I watched “The Wedding Banquet” (released in 1993) directed by Ang Lee at the Movie Viewing Exchange Meeting. This is my second time watching it, and when I watched it I just thought it was beautiful, interesting, and rich. I didn’t know what to say just after reading it, but in the aftermath, I had some personal thoughts.

1. Sexual repression

First of all, it is about the sexual description. In the film, the heroine always does not wear a bra when painting, letting her thin shirt stick to her chest. This is a true and bold description. In mainland China’s current film and television works, those characters who deliberately expose their cleavage are far less expressive and natural. Later in the film, there is a shot of the heroine topless while taking a bath. This shot is not necessary to advance the plot, but I think it interacts with the audience, allowing the audience to truly participate and experience “Five Thousand” for themselves. The impact of “sexual repression” on us. When I see this scene, I will suddenly act out. I will observe whether others see me watching this scene intently. I will feel a little shy about expressing my interest in sex.

The director only made a cameo appearance in the film and said one sentence: “You are witnessing the results of five thousand years of sexual repression” to the foreign guests when everyone was stirring up the atmosphere at the wedding banquet. In fact, at first I didn’t understand why there was a causal connection between the custom of weddings and “sexual repression”.

In the eyes of foreigners, Chinese people have an image of “docile, silent and mathematical geniuses”, but when it comes to wedding banquets, they have a lively energy to cause trouble. The father in the film is the image of a traditional Chinese elder. He likes calligraphy. He sits at the head of the table during meals. When the landlord cooks, he must wash the dishes himself and speak to his juniors in a precise manner. But at the wedding banquet, when everyone was noisily doing things with sexual implications, he was actually very happy, because the more lively the wedding, the more face he would gain. Various signs in the movie also suggest that the father himself is very likely to be gay, but as a commander of an army, as the head of a family, and as a traditional Chinese, he hid it very well.

2. Perfect ending

The film seems to have reached a perfect ending. Same-sex lovers are not separated, the heroine gets a US green card and life security, and the old parents see their son getting married and having children. But if you think about it carefully, this perfection is so fragile. The whole story begins with the old parents hoping that their son can continue the legacy of the Gao family, urging their son to get married and have a grandson as soon as possible; the old father’s first comment when he saw the heroine was “she can have children and raise children”; at the end, the old father said to the pregnant daughter The Lord’s message was, “The Gao family will thank you.” From the parents’ point of view, the mission given to them by traditional culture is to continue the family legacy. The heroine’s pregnancy seems to be a fulfillment that suits their purpose, but if the child is a girl, the expectation of continuing the family legacy will immediately It was shattered.

As long as we don’t get rid of the old tradition of continuing incense (giving birth to boys) and don’t confront this tradition, the son in the film will not have a perfect ending.

3. Present, past and future

Times are evolving. In mainland China thirty years ago, many Chinese may still be trapped in this old tradition, but in 2021 we obviously have a different understanding of LGBT people and giving birth to girls.

When the director made such a film, I think he was also recording the Chinese society he observed at that time and place. When people see this film a hundred years from now, they may be surprised that our culture once had a part like this, and it lasted for thousands of years. Maybe just like what we see now about ancient women’s foot binding, it was actually a bad habit that only stopped 100 years ago.

Of course we hope that our culture can develop in a better direction, so we have to think about why we can discover and change some bad habits now? Why did we lose foot binding 100 years ago, and why are we more LGBT accepting today?

The narrative background of “The Wedding Banquet” is that Chinese people live in the United States, and the conflict is constructed through the cultural differences between the younger generation who have lived in the United States for a long time and the older generation in Taiwan. Those who call on and influence us to abandon foot binding are the Chinese who have returned from studying abroad and who have accepted new ideas at home. What makes us more accepting of LGBT, I think, is the constant attention from mainstream overseas film and television dramas.

Continuous exposure to new and different things can increase our awareness of existing things. We need to embrace diversity and oppose monotony, embrace change and oppose stubbornness, so that our culture can develop in a better direction.

This is better because it transcends time and politics and is based on universal human values. Universal human values have always existed. For example, “A Dream of Red Mansions” boldly records the Qing Dynasty’s concern for sexual enlightenment, women, and gay men. These universal values do not exist now, but have been suppressed in the mainstream discourse of one place and time. Perhaps as the director himself said, “You are witnessing the results of five thousand years of sexual repression.”

Reference remarks

  1. LGBT is the abbreviation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, referring to homosexual, bisexual and transgender people