Sunday, March 9, 2008

Response to The Wedding Banquet

The Wedding Banquet raises several interesting questions regarding transnationalism, assimilation, diaspora, family, and of course masculinity/homosexuality. 
 
Wai-Tung, the queer and disaporic protagonist, is reconnected to his native Taiwan through a family reunion. His parents serve as the string that ties his American life style to his Taiwanese roots, thereby making him a transnational figure. In this process of becoming transnational, cultural differences regarding family and sexuality are negotiated. However, Wai-Tung attempts to forgo this negotiation process by putting up a fake marriage, so he would lead his parents to believe that he has retained the Taiwanese concept of family: a heterosexual relationship that reproduces to prolong the family name. To Wai-Tung's father, marriage and reproduction of children is a duty to the family, as he explains on the first day of his brief trip.
 
In one of the most interesting parts of the movie, Wai-Tung confesses to his mother that he is gay and that the marriage is a fraud. His stunned mother asks him, "Did Simon lead you astray?...Nonsense! You had girlfriends in college." That question seems to imply that such concept or existence of homosexuality does not exist within the Taiwanese culture, and Wai-Tung has adopted homosexuality as his when he arrived in the United States. As Wai-Tung argues, he was born gay yet it seems like the act of coming out did not take place until later in his life. Does this mean that the act of acknowledging one's homosexuality is part of assimilating to the American culture? What happens to Asian masculinity when men settle down in this country?
 
I think Wai-Tung's parents are uncomfortable with the homosexual relationship because they are afraid that the Gao line will end, as his son will be unable to biologically reproduce with Simon. Also, it seems like they believe that Wai-Tung loses his sense of masculinity because he cannot be a patriarch like his father. How can he be a patriarch if he cannot have children? But the presence of Wei-Wei in this situation facilitates the cultural negotiation--her pregnancy solves the problem of prolonging the family name, and her status as a tenant (in comparison to Wai-Tung's status as the landowner) confirms Wai-Tung's ability to be somewhat domineering like a patriarch. With Wei-Wei, Wai-Tung is very assertive, especially in the first scenes of the movie when he goes to collect the rent money. 
 
Although Wei-Wei uses Wai-Tung to obtain the green card, it also appears that she is being used a lot more to the advantage of the Gao family. At first she is used to mask Wai-Tung's homosexuality and then used as a surrogate mother and a mother. For whom is she having the baby? For Wai-Tung's parents? For Simon and Wai-Tung? For herself? Despite she is supposed to be a tough, female artist, Wei-Wei ultimately becomes a nobody but someone who produces a baby. 

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