However, the situation of feminism in China is very unique, because China has had an epic and long-fought revolution for national and social liberation in which changing women’s place in society was high on the agenda. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese communist party launched a series of measures of social change that improve and protect women’s rights, including abolishing the arranged marriage system, banning prostitution and re-educating prostitutes, encouraging women to step out of their family to work and attend social events, enforcing laws that ensure women to have equal rights with men, and founding the half-government run organization – Chinese Woman’s Association (Dai Jinhua, 89). Since an external force instead of the women themselves mainly propelled this revolution, Chinese women’s political, legislative and economical rights have greatly improved while their cultural awareness and consciousness were left-behind. As women benefited so much from the socialist revolution instead of self-motivated feminist movements, they tended to immerse themselves so deeply in its ideology of gender equality, along with an ignorance and indifference of feminism. According to Shuqin Cui in her book Women Through the Lens, Gender and Nation in a Century of Chinese Cinema, the promise of emancipation and the bestowed identity have created the illusion that an autonomous female self can be obtained only in relation to the well being of the nation-state (Cui, 175). Therefore, in the guise of women who hold up half the sky, a motto brought about by Chairman Mao, the fulfillment of the liberation of Chinese women was miswritten as a past tense event in the mainstream Chinese cultural discourse. In the early socialist cinema, female sexuality or the sensuality of the female body is replaced with a genderless and sexless symbol that signifies the sociopolitical collectivity. However, with the marketization, pluralization, individualization and differentiation of the Chinese culture in the 1990s that characterize the dynamics of transition from state socialism to a postsocialist market society, China is undergoing a huge transformation toward capitalist modernity (McGrath, 7). Central to this process is the rise of economic markets, and people and commodities (and people as commodities) meet on the market as moral-neutral abstractions always reducible to exchange values (McGrath, 8). In the meantime, market imperatives and popular cultural production return the female body as a gendered other and as a sexual commodity. The new emphasis on gender difference also relocates women in the social, political, economic, and cultural margins (Cui, xiii). Therefore, from the sexless to the sexual other, women are still denied entrance into the mainstream order. Thus, in considering how the meaning and images of women are constructed through visual representations in contemporary Chinese popular cinema, this paper takes textual analysis as a basic methodology, with recourse to socialist feminist theory, to deconstruct the cinematic meaning making and to reveal the unspoken ideological premises of Feng Xiaogang’s popular cinema.
Aftershock and the Traditional Chinese Family Values
A drama about finding forgiveness based on a novel of the same name, Aftershock depicts not only the fatal tragedy that is brought on by a natural catastrophe, but also the strength and courage demonstrated when people are in face of extreme and devastating situations. The story unfolds with the mother, Li Yuanni, who just survived the Tang Shan earthquake thanks to the self-sacrifice of her husband, being informed by the rescue team that her 7-year old twins are buried under the debris close to each other. As digging one out would result in further collapse of the wreckage on the other, she was forced to make the most difficult decision of her life. As the clock ticked away, she finally ended her struggle and chose to...
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