Comrade China on the Big Screen

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0043819/00001

Material Information

Title: Comrade China on the Big Screen Chinese Culture, Homosexual Identity, and Homosexual Films in Mainland China
Physical Description: 1 online resource (78 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Tang, Xingyi
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: china -- culture -- films -- homosexuality
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Homosexuality has always been an ambiguous topic in Chinese culture, and even a taboo one after the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Meanwhile, the film industry has been a particularly censored field by the Chinese government, and all cinematic content relevant to homosexuality is banned in mainland China. Hence, this paper probes into this underground subject, Chinese homosexuality, by qualitatively analyzing three Chinese homosexual films. Especially from an intercultural perspective, the present paper focuses on the production of Chinese homosexual films, the impact of Chinese cultural values on homosexuality, and the cinematic presentation of homosexual identity in mainland China. The three selected films are Lan Yu (gay love), Fish and Elephant (lesbian love), and Queer China, Comrade China (comprehensive queer documentary). According to the comparison and discussion of the three films, homosexual films are still in underground state in mainland China. International film festivals as well as pirated products are the most popular channels to exhibit homosexual films. Familial reproduction and marital obligation in traditional Chinese values place critical obstacles in Chinese homosexual life, and public ignorance of homosexuality results in misunderstanding of homosexual identity. Queer studies and sexual identity models need their local adaptation in China. Homosexual films and LGBT movements are in need of more social concerns and supports to make progress in mainland China.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Xingyi Tang.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2011.
Local: Adviser: Roberts, Churchill L.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2011
System ID: UFE0043819:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0043819/00001

Material Information

Title: Comrade China on the Big Screen Chinese Culture, Homosexual Identity, and Homosexual Films in Mainland China
Physical Description: 1 online resource (78 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Tang, Xingyi
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: china -- culture -- films -- homosexuality
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Homosexuality has always been an ambiguous topic in Chinese culture, and even a taboo one after the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Meanwhile, the film industry has been a particularly censored field by the Chinese government, and all cinematic content relevant to homosexuality is banned in mainland China. Hence, this paper probes into this underground subject, Chinese homosexuality, by qualitatively analyzing three Chinese homosexual films. Especially from an intercultural perspective, the present paper focuses on the production of Chinese homosexual films, the impact of Chinese cultural values on homosexuality, and the cinematic presentation of homosexual identity in mainland China. The three selected films are Lan Yu (gay love), Fish and Elephant (lesbian love), and Queer China, Comrade China (comprehensive queer documentary). According to the comparison and discussion of the three films, homosexual films are still in underground state in mainland China. International film festivals as well as pirated products are the most popular channels to exhibit homosexual films. Familial reproduction and marital obligation in traditional Chinese values place critical obstacles in Chinese homosexual life, and public ignorance of homosexuality results in misunderstanding of homosexual identity. Queer studies and sexual identity models need their local adaptation in China. Homosexual films and LGBT movements are in need of more social concerns and supports to make progress in mainland China.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Xingyi Tang.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2011.
Local: Adviser: Roberts, Churchill L.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2011
System ID: UFE0043819:00001

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2 2011 Xingyi Tang


3 To my beloved parents and friends


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First of all, I would like to thank some of my friends, for their life experiences have inspired me on studying this particular issue of homosexuality. The time I have spent with them was a special memory in my life. Secondly, I would like to express my g ratitude to my chair, Dr. Churchill Roberts, who has been such a patient and supportive advisor all through the process of my thesis writing. Without his encouragement and understanding on my choice of topic, his insightful advices and modifications on the structure and arrangement, I would not have completed the thesis. Also, I want to thank my committee members, Dr. Lisa Duke, Dr. Michael Leslie, and Dr. Lu Zheng. Dr. Duke has given me helpful instructions on qualitative methods, and intrigued my interest s in qualitative research. Dr. Leslie, as my first advisor, has led me into the field of intercultural communication, and gave me suggestions when I came across difficulties in cultural area. Dr. Lu Zheng is a great help for my defense preparation, and wit hout her support and cooperation I may not be able to finish my defense on time. Last but not least, I dedicate my sincere gratitude and love to my parents. Their love and support is my best treasure all the time.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 9 2 HISTORY OF CHINESE HOMOSEXUALITY ................................ ......................... 14 Ancient History of Chinese Homosexuality ................................ ............................. 14 Modern History of Chinese Homosexuality ................................ ............................. 17 Contemporary History of Chinese Homosexuality ................................ .................. 18 3 HOMOSEXUAL IDENTITY AND DEVELOPMENT MODEL ................................ ... 22 ................................ ................................ ................. 22 Homosexual Identity and Tongzhi Identity ................................ .............................. 24 Model of Homosexual Identity Development ................................ ........................... 26 4 CHINESE CULTURAL VALUES AND HOMOSEXUALITY ................................ ..... 29 Traditional Chinese Cultural Basis on Sexuality ................................ ..................... 29 Familial Obligation and Marital Pressure ................................ ................................ 31 5 CHINESE FILM INDUSTRY AND HOMOSEXUAL FILMS ................................ ..... 34 Chinese Film Aesthetics and New Film Movement ................................ ................. 34 Homosexual Films in China ................................ ................................ .................... 36 6 CASE STUDY OF CHINESE HOMOSEXUAL FILMS ................................ ............ 39 Lan Yu: Love without Gender ................................ ................................ ................. 39 Fish and Elephant : Love is the Home ................................ ................................ ..... 44 Queer China, Comrade China: A 30 year Chronicles ................................ ............. 50 7 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 56 Features of Chinese Homosexual Film Production ................................ ................. 56 Features of Cultural Values in Chinese Homosexual Films ................................ .... 59 Features of Homosexual Identity in Chinese Homosexual Films ............................ 61 8 CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE ................................ ............ 67


6 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................... 72 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 78


7 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida i n Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication COMRADE CHINA ON THE BIG SCREEN: CHINESE CULTURE, HOMOSEXUAL IDENTITY, AND HOMOSEXUAL FILMS IN MAINLAND CHINA By Xingyi Tang December 2011 Chair: Churchill Roberts Major: Mass Communication Homosexuality has always been an ambiguous topic in Chinese culture, and even film industry has been a particularly censored field by the Chinese government, and all cinematic content relevant to homosexuality is banned in mainland China. Hence, this paper probes into this underground subject, Chinese homosexuality, by qualitatively analyzing three Chinese homosexual films. Especially from an intercultural perspective, the present paper focuses on the production of Chinese homosexual films, the impact of Chinese cultural values on homosexuality, and the cinematic presentation of homosexual identity in mainland China. The three selected films are Lan Yu (gay love), Fish and Elephant (lesbian love), and Queer China, C omrade China (comprehensive queer documentary). According to the comparison and discussion of the three films, homosexual films are still in underground state in mainland China. International film festivals as well as pirated products are the most popular channels to exhibit homosexual films. Familial reproduction and marital obligation in traditional Chinese values place critical obstacles


8 in Chinese homosexual life, and public ignorance of homosexuality results in misunderstanding of homosexual identity. Queer studies and sexual identity models need their local adaptation in China. Homosexual films and LGBT movements are in need of more social concerns and supports to make progress in mainland China.


9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Since the implementation of the Reform and Opening Policy in 1979, tremendous promotion of a market economy, the move toward privatization, the rise of consumerism, and the contamination of traditional c ulture, etc. (Rofel, 1999; Cui & Liu, 2010). Those transformations in China have been boosting hopes, desires, and frustrations. Scholars in relevant fields refer to characteristics of this era in China as Neoliberalism (Wang, 2003; Rofel, 2007; Duncan, 20 08). Rofel (2010) argues that while neoliberal economic policies have brought Chinese citizens new notions such as possessive individualism and consumerism, they have also offered the public multiple new approaches to express their passions, interests, and desires. Namely, in a historically contingent heterogeneous state, Neoliberalism in China particularly appears in the production of desire. Among these discussions of consequences brought by the era of Neoliberalism, sexuality emerged as a critical notion Traditionally in China, gender dichotomies were 2000, p.283) in society, and so, there was no definite idea about sexuality and sexual identity. Hence, arguments in volving feminism and queer studies have been put forward, along with ideas about concern on homosexual identity (Duncan, 2008). It is recognized that the homosexual identity must be viewed in the social political and culturally specific context that gives it its name and form ( Houston, 2007). Accordingly, Rofel (2007) believes that gay identity in China emerges in relation to specific desires


10 for cultural citizenship within China, and the articulation of gay identity is tied to a national and cultural conte xt, connected to transnational networks of gays and lesbians. Consequently, in the process of modernization, it is important for China, a (Altman, 1996; Kang, 2010) Also, the evo lution of Chinese public perceptions about sexuality, particularly homosexual identity, is a rational index for evaluating the progress of Chinese socialist modernism. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the impact of Chinese cultural traits on Chine se homosexual identity. According to historical records, the subject of homosexuality has appeared in Chinese literary works, Peking Opera, paintings, and other art works since ancient times ( Dynes & Donaldson, 1992; Hinsch, 1992; Chou, 2001; Zhang, 2008; Kang, 2010) Through the vicissitudes of different dynasties and different ruling parties in historical sessions, homosexuals have been treated in various ways. Among these different attitudes, cultural tolerance is the main feature for same sex eroticism, which left homosexuals in an awkward grey zone. The following phrase best summarizes the Ever since the socialism and communism became the ideal goals of the Chinese govern ment after 1949, homosexuality was completely negatively treated then, by being defined as a disease imported from capitalistic Western countries. Governmental prohibitions and censorship targeting homosexuals and the discussion of homosexuality became the official policy. Especially in media representation, topics relevant to homosexuality were banned as a taboo.


