Sunday, March 9, 2008

Response: Wedding Banquet

I sense that I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but (yet again) I both enjoyed and was troubled by this film. I enjoyed it because, like many other bloggers so far, I felt it was relatively progressive in its depiction of gay relationships, especially for its time period. Simon and Wai Tung's relationship is portrayed as tender and loving, and Wai Tung's mother's outbursts about Wai Tung's not being "normal" come off as ridiculous and misguided (rightly so). By taking on this subject matter, there is of course the danger of portraying Asian people as being backward in their views on homosexuality, but I think Ang Lee did a reasonably good job of tempering the mom's hysterics with the father's quiet acceptance and the mom's eventual begrudging tolerance if not whole-hearted approval.

I was disappointed, however, that Wai Tung's father decided not to mention that he knew Wai Tung was gay to any other members of the family, not even to Wai Tung. What use was there in lying to his son? While I can understand not wanting to upset his wife, in the end I think not coming clean with Wai Tung was akin to building a wall between them that did not need to be there. Had the father spoken to Wai Tung when his suspicions were first aroused, he could have saved everyone some pain and they could have all avoided a good deal of trauma in their relationships. Yet he doesn't choose to confide in Wai Tung, even at the film's conclusion, and so the secrets and lies that keep the family from being as close as they could be and that hearken back to the Western stereotype of the Asian as cunning trickster remain. Moreover, although everyone ends up happy in the end, I was frustrated that so much of this happiness was dependent on Wei Wei's deciding to have the baby. Although Wai Tung's father seems to accept Simon and Wai Tung's relationship, he admits at one point that he continued to lie because he wanted a grandchild. In other words, it wasn't enough for him that his son was happy. Because he wouldn't be satisfied unless he had an heir, Wai Tung's father propagates the view that Asian people are bigoted and somehow not "modern." Finally, I wished Wai Tung could have been more assertive about his identity and his desires throughout the movie. Even if guilt prevented him from being honest with his parents, he should not have cheated on Simon with Wei Wei. In my mind his actions reinforced the stereotype of the meek Asian man and (at least in my mind) lost him a lot of respect.

As such, while I think this film had many good points, in the end I don't think it went far enough and ended up propagating many of the stereotypes it aimed to attack.

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