Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gay Asian: Gaysian?

Ang Lee's films often work within a well-defined genre but with a nearly contradictory twist. In Brokeback Mountain, Lee made the Western, gay. In Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the martial arts film, feminist. And in the case of The Wedding Banquet, it can be argued that Lee made a queer film, Asian. The basic plot/plot devices are reminiscent of the 1978 film La Cage aux folles, but with an Asian twist. In this manner, Lee seems to be solidifying queer cinema as a genre, giving queerness an added significance in The Wedding Banquet.

However, throughout the film, Wei Tung's Asian identity challenges his identity as a gay man. Why is the banquet, a decidedly Chinese event, so prominently featured in the film? The banquet represents ritualized heteronormativity and patriarchy to the highest degree; the bride is kissed by every male in the room, a little boy jumps around on the marriage bed to promote the conception of a male heir, etc... In this manner, the queerness is nearly displaced, cast aside by the film. Indeed, the homosexual relationship in the movie is marginalized--Simon is a comparatively thin role.

Thus, can Wei Tung's struggle with his Asian and Queer identities can be read at the meta level? Is his struggle mirrored by the film's struggle to be a certain type of cinema?

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