The Heroic Trio- Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh

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Seminar: Self-awareness and images of the "other" in Asian and European Cultures II
Seminarleiter: Dr. Carsten Storm
SS 2005
Sarah Grahl
The Heroic Trio- Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh- Self Reflexivity and the
Globalization of the Hong Kong Action Heroine (Sheldon H. Lu and Anne T. Ciecko)
Central questions of the text:
-
Is Hollywood the only source of globally popular movies?
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Are there any alternatives to the hegemony of the western world
(represented by Hollywood) in the movie industry?
-
Which role do popular action and marshal arts movies from
Hong Kong play in the global world of popular culture?
Three movies in particular are used to evaluate the development of Hong Kong action movies
in the process of globalization:
-
Heroic Trio (and its sequel Heroic Trio 2/ Executioners)
-
Irma Vep
-
Tomorrow never dies
The authors argue:
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The Hong Kong movie industry is in the process of transforming into a global industry
-
Hong Kong action stars and directors are increasingly part of international productions
-
A global marketing strategy is reason for casting of Asian stars for international
movies: they target at Western, as well as Asian markets
Gender in the context of Asian and western Movie Industry:
-
There is a “conscious link to the intertextual construction of stars and Hong Kong’s
connection of Europe and Hollywood” (124)
-
Hong Kong movies used to be hardly available to mainstream audiences in the western
world
-
Increasing appearance of Hong Kong stars and directors in Hollywood enables global
audience to watch Hong Kong action
-
however, the authors fear a loss of “richness and ambiguity in gendered
representations” through recontextualization
-
Two aspects are crucial regarding the gender performance in Hong Kong action
movies:
o A crisis of masculinity
1
Seminar: Self-awareness and images of the "other" in Asian and European Cultures II
Seminarleiter: Dr. Carsten Storm
SS 2005
Sarah Grahl
o A subversion of the heterosexual romance (a constructed bisexuality in case of
female action characters)
-
Although the woman warrior is recurrent theme in Chinese culture, Hong Kong action
movies open up new spaces for representation
-
To western audiences, female Chinese characters often seemed traditional, strong but
suppressed
-
Mui, Cheung, and Yeoh embody a more complex image of Chinese women; the
authors quote Reynaud calling Cheung “less codified, less traditional, less easily
fetishized version of femininity…,a smart, sophisticated, modern woman, not an
Orientalist icon.” (126)
Heroic Trio and Heroic Trio 2/ Executioners- starring Mui, Cheung, and Yeoh (1993)
Different elements and sources of the movie:
-
Local political references:
o “Both movies beg somewhat allegorical readings of three women warriors who
represent Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China in consideration of the
“enactment” of identity and genre hybridity via a fable of reunification.” (128)
o Crime ridden Hong Kong in need for restored law and order
-
Hollywood links (Super hero living a double life, possessing extraordinary powers)
-
Hong Kong genre of supernatural epic spectacle
-
Feminist perspective: sisterhood turns out to be the most powerful bond
Irma Vep- starring Cheung (1996)
Different elements and sources of the movie:
-
Irma Vep is a French art movie, not the ‘typical’ Hong Kong action movies (such as
Jackie Chan movies); Yet, a Honk Kong star is used to attract new audiences; the
movie has a Hollywood director →transnationalization of the movie industry
-
The movie with how the self and the other are seen and portrayed
-
Cheung does not play a traditional Chinese character; Again, Reynaud is quoted: “No
Orientalist fantasy, she is a modern Hong Kong woman, a complex mirror image of
postcolonial dilemmas: displacement, racist misinterpretation and partial loss of
2
Seminar: Self-awareness and images of the "other" in Asian and European Cultures II
Seminarleiter: Dr. Carsten Storm
SS 2005
Sarah Grahl
cultural identity (she speaks English better than she can read Chinese characters).”
(130)
-
Self-reflexivity of Cheung in Irma Vep: Cheung demystifies “her own image as an
acrobatic action actress”
-
Self-reflexivity of the film industry: “Irma Vep confronts, complicates, and allegorizes
European art film traditions, the cinematic avant-garde, Hong Kong action, and
Hollywood” (132)
Tomorrow Never Dies- starring Yeoh (1997)
Different elements and sources of the movie:
-
Yeoh says she introduced a new generation of Bond girls, her character being less of a
pure sex symbol, but rather an equal action hero as the Bond himself; “her absolute
refusal to be cast in the model of the usual Bond girl […] helps preserve her status as a
Hong Kong action heroine and maintain her credibility in the eyes of Asian
audiences.” (137)
-
Starring in a Bond movie means having a large audience for Yeoh; Also, the
cooperation means potential new audiences for the Hollywood movie
-
Political background: After the end of the Cold War, new conflicts and threats to the
world have to serve as basis for Bond movies
o The movie attempts to reshape the relation between China and Britain after the
Cold War and after Britain left Hong Kong (which had happened a few months
before the movie was released): “The latest James Bond film attempts a
balancing act between East and West by presenting an image of a female
Chinese warrior who is fierce, combative, competent, and yet, nonthreatening,
and nonsubversive to British masculinity in the new world order.” (137)
Conclusion
-
Asian action heroines become present in American popular culture; most drastic
example: Disney’s Mulan→ a famous Chinese folktale is adapted to fit the needs of a
global audience, the Asian market as well as the western market
-
With return of Hong Kong to mainland China a fear of loosing Hong Kong’s culture;
the Hong Kong movie industry might preserve the own culture or give new impulses
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