Women Position In Chinese Film Since 1950S Since 1950s, after the Chairman Mao Zedongs Yann conference, art and literature had strictly become tools of promoting the ideology of Communist Party, that is, the product of art and literature in China can be classified as highly popanganda. Chairman Mao Zedong and his Communist Party strongly suggested the equality of both genders – male and female. To promote Maos theory, certain kind of strong female character’s image had been created in films since 1950s, and furthermore, the images of these female characters were changing during the time period. The common features of the female characters in Chinese film are usually being victimize, they always suffered under certain convention feudal rules, the effect of capitalism, the landlord, or fall victim to certain politics. And the films always targeted on how these female characters fight against those reasons of suffering, and creating tensions to the narrative because these confrontations. During the Cultural Revolution, a very popular female image had created, it is the White Hair Girl (Baimao N) (1972) This female character image is a tough, strong and full of hatred to the feudal landlord who insulted her and her family.
Her desire is very obvious — to revenge. And finally, she ended up with a heroic image in the film with the help from Chairman Mao Zedong and his Communist Party. However, this film rarely announced the realistic of a female character, that is, despite the obsession hatred of White Hair Girl toward the landlord, and the joy of starting a new life with the Communist Party, audience can rarely feel the other kind of emotion from this female character, for example, the desire of to be loved, is absent in this film. Therefore, in the other hand, another question had been raisen: Do the White Hair Girl necessary to be a female character when she hasnt shown any of the desire of female? In this film, White Hair Girl is not necessary to be a female, only the reason for it is , a victimized female is more easy to grip audiences sympathy. And this also suggested the position of women as women itself is not important during that period. But obviously, this film is just purely a popanganda from the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution – a model performance (geming yangbanxi) Comparing the narrative of The White Hair Girl and the other two film after Cultural Revolution – The Yellow Earth (Huangtodi) (1984) directed by Chen Kaige and The Red Sorghum (Honggaoliang) (1987) directed by Zhang Yimou, the image of women is very different. In The Yellow Earth and The Red Sorghum, both of the female character are being suffered under the convention feudalism and the politics. But their attitude towards those great forces are different from the White Hair Girl.
And more description of the female features in these two films. In The Yellow Earth, the female character Cuiqiao only wants to escape from the arranged marriage, escape from her father and escape from the rule of convention feudalism. She begged Brother Gu from the 8th Army in the Communist Party to take her with him, but Brother Gu just refused, he said There are also rules for officers. Therefore Cuiqiao just realized there are rules everywhere in her world. After marriage, Cuiqiao was suffered much, she decided to go across the river to Yann to look for the 8th Army, but eventually disappear in the Yellow River. The attitude towards the women whom willing to free from the traditional lock of feudalism is different between The Yellow Earth and the White Hair Girl.
The White Hair Girl is a passive attitude, she rather hide inside the cave to avoid being suffer again from the landlord, her saviour is Communist Party. But in The Yellow Earth, the represent of Communist Party – Brother Gu havent saved Cuiqiao (although he willing to) He only gave her the dream of the equality of gender is existed in China. And the one who actually taking the action to find her dream is Cuiqiao herself. Therefore, Cuiqiao is more a pathfinder of her own happiness then the White Hair Girl. We can say that Cuiqiao has more controlling power of herself under the feudalism. However, the signification of image changing in the position of women is more obvious in the film The Red Sorghum.
In The Red Sorghum, a young woman, Jiu, is forced to marry a rich old leper but eventually falls in love with a young man, Yu. There are several scenes explaining quite detail how Jius emotional world and her confrontation toward her arranged marriage. In her marriage sedan, Jui took off her red cloth that covers her head impatiently (In the Chinese tradition, the Bride is not allowed to take off the red cloth on her head by herself ) and this is the first hint of defiance of this marriage. In the sedan, Jui picks up a pair of scissors from the floor taken from her home and hides it inside her wedding outfit. The close-up of Juis embroidered red shoe stepping on the pair of black scissors and her hand reaching down the scissors, this action and the combination of the colour elements is a well-expressed image of her character which is capable of intense passion and hatred. The first time when Jui realized of her own power in the film is when the sedan and the carriers walking past the haunted tall wild sorghum field.
They all got hold up by the masked bandit in the middle of the field, and being strips off all their money. And when the masked bandit moves curiously towards the sedan chair to see the hidden bride, he sees Jui sitting inside the sedan chair and observing him calmly. Attracted by Juis beauty, the masked bandit bend down to hold Juis foot which inside the red embroided shoe. Looking at the bandit, Jui first realized her power over him. At this moment, the bandit is the conquered and Jui is the conqueror. Then, she breaks into a sudden smile, her first smile in the film.
The second time she uses her realized power to men is when she is forced to walk into the sorghum field by the bandit, she walked slowly and turns toward Yu who the carrier and looks challengingly at him to rescue her. Then as expected, Yu dashes at the bandit and kill the bandit with the other carrier men. he desire of eroticism of Jui is also clearly presented in this film (very rare case in Chinese film) When Yu abducts Jui suddenly into the sorghum field, after Jui recovers from her suprise and realized the one who grabbed on her is Yu, there are few glances between Jui and Yu. In a wordless exchange of glances, Jui communicates her sexual desire for him. Then it begins in a circular bed in the sorghum field which cleared by Yu.
His manner of courtship is barbarian, honest, emphasis male power and strength. However this is the point, Juis reaction towards the courtship of Yu is fearless, this makes a new concept – the power, strength and virility of male is used to please female, therefore, the position of men and women is up side down in this film when comparing with previous Chinese film. This concept shown again after Jui and Yu have made love in the sorghum, Jui continue the journey back to her home on the mule, and Yu is walking parallel to her, but totally hidden in the tall sorghum. This also suggested that the up side down position between men and women too. In the White Hair Girl and The Yellow Earth, the voice of rebellion against tradition and authority is always sing by the victim herself, for example, the song sing by Cuiqiao besides the Yellow River.
But in The Red Sorghum, the voice of anti-tradition feudalism and authority is sing by the male character, Yu. Press on, bravely, sweetheart, press on, dont turn back. There are 9990 roads, 9990 roads to heaven..Youll have a red betrothal stall, to choose a man you ll throw a ball And on my head itll fall.. And the rest songs in the film are all about drinking sing by the distillery workers. Also heavy drinking is always treating as a violation of politeness, an act of defying convention in the traditional Chinese historical memory. But in this film, it is all sing by men.
Since 1950s the image of women position keep changing from lack of the actual women image as women itself and act as a passive escapee, like the White Hair Girl, to women can control her fate in a certain limitation by designing where she should go, like Cuiqiao, to a new concept, which twisted and challenging the old convention, the women can be equal to men, or more over in a certain extension, like Jui is almost the control of the motivation of Yu. This trend of womens image changing in position, partly is because of what Chairman Mao Zedong mentioned about the equality of both gender, but mainly is the 5th generation directors in China (e.g. Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou) are grow up and had suffered under the Cultural Revolution and those 5th generation directors had viewed and got contact with the western ideology more then any previous generation directors in the past, and this allowed them to have a more overall view on their own country, China. Therefore, these directors can discover the problems in the previous contemporary Chinese history. The conflict of old convention and the suffered women are only just part of the problems in China. However, from the popularity of The Yellow Earth and The Red Sorghum in China, we can knew that the problems that similar to the films are still existed quite often in the recent China.
This suggested that although the position of women image in the recent film had being risen, but still there are many women and social problem remains in China today. Cinema and Television.