11 Among these mass media venues, the cinema (hereafter referred to as film) in mainland China has been most strictly censored. All films have to be sent to the Beijing Film Bureau for inspection during their production process, including script contents and a complete work. Until a film is vetted through a prior review process, it cannot be officially distributed within mainland China. Basically, no film, either domestic or foreign, with a banned subject (e.g., politics, sexuality) or with characters acting relevant to taboo topics (e.g., homosexuality) can be licensed for exhibition in a Chinese public theater. As a result of the censorship policy, n o image of homosexuals was presented in the Chinese cinema from 1949 until the late 1980s ( Cui & Liu, 2010).For example, Brokeback Mountain (2005), directed by Chinese American director Ang Lee, nominated and acclaimed internationally (including several prizes from the 2005 Academy Awards), was not accessible through an official channel in mainland China due to its gay love theme; Peacock (2004), directed by Gu Changwei, won the Jury Grand P rix Silver Bear at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival. When the movie was officially released in mainland China, the sequence about a homosexual relationship between a schoolboy and his teacher was deleted. Filmmakers in mainland China never give up making trials run and challenging the system in power. In treating homosexuality, Chinese filmmakers have to choose an underground venue. The first mainland China homosexual feature film, East Palace, West Palace (1996), directed by Zhang Yuan, was smug gled to France for post production, and premiered at the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina; The screening of the first female love feature film, Fish and Elephant (2001), was distributed


12 through international film festivals, and was shown for only o ne time in mainland China at an LGBT film festival in 2001(Cui & Liu, 2010). With the slow yet steady development of Chinese homosexual films, there began to emerge studies focusing on this genre of film. For instance, Tambling (2003) put Wong Kar lm Happy Together (1997), a film about two Hong Kong gay men in Buenos Aires, into its particular historical political background, and deconstructed its cinematic representations of masculinity, identity, and homosexuality. Tambling thought the homosexual relationship depicted in this film may be allegorical, indicating ways of lesbian documentaries, The Box (2001) and Dyke March (2004), and analyzed identity politics and le sbianism in the films. The Box is the first lesbian documentary from mainland China, individually produced by Ying Weiwei, depicting the life of a lesbian couple. Dyke March is collaboratively made by a lesbian couple, Shi Tou and Ming Ming, and it recorde d their participation in a gay and lesbian parade in San Francisco in U.S. It is acknowledged that the mass media are a reflection of social reality, as well as an index for social changes (Becker & Roberts, 1992; McQuail, 2005). Likewise, what are depict ed in films can be taken as an artistically polished reflection of the situation of Chinese homosexuals. Therefore, based on the above facts and studies, I have chosen to focus on the subject of film, to probe into the situation of Chinese homosexuality. B y analyzing three homosexual films made in mainland China, two feature films and one documentary, I intend to identify some characteristics of Chinese homosexual film production, and determine how Chinese cultural values and homosexual identity


13 development are exhibited in the films. After discussion about the backgrounds and contents of the sample films, I hope to present my personal interpretations to the following questions: What is the current state of the production and distribution of homosexual films in mainland China? How do traditional cultural values and political circumstances affect the Chinese cinematic treatment of homosexuality? And how is Chinese homosexual identity portrayed in Chinese films? This paper is presented in the following manner: Chapter 2, divided into three divided into three periods, ancient history, modern development, and the contemporary situation, will trace the history of Chinese homosexuality. The theoretical framework is re viewed in chapter 3, with consideration of homosexual identity and a representative model of its development, the CASS model. Chapter4 will discuss the potential of and ac tions towards homosexual behaviors and activities. Chapter 5 will review the development of the film industry in China and provide more historical and political background about the conditions that films and filmmakers face when they attempt to address the issue of homosexuality. In Chapter 6 and 7three sample films, Lan Yu (2001), Fish and Elephant (2001), and Queer China, Comrade China (2008) will be analyzed in terms of their production background and the manner in which they portray homosexuality. Parti cular emphasis will be given to the conflicting cultural values presented in the films and to homosexual films identity. The last chapter, Chapter 8, will present conclusions and suggestions for further research.


14 CHAPTER 2 HISTORY OF CHINESE H OMOSEXUALI TY According to the most commonly held view of Chinese history, the milestone that marked China as a modern contemporary nation is the First Opium War in 1840. After that war, China was no longer a feudal state, and was followed by the semi colonial semi f eudal era, the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, and finally, the homosexuality has been treated from the ancient history to the present. Ancient History of Chinese Homosexuality There exists a long archived history about homosexuality throughout ancient China. Documentation of male homosexual behavior was first found in the Eastern Zhou dynasty (722 221 B.C.), when Chinese people considered homosexual an d bisexual behavior common and normal (Dynes & Donaldson, 1992). Recorded official documents demonstrate that many ancient Chinese emperors had homosexual inclinations, for there are well known stories of these emperors favoring male attendants or male art ists (Hinsch, 1992). For example, in the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C. A.D. 24), seven of the eleven emperors indicated their sexual preference for males (Zhang, 2008). was use d to refer to same sex love in the ancient literature. And phrases out of stories, such as Cut Sleeve, the Bitten Peach, Male Trend, Contract Brothers, etc., were used to imply male to male relationship. The origin of Cut Sleeve is about one of the emperor s in the Western Han Dynasty, Han Aidi, and his favorite male attendant Dong Xian. As the story is told, they usually slept together and one day, when Han Aidi awoke first, he found that Dong Xian was sleeping on part of his sleeve. Afraid of disturbing hi


15 dream, Han Aidi considerately cut off his sleeve to make sure that he could go without waking up Dong Xian (Chou, 2001; Hinsch, 1992; Zhang, 2008). Additionally, homosexuality was depicted in ancient Chinese literature all through history, rangin g from the first ancient Chinese poem collection, The Book of Songs to 1912), Four Classics Traced back in The Book of Songs ambiguous affections between the generals and their attendants or among male soldiers are expres sed. And in Dream of the Red Chamber, Classics, there are some quite bold descriptions about male homosexual behaviors. According to this novel, it seems acceptable for male masters to not only have friendship with their male attend ants, actors, or classmates, but to also practice sexually oriented fantasy or actual sexual activities. Although not declaimed explicitly, the protagonist in this novel, Jia Baoyu, is actually a bisexual person, who is engaged in both same sex and opposit e sex acts (Hinsch, 1992; Zhang, 2008). It has been claimed that most ancient Chinese homosexual figures are indeed bisexual, and male bisexuality is dominant (Zhang, 2008). The reason is that ancient China had a rigid system of social stratum with a stric t patriarchal rule. Thus, it was very common for people in the higher levels of the hierarchy to receive benefits from those in the lower ones, including trading male or female attendants. Plus, it was acceptable for a family to acquiesce in this marriage cheating behavior since women had no say about what their men did. Since a more distinct patriarchal societal system was observed in ancient China in which males were the critical gender role for society, it is understandable that almost all of the archive d materials are about male homosexuality. Men were the recorders, as


16 well as the main characters. Female homosexuality is relatively missing in ancient Chinese history. Nevertheless, some clues about Chinese lesbians during this time period can be tracked. The earliest record relevant to female homosexuality is in the Han dynasty (B.C.202 A.C. 9), in Story of Han Wudi help he r get her husband back (Zhang, 2008). In fact, most of the stories about female homosexual relationships in ancient China, involve wives, concubines, and female attendants, who failed to obtain or never got enough attention from their husbands or male mast homosexual behaviors are much less spontaneous compared to the male ones. In some cases recorded in the late Qing dynasty (A.C. 1644 1912), female homosexual behaviors were considered to be a way to protest their unfair marital life and social treatment. Meanwhile, there were certainly countervailing views against homosexual or bisexual behaviors, and generally those views demonstrated concerns in three aspects. The first aspect was in terms of political power. It was typical that the male attendants that were favored by the emperors were more accessible to the higher power, and relied on the trust of the emperors to collect personal property. Secondly, there was resistance to their live s in society. Although there were no obvious terms to describe homosexuals as perverts or abnormal, homosexuality has inevitably been despised by people as a behavior that deviates from the mainstream culture. Whenever entering a period of history where ho mosexuality was too openly tolerated, that occasion would be


17 considered as a moral degeneration of the whole society. Finally, concern was shown in the familial system. Even though it was acceptable to have multiple partners after marriage in ancient China indulging in same sex eroticism might have led the man to neglect his obligatory family responsibilities for his wife and children, which in turn would de consolidate the supposed family system (Zhang, 2008). Modern History of Chinese Homosexuality Start ing in the Ming dynasty (1368 1644), with the advancement of maritime technology, communication between Western countries and China became more convenient and frequent. Along with commercial trades, cultural exchange took an important role in this intern ational communication process, including new concepts and ideas brought by Western religion, such as Catholicism (Zhang, 2008). With the introduction of Catholicism to China, opposition to homosexuals began to spread. Early Westerners who came to China wer e surprised to find open and relatively free homosexual relationships, and Catholics got the impression that the Chinese p.141). There emerged relevant laws and regulations concerning homosexuals in the Qing dynasty (1644 1911). With revisions through different periods, there were even various categories corresponding to different conditions, such as different treatments about homosexual rape involving children, attempted homosexual rape, special groups makers were clearly aware of the issue of homosexual crime, and took it as a serious social problem. Sexual orientation was not a hidden t opic for people in that time.


