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Film

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Women On Screen In China

Film, as a unique art form, has come to China nearly centuries. In 1920s, female images just can be seen as the tools in silent movies, which own not only very vague character, but also lack of adequate connotation of the times, not to mention women’s awareness of self-consciousness. However, after the establishment of People's Republic of China, government vigorously promotes that the "men and women are alike". Also with the influence of western feminist movement, the status of women began to turn upside down. Women are demanding equal status with men, and these demands also reflected in the films. Until now, women as a sign of beauty, some are gentle and virtuous, some are sweetie and pleasant, and some are full of unique personality but still attractive enough. In such a representation, it is hard to notice, even their own aesthetic values are deeply affected by the male views. Not so much a woman as a sign of beauty, as it is a sign to attract male attention. In many generations of Chinese directors, only one of the few is female director. In the Male-dominated film industry, obviously, female characters are created by them, reflecting men’s centralism’s view of women. This paper applies feminist film theory, by analyzing the feminine images in a famous Chinese director—Jiang Wen’s films, to reveal the hidden gender inequality as well as the phenomenon of “male gaze”. Through the criticism and introspection of these hidden and potential problems to discover the root cause of these perspectives. Finally, I put forward some solutions to eliminate gender opposition, which is also the significance of this study lies.

Since the beginning of the 18th century, men and women equal rights movement spread from France to the world. But when the point that women and men have no difference is popular, another problem highlights. There does exist differences between the different genders, but has been deliberately obliterated. This is undoubtedly another form of injustice and oppression for women. Thus, the rise of post-feminist doctrine also influences the film industry and makes it necessary to learn more about the female characters on the screen. McRobbie once mentioned that post feminism has two main factors, one is equality, the other is agreement. This agreement of identity should be considered as uniqueness relative to the other rather than similarity (McRobbie, 2004). On the issue of China's movies, some scholars have summarized the two tendencies in the portrayal of women, one is to follow the traditional culture of "male superiority", controlling men and women in the traditional box, differentiated, one-sided shaping women images. Another is that the female characters once involved in history, then the identity of the subject of women will disappear behind a non-gendered mask (Berry& Farquhar, 2013). In the 1990s, domestic feminist film theory is ushered in a new situation called “contention of hundreds of thoughts”, and Jiang Wen’s movie created many classic images of women. The women ripped out or implicitly or gorgeous and elegant veil, magnanimously to declare their hatred, hate and love, expressing their feelings and wishes openly. At first glance, this is the women's liberation. But through a series of comparison, under these images, we can find that there buries many female voices and exists lots of misunderstanding, which is what I will focus on following.

As a rare eccentric genius of the new generation of film directors in China, Jiang Wen first broke the old golden rule—a film can has profound implication or good ratings, but never both. The vivid characters were printed the brand mark of Jiang Wen’s unique style, which is full of bloody masculinity male characters. Female characters as a special part of the films formed an organic unity, including Mi Lan and Yu Beipei of “Sunny days”, Crazy mother, Aunt Tang, Doctor Lin of “The sun also rises”, and Yu Er of “Devils are coming”. This paper attempt to break the strange cycle that only focuses on discontinues, incomplete movie clips, to classify them and step in their life deeply. The first category is the silent devotees behind men, the sacrificial women. Influenced by traditional Confucian culture, many filmmakers used to let a good woman to be portrayed as "virtuous wife and mother", full of love and dedicating themselves to the family selflessly. Their full value, is to pay for the family behind the men, responsible for the care of children, serving their husbands. For example, Yu Er is a widow who can be seen as mother as well as wife. Throughout the entire film, either out of fear to the baseless rumors that she is "with ulterior motive", she chooses to give him up and also her happiness, or she tried to maintain his dignity in a variety of emergencies, has shown clearly that she is a virtuous wife and mother. When talking about the movie itself, her existence is to serve and devote herself to help him. When villagers dispute with him, she sacrificed her reputation to defend his dignity. Out of the film, the director set her in this role, but only in order to enrich the audiences’ understanding of the role of the male, which from her final destination can be seen - if she were killed by devils, the behavior that he rushed to military camp personally and killed the devils would be considered as revenge for his wife, on a whim, is a kind of foolhardy behavior. If she did not die, it will highlight his heroism to sacrifice the small family benefit to protect bigger family. In this perspective, the director set her still alive. Whether inside or outside, she is always a foil. What she did, the right thing, also are built on masculine values. There is no room for choice. Another example is the Crazy Mother who live in the expectation of unreal love. She recognized the falsity of love that she sticks alone for a long time, but the child's birth makes her destiny can not be turned over. During visual presentation of that series of her crazy behaviors, creators used a lot of front lenses which present her front face. From these details, it is not difficult to notice the director’s agreement and praise for women’s sacrifice behaviors. After she finished the establishment of “Secret White House", she declared to his son that her disease is cured, repeatedly urging her son to do his own thing. Finally, in a subtle way, lost in the screen.

