Porn star in strange case of the public policing of EasyCards
This is a paradoxical moment for sex in Taipei. In a city where women pose half-clothed to sell cars at shows and betel nuts on the street, the Taipei EasyCard Corp. ( ) was able to inflame the public by printing new limited-edition smartcard sleeves featuring Yui Hatano, a Japanese actress in the adult film industry.
The Hatano sleeves, sold in a set of two, took heat on Wednesday from netizens who said one had been lifted off the front cover of one of Hatano’s pornographic titles.
Lin Pei-jung ( ), a professor at the University of Taipei’s department of early childhood education, said that the use of Hatano’s image on the public transit cards perpetuates the objectification of women. Pundits and parents alike have criticized Taipei EasyCard Corp., saying a porn actress should not be the face of public transit.
Through a spokeswoman in Taipei, Hatano responded to the objections to her appearance on the cards yesterday.
“When I learned of this job opportunity, I just thought that I could have the opportunity to repay my Taiwanese friends. I looked forward to it and felt very happy at the same time.
“I can truly understand that perhaps because my profession in Japan is acting in the adult film industry, my participation has created the opposite of my intended effect. Due to my career as a pornographic actress, there are friends who are opposed to my participation.”
Pornographic actresses obviously do exist as whole and multi-faceted people outside of their film work, but here Hatano does not really make a convincing claim that she is appearing on the card as a private person repaying friends in Taiwan. Her appearance on the EasyCard can’t be separated from her career at all, because it is that same career that qualified her for the job with staffers at Taipei EasyCard.
But Hatano’s statement, if disingenuous, does raise the question of just why it is socially unacceptable for her to appear on the card even in a professional capacity.
Over the years, Taipei EasyCard Corp. has released hundreds of collectible sleeves and cards and the criteria for determining who appears on them seem flexible.
Some EasyCards subjects have been figures in prominent, respectable and spokesman-worthy positions, including President Ma Ying-jeou and then-Vice President Vincent Siew in 2008. But most of them are really not. Over the years, the company has issued cards with themes including Line friends, Astroboy, puppets of the Pili Puppet Theater, famous and not-so-famous celebrities, niche video-game characters and several of the Taipei Zoo koala bears, as efforts to appeal to specific segments of the Taipei Metro ridership.
Strictly speaking, the content of Hatano’s images does not violate company precedent. One of the two is a portrait of the actress’ face. The second, more controversial photo, shows slight cleavage through a clothed upper body.
It isn’t something Taipei EasyCard Corp. — and Taipei society at large — hasn’t seen before. In 2009, the governmentmanaged company released 4,000 cards starring Hong Kong singer-actor Aaron Kwok ( ) shirtless. In 2010, it offered 3,500 cards of the three singers in the girl band S.H.E nestled together, bare arms touching.
The rich irony of the public reaction to Hatano’s EasyCard debut is that there were no reactions to similar images on the cards before. This time, the response had been prompted nearly entirely by her up-front identification as an adult-film actress. Without the label, the overt objectification of women to sell a product could have moved past quietly and unrecognized, as it has in the past.