18 With the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, China terminated its feudalistic past, and began to develop as a democratic nation. Under the intensive influence of the importation of modern Western culture, Chinese i ntellectuals began to study homosexuality from a socio cultural perspective, which included sexology, Christian homophobia, and the medical categorization of homosexuality (Chou, 2000). Though subjects imported from the West that are relevant to homo heter o duality had never been popular in China, notions about homosexuality were adopted by Chinese scholars. What is interesting is that, rather than adopting Christian homophobic ity was selectively accepted by some Chinese intellectuals. This strategic preference may have been affected by Confucian marital institution, which focuses on a reproductive marital system yet is never homophobic per se (Chou, 2000). Hence, influenced by Western scientific discourse, homosexuality was viewed as was discussed in aspects such as psychosexual essence that required specific medical psychological treatment. Ma gnus Hirschfeld wrote a book, Men and Women the World Journey of a Sexologist (1931), to record his observations of female and male homosexuality in China in 1931. From his typical Western sexologist concern of that time, homosexuals in China featured a stigmatized minority that required investigation prevention. Contemporary History of Chinese Homosexuality same sex eroticism was abandoned. C hinese laws after 1949 made no specific mention


19 of homosexuality, yet sodomy was included in some Criminal Law articles, and those were used as a legal basis for government and police prosecution of homosexuals. Homosexuals were regarded as hooligans in Ch ina, and homosexual people were discriminated against by others once their sexuality was revealed. There are post 1949 records of homosexual people who were arrested, sent to labor reform camp, prison, or a clinic for electric therapy, and even in some ext reme cases (e.g., during 1966 1976 Cultural Revolution), homosexual people were executed (Chou, 2000; Cui, 2008). Only abolished. Besides legal restrictions, the governme nt also censored the media and education on topics or information related to sexuality. Thus, until the 1990s, the majority of Chinese in the mainland were basically unaware and unconcerned about the issue of homosexuality and sexual orientation in general 1990s one out of three peasants had no clue of what homosexuality was. If someone talked about his or her sexual orientation towards the same sex, others (especially the parents) would condemn them as being crazy, and just ask them to not think about it anymore. Rarely do ordinary Chinese people have any concept of sexual identity, not to mention the notion of homosexuality. The life of homosexuals in China was pretty much covert until the late 1990s, as there were not many established associations or media outlets for homosexuals, and first Chinese LGBT hotline was opened in Beijing, more and more events relevant to the homose xual movement occurred in China, such as the first lesbian conference held in


20 1998; the first gay bar, LaLa Bar, opened in 1999; the first homosexual website, Aibai built in 1999; etc. The emergence of dozens of public homosexual communities implies the a The situation for Chinese homosexuals was greatly improved in 2001, when homosexuality was removed from the mental disorders list in Chinese Classification and Diagnostic Cri teria of Mental Disorders This alteration implicitly indicated the came to be regarded as non pathological. This change brought hope for activists to better promote ho mosexual movements in a more public and healthy related platform. Since then, media exposures about topics related to homosexuality began to emerge on more public platforms, and some information about Chinese homosexuals has been made visible even through radio and television (Cui & Liu, 2010). A national phone survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in 2007 indicated the level of public acceptance of homosexuality in mainland China (China Daily, 2007). According to the survey, the Chinese society on the whole is tolerant of homosexuals despite some misunderstandings and confusions. Li (2007) pointed out that it is understandable that people are not critical of homosexuality as long because of their confidence in traditional culture and their belief that traditional culture cannot be easily contaminated, have a kind of indifference toward or even tolerance for non mainstream practices such as homosexuality. There are at least three main objectives for Chinese homosexuals to strive for in terms of their rights: the sexual one to legitimize same sex love, the political one to


21 enjoy the same treatment as heterosexuals, and the cultural one about identity. In 200 3, the well known sociologist of Chinese homosexual subculture, Li Yinhe, proposed same proposal has yet to be approved, the endeavor itself indicates the growing concern for homose xual marriage. Meanwhile, the Tongzhi community is growing and spreading in China, even in some remote places. Hotlines, magazines, film festivals, and conferences for homosexuals in China are becoming more organized and popular. For example, the activity of flying the rainbow kite is recognized as a symbol for Tongzhi to express their feelings and identities, and this activity has been organized in a number of cities in China (Cui, 2008). Chinese homosexuals are seeking more space with regard to rights and respects, and they are hoping to create a new culture that is distinguishable from the heterosexual one.


22 CHAPTER 3 HOMOSEXUAL IDENTITY AND DEVELOPMENT MODE L Introduced in 1990, queer theory intends to shed lights on the rela tionship between gender and sexuality from an unusual perspective. On the basis of feminism and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) studies, queer theory examines the socially constructed nature of sexual acts and identities, and expands the for mer identity. It states a refusal of the common conflation of sexual identity, which categorizes sexuality as either heterosexual or homosexual, and makes the heterosexual bi nary the normal dominant one (Butler,1990). In contrast to the dominant concept of hegemonic masculinity, queer theory calls for the deconstruction of the heterosexual/homosexual binaries, challenges the mainstream power of the heterosexual binary, and ret hinks the relationship among sex, gender, sexuality, and the gay identity (Connell, & James, 2005;Valocchi, 2005). object attraction, but also on the gendered meanings creat ed in sexual and romantic interaction. It is deemed that gender and sexuality are culturally constructed and for heterosexuals or homosexuals, is pretty much cultural ly and socially constructed (Butler, 1990; De Cecco & Shively, 2009; Dozier, 2005). Therefore, in order to provide a framework for comprehending Chinese homosexuality, it is necessary to understand the general cultural and social circumstances in which Chi nese homosexuality exists in China and how queer theory


23 accounts for that existence. Chinese sexologists and socialists imported queer theory theory in Chinese cont as Li Yinhe and Pan Suiming, applied this western theory as a reference to study the situation of Chinese homosexuals (Cui, 2008), echoed the predication of internationalized queer identit y (Altman, 1996), and promoted its political consequences in contexts such as the discourse of LGBT human rights (Liu, 2010). homosexuals. In 1992, Li Yinhe and Wang Xiaobo publ ished Their World: Perspectives on Chinese Gay Community which presented findings about the living conditions of Chinese gay people. And later in 1998, Li Yinhe published Subculture of Homosexuality to further investigate the homosexual culture in mainlan d China (Cui, 2008). In recent years, studies on more specific aspects of Chinese homosexuality have begun to emerge: He and Rofel (2010) conducted a qualitative survey about people infected with HIV/AIDS in China; Kang (2010) studied same sex relations in modern China, by exploring the language, media representation, and law from a sociological perspective. Meanwhile, there were doubts about whether queer theory really applies to China. It is argued that China has a unique tongzhi community that is distinc t from the Western idea of queer (Liu, 2010), and the Chinese tradition of same sex erotic relations has no equivalent in English language concepts (Chou, 1997). All in all, whether queer theory ultural and local political contexts are deemed as pivotal factors in studying Chinese homosexuality.


24 Homosexual Identity and Tongzhi Identity Identity is akin to the idea of self, indicating the way in which individuals define and express themselves (Mart in & Nakayama, 2007; Minton & McDonald, 1984). T h e r e are discussions on identity in various areas, such as racial identity, eth n ic cultural identity, etc. ( Chavez & Gu ido DiBrito 1999 ; Ponterotto & Park Taylor, 2007) Likewise, an personality, or social relations (De Cecco & Shively, 1984). The concept of sexual identity was first formulate d within the homosexual context in the nineteenth century, and it assumes three general forms: biological (male female partern), psychological (physical appearance, mental characteristics, and object choice), and socio culture (socially constructed under f orces and circumstances) (De Cecco & Shively, 1984). Based on the three forms, scholars attempted to study homosexual identity from different perspectives. For instance, Richardson (1984) summarized the essences of being homosexual, taking homosexuality as span, developmental process that is part of the general maturational process of achieving personal a cceptance of a positive gay self homosexual identity is actually a concept in need of definition, because of inadequate explanations about ambiguous issues involve d in this field (e.g., the distinction between identity and behavior, the homosexual group identity, identity construction, etc.). have existed throughout Chinese history, the ter consciousness or sexual orientation in Chinese interpretation) rarely received important


25 consideration among the Chinese population or in scholarly discourse (Chou, 2000). Same sex eroticism was ignored rather than discriminat ed against by the local culture. emerged as an attempt to introduce Western sexological thoughts in China, as well as to provide an alternative term for expression of Chinese s ame sex relations. This implication with no intention of discrimination or bias. the first Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in Hong Kong, and later it was accepted widely li (Chou, 2000, p3) in the Chinese homosexual community, though it was referri ng to the revolutionaries who shared a comradeship when first imported to China in the 20th century. In a qualitative study of 30 qualified participants, Sun, Farrer, & Choi (2006) examined how Chinese male homosexuals define and manage their sexual identi ty. They found that a variety of terms were preferred by gay people in China to these term


26 Chinese homosexuals were that it was not defined by gender, did not include sex in its definition, and was borrowed from the mainstr eam culture which, ever since the communist takeover in 1949, includes the practice of citizens addressing one another egrating the sexual into the social and cultural context. Model of Homosexual Identity Development Another approach to understanding homosexual identity stems from analyzing homosexual identity formation. Rather than trying to explain sexual orientation, t his method aims to investigate the developmental process wherein individuals construct and maintain a particular sexual identity such as a homosexual identity (Richardson, 1984), and focuses on the resolution of internal conflict related to identification (Bilodeau & Renn, 2005). Many researchers have proposed models that include sequential stages of homosexual identity development. And these models generally share a three stage process in common: egocentric interpretation, internalization of the normative assumptions, and achievement of a positive recognition (Minton & McDonald, 1984). Among these models, the CASS model of homosexual identity acquisition (Cass, 1979) is the earliest yet most widely acknowledged one (Liu & Zhang, 2009). Cass (1984) asserts t hat the concept of identity consists of a personal aspect, the representation of the self to the self, and a social aspect, the presentation of the self to (Cass, 1984, p.1 43), Cass proposed a four stage model of homosexual identity


