

About the Author

Ben Murtagh is Senior Lecturer in Indonesian and Malay at SOAS, University of London and managing editor of the journal Indonesia and the Malay World.

About the Series

Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia

The aim of this series is to publish original, high-quality work by both new and established scholars in the West and the East, on all aspects of media, culture and social change in Asia. New proposals are welcome, and should be sent in the first instance to the series editor, Stephanie Donald, at

Editorial Board:

Gregory N. Evon, University of New South Wales
Devleena Ghosh, University of Technology, Sydney
Michael Keane, Curtin University
Tania Lewis, RMIT University, Melbourne
Vera Mackie, University of Wollongong
Kama Maclean, University of New South Wales

Laikwan Pang, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Gary Rawnsley, Aberystwyth University
Ming-yeh Rawnsley, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Jo Tacchi, Loughborough University
Adrian Vickers, University of Sydney
Jing Wang, MIT
Ying Zhu, Hong Kong Baptist University



Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General