Sunday, March 9, 2008

Reading Wei Wei in The Wedding Banquet

I want to focus my post on an earlier point Melissa brought up in her post.
I also think that much of the “happiness” and keeping together of the family are dependent on Wei Wei’s procreation and ultimate decision to have her baby. Her body is, in many ways, placed at the center of the narrative. How much agency does the character of Wei Wei have?

I agree that in the beginning of the film she is depicted as this independent, “starving” artist.
It would be helpful to quote Clarissa’s earlier post about Wei Wei and her artist lifestyle:
“As for Wei Wei, avant-garde artists’ lifestyles have frequently been associated with challenges to the dominant social order. Women artists in particular were seen as deviant because their creative energies were channeled away from baby-making into the “selfish” pursuit of individual expression. Thus, they were castigated as being loose or somehow degraded women.”
By agreeing to marry Wai Tung and undergoing the wedding banquet process and tradition, Wei Wei is summoned for domestic patriarchal control and domination by all parties involved.

Simon attempts to teach Wai-Wai how to cook in the efforts that she quickly learns her role as a “domestic servant” in the household. “Wei Wei you don’t know how to cook eggs?!” This question is based on the expectation that Wei Wei knows how to cook because she is a woman.
Wai Tung parents expect Wei Wei to play multiple roles as the female in the relationship. From taking care of Wai Tung, to domestic servititude, to procreating, many burdens are placed upon Wei Wei in her entrance into (heterosexual) marriage.

Wai Tung’s intensions for his relationship with Wai Tung are driven by his parents need for him to marry a woman and start a family/have children, Wai Tung’s control over Wei Wei is also demonstrated outside of the domestic sphere as her landlord. Not only does Wai Tung have control over her through marriage, but through her money. He, in essence, controls her physical space. Also, at the Wedding Banquet specifically, Wai Tung controls the kiss. He first kisses her on the cheek, and because the audience is not pleased with such a non-aggressive, friendly peck, he goes in a longer, more aggressive smack on the lips. Mark Chiang contends, “The transformation of Wai Tung into a patriarch, the declared project of the film, can be seen as fundamentally dependent not so much upon the reconciliation with his father as upon the solicitation of ideological consent from Wei Wei and her submission to his hegemonic dominance” (282).

By the end of the film, our early encounters with Wei Wei’s somewhat “sexual aggressiveness” is controlled. All parties in the film play a central role in confining Wei Wei to the domestic sphere, her sexuality, and essentially her submission to the patriarch.

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