27 formation. The four stages are Identity confusion and Identity comparison, Identity tolerance and Identity acceptance, Identity pride, and Identity synthesis. The first stage, Identity confusion and Identity comparison, involves questioning interaction with others; The second stage, Identity tolerance and Identity acceptance, involves tolerating a homosexual identity and adopting strategies to manage it; The third stage Identity pride, involves immersion in homosexual subculture and confrontation with heterosexual hegemony; and the fourth stage, Identity synthesis, occurs when one has integrated his or her own homosexual identity with other aspects of identities (Cass, 1984). This CASS model generally illustrates a typical process of homosexual identity development, and originally it was built based in the Western social and cultural background. Chinese scholar s recently began to inquire how Western homosexual identity model would be applicable to the Chinese context, since China has its distinctive cultural traditions and social environment (Liu & Zhang, 2007).For instance, familial relations are more complicat ed for homosexuals, and studies on sexuality was not encouraged and commonly advised in China (Wong & Tang, 2004). Moreover, Liu and Zhang (2007) proposed that because help groups and supportive organizations for homosexuals are rare in mainland China, it is hard for Chinese homosexuals to source of culture and encouragement to be hostile towards heterosexuality. In an attempt to provide a media perspective on this issue, I will take the CASS model as a


28 means to look at how homosexual characters are depicted in Chinese homosexual films. In addition to the CASS model, I would like to introduce another concept of homosexual identity, latent homosexuality. This concept implies that some individuals may be unaware of their homosexual desires, and come to recognize them only after certain encounters and incidences (Richardson, 1984). Latent homosexuals usually they become aware of their homosexual orientation, and it takes longer for them to accept their own sexual identity. I assume that this case may be common in the modern Chinese homosexual context, since the social and political circumstances do not provid e sufficient information for people to realize their sexual orientation.


29 CHAPTER 4 CHINESE CULTURAL VAL UES AND HOMOSEXUALIT Y Cultural values f unction as a fundamental index for people to engage in social interaction and interpret their daily lives (Chang, 1957; Wei, 1947). While Chinese culture has been evolving for centuries, respect for traditional cultural values has been a hallmark of that evolution. Hence, examining Chinese values relevant to homosexuality would provide some understanding of w hy the Chinese view homosexuality as they do. Traditional Chinese Cultural Basis on Sexuality Confucianism is the most dominant philosophical doctrine in China that embodies hum reciprocity, righteousness, and loyalty. In a word, the ultimate achievement of Confucianism is central harmony, which is perceived as a perfect state of appropriateness (Li, 2 009). Regarding harmony in Chinese culture, it embodies the supreme ideal condition that "All things are nurtured together without injuring one another; all courses are pursued together without collision" (Fung, 2007, p.286). Therefore, Confucianism never gave completely negative connotation to any issue including homosexuality. Neither did other schools in ancient China express a public objection towards homosexuality (Zhang, 2008). Therefore, it is reasonable that people are inclined to take a neutral att itude towards homosexuality in China, because they have no tradition to be hostile toward homosexuality, and they tend to ignore or tolerate some social phenomena to ensure their ideal harmonious environment. In the ancient China, same sex would not result in the disruption of the traditional patriline of generations, and a ccording to the principle of


30 harmony, things exist for a reason and it is better to let them go on the condition that Hence, social tolerance towards same sex eroticism finds its roots in ancient cultural philosophy. Because of this historical and philosophical underpinning, homosexuality in ancient China was not considered evil nor was it included in any legal framework. Regarding the male female relationship, in Chinese cultural concepts, it can be seen as the Yin Yang philosophy (feminine masculine philosophy). This Yin Yang philosophy suggests that everything in the earth has its gender attribute, either Yin (feminine ) or Yang (masculine), and the counterpart is opposite yet complementary. For example, the sun is yang, while the moon is yin; the sky is yang, while the earth is yin; the male is yang, while the female is yin. This philosophy seems extremely contradictory to homosexuality, since there is only a single gender involved. But Pan Suiming, one renowned researcher and scholar on sexuality in China, gives an intriguing explanation about this special incompatibility: yang philosophy. This is shared by Confucianism and Taoism. Everything about gender and sexuality originates from it. As the terms suggest, such cosmology excludes homosexuality. There are only yin and yang, no in between. An important yin yang principle is mutual transfor mation. They can transform into each other. A man can become a woman, and a woman can also become a man. Though it is not universal, it is probable (Cui, 2008). Yang relation can still be balanced in a homosexual relationsh ip, with the circumstance that one person in the relationship is treated as the opposite gender. Although it is a same sex relationship, one has to give up the natural gender attribute for transforming to the other side, in order to keep the Yin Yang balan ce. So the homosexual relationship is viewed as partially heterosexual by this philosophy. However, some key values of Chinese traditional culture have been


31 presenting crucial obstacles for Chinese homosexuals, the most prominent one the familial obligatio n. Familial Obligation and Marital Pressure According to Confucianism, begetting children is the primary duty of a person, and engaging only in same prosperity (Hinsch, 1992). A well known phrase p roposed by one representative homosexuals have been dealing with enormous pressure from their family and society. There was much less stress for homosexual people in ancient China when polygamy was common and legally approved. So as long as one fulfills the obligation for producing off springs, it is acceptable to have s same sex lover, espe cially for those rich men in higher social status (Zhang, 2008). But the situation is difficult for homosexuals in contemporary China, where only male female monogamy is legally permitted. Wong & Tang (2004) argued that it may be particularly difficult for homosexuals in Chinese society to identify and disclose their homosexuality because of patriarchal family norms associated with Confucianism. Strong pressure to marry is deemed as the main difference between Western and Chinese homosexuals (Sun, Farrer, & Choi, 2006). Many homosexuals report that they fear going back home to meet their family, especially on some occasions such as a family reunion during Chinese New Year (Cui, 2008). In order to preserve harmony in the family and avoid questions about marit al status, questions that often arise during family get togethers, Chinese gay people often choose to stay in the closet. Sometimes this means subjecting themselves to blind dates arranged by unsuspecting parents.


32 The majority of Chinese people are used t o living within the social network that is based on family relationships, hence a quite high percentage of gay people are involved in heterosexual marriage to cover their real sexual orientation to avoid embarrassing or humiliating their family, and to ful fill their familial obligation within a traditional social structure (Liu, Bai, & Ding, 2007). In fact, male homosexuals in China assume more familial pressure of marriage than female ones. One of the reasons for this is that in the traditional Chinese con cept, the male is superior to the female in the social hierarchical level. The social patriarchal convention functions significantly in familial reproduction, and male hegemony in China ide after maintain a healthy marriage with children is considered one of the most important criteria of being filial to parents, as well as being contributive to the family an d society. generation, and that is also one of the reasons why some conservative Chinese people prefer boys to girls. Furthermore, the reproduction goal of old fashioned marri age in ancient China is another factor that secured homosexuals in a heterosexual marriage then. In ancient Chinese marriage, the husband wife relationship was more dedicated to maintaining a d sexual orientation family kinship system, rather than any erotic purpose. Thus, the same sex eroticism could co exist with normal marriage, since couples were not expecti ng completely


33 spiritual or physical commitment from their heterosexual marriage. This co existence of heterosexual and homosexual relationship could also be interpreted as the consequence of the harmony doctrine.


34 CHAPTER 5 CHINESE FILM INDUSTR Y AND HOMOS EXUAL FILMS Chinese Film Aesthetics and New Film Movement As a product of modern Western science and technology, film was introduced to China in the 1920s (film with sound in the early 1930s), and its development in China was constrained by and filtered th rough the social realities and culture (Semsel, Hong, & Hou, 1990). For instance, in Chinese film theory, the shadow play aesthetics as an ideology lead the concept of film and filmmaking in China for a long time. Shadow play, which originally refers to an ancient Chinese form of performance started in the Han Dynasty (206 BC 220 AD), is the earliest and most profound aesthetic concept about Chinese film. By using an opaque backdrop and articulated figures to tell dramatic versions of traditional fairy ta les and myths, the shadow play tradition emphasizes the feature of performing drama. Consequently, until the late 1970s, Chinese film was neither the di rect recording of reality, nor the art of shooting and editing, but simply a drama on the screen (Semsel Hong, & Hou, 1990). This situation was also attributed to Chinese mainstream film theory then, which emphasized the practical aspect of film. Thus, the major story telling f unction of the early Chinese films was social education, such as depicting commun ity life and educating the public Later, that education extended to include political education. It was concluded that there were two distinct features of the early Chinese film history (Semsel, Hong, & Hou, 1990), (1) Chinese film had no independent deve lopment at all, but was closely related to the traditions of theater; (2) all films in practice were for political issues, without serious aesthetic concern. This condition extremely impeded the


35 progress of the Chinese film industry to develop as a format of art and for themes related to humanity. Since 1979, when the policies of reformation and open door started, politics was no longer the central winding vine that directed the development of Chinese film, but rather the social function of film was explore d on a full scale with attention to issues like literature, nature, humanity, realism, modernism, etc. Meanwhile, Western film culture and theory began to seep into mainland China, bringing some vitality and liberation of thought into the industry. A New E ra of Chinese film began. Two main trends emerged in the New Era: the awakening of the self consciousness of human beings, and the awakening of self consciousness of film. These trends indicated that film productions were less restricted from direct politi cal control, and were left with more space to recognize, establish itself, and to restore the value of humanity. Representative films such as The Legend of Tianyun Mountain and in the 1980 reflect the adjustments of film theory during the New Era, when filmmakers began to try to surpass the level of technical devices to explore new themes, philosophical ideas, and cultures. The level of the style of redemption was also popular in discussion (Semsel, Hong, & Hou, 1990). Furthermore, pushed by the rad ically changed social started to become a commercial market economy, the film industry was developed with an eye toward com mercialization, accompanied by goals such as entertainment and the development of genre films.


