“The King of Masks”, directed by Wu Tianming, is a sentimental melodrama with many underlying themes, one of which is the theme of love. The plot of the film, the morals that it teaches, and its impact on the audience all revolve around love. "The King of Masks" centers around the old street performer, Wang, played by Zhu Xu, who is desperately in search of a male successor to inherit his secret art of "face-changing". Fate allows him to meet with Doggie, a young child whose role is heartwarmingly played by the child actress Zhou Renying, who herself was sent away by her impoverished family to join an acrobatic troupe at the age of 3 (Maslin, 1999). The importance of love during harsh times is portrayed through the development of the pivotal relationship between the loyal Doggie and Wang. The film was also notable for its beautiful scenic cinematography which lends to the timelessness of this piece.
At the child market, Wang is seen walking in a dark alley in which he was being offered children, mostly females, which touches upon the film's indirect criticism of sexual discrimination in the China of this era. This scene truly makes us speculate whether the parents of these children are so poverty-stricken that they sell their children in hopes that they will live better lives, or if they sell them for their own selfish needs of survival. Or even more shockingly, is the cause for families to sell their own daughters the sole fact that they are female? No matter the reason, a family is supposed to maintain unconditional love for their children regardless of their gender but the patriarchal Chinese culture and feudal Chinese customs of esteeming males over females (重男轻女) gave birth to the kidnapping of boys and selling of girls in the black market during those times.
At the child market, a hefty price was asked for Doggie and Wang was about to refuse the offer, however, his emotions were stirred when the child calls him "Grandpa" and he ultimately decides to...
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