Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Wedding Banquet: A Glimpse Into the Hypocrisy of Asian Societies

While watching Wedding Banquet, I was rather peeved over how Asian societies generally view homosexuality. The dramatic wedding ceremony was quite indicative of how tradition and patriarchy are emphasized and reminded me of how the heterosexuality of an individual is never questioned since it is supposed to be an Asian societal norm. Inherent hypocrisy within Asian communities exists in regard to homosexuals: on one hand Asian societies as a whole have been reluctantly open to the queer community, yet whenever a family member or sibling is "discovered" as a homosexual, the subject becomes taboo and the individual is negatively viewed and immoral. Wai-Tung's need to hide his sexual orientation from his family is a prominent example of what many Asians and Asian Americans continue to practice when around family members.

An example that comes to mind occurs within Thai society. I have seen firsthand how people labeled as "ladyboys", those who either undergo a sex change or dress and alter their body in the shape of a woman, are generally accepted in the country. However, at the same time there are many stories of closeted homosexual Thai men in their mid and late 20s to early 30s who are pressured to marry but continue to keep the facade of heterosexuality when in front of their parents. When around friends, however, they can openly identify as queer. The fear of "coming out" is clearly expressed through the character of Wai-Tung in the film and representative of closeted Asian and Asian American homosexuals. The continued reluctance to accept homosexuality is prevalent in many societies, particularly those that emphasize patriarchy and the need to produce male offspring.

Nevertheless, there has been somewhat of a shift towards accepting, albeit reluctantly, a more open perspective in regard to homosexuality. Wai-Tung's father and Simon's conversation near the waterfront clearly presents the fact that the older generations do comprehend the situation, regardless of their personal feelings on the subject. I believe that in this case, the importance of family in Asian society trumps all other prejudices or societal standards. While the selfishness of Wai-Tung's father is certainly arguable, he does seem to value family and the continuation of family. I wish Ang Lee would have continued following the parents onto the plane since I can easily imagine Wai-Tung's father disclosing all he knows to Wai-Tung's mother. As Wai-Tung's situation becomes gradually transparent to each character in the movie, it is only fitting that the parents would eventually discuss Wai-Tung together. How else will they kill the time on the airplane?

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