36 During the 1980s, after the change of policy, independent thought and speculation on the past flourished. Enlightened by a Western production model, independent film production debuted in China. A group of Chinese documentar y filmmakers launched a wave of documentary filmmaking, which was commonly referred as the Chinese New Documentary Movement. One common characteristic of documentaries in this movement was that their rebellion against the old aspects of Maoist utopianism a nd established communist political ideologies. Usually, this kind of documentary attempt ed surfaced as a result of economic and policy reform, such as the lower s social up heaval of peop le in rural areas contrasted with rapid development in urban areas, the rights of minority groups, etc. Homosexual Films in China Today film is one of the most popular and influential medium in China. According to the statistics from the Chi na Film Association, there were about 500 domestic films produced in China in 2010, with about $4 billion box offices receipts. However, because of the restricted political milieu, homosexuality has been a taboo topic in cinemas in mainland China. Neverthe less, despite heavy handed censorship, some current filmmakers have been using film as a powerful weapon to express their observations and experiences about Chinese homosexual groups and to call for more attentions to this issue. In the West, gay and lesbian characters have existed in film since the earliest days of the industry, but they usually are presented in a negative manner: sad and suicidal, unstable and psychopathic, or as objects of derision (Meem, Gibson, & Alexander, 2010; Sony Pictures Cla ssics, 2011). The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies


37 homosexual characters in Hollywood films have been portrayed historically and concludes that homosexual characters we re mostly relegated to marginal and secondary supporting roles, and were characterized in a quite stiff and stereotypical way. In the 1990s, queer characters and issues began to appear much more frequently in the mass media, and films depicting homosexuals started to reveal diverse angles of perspectives. For example, Swoon (1992) and The Living End (1992) involve gay identity and criminal cases; Go Fish (1994) focuses on lesbian romance; Stonewall (1995) dramatizes the story that leaded to the Stonewall ri ots; and After Stonewall (1999) records the 30 years of the gay rights movement; etc. (Davies, & Smith, 2000). Accordingly in mainland China, several fiction films attempted to address issues related to homosexuality in the 1990s. Farewell My Concubine (19 93) was the first feature movies that implied an ambiguous relationship between t wo males. This male male bond was represented in an obscure approach, and the leading characters held special positions as Peking opera singers. Though it is the first Chinese movie that won Farewell My Concubine was initially banned in China because it featured a male to male sexual orientation and covered the period of the Cultural Revolution ( Lim, 2002) The first Chinese feature movie that directly dealt with gay love is East Palace, West Palace (1995), directed by Zhang Yuan, one of the originators of the Chinese New Documentary Movement. Zhang Yuan was blacklisted as a film director in mainland China during 1994 to 1998, for making independent fil ms outside the state studio


38 system. Most of his works made during that period are still not permitted to be publicly screened in mainland China. Later, there emerged more feature films concerning the life of gay people in China, such as Happy Together (199 7), Men and Women (1999), and Lan Yu ( 2001). These homosexuality to the audience in a relatively objective manner. And without exception, these films are not allowed to be distributed officially within mainland China. Concern for lesbian s was also dealt with Chinese filmmakers. A r epresentative example is The Box which was mentioned in the introductory chapter, demonstrates existence, and makes their lives appear normal by showing their beauty (Chao, 2010). Since there is no official channel to show films related to homosexuality, the film festival has become a practical option. In 2001, the first Chinese Gay and Lesbian Film Festival was held at Beijing University, and a series of independent films were shown to the public (Cui, 2008). Though there were pressure s exerted by school, government officials, and the police, and the first film festival was cut from one week to thre e days, this tradition was preserved. In 2005 and 2007, the second and third Chinese Gay and Lesbian Film Festival occurred. The festival has since changed its name to the Queer Film Forum.


39 CHAPTER 6 CASE STUDY OF CHINES E HOMOSEXUAL FILMS In this chapt er, I am going to analyze the production backgrounds and contents of three sample films, two feature films plus one documentary film. The reasons for my choosing these films are, (1) they are all internationally acknowledged; (2) the two feature films were released in the same year 2001, the year when homosexuality was removed from the mental disease list; (3) the two feature films respectively deal with same sex male love and same sex female love; and (4) the documentary film is the first Chinese one with a h omosexual theme and provides a frame of reference for assessing the representation of social reality in the fiction films Lan Yu: Love without Gender Known as one of the earliest homosexual feature films in China, Lan Yu (2001) tells of a ten year roma nce between two men, Chen Handong and Lan Yu. Directed by Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan, this film has won several film awards throughout Hong Kong and Taiwan, and was also shown at many major film festivals, including Sundance and the 2001 Cannes Film F estival (Festival de Cannes: Lan Yu). However, this film is not permitted to be officially distributed within mainland China due to the production procedure, its historical reference of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the theme of gay love. The film was shot in Beijing without per mission from the government. This act alone determined its fate of being banned on the mainland Chinese film list. The plot of Lan Yu is adapted from a popular anonymous 1998 online novel called Beijing Story and the story is s et in Beijing from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. In this film, Lan Yu, a country college student who is in need of money, sold his body as a


40 virgin to Chen Handong, a business man and son of a senior government bureaucrat. Months later after another u nexpected encounter, the two men fall in love with each other. While Lan Yu is completely committed to their relationship, Handong is looking for other playmates and wants to follow the social ritual of marrying a girl. They break up and make up four times raising. After Lan Yu bails Handong out by giving up his entire savings, they make up their minds to be together no matter what happens. But t he relationship lasts only a few happy days, when Handong with angle of narration is effective as it quickly establishes the reminiscent mood of the film. As in their relationship, Handong is always the dominant and masculine o ne. From the start, he takes control of their relationship along with his richer businessman status, while Lan Yu is treated as the submissive vulnerable role. The director Stanley Kwa n admitted that he had in mind his own romance history in this movie. He mentioned in an Stanley Kwan established his reputation in the Hong Kong film industry with his first directed film W omen in 1985, and now is recognized as one of the top Hong Kong feature film directors with well known works such as Rouge (1987), Full Moon in New York (1989), and Lan Yu (2001). In most of his films, Stanley Kwan usually focuses on


41 his feminist standpoin t. In 1996, Stanley Kwan confessed his gay identity in his documentary Yang and Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema and in this documentary he talks frankly about his memory about his childhood gender cognition, and the history of how Chinese language films featured gender roles and sexuality (Jia, 2002). After that, Stanley Kwan filmed Lan Yu in which he expressed more openly his gay identity and hoped audiences would accept him as well as the message of his film Stanley Kwan is one of the few openly gay film directors, whose works deal directly with gay themes (The Gully, 2002). Lan Yu as a gay film, as he argued that he was comfortable with his sexuality then and was using common Lan Yu having a relationship. It showed how relationships form and evolve. Ho w ordinary emotion and lo ve. In my opinion the director intended to emphasize that pure love exists either between heterosexuals or homosexuals, and there is no difference be tween heterosexual lovers and homosexual ones. For this film, the audience can tell that if the protagonist Lan Yu is replaced with a female instead of a male, the story still holds up Lan Yu actually symbolizes an ideal character in a relationship, as he is trustworthy, loyal, and willing at all times to sacrifice himself to save his lover. and resistance for being homosexual. In the beginning, Handong is a playboy who is aware of his homo sexual orientation. He flirts with younger males and tries to solicit


42 good looking men --realizes his affection for the unsophisticated college boy, but warns Lan Yu (as well as hims soon when Lan Yu discovers that Handong is cheating on him with another athletic boy. In their third reunion after the Tiananmen Square event, just as a man might treats h is mistress, Handong buys Lan Yu a car and a villa as a graduation gift, and they live together for a while. Still, Handong is unwilling to face his homosexual identity. He tells ys also deeply influenced by traditional heterosexual family values, and he is prepared to avoid his position and with his personality to be unmarried. As indicated in an earlier chapter, it is pretty common for Chinese homosexuals to stay in the closet and main tain a fake heterosexual marriage. Relating the film to its historical economic background, David Eng (2010) analyzes Lan Yu Chinese gay and lesbian movement is under the impact of current societal, political, and economic environment, and inevitably will merge into the cosmopolitan globalized world. Thus, he thinks Lan Yu desire squarely within a theory of human transf ormation, a gendered developmentalism,


43 planned economy, together with conception of consumption, and his value on fashion, and so on, clearly reflect this ct ed in the film, to some extent mirrors the early Chinese modern thoughts about the liberal individual, human natural desire, and free market capitalism. For example, Handong has taken his relationship with Lan Yu in the modern language of sugar daddy son, and interprets human affection as a token of exchange. When he was irritated after being caught Another characteristic and s ubtle expression in this film are the two family dinner Lan Yu. The first time Handong brought Lan Yu back home for dinner is after their second re brother who is alone in Beijing for the Spring Festival. Together at the table are in a kind manner. For his part, Lan Yu seems like the ideal guest. He sits at the table quietly, speaks only when spoken to, and is polite in every respect. Like so many homosexual couples, Handong and Lan Yu keep their relationship secret in the presence of others, especially family members. The second family dinner scene comes after Lan Yu successfully bails Han Dong in law and sister in law, are there. This is


44 more like a family couple dinner, and it is interesting to observe that those young people treat Handong and Lan Yu like a couple without really pointing out anything. At this time, Lan Yu acts much less nervous and more active. He helps out in the kitchen and with setting up the table with other women while the other men are chatting in the living the whole atmosphere is merry and rel Handong and Lan Yu to take a vacation. It seems that though their homosexual relationship is not officially public, what Lan Yu has done for Handong makes it less a secret, and the young family members are f ine with this open yet secret relationship. Concerning the overview of the film, from a perspective of homosexual love, I love exists without gender. The romantic l ove of the story makes sense regardless of gender. Lan Yu is a film that talks about gays in mainland China, yet it ingeniously shifts the focus to love in the relationship itself, instead of stressing the taboo topic of non straight people. This film deals wi th homosexual love in a positive upright manner, with the promotion of the idea that homosexual love is nothing different from heterosexual love. Fish and Elephant : Love is the Home Distinguished from Lan Yu Fish and Elephant (2001) tells a story of a les bian couple, and this film is the first feature film that tackles the lesbian issue in mainland China. Suffering the same fate as other homosexual films, the production and release of Fish and Elephant was in underground status within mainland China, and i t was screened through international film festivals. This film was the winner of the Elvira Notari


