Tai/ kuso/ camp: ‘new opeila’ and the structure of sensibility
Teri J. SILVIO
ABSTRACT The valorization of ‘bad taste’ has emerged as a central element in Taiwanese subcultural and avant-garde style since 2000. This paper looks at the politics of this emerging sensibility by analyzing the performances of two theater troupes that rework opeila, a formerly abject form of Taiwanese local opera. The Golden Bough Theater’s opeila-inspired comedy series is characterized by both sincere nostalgia for working-class culture and an ironic and exaggerated citation of opeila’s pastiche of mass-media clichés. The Formosa Zephyr Opera Troupe attempts to reconstruct the queer charisma of opeila’s stars – the female actresses who play the male leading roles – while simultaneously emphasizing the phantasmatic nature of nostalgic, iconic roles and the costs of trying to embodying them, especially for 21st-century educated Taiwanese youth.
KEYWORDS: opeila, Tai ke, kuso, camp, Taiwan, sensibility
Dr Teri J. Silvio is Assistant Research Fellow of Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.