Hiding in America
|Wei-Wei's line in the last quarter of this film really stuck out to me,
and helped me pull together in my mind what Wedding Banquet was all about:
��There are more important things in life than hiding in America.�� I think
that this film is about hiding in America. The audience is never told specifically
why Wai-Tung decides to move to America, but it is in America where he keeps
his secret hidden from his parents. Wei-Wei is hiding in America as well.
As she says herself, she has no money, no job, and no green card. She is
seemingly going down the same path (deportation) that her friend Emily went
down early in the film. As the film runs its course, the main characters
of this film reveal what they believe is hiding in America. It is in these
revelations that the cultural differences, and eventually (in some cases)
cultural acceptance, manifest themselves.
Looking first at Mrs. Gao, who probably most blatantly expresses her cultural bias when she blames Wai-Tung's residing in America for his homosexuality. In fact, by the end of the film we realize that she has more of a problem with her son's lifestyle then her husband does. All Mr. Gao wants is a grandson, a male who will continue his family line. I don't know if I necessarily agree with this, but I see Mr. Gao's stance on continuing his family line being portrayed in this film as a Taiwanese cultural bias (all sons must go on to have male children). I think it is more of a psychological issue rather than a Taiwanese issue, but this is how it is portrayed in the film so we will go with that. Anyway, by the end of the film both of Wai-Tung's parents express their happiness about the situation. Mr. Gao ends up getting the grandson that he wants, as Wei-Wei decides to have the baby, and Mrs. Gao feels good about this too. Both of Wai-Tung's parents viewed their son's homosexuality as ��hiding in America��, but by the end of the film they both seem content with the situation.
I think another ��hiding in America�� issue that this film deals with, perhaps indirectly, is that of Chinese/Taiwanese immigrants that come to America looking for an opportunity. We see Wai-Tung's life as a successful real estate man and an American citizen, who has pretty much forgotten (for whatever reason) about his Chinese roots. He leads a good life, with a man that loves him. He has assimilated to American culture very well. The only thing that can foil him is the secret that he keeps from his parents. On the other hand we have Wei-Wei, who is anything but a success. She is a starving artist looking to marry someone just so she can stay in America. Wei-Wei has not assimilated to American cultural as well as Wai-Tung, and she is truly hiding from the authorities in America, as she does not want to be deported. However, unlike Wai-Tung, Wei-Wei seems to have a good relationship with her parents whom she misses. What do these two people demonstrate to the audience in this sense? They demonstrate that there are both success and failures among those Chinese who come to America looking for something better. But to ��hide in America�� is not the way to become successful, and I believe that this is the message of the film. Engaging and confronting the issues that are before you, whether they are confronting your sexuality, your parents, a new culture, or a new opportunity is better than hiding from them.
I Surrender: Reinventing Traditional Values
| The film Wedding Banquet is about challenging traditional Chinese values.
The movie focuses on a Chinese-American man from Taiwan, and his homosexual
relationship. One of the conflicts in which causes the most trouble, is
that Gao Wei-tong's parents are coming to see him, and they want to see
his wife-to-be. This poses quite a problem for Wei-tong, because he has
no fianc�� and has thrown away all of the dating service information, also
he is gay. His partner, Simon, an American, has the idea that there should
be a fake marriage between Wei-tong and one of his tenants, Gu Wei-wei.
Wei-wei is an illegal immigrant, and is in search of husband so she can
obtain her Green card. Both of the parties agree, for Wei-tong will get
a tax break because of the marriage. Once Wei-tong's parents figure out
that the marriage is a scam, the traditional Chinese values come under fire.
In this film, the idea of homosexuality is something that is frowned upon in China, and in the USA, it is still in its early stages of acceptance. Homosexuality is something that is very much apart of modernity in many countries. On the abstract level the movie is touching on the idea that the global community needs to be accepting of different types of families. In this film all three people, Wei-wei, Wei-tong, and Simon, form a family. The film is trying show that homosexuality does not need to be accepted in the USA alone, but globally. Different cultures need to accept it because it is such an important part of modernity. The film, is calling for the reinvention of traditional values. Modernity is something that affects many aspect of the culture, which includes the idea of families. In the modern times of China, or the world for that matter, the idea of a family is changing. Families are split up, same sex marriages are now apart of society, and the nuclear family ideals are fading. In the very last scene of the movie the father raises his hands as if to surrender to the new family values that he has been witness to.
What the film is also showing is that the traditional values are not being totally down [done] away with. The ideal of having a child and continuing the family name is still possible. Just because the nuclear family has changed, that does not mean there cannot be children. The idea of continuing society is still much apart of the modernity's new set of family values.