45 Prize in the 2001 Venice Film Festival, and also the Best Asian Film Prize at Forum of New Cinema in the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival. Li Yu, a fo rmer documentary filmmaker, directed Fish and Elephant This film is her debut feature film, and it is narrated in a fairly documentary fashion: a rare close up or change of angle, using a majority of still mid shots and full shots. In fact, the director w as preparing to shoot a documentary film on this subject at first, but changed her mind to make a feature film during shooting. That is why this film has an intense documentary er to depict lesbian life in a more authentic and reliable way, as the camera records how the two characters go about their routine daily lives, making the audience feel that lesbians are as ordinary as anyone else. Even though Fish and Elephant places les bian love as its her aspirations and desires. 2003) The English name, Fish and Elephant this film, Xiao Qun works as a zoo keeper, and her j ob is to take care of a female Asian Elephant. Thus the only elephant in the film is shown as a kept animal in the zoo, and she eats and sleeps at her own will, but has no chance for freedom. In her rented place, Xiao Qun keeps a glass aquarium of fish, of which she also takes good care. Here I her life. The living space of the zoo elephant is restricted, but at least the elephant is


46 exposed outside in the air, hard to likes men or women, she has to live in the same society as everyone else. As for her love metaphor, the fish are protected in the water, and they would die once they get out of the tank and were expose d to the air. One scene that supports this assumption her ex girlfriend. She leaves the house and all the fish die; when they make up later, they buy new fish and put the m in the tank of clear water. lity and repeatedly arranges for blind dates in hopes of helping Xiao Qun find a suitor. Xiao Qun falls in love with Xiao Ling, a girl who makes a living by selling clothes she designs. During a blind date, and at a time when Xiao is present, Xiao Qun co nfesses her sexuality. Shortly thereafter, in order to be with Xiao Qun, Xiao Ling breaks up with her boyfriend and she and Xiao Qun move in together. Despite a series of misunderstandings and pressure from family and friends, the lesbian couple finally wi mother. One of the storylines in Fish and Elephant value and comprehension about sexuality towards homosexuals at that time in mainland China. There are two scenes of Xiao Qun confessing her sexual orientation, and it is in teresting to see how people react to her words.


47 The first coming out is set at the beginning of the film, when Xiao Qun is having a conversation with her cousin before a date. She says that she has no feelings for men at all and it is a waste of time for h er family trying to set her up with a man. In response woman may be attracted to another woman. He tells Xiao Qun that a normal woman must get married and have children, an d to do anything else is foolish. He says a family would be humiliated if a girl remained single after the age of 30 or if a girl suggested that she had no interest in men. The second time Xiao Qun confesses her sexuality is when she meets her date for the come across this situation yet, and he thinks it is impossible for a female to have feelings for another female, because the unalterable universal principle is he and insists that there is possibility that it might work out between them if they spend more time together to know each other better. is a traditional Chinese woman who after has raised Xiao Qun all by herself, and has as her only hope that her daughter will marry and have an ordinary life. She sets up dozens of blind dates for Xiao Qun, trying to


48 the older the girl is, the harder it is for her to find someone to get married. In their first phone conversation in the fi tion, to agree to another blind date. Xiao Qun actually tions, yet she is unwilling to go against her own nature. Coming out to her mother or continuing find excuses for turning down male dates, are the only two options for Xiao Qun. Li ng have established their relationship and have been living together for a while. When they first meet the mother, Xiao Ling expresses concern about disclosing their lesbian no frame of reference other than a traditional one for judging the behavior of her daughte r and Xiao Ling. Another reason is, as a Chinese custom it is completely acceptable for female s to display a certain amount of intimacy in public, such as holding ave simple body contact, etc. Thus, in public lesbia n s have better cover than gay lovers In Fish and Elephant, mother sees her daughter holding hands with another girl, she understands this behavior to mean they are simply roommates and good friends. One of the best scenes in Fish and Elephant occurs


49 asks Xiao Ling to help out In keepi ng with what may Chinese senior citizens do when they meet someone of a younger generation, the mother then starts to question Xiao Ling about her persona l life and is surprised that Xiao Ling is also single. When Xiao er turns around, the screen cuts to Xiao Qun and Xiao Ling holding hands under the table. Being silent and supporting each other in secret i s all they can do before an unwitting parent Eventually, when informed that her mother is remarrying, Xiao Qun comes out of the closet Xiao Q needs to make their own home, and a real home consists of a man and a woman. everyone needs love, a lo issue, and they are in need of a home according to their own (Cui, 2008). Although this mother gives her support an The cast members of Fish and Elephant are all unprofessional actors and actresses, and the two leading actresses Pan Yi (Xiao Qun) and Shi Tou (Xiao Ling) were actually a lesbian couple during the production. Shi Tou is one of the most noted


50 lesbian activists in China (Liu & Rofel, 2010). She is the first lesbian who came out to discuss same sex relationships on Chinese national TV, and she is the organizer and host of the first Chinese Lesbian and Gay Conference and the first Chinese Convention pond to contemporary social issues 2010). Shi Tou sees her starring in Fish and Elephant as another work of art. She agrees een two women and the problems they about queer female same sex love. This film draws public discussion and attention from the mainstream culture to queer subculture, and also helps remind homosexual people of their existence. Queer China, Comrade China: A 30 year Chronicles Queer China, Comrade China (2008), an independent Chinese documentary, ious viewpoints, including cultural, historical, legal, political, and psychological ones. This film looks at Chinese society in a state of continual evolution, and covers almost every aspect of homosexuality in China, from governmental control and politic al rights to health problems and safe sex, gay identity and gay marriage, etc. Queer China, Comrade China demonstrates characteristics of Chinese homosexuality, as well as the impact of Chinese culture and societal features on the developmen t of homosexual ity. Consisting mainly of direct interviews and early film


51 clips, Queer China, Comrade China presents the general situation of homosexuals in mainland China chron ologically in nine sections. general social attitude towards homosexuals in China. It mentions that before 1998, homosexual after decriminalizing homosexuality, the mainstream society was still in su ch an awkward state that no acknowledgement of homosexuality could be traced. Also, familial obligation shows its significance in homosexual life. The fact that most homosexuals are unwilling to go back home during Chinese New Year is discussed in this sec tion. Big family get togethers usually take place as a tradition in Chinese New Year, and it is common for people to ask their younger relatives about their dating situation or put pressure on them to marry. This kind of moment is considered extremely emba rrassing to ruin the harmony of the family by admitting their true sexuality. location s where homosexuals cho ose to have activists. Lisa Rofel, as an interviewee in this section, explains her understanding of the relation between capital commercialization and the communist anti material principle. The communist government requires people to restrain their desire, either materi alistic or in sexual expression. T hus people are guided to live a simple life, and their mindsets follow more traditional heterosexual relationships. However, since the Opening Policy, capitalism and commercialism have been gradu ally accepted by Chinese people. One byproduct of this acceptance has been greater awareness and interest in sexuality. Inevitably,


52 people then begin realize the importance of exploring and establishing their sexual identity, and how to manage it. fiction, newspapers, magazines, satel reformations on courses about gay and lesbian studies in some Chinese transgender people, and presents the problems they are facing. In the eighth section, one of the interviewees tells about the governmental control she encountered during the first and second Chinese gay and lesbian film festival. The first Chinese Gay and Lesbian Film Festival was held at Beijing University, the earliest Chinese university to advocate liberalism and humanism, and was reduced from a seven day festival to a three day one for no apparent reason. The second Chinese Gay and Lesbian Film Festival was held in 2005 in a pub in Beijing. The festival had been scheduled to take place on the campus of Beijing University, but the organizers were removed from campus by school guards and pol ices before the festival began. In the last section of the film, the issue of legalizing same sex marriage is mentioned. Li Yinhe points out as an interviewee that even though it is hard to get the government to pass legislation to acknowledge gay rights, there is hope for the future. progress has given Chinese homosexuals more space with limited rights and respects,


53 and it is possible to look forward to the day of more open to lerance and better treatment of homosexuality in China. Also, a promising future for the development of homosexual community in China is presented in the last section. It is indicated that increasing social concerns and public events for homosexuality are emerging. For example, the rainbow kite has become a symbol for Chinese homosexuals, and flying the rainbow kite toget her with others is considered a means of expressing pride in being homosexual This symbolic get together has been organized in a lo t of cities in China, and has received numerous amounts of positive feedback. The booming state of the homosexual community indicates, especially for those who have come out, participated, and supported the community, that there has been a development of h omosexual identity in China. These individuals have realized their natural sexuality, and have a strong sense of their own group identity. They are confident and comfortable with their identity, have the desire to eliminate all forms of in justices and prej udices, and are willing to struggle openly against oppression. The director of Queer China, Comrade China modern China, Peach Lips which is banned within mainland China due to its gay theme. works, he integrated his Christian religious roots with his own experience as a homosexual, tried to associate queer stud ies with feminism studies, criticized the tough social environment for homosexuals in China, and reported on the struggles and endeavors of Chinese homosexual filmmakers ( Berry, 2004; Cui, 2004; Cui & Liu, 2010;


54 Wang, 2004 ). He is also one of the most ava nt garde Chinese underground filmmakers: his internationally renowned film works are Enter the Clown (2002) and The Old Testament (2002) (Wang, 2004). And his Queer China, Comrade China (2008) is regarded as the first documentary to deal with Chinese homos exuality. In 2000, he participated in a talk show on a Chinese local satellite television, together with Li Yinhe and Shi Tou, and openly talked about his homosexuality (Wa ng, 2004). In Academy in 1987 as a literature instructor, his friends already knew he was gay. The school then dismissed his certificate and position, sent him to a hospital in hopes that acknowledge to the school that his gay nature is mental illness. He comes out through his writing and filmmaking, and publishes his gay themed novels outside mainland China. As an underground filmmaker whose works concentrate on a government banned topic, will feel insulted and angry if he finds that those who do see them are unfi t to understand, either because they are homophobic or because all they want to do is gawk at unusual gay sex scenes. 2004). He also challenges traditional filmmaking both technically and artistically. Men and Women (1999),


55 Stonewall underground fashion. And he also concluded that because no historical incident like Stonewall Riot has happened in China, there is no breakthrough force for the public to acknowledge the presence of the gay community and gay rights. The differen ce between the Western pre Stonewall films and Chinese ones is that Chinese homosexual films take the advantage of modern technology in this new era, such as digital video for production, and the availability of international film festivals for circulation.