The second category is the opportunist. For example, Mi Lan in “Sunny Days” is a typical utilitarian woman. In Jiang Wen’s film, there is a class of women who depend on beautiful and charming appearance, wavering and ambiguous attitude to please and attract men, and they always rely on the power of man to reap the benefits for themselves and change their destiny. Mi Lan’s attitude to the two main male actors is wavering from the very beginning, which can be seen the best interpretation of her “easy lover” character set. Director uses many details to show her promiscuous style. For example, although she establishes a good relationship and talks happily with Liu Yiku at the first time they meet, she still says something evasively to escape answering Ma Xiaojun’s question directly. Although she just sees Ma Xiaojun as her brother but when he expresses his love for her in the raining day, she should hold him. In such a vague manner to respond, she still wants to attract him. Finally, when she is violated by Ma Xiaojun and cannot see the benefit from him any longer, she firmly breaks off with him. The film displays in Ma Xiaojun’s male perspective totally, so inevitably very subjective. We can not see Mi Lan’s thought at all but just her final decision whatever true or not. Although, compared to the first type of women, they have self-awareness to some extent. In the final analysis, they just cater to men's thoughts and expectations, as a means to achieve their own goals. They are only defenders and conformists of male-dominated social order.

The third category is exaggerated and frightening “alien”. Women who are so unique that we even feel it difficult to find their prototypes during their times. In the film “The sun also rises”, doctor Lin can be seen as a floozy, typically. This quality has been displayed to the point of exaggeration in this movie. When she first appeared, wearing a mask, and then the camera slowly pulled away. Her eyes are full of desire, and her white skirt is short and tight. The film did not mention any of her family background, her emotional experience, but she "debauchery" image is never been questioned. Actually, it does not matter who she is. What is important is that she is a body carrying men’s desire. She is an object to be gazed by men. She is a signal to attract men as well as being played by them. Under her coquettish appearance is the evilness of human nature. As a key figure in promoting the development of the plot, the dark side of her character is enlarged infinitely, to become the next direct bearers of moral criticism in the male power system. And under the cover of this “demon-like” woman, Lao Tang, who is the real evil adulterer and murderer, is neglected and forgiven.

In the cultural traditions of patriarchy, “spirit and body, subject and object, men and women “are always against each other and then exist. Men are always living in the position of the main body and rule the world, linked to the spirit. This thought also reflects in Jiang Wen's movie. He inevitably demonstrates the view of binary opposition. And the relationship between men and women is active and passive,gazing and to be gazed, controlling and to be controlled, assessing and to be assessed. Mi Lan is always gazed by others but never has the right to choose the subject. Starting from the first time Ma Xiaojun glanced at her photo, their relationship has already been set to “see and be seen”. Whether it is her body in the photo or the posture while walking, she is an object to be gazed by men. The other female character in this movie is Yu Beipei, who can be seen as a male-dominated microphone. The two girls’ behaviors and words both depend on Ma xiaojun’s memory and are re-interpreted. So that he even can not restore the details, such as in the photo Mi Lan wear shirt or swimsuit, what is correct pronunciation of Yu Beipei’s name. In the film, the red swimsuit appears twice, respectively, at the beginning and end. By special treatment of the film, we see in front of the same image, his assessment is totally different. The first time is in a static photo, Jiang Wen enlarges her body to show the beautiful details, such as smiling eyes, to demonstrate an energetic young girl thoroughly. While the second time, Mi Lan becomes closer friends with Liu because Liu Yiku can help her in her job. Thus, in Ma’s heart, she became a casual and bad woman. That is why she is accused by Ma as a fat girl. The movie borrows Ma Xiaojun’s word-- “Maybe Mi Lan and Yu Beipei is the same person”, to conclude that Mi Lan is a selfish and libertine woman finally. But the source of this conclusion is only because Mi Lan is always an “object of desire” for him, but not a real person. Until now, this movie proves the view of binary opposition between men and women clearly.

Through the above analysis of Jiang Wen’s film, we can see the hidden gender inequalities. The reason can be divided into two aspects. Historically, it is a far-reaching impact caused by traditional Confucian ideas. From today's society view, the impetuous atmosphere in the commercial times makes the situation even worse. Some scholars once said that through looking to control the image, in a sense, is controlling women (Moi, 2005). The female body became the symbols of public desire that can be consumed as well as a vulgar selling point to win benefit for businessmen. Therefore, the solutions also correspond to the two reasons. One is gradually going out of the cage of old ideas, transforming the conflict into harmony. Chinese Taoist doctrine emphasizes the Yin and Yang. While men generally stand for Yang, women are always Yin’s representatives. They finally advocate a highest spiritual realm, which is never simply to stay in one side, Yin or Yang, but entering the broader free margins between them, to achieve a stage where Yin and Yang can not stand alone (Teng Shouyao, 1997). Through dialogue between male and female, the two can integrate so well that form a dialectical unity in the end. The other is wishing that there were more directors and actors do not be coerced by the wave of business, holding free and independent thought. They should not one-sided pursuit success at the box office than the real movie spirit.

This paper analyzes the roles of women in Jiang Wen’s films to build a group portrait which can be divided into the sacrificial women, opportunist and exaggerated “alien”. It reveals that the men and women tend to present their relationship in “self and other”, “subject and object” or “active and passive” unfair styles. Through the concrete manifestation of this inequality -- gazing and to be gazed, controlling and to be controlled, assessing and to be assessed, we can find the hidden gender inequality under the Chinese film appearance. Meanwhile, the article also explores the underlying causes of this concept and process, and puts forward the corresponding solutions. In the end, it calls for rejecting the confrontation between the relationship of men and women, in order to realize objectively true expression in the film.

Bibliography
Berry, C., & Farquhar, M. A. (2013). China on screen: Cinema and nation. Columbia University Press.

McRobbie, A. (2004). Post‐feminism and popular culture. Feminist media studies, 4(3), 255-264.

Moi, T. (2005). Sex, gender, and the body: the student edition of What is a woman?. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Teng,S.Y.(1997). Culture at the margin. Beijing: China Writers Publishing House.

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