Interview with lesbian animator-comic creator Lien Fan Shen


AE: Do you think if it were coming out today, it would be as difficult? Do you think there has been more acceptance since the 90s?
I think so, because there are so many films in Taiwan right now that are actually about same-sex relationships, and a lot of things have happened after this. I think if it were happening now, I would certainly do it in a different way, maybe add a more positive ending, because it’s still a very sad ending – well, the event itself was a sad event, so there’s a sad ending. But I personally don’t like sad endings.

AE: Just looking at how much queer programming there was at Comic-Con this year was very encouraging. Has the comic industry in Taiwan opened up to more queer characters and storylines?
In Taiwan, I don’t think so, but let me clarify. If you’re familiar with Shōjo culture, you’ll know the term yaoi, which means male-male relationship. That kind of content and subject matter started in Japan in the 1970s, so it’s quite long-lived. So, male-to-male relationships in girls’ comic books have always been there. It’s nothing new for the 21st century.

However, female-to-female relationships in girls’ comic books are surprisingly few. It’s very few in Taiwan or in Japan. Unless, that is, it’s a comic targeting boys. And none of them are actually talking about the real issues, or what’s happening in reality about lesbians and politics.

So, some things change – but other things really haven’t changed much at all.

AE: So, do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
I do have a new project – it’s an animated documentary about Taiwanese lesbians. It’s still in the initial stage, but I do have a grant from school that will allow me to start up. I’m going to start taking footage in Taiwan this year and next year, and start creating some – it’s quite similar to Waking Life or Waltz with Bashir – not quite rotoscoping, but using the real actor [or] actress’s voice to create the animation. It’s similar to that.

I want to use that [technique] to present some theory I’ve been reading and thoughts that I have about Taiwanese lesbians.

AE: I’m looking forward to seeing that!
[laughing] Wish me luck!

AE: Seriously, though, it’s very cool to see LGBT artists embracing animation – it’s a small but growing trend. It’s very fresh.
: Yeah, I think so too! For me, it’s always like, with newer technology, or with any made image, you always open a certain possibility. With an animated image, you can express more ideas to the viewer. It becomes a very philosophical kind of discourse, and I’m very interested in that as well, so I want to explore that possibility.

AE: That sounds fantastic to me. Anything else you’d like to add, before we part ways?
Maybe it’s too political, but I really think, how should I put it … If there is still one person that is not coming out, we’re all still in the
closet. I’d like to say that to all Taiwanese lesbians.

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