Consequences of Secrets
|Although there are many meta-fictional aspects to Ang Lee's Wedding Banquet,
the most universal aspect is the consequences of concealing the truth. The
film deals with the conflict of modern culture vs. old culture and dependence
vs. independence in terms of the main character, Wei-tong's homosexuality.
This conflict would not have occurred or at least would have been much less
dramatic if the characters in the film had not kept secrets or concealed
the truth from each other. The lessons of this movie apply to all cultures,
not just those of China/Taiwan.
The plot of this film revolves around Wei-tong's effort to conceal his homosexuality from his old fashioned parents. He feels that his parents would not approve due to the social norms that are part of his parent's culture. Wei-tong lives in New York City with his partner Simon, and stays in contact with his parents through letters. A certain level of anxiety and pressure is put on Wei-tong because his father's diminishing health and last wish of holding a grandchild. His mother also puts more pressure on him by constantly sending compatibility tests for singles and ultimately arranging dates with total strangers that best match his requests. Simon, who is also experiencing the pressure of Wei-tong's family, urges Wei-tong to just tell his parents the truth, but he feels he cannot reveal his true self to his traditional parents.
Simon and Wei-tong come up with a temporary solution to their problems by having a fake wedding. Wei-tong pretends to marry one of his tenants, Wei-wei, while Simon pretends to be their landlord in order to help Wei-wei get her green-card and receive a tax break as well as relieve the pressure from Wei-tong's family. Their plan backfires because Wei-tong's parents insist on coming to America for the wedding. Despite Wei-tong and Wei-wei's efforts to have a small ��modern�� wedding, Wei-tong's parents are able to plan an excessive wedding banquet on behalf of a man who served in the military with Wei-tong's father. Wei-tong is very uncomfortable during the wedding banquet because he must constantly show affection for Wei-wei. Simon must also deal with a lot of pressure pretending to be someone he is not. Wei-tong's parents stay in Simon's house for about three weeks while he is supposed to play the role of a landlord. This stress reaches a boiling point when Wei-tong, Wei-wei, and Simon argue with each other at the breakfast table. The characters begin to wonder whether their relationships are worth the stress of their secrets.
After Wei-tongs father is hospitalized with his second stroke, Wei-tong is unable to keep his stress at bay and decides he cannot go on with his secrets. He tells his mother about his homosexuality. His mother seems deeply disappointed, as Wei-tong feared, but is able to accept it. Wei-tong's father was able to realize his son's secret without being told. He took a walk with Simon one day and thanked Simon for taking care of his son. He also was able to accept the truth about his son. It turns out Wei-tong would have been better off just telling his parents the truth.
Wei-tong learns that it is much easier to confront problems than to try and sneak around them. While he was living his pretend life, his friends and family were not truly happy. It was only after he told the truth, or the truth was known, that the people in the film [are] able to be content with themselves. Ang Lee wants us to consider our own lives in this regard to see if we are truly happy and if our state of being is connected to how we open up to other people.
The East Side on the West End
|The major theme of this movie is how eastern culture and national identity
are being preserved here in the west. This movie illustrates how even though
the world is being westernized, the future for eastern identity is looking
bright. Eastern identity is characterized by having a family, strongly believing
in filial piety, and having a son in order to keep the family name going.
Western/American identity is about individuality. The Wedding Banquet illustrates
how western identity is endangering the continuation of eastern identity.
In this movie being openly homosexual is depicted as a western value. Simon representing the west is the female in the relationship. Simon can cook, wears earrings and is always nagging Wei-tong about spending too much time at work. Simon is a good person and Wei-tongs parents like him but he cannot produce any children. As stated earlier family is extremely important in eastern culture and so the fact that they can't produce kids as a result of them being gay it endangers eastern value and culture.
The father arrives in the U.S. so that eastern values and culture can continue. However, in order for the father to make Chinese values and culture last in the west he must come and give up some of his rights, values, and traditions. The last scene of the movie is symbolic of this act when the father throws his hands up as in surrender to the white western security guard. This act represents the surrendering of his eastern identity in order to enter the U.S. and make things happen the way he wants them to. Before he even arrives the Gao's father is already making things go his way. Wei-tong gets married to Wei Wei and Wei Wei becomes domesticated.
At the beginning of the movie Wei Wei is an independent women living by herself trying to make ends meet anyway she can. She is a painter but has part time jobs such as being a waitress. By the end of the movie she has become the traditional Chinese woman. She is married with child, wears long conservative dresses compared to the rugged attired she wore before, and her hair is nice combed.
