Abstract

In West Java, Indonesia, hosts of hajat (life-cycle event celebrations) hire performing arts troupes to provide entertainment. In addition to typical music and dance acts, one troupe—the Rawit Group—presents a comedy skit called lawakan. This article analyzes one such skit from 1999—just after the fall of President Soeharto's New Order government. The centerpiece of the skit is a parody of two performing traditions that feature professional female entertainers: pop Sunda (diatonic pop songs in Sundanese language) and wayang golek (rod puppet theatre with accompaniment that includes virtuosic female singing). In both traditions, female performers routinely exaggerate their feminine attributes. This female entertainer, however, is portrayed by a man in comically unconvincing drag. Hilarity ensues as the other comedians urge the drag performer to conform to New Order feminine ideals of appearance and behavior, but s/he confounds them at every turn. In the process, the three men reinforce traditional Sundanese understandings of how the illusion of femininity is actively created through visual means (e.g., artifices of dress) and sonic elements (e.g., singing and speaking styles), and conventions of movement. In the process, they challenge New Order gender policies and point the way toward a return to tried and true Sundanese ideologies of gender.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2109
Print ISSN
0742-5457
Pages
pp. 31-53
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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