56 CHAPTE R 7 DISCUSSION Features of Chinese Homosexual Film Production Because of the sensitive nature of homosexuality in China, no film dealing with homosexuality has ever been approved by the Chinese Communist Party for movie production, nor has any non Chinese movie involving homosexual issues been imported. Under the res triction of the Chinese cinema system and censorship, homosexual films are not permitted to be officially produced nor distributed within mainland China. Filmmakers do not necessarily like to make banned films, but censorship of homosexuality has forced fi lmmakers who want to deal with the issue to go underground. Take the three sample films Lan Yu Fish and Elephant and Queer China, Comrade China. All of them were shot without governmental permission and are banned in mainland China. Also, because filmmak ers are denied access to funding, most of these homosexual films made in China are low budget productions that rarely budget independent personal film made by a filmmaker m ore interested in the film itself than making mon current social and political circumstance, underground style is the most popular and only pattern for Chinese filmmakers to produce homosexual films. Despite being banned in mainland China, Chinese homosexual films have found other means of distribution and exhibition, such as being featured in various international festivals. Lan Yu was shown in the 2001 Cannes Film Festival; Fish and Elephant won prizes at the 2001 Venic e Film Festival and the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival; Queer China, Comrade China was shown at the Pusan International Film


57 Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, and other international and domestic film festivals. Participating in international film contests or obtaining screening opportunities in international film festivals has turned out to be a favorable approach for Chinese und erground filmmakers to exhibit their works. Because of current Chinese policies, it is impossible for homosexual films to be screened before a large public audience, not to mention functioning as a way to raise concern about homosexual groups. According to the narration in the eighth section of Queer China, Comrade China we can see that there are still n umerous barriers to overcome before Chinese gay and lesbian film festivals can be officially held, and audience can feel free to come and join in an open discussion about the issue. Even though it is difficult to promote homosexual films via film festivals in China in current environment, there are several other channels used to publicize homosexual films. Films can be screened before small groups in private pubs and cultural centers where the films are less likely to draw governmental attention. For exampl e, The Box was only shown in small group meetings with the director. Another way to access to homosexual films is through websites for homosexuals and video websites, such as Aibai.com and shuangtv.com Despite on going copyright issues currently being deb ated by Chinese media, thousands of pirated copies of films are free to watch online. Also, pirated DVD copies of banned films such as Lan Yu and Brokeback Mountain and other films dealing with homosexuality are sometimes available in video shops and stands. Thus, through unofficial means of circulation, homosexual films are accessible to people in China.


58 Another common characteristic of the three sample Chinese homo sexual films is that someone with an openly gay identity is on the production team. For Lan Yu and Queer China, Comrade China both of the male directors have come out of the closet, and for Fish and Elephant the two female leading actresses were a lesbia n couple in real life. Usually, those public openly gay figures in China are activists, who dare to identify themselves as minority group representatives and endeavor to promote gay rights and other relevant human rights. For example, Shitou (Xiao Ling) in Fish and Elephant Queer China, Comrade China are both well known The pressure of censorship makes filmmakers in China hesitant to produce films dealing with homosexuality. There is almost no chance for monetary gain but a very real chance of government reprisal. Only avant garde activists, many of whom are homosexual, are willing to take the risk of making homosexual films. They understand the significance of gay rights movement; they know more abou t the real life and pain of Chinese homosexuals; and they are anxious to create a more public tolerance for homosexuals throughout China. Interestingly, perhaps, neith er of the directors admits the films are purely homosexual films, and they directors inte rpret their use of homosexual love as a way to express other core themes. Lan Yu love develops and manifests itself in an ordinary relationship. Likewise, Fish and Elephant hel plessness and depression. Still both of the directors have dealt with homosexual love in an impartial manner, treating it like ordinary relationship, which reveals their


59 affirmative attitude towards homosexua lity. Nevertheless, these two films are considered representative of Chinese homosexual films. T he directors recognize the special difficulties homosexuals face, and they construct a screen social reality that is both believable and representative of the r eal world experiences of Chinese homosexuals. Features of Cultural Values in Chinese Homosexual Films Chinese traditional cultural values have a remarkable impact on shaping Chinese ity and heterosexual marital relationship. In the sample films, some of these cultural features and different treatments received by gays and lesbians. As recorded in Qu eer China, Comrade China in 2001, one Chinese local satellite about their life experience. It was the first public show that talked openly about homosexuality and pro mpted a great deal of reactions. The majority of the audience Queer China, Comrade China says that in the 1960s, people around hi m had no idea of what homosexuality was and how it could exist. These two excerpts from the documentary film demonstrate how woefully ignorant Chinese citizens were about homosexuality. are never Fish and Elephant when Xiao Qun confesses her sexuality to others and does so several times, the statement she makes is that she is only interested in women i nstead


60 reaction is that none of them understands how it is possible for a female not to be attracted to a male: namely, they have no clue about the existence of homosexuals The confusion about sexuality described in the film clearly demonstrates that when it comes to homosexuality, the Chinese people are ignorant and understandably so. The government has failed to include homosexuality or even sexuality in its public educat ion. Likewise, no specific term referring to homosexuals appears in Lan Yu None of the main characters openly confesses his interest in same include a scene of the two protagonists confessing their feelings toward each other nor any discussions about their sexuality. Their relationship is in an unidentified state, s acquiesce in this uncommon relationship without ever talk ing about it). This plot reflects the common way for traditional Chinese families to manage homosexuality: they are not aware of the existence of one family member being a homosexual, and when a certain incident reveals the fact, they tend to tolerate it while at the same time concealing it within a small circle. Referring to marital pressure, in Lan Yu, Handong is the loy al adherent to the traditional heterosexual marrige at first, and abandons his male lover to pursue it. However, he divorces his wife because she is not prepared to have children. In Fish and Elephant Xiao Qun is pushed by her mother to go continually on blind dates in order to


61 after a certain age. Otherwise, it would bring shame to the family Of course, the familial pressure on a homosexual is lessened if there are sisters and brothers in the family. For instance, Handong in Lan Yu has a straight married sister and brother, thus he is not pressured so urgently by his parents to marry. Unfortunately for Xiao Qun, in Fish and Elephant the only child in her family, so she has to bear all the expectations her mother has since booming population. Besides many side effects of this policy (an increasing rat e of abortion, gender imbalance, aging population, etc.), another effect is that the majority of homosexuals (born after 1979) in mainland China are the sole children in their households and have to assume familial obligations in the traditional style. Ano ther factor that affects gays more than lesbians, as analyzed in Queer China, Comrade China is the increasing population of those infected with AIDS. In 2007, the Ministry of Health reported that HIV/AIDS infection among gay men was 1.35% in China, which safe sex for gay people is strongly urge d by activists for homosexuals. They likewise demand more social attention for the group of infected people. Thus, in order to promote a m ore comprehensive knowledge about HIV/AIDS, the public has to be informed of the existence of HIV/AI DS infected homosexual males. By comparison, female homosexuals have less chance of spreading the disease. Features of Homosexual Identity in Chinese Homose xual Films For homosexual individual identity development, Handong in Lan Yu is a representative case to study. Applying the CASS model of homosexual identity


62 acquisition (Cass, 1984), we can summarize the process of Handong adopting his homosexual identity. As mentioned in chapter 3, the CASS model consists of four stages: Identity confusion and Identity comparison, Identity tolerance and Identity acceptance, Identity pride, and Identity synthesis. In different stages, the i ndividuals have different responses and needs according to their attitudes towards sexual identity. In Lan Yu, Handong has experienced most of the stages suggested in the CASS model. At the beginning, Handong is in the phase of Identity confusion and Ident ity comparison. He is aware of his sexual orientation, but keeps his relationship with males only for fun and sexual contacts. He is not certain what he wants for real, and regards his experience with males as a young lifestyle adventure. When Handong real izes his homosexual one, telling himself and his partner that their male to male life is only temporary. After a series of incidents and a failed marriage, Handong lea rns to tolerate and accept his homosexual identity, which corresponds to the stage of Identity tolerance and Identity acceptance. At this time, Handong is content with his life with a male partner, and is willing to commit to their future life together. Th e possible responses of the make waves within the gay and lesbian community; more comfortable being seen with 79). Though the film their attempts to reach out to the gay community, there are scenes of the couple dining


