Organized Panel Session
From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, the number of agricultural workers in Japan declined as the tertiary sector grew. During this transition, the salaryman (white-collar worker) emerged as a social icon of the middle-class. These men embodied the central values of Japanese society: hard work and dedication. As white-collar workers began to dominate the corporate world, cultural products for salarymen flourished. One prominent example of this trend was the "salaryman movie" (salaryman eiga) genre which was mainly distributed by Toho, Ltd.. This presentation analyzes the film You Can Succeed, Too (1964) (Kimi mo Shusse ga Dekiru) to illustrate how critiques of corporate, American, and Japanese masculinity crept into representations of salarymen. Released in 1964, the symbolically-laden year of the Tokyo Olympic Games, this film emphasized the brighter aspects of Japan economic growth. Unlike the traditional "salaryman movie," which was packed with stereotypically passive Japanese men, the filmmakers used Hollywood’s musical style to stress the viewpoints of young salarymen who had come of age during the formative years of Japan’s postwar democracy. In ironic displays, salarymen sang and danced to express their desire to follow the principles of Japanese management: being obedient to move up in their company. The actors toed a line between espousing the virtues of American corporate masculinity (assertiveness and individuality) and the values of the Japanese business world (submissiveness and groupism). I argue that the film provided a nuanced critique of Japan’s emergent middle-class culture even as it lauded other aspects of middle-class identity.