By the end of the movie the father has succeeded in making Chinese values and traditions last for another generation. We-tong now has a family consisting of his Chinese wife with a son on the way and Simon.
|Wedding Banquet by Ang Lee is a film about the tolerance of homosexuality
more than anything else. We see in the beginning that Wei-Tong has moved
away from his parents in China and has been living as an American. In America,
he has found himself an American lover named Simon. They live together,
but Wei-Tong's parents do not even know that he is gay. I believe that he
feels that his parents and possibly even China in general, will not accept
that he is gay, hence the reason for him to move to the U.S. in the first
place and the reason that he hides it so fervently from his parents.
Wei-Tong spends the entire movie hiding the fact that he is gay from his parents. In doing so, he almost loses Simon in the process as his fake marriage with Wei-Wei takes some unexpected turns. I believe that Wei-Tong may represent an idea that is not widely accepted by China at the time that this film was made. His parents are the main reason that I believe this to be true. They are from and still live in China in the movie. Wei-Tong is so concerned about upsetting them by telling them that he is gay that he fears that telling them will almost certainly kill them in their old age. They had always expected a grandson from him and even try to set him up on all kinds of blind dates. The fact that Wei-Tong feels such a strong need to hide his homosexuality from his parents shows a very strong sexual conservatism of his parents. The parents are so typical in this movie that I felt that Ang Lee wanted them to represent a general sense of conservatism that is held by China. I felt that Lee was expressing this general conservatism through personifying such feelings in the two characters of Wei-Tong's father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Gao.
A sense of China's sexual conservatism is also exhibited by Wei-Wei. Though she is much younger than Mr. and Mrs. Gao, she also displays some conservatism, but a much weaker sense of it. Her conservative feelings come out very early in the film. She finds Wei-Tong to be very attractive and will not accept the fact that he is gay. She hits on him all the time even though she knows that he is living with a man. It is almost as if she refuses to believe that he is really gay. We see this again the night of their fake marriage. Both her and Wei-Tong get drunk, causing them to become sexually uninhibited, with Wei-Wei throwing herself at him, wishing to have sex with him. When he asks her what she is doing, she tells him that she is trying to ��liberate�� him from his homosexuality. I know that Wei-Wei's representation of sexual conservatism is quite a bit different from the Gaos��, but I'd like to point out that she has just recently moved to New York from the mainland because she is an illegal immigrant. Her sexually conservative ideas are still intact, but I think that Ang Lee may have been trying to tell us that Wei-Tong��s were not still intact. His parents bring up the fact that he had many girlfriends in college. At that time in his life, he had not yet been in the U.S. for ten years yet. Lee may have been alluding to the fact that so much time in the U.S. had transformed Wei-Tong and if this is true, then Wei-Wei had not been a U.S. citizen long enough to have her ideas influenced by American culture.
The three personifications of China in this film would not, at first accept Wei-Tong's homosexuality. I think one thing that is important to remember though is that Mr. Gao, Mrs. Gao, and Wei-Wei all end up accepting Wei-Tong's sexual preference in the end. This showed me that there really may be a certain sexual conservatism traditionally held by the Chinese, but I would not call this conservatism intolerance. Figuratively speaking, China does end up accepting him and to me, it seemed that the lack of acceptance came mostly just from lack of exposure and knowledge of homosexuality.
Marriage or Death of Culture?
| Ang Lee's Wedding Banquet (1993) is an entertaining comedy that transcends,
on a metaphorical level, to a story about national identity in the face
of change. The title itself when broken down reveals the director's intentions.
A wedding is the union of two people (usually male and female) to form a
new whole entity as a married couple. A banquet is a feast, usually with
an array of different foods. In this movie, the union of Wei-tong and Simon
can be seen as a union between the ��West�� and the ��East��. The variety in
relationships present: male vs. female, old vs. new, east vs. west, all
constitute the feast of human interactions that allow us to reflect on the
effects of modernization on cultural heritage.
The conflict between heterosexuality and homosexuality, in this film, is of utmost importance. Wei-tong's parents stand for traditional Chinese values, if not the nation and Chinese culture itself. Their obsession with finding a bride for their son is not without selfish reason. Marriage is representative of the passing down, and hence the preservation of culture from one generation to the next. In the face of modernization, as China becomes more and more modern, the cultural heritage is under the threat of being wiped out, and Wei-tong's homosexual relationship with Simon (who represents the ��west��) embodies this threat. A homosexual relationship does not deliver an offspring, and hence no successor. Without a successor the Gao family name (Chinese cultural identity) cannot be passed on. Wedding Banquet portrays modernization/western influence as a threat to Chinese national identity.
