Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gay or Asian?

I don’t know if anyone remembers this spread in the magazine Details a while back, but I thought it’d be interesting to bring up, considering our discussion about the Asian male body, and especially the homosexual Asian male.

One interesting thing about this spread (aside from the horrendous stereotypes it employs) is the question “Gay or Asian?”, which implies that Asianness and homosexuality are mutually exclusive, two distinct spheres that cannot overlap. As Chiang’s article suggests, this supports the idea that alternative sexualities are associated with Western cultures and that queer Asians have been somehow influenced (even infected) by the American homosexual, as when Wai-Tung’s mother asks him if Simon “led him astray.”

One implicit rephrasing of the question of the spread is: “Gay, or Just Asian?” It equates characteristics that would, in white men, normally be read as particularly effeminate with those of Asian men (regardless of sexuality). While at first glance this seems to relate back to the representations of Asian men that we discussed a few weeks ago, that body was portrayed as impotent and asexual rather than homosexual. The article uses stylishness as a point of comparison here. Interesting.

I really enjoyed the Wedding Banquet, and especially liked using the varying degrees of specificity to imagine the same story being taken place in other settings. Chiang mentioned how it could have taken place in any city in the world, as there were few specific (and significant) references to Manhattan. I think because the film does follow a fairly standard structure, the arc of the story would have been remained pretty much the same had Wai-Tung’s parents been a conservative couple from another part of the U.S. The Gaos’ Chinese ethnicity is what fills in the details. I don’t think this necessarily downplays the Asian-American theme of The Wedding Banquet; rather, it’s what makes the bulk of the movie, what separates it from every other he’s-marrying-the-wrong-girl comedy (for example, the awful The Wedding Planner). So, in answer to the question raised in class, I would qualify The Wedding Banquet as a gay movie with an Asian twist, and not the other way around.

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