Good Gay Portrayals In East Asian Cinema Article Review Example
In his journal entitled Happy Alone? Sad Young Men in East Asian Gay Cinema, Chris Berry cites the existence of homophobia in the East Asian cinema. To defend his argument, Berry analyzed three films such as Happy Together by Wong Kar-wai, Vive L’ Amour by Tsai Ming Liang, and East Palace, West Palace by Zhang Yuan. From these films, Berry argues that East Asian cinemas often portray gay males as socially isolated and sad individuals (Berry, 2000 p. 188). He begins his explanation by citing Richard Dyer’s statement about effeminate males. According to Dyer, gay males exhibit a unique personality quite different from other people; “an image of otherness in which it is still possible to find oneself” (quoted from Berry, 2000 p. 188). Such explanation enabled Berry to promulgate the sense of queerness stereotype about gay males dominates the East Asian films even today. East Asian countries such as Taiwan, China and Hong Kong follow the same Confucian philosophy of society hierarchy. According to Berry, the emperor is considered the father of the land, whilst his ministers and people were regarded as his children. The society must therefore oblige its citizens to follow this hierarchy to preserve the ‘collectiveness’ wherein individuals share the same desire to achieve the goal. Males should be more masculine whilst females should act as females. There is no such thing as a third gender in the Confucian society; thus, homosexuals such as gays were considered the outcast of the hierarchy. Perhaps one of the reasons that gays are sometimes portrayed as lonely men is the fact that they dishonor their families. Confucius’ teachings focus on the family and state affairs. It is more likely that Confucianism opposes gay relationship because men cannot procreate. Without procreation, the society would crumble since the family is the basic unit of the society. It is the place wherein knowledge, love and learning start. As Leo Bersani suggested, homosexuality is the “equation of male homosexuality with the anus and the depiction of the anus as a black hole leading to death is a persistent one in homophobic, heterosexual cultures” (quoted from Berry, 2000 p. 194). The common thing about the three films is the characters’ lack of family connections. At the end of the film, they lived alone without notifying their respective families about their situation. All of them showed the character’s aloofness towards their family which appeals to the audience as strained family relationships. East Asian dealt the topic of homosexuality as a “family matter” (Berry, 2000 p. 189). The viewers of the said films might notice the absence of family members, making the audience wonder about the kind of interaction the characters have with their families. Especially in the case of Happy Together, East Palace West Palace and Vive L’ Amour, the characters were portrayed as lonely gay men who rarely talk to their family members. It is more likely that the audiences of these films might assume the fact that perhaps due to the nature of their character, their families probably rejected them because they cannot accept their sons’ gender. Although there were no sufficient evidences that attest Confucianism opposition towards homosexual relationship, Haggerty claimed that Taiwan formed the so-called mixed religious beliefs derived from Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism teachings. He points out that these combined religious beliefs focus more on promoting family lineage by supporting the traditional views regarding marriage and procreation; hence, it is therefore clear that this kind of philosophy created the homosexual oppression in Taiwan since third genders belong to outside the hierarchy (Haggerty, 2000/2012 p. 862). Moreover, Zhang Yuan declares that gay people were misunderstood due to the lack of “visible gay culture” (quoted from Berry, 2000 p. 192). As a conclusion, what Berry tries to point out is that in East Asian cultures, gay men are individuals who fall back from their designated caste. Their portrayals in film alone tell the viewers’ about their solitary existence as individuals, as Berry (2000, p. 197) reiterates “without a role in traditional family system as a lonely outcast.”
Berry, C. (2000). Happy Alone. Journal of Homosexuality, 39(3-4), 187-200. http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J082v39n03_07
Huang, H.T.M. (2012). Taiwan. In G. Haggerty (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Gay Histories and Cultures (pp. 861-862). New York, NY: Routledge.