63 lso be considered as the sign of their acceptance of being homosexuals. He has develope d a holistic view of his sexuality, and is completely comfortable with people knowing his story, as he is able to share the story in a calm and peaceful manner. Herein, homosexual identity to Handong is only an aspect of his self identity, integrated with his other social identities as well. In the other feature film, Fish and Elephant the story of the lesbian couple Xiao Ling and Xiao Qun reveals their different levels in the process of homosexual identity development. Xiao Ling has been back and forth be tween her boyfriend and her lesbian partner, so she was in the early stage of Identity comparison, and then achieved Identity acceptance after she determined she was a lesbian after all. In comparison, Xiao Qun has shown her confidence and comfortable atti tude with her lesbian identity, and she even frankly tells others her sexual orientation. It seems she has a fairly positive self image, thus, she is in the later stage of homosexual identity development, Identity acceptance or even Identity synthesis. Acc ording to the above analysis, we can see that CASS model is roughly applicable for the homosexual characters --though to varying degree --presented in the two films. Although the CASS model is based on homosexual samples in the U.S., it can be inferred that Chinese homosexuals also experience the basic process of self identification as people in the West do, even though they are in different cultural and


64 social circumstances. This indicates that the general process of achieving homosexual identity is un iversal. However, the implications for the characters in the Identity pride stage of the definition, homosexuals in this stage have to deal with incongruent views of heterosex uals, and usually avoid involvement with heterosexual community in order to better immerse themselves in gay and lesbian culture. Both the two sample feature films focus on only one gay or lesbian couple to develop the storyline, with no indication of any organizations or groups for homosexuals. And the main characters are depicted as low key and unsocial people, with their social connections only involving limited colleagues and family members. Thus, it is hard to determine whether they have truly experien ced the stage of Identity pride, since there is no obvious indication of their bond with homosexual community, nor strong against mood toward heterosexual norms. Fish and Elephant deals with the homosexuality of her daughter is a the reason s will hap pen to all Chinese people as they change from being ignorant of homosexuality, to accepting homosexuals for who they are.


65 The demonstrations of homosexual identification in the two feature films are also notable. In Lan Yu both of the male characters have an ambiguous definition of their sexuality at first. Handong is planning to have a heterosexual marriage, and Lan Yu never shows his objection to it. It is the same with Xiao Ling in Fish and Elephant : Before she meets Xiao Qun, she is in an impassionate relationship with her boyfriend, and when she has a fight with Xiao Qun, for a while she returns to him. It is interesting to notice that in Chinese homosexual films, usually there is at least one character that is uncertain about his or her sexual orienta tion, and goes back and forth between being intention of emphasizing love or other subjects besides homosexuality. But we may also infer it as a reflection of the real stat us of Chinese homosexuals: that due to lacking of affirmative knowledge about homosexuality and pressure from familial obligations, latent homosexuals are common in mainland China and are forced to endure a lifetime of internal dissonance (1984) description mentioned in Chapter 3 is correct, that latent homosexuals may not be able to identify their homosexual orientation until they encounter part icular situations (e.g., meet a persistent homosexual lover), then we can see that Handong and X iao Ling fit this special category of homosexuality. Neither of the films, however, expresses the possibility of homosexuality being congenital. Xiao Qun, in Fish and Elephant is the only character in the two films who is consistent with her homosexual id entity, yet the plot of her recalling her childhood memory with Xiao Ling implies that she was not a born lesbian. Xiao Qun tells Xiao Ling that when she was a little girl, her elder brother always treated her like a boy and shared with her his fantasy abo ut ideal girls. So after her brother died in an accident, Xiao Qun


66 makes up her mind to live for her brother and realize his dream by having relationships present a bo rn homosexual character, so she makes up an implausible story to illustrate Queer China, Comrade China the natural formation of homosexuality is not explicitly talked about. But times that his homosexual identity is formed naturally from childhood. The representations of homosexual identity in the three sample films are indicative of the real life exper iences of Chinese homosexuals in the 1990s, as well as the public attitude about homosexuality. As presented in the films, the homosexual characters develop their homosexual identity through the commonly acknowledged process (e.g., CASS model).


67 CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSION AND SUGGE STIONS FOR FUTURE According to the historical records of ancient China, homosexuals have existed throughout the history and have been treated differently in different eras. Due to the contemporary political characteristics in China, sexuality has been a heavily sensitively censored topic in public communications, with homosexuality as a banned subject in mass media. However, homosexual people and activists in mainland China have been struggling hard to create a tolerant environment fo r Chinese homosexuals, and have tried through mass media (e.g., print media, the Internet, films) to publicize knowledge about homosexuality, expand the influence of the gay and lesbian community, and raise social consciousness. In the present study, I c ho se to focus on film the most restricted fo rm of media in mainland China, as a way to explore the current state of Chinese homosexuality. Looking at homosexuality from a cultural perspective, I used qualitative case study t o analyze three films, Lan Yu Fi sh and Elephant and Queer China, Comrade China I described these films within the confines of cultural values and traditions which dictate the manner in which homosexuality perceived and experienced in China and within the context of theoretical notions about Chinese homosexual identity. Currently in mainland China, all films involving homosexual issues, whether Chinese or non Chinese, are either partially edited or wholly banned, and local production s of homosexual films are operated underground. There is no official channel to distribute homosexual films within mainland China, and participating in international film festival is a preferred means for directors to reach to audience. Plus, small private film screening events, online pirated film websites, and pirated DVDs also provide a way


68 for Chinese audience to learn something about homosexuality. Usually there are homosexual people participate in the production of homosexual films, and basically what is presented in the films is a n accurate reflection t he homosexuals situation in China today In the cultural aspect, the content of the three films suggest that familial obligation and marital pressures are two of the biggest sources of stress for Chinese homosexuals. Chinese traditional culture emphasizes the significance of reproduction to are considered obligation for young people. This traditional perception poses obvious problems for Chinese homosexuals, precludes many of them from coming out to their eral public in mainland China lack s even rudimentary awareness of or knowledge about homosexuality, which can only add to the frustration of the homosexual community a s it attempts to gain acceptance The stories of characters and interviewees in the sample films mirrored this social individual struggle. Based on the CASS model of homosexual i dentity development, I analyzed how the main characters in the two feature films developed their homosexual identity. According to the stories narrated in the films, the CASS model is feasible to Chinese homosexuals in most stages, since the features of th em are performed correspondingly that are more exactly applicable to Chinese homosexual identity development are in demand. And with the increasing enlightenment on people


69 identity, the establishment and expanding of help groups and supportive organizations for LGBT people are more and more encouraged. Also, I pointed out a typical public attitude towards homosexuality described in the sample films: t hough are indifferent and ignorant to homosexuality before being informed, Chinese people are incline to tolerate and accept the fact if they are informed of the existence of homosexuals in their life. Since my study is based on a qualitative case study of only three films, there are obvious limitations, such as the selection of the sample films (source, range, content, etc.), the theoretical framework applied to analysis (media culture perspective, queer theory, and identity development model), and the m et hodology (qualitative case study). Hence, here are some suggestions for future study relevant to this field. First, a larger number of sample films will no doubt result in greater validity and reliability. Also, if the sample is larger enough, it is possi ble to divide feature films and documentary films into two areas of studies, if the sample numbers is enough. It might also be worthwhile to compare gay films and lesbian films, to compare the different treatments gays and lesbians receive in mainland Chin a. Due to historical reasons, there are some special regions like Hong Kong and Taiwan, regions that are also profoundly influenced by Chinese traditional culture, but implement different political systems rather t han socialism in mainland China In fact, productions and distributions of homosexual film s are permitted in these areas have existed for years s Leung, 2001; Ho, 2010) Some of the films include Wedding Banquet (1994), Wong Kar wai may be fruitful to


70 study homosexual films made in these distinctive regions and compare them to the ones emerging in mainland China Second, other theoretical frameworks or different perspectives can be applied. Theories involving sociology, sexual psychology, feminism, and other fields overlapping with homosexuality should be considered. F or the current Chinese academy, research on homosexuality is rare, thus where it does exist, it leaves a great de al to be desired. For instance, lesbianism was portrayed in scattered reportage, and was represented as incomprehensible or compensatory to failed heterosexual contact (Hershatter, 2004; Lai, 1995). T hus any scientific studies on homosexuality in China wo uld be a welcome addition to the literature. (Sang, 2003). Also, independent filmology study about Chinese homosexual films would be contributive, since the characteristics of Chinese underground filmmaking are worthy investigation. Third, different researc h methods may yield greater insights into Chinese homosexuality. If there are a sufficient number of films, quantitative methods such as content analysis would be appropriate. And audience analysis would be a fruitful way to f knowledge about homosexual issues. Likewise, surveys targeting Chinese homosexuals could determine the extent to which the gays and lesbians communities believes Chinese society and authority are becoming more tolerant of homosexuality. Fourth, compariso n with Western counterparts regarding content and film censorship system would be valuable. Despite ups and downs, LGBT movements have been developed in Western countries for more than a century. These movements aim for social acceptance of sexual and gen der minorities and other LGBT rights. The


71 history and experience of Western LGBT movements can be taken as a vertical reference for the development of a Chinese one. Finally, the history of film censorship in the United States (1915 1966) (The Picture Show Man, 2007), particularly with regard to the portrayal of homosexuality, (Meem, Gibson, & Alexander, 2010) might have implications for the evolution of the portrayal of homosexuality in Chinese films and the treatment of homosexuals. In the United States, the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s resulted in a more tolerant society, one that dealt more openly with minorities and non traditional lifestyles both in public and in the media. With the enormous ina in the past few decades, it will be interesting to see whether China travels a similar path on the road to social change.


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78 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Xingyi Tang was born in Chongqing, China, in 1986. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Communication University of China in 2009, and then went to the University of Florida for graduate study. Tang s tudied in the College of Journalism and Co mmunications, and h er areas of interest included inte rcultural communication and social impact on social changes. During her college time, she interned at local non p rofit organization as Altern ative Media Liaison and worked o n campus as a Student Assistant at the International Center. Tang graduated with a Master of Arts in Mass Communication in December 2011.