Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Wedding Banquet: "I'm liberating you"

Contrary to some opinions that the fairy-tale ending of The Wedding Banquet is unrealistic, I felt that the movie closed on a happy note true to the realities of family conflicts and struggle for acceptance. There were more tears in the last scene than there were smiles and I was left a little unsettled for this reason. However, in spite of all the tears the movie ends with an optimism for the future; that Mrs. Gao will gradually become more accepting of the relationship, Wei Wei will have her baby, who will be raised by two loving fathers in addition to its birth mother, and that Mr. Gao was granted his wish of a grandchild. While I agree that Mr. Gao's deceit is selfish and creates somewhat of a wall in between him and his son as well as his wife, I don't see how else the situation would have played out. After all, it would be more unrealistic if he had whole-heartedly accepted Wai Tung's sexual orientation and foregone his dream of seeing a grand wedding banquet (which was the entire premise of the movie). Watching the scenes of the wedding banquet and how enjoyable it was for everyone involved, I can see why Wai Tung's parents were so disappointed with the initially simple wedding ceremony. For traditional Chinese parents who believe that the point of marriage is to please them through procreation, I find the Gaos' reaction to Wai Tung's homosexuality quite progressive, and anything more than that would have been unbelievable.

Not only was The Wedding Banquet refreshing in its portrayal of romantic relationships, but it also shed a new light on women, and Asian American women at that. I loved Wei-wei's character for her independent spirit devoid of stereotypes (especially those involving Asian American women). One line I found interesting was of hers when she tells Wai Tung, "I'm liberating you," as she practically forces herself upon him on their fake wedding night. While Wei-wei's actions could be (wrongly) interpreted as a stereotype for an Asian American seductress forcing a man to sway from his "good" and "right" path, I found the irony of her statement very refreshing. It erases the line between what has come to be normal (that is, straight), and not normal (or gay) because in this line of thinking one would consider a homosexual person more "liberated" than one that is repressed and in denial. Instead Wei-wei liberates us as the audience by rejecting the stereotypes that plague gay relationships, Asian American relationships, and so on. Like all of his other work, this Ang Lee film (which I believe was one of his earlier ones?) is laudable in its realistic portrayal of unconventional and quite ground-breaking stories and relationships.

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