Director Ang proposes a solution for this ��problem�� of homosexuality in his movie Wedding Banquet. Majority of the movie revolves around the fake heterosexual marriage of Wei-wei and Wei-tong. The marriage creates many conflicts, and forces each character to rethink what their identity is. In the heat of the moment on the wedding night Wei-wei stimulates Wei-tong to sexual climax telling him that she is liberating him. This forcing of one's identity on another is another common theme (Wei-tong's parents try to force their identity on to their son as well) in the movie. Ultimately, Wei-tong takes a stand and tells his mother that he is homosexual. Even though the mother does not believe that Wei-tong could be homosexual at first, she too is forced to accept her son for who he is. In the end, we see all the different people (identities) make peace with one another; the greatest indicator of this is when Mr. Gao accepts Simon as his son's companion. A lot of this is the result of Wei-wei getting pregnant, and the coming of a child is a sign of propagation of this new identity formed by the combination of very different identities.
In the end tradition and modernity reconcile their differences and we see this in the last scene of the movie when general Gao approaches the immigration officer with his hands up, in a sense, surrendering to (accepting) ��western�� influences of modernity. Conversely, the heterosexual propagation of life in the form of Wei-wei��s baby is a sign of the necessity for modernity to acknowledge the benefits of tradition.
Tradition Breeds Repression
|Wedding Banquet, directed by Ang Lee, tells the story of Gao Wei-tong,
a gay Chinese-American man living in New York City. Everything in his life
seems to be going well until his parents decide to travel from Taiwan to
visit him. He does not want them to find out that he is gay, as he does
not know how well they will take such news. His parents are pressuring him
to marry. His father has already expressed his desire for a grandson to
ensure the survival of their family name, while his mother has been attempting
to set him up with Chinese-American women of similar background and interests,
through a dating service. It is made quite apparent that their traditional
ideas and ways of life will clash with their son's new lifestyle.
Although Wei-tong has successfully hidden his homosexuality in his communication with his parents who are overseas in Taiwan, he runs into a problem when they decide to make a surprise visit. After several promptings to ��tie the knot��, Wei-tong lies to his parents and tells them that he is getting married to a mainland Chinese woman, and this is when they decide to pay him a visit in America. Wei-tong's life now becomes complicated, as he feels that he has to hide his homosexuality from his parents. He arranges a marriage between him and Wei-Wei, one of his tenants in his apartment complex who needs a green card to stay in the United States. He also rearranges his whole house, eliminating any hint of homosexuality and his gay partner Simon poses as his landlord.
In the end, it seems as though this charade has nearly ruined everyone's life. Wei-Wei becomes pregnant with Wei-tong's baby after a drunken night at their wedding reception. It also seems that Simon is becoming distant from Wei-tong, even though this whole charade was his idea in the first place. Despite working so hard to hide his ��secret�� from his parents, they both find out. Wei-tong tells his mother first, and her response is that he not tell his father, because it will probably kill him. However, in a strange turn of events, Wei-tong's father learns of his homosexuality, as it seems that he has understood what was happening for quite some time. He thanks Simon for taking care of his son, and is just happy that his family will live on in the form of Wei-Wei's baby.
The focus of this story seemed to be centered on sexual repression due to the traditionalism and conservatism of Chinese society. Wei-tong's move to the U.S. was probably due to the fact that he was gay, as his mother had already tried to get him to marry and he resisted these pleas every time. His whole motive for hiding his homosexuality was so that his parents would not be ashamed of him, as they come from a very highly respected family. The whole mess could have easily been avoided if Wei-tong had been honest, but the great measures that he goes to in order to hide his secret from his parents, tells me that homosexuality is unacceptable in the society in [from] which he has come from. The very conservative lifestyle of Wei-tong's parents even seems to repress some of the desires of his parents. His mother in particular talks about how she is envious of the independence of Wei-Wei and how she does not need to rely on a man. In the end, it seems that everyone is happy, and they seem to have a greater understanding and respect for one another's lifestyle choices.
From China with Love
| Love is a mysterious thing; it can make a person do crazy things. In
this film, love, cultural differences, and homosexuality forced Wei-tong
to fake marriage with his client Wei-Wei, because his parents were coming
to visit and they were not to know about Wei-Tongs true love, Simon. Wedding
Banquet, directed by Ang Lee of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fame, takes
place in New York City, and has some English speaking parts. Ang Lee does
an excellent job depicting two different cultures, Gao's parents from China
experience a whole new way of life in America. It was a fresh, romantic
comedy, with a twist of cultural reality. Wei-tong comes to the United States
and is successfully assimilated into American society, has a homosexual
relationship and when his parents arrive he reverts, he wants to convince
them he is true to his culture, and that he respects it. Even the flamboyant
artist Wei-wei succumbs to the power of her cultural upbringing, and feigns
to be a virgin bride, to do all that is expected of a good Chinese bride.
Each person is born into a culture, it may seem that Wei-tong has completely
forgotten his Chinese culture during his stay in New York, but according
to anthropologist Ruth Benedict, culture looms large in creating personality.
The film may be a romantic comedy, but there are very controversial themes, such as, homosexuality and Chinese culture, women in Chinese culture, the importance of tradition, and parental satisfaction. Wei-tong and Wei-wei are stuck in a personal battle between being true to their own identity and following the rules of their culture. They are both veiled behind false realities, not expressing their true selves; Chinese and American society must be tolerant of individuals�� differences.
Identities play an important role in this film. Wei-wei is a free-spirit who lives by her own rules and is anything but traditional, until Wei-tong's parents arrive and she morphs into a virginal trophy wife. The first impression of Wei-tong's father is a conservative army general, who would have no tolerance for his son's homosexuality, when in fact, he is the more understanding parent, accepting Simon wholeheartedly into the family. Wei-tong's mother originally came off as the more understanding parent; however, she blamed Simon for Wei-tongs sexuality, and could not accept it. Identity is something everyone tries to grasp, yet it keeps slipping through their fingers. Wei-tong has been searching his whole life for fulfillment and the perfect partner, he explains that for a gay man, finding a partner is much more difficult, and with Simon, his identity makes sense.
Important issues are prevalent throughout the film, from sexuality, familial duties, and cultural identity. Wei-tong experiences a cultural reawakening, the arrival of his parents reminds him of the importance of his culture, and how he has neglected it for so long. Wei-wei also experiences an awakening from Wei-tongs parents, and even calls her own parents. The movie ends with Wei-tongs father lifting his arms for security at the airport, signifying his tolerance to American society and Wei-tongs sexual preference. Ruth Benedict believes, we are ��creatures of our culture�� and that our habits, beliefs, and impossibilities are shaped by our culture, Wei-tong still holds his Chinese beliefs but has altered them as he grew and learned new things. Wei-tong was able to reconcile his individual differences in the face of his culture and maintained his own integrity and self-fulfillment even though he was going against the established cultural values.
True Identity vs National Identity
|"The Wedding Banquet", directed by Ang Lee follows the life
of a Chinese homosexual man, Wei-tong Gao and an American homosexual man,
Simon, who accept their identities and live together. As of Chinese tradition
Wei-tong's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gao, worry about his marriage and an heir
to keep their family lineage alive. This raises a problem for Wei-tong and
he pretend to marry a Chinese woman, Wei-Wei, in front of this [his] parents.
Director Ang Lee develops the following situation and exploits it in order
to express his views on homosexuality and its compatibility with the older
In order to better understand the problem faced by Wei-tong, we need to examine why homosexuality is opposed in the Chinese culture. China is a collectivist nation where people are very concerned about the survival of their lineage. It is one of their top most priorities in life to have a son that could carry out their name after they die. Without a decent family it is also difficult to gain respect in society as one grows old. Therefore, the existence of gays is very incongruous in such a culture and is problematic for them to be accepted by the society. Mr. and Mrs. Gao very much belonged to this culture and having their only son be a homosexual would have been very unacceptable. But in the end Mr. Gao is wise enough to understand the problem faced by his son and accepts his true identity. Having Mr. Gao agree, I believe, is director Lee's way of expressing that one's true (natural) identity is more important than one's national identity. Whether the person is in China or America, his/her true identity always precedes his/her national identity.
Even though in the beginning the viewer is made to feel that Mr. Gao would not be able to bear the fact that his only son turned out to be a homosexual, the viewer is surprised to see Mr. Gao change his mind. And this transformation did not appear to be painful at all. It just required a little thinking. Through this Director Lee wants to show that the problem of homosexuality can be solved through some careful thinking. As portrayed by Mr. Gao, it is not painfully difficult to accept homosexuality even for a very traditional Chinese citizen.
Lee creates a win-win situation in which homosexuality as a right is recognized and respected while one's family and familial duties (to marry and bear children) are also honored. What is responsible for Mr. Gao's liberal attitude towards his son's ��deviant�� behavior?
It is clear that through his movie, Director Lee wants to educate the Chinese about homosexuality. He wants them to be in the situation of Wei-tong and feel what it is like to be a homosexual in a traditional Chinese culture. While there are incompatibilities between the homosexuality and the Chinese tradition, there can also be an easy yet strong agreement only if careful thought is applied to the problem.