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Modern China in Film

Final Project Presentation

Melissa Black

on 3 May 2010

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Transcript of Modern China in Film

CHINESE WOMEN GAIN AGENCY through the CCP Before the early 1900s, China was a male dominated, patriarchal society women were only a burden
sole beneficial purpose was continuance of the race.
women were deprived of basic human rights
expected to silently acquiesce to whims of their husbands and fathers. How was this mentality furthered? origins can be traced back to 1894--China’s devastating defeat in the Sino-Japanese War

After such a catastrophic loss, strengthening of the Chinese race and nation became of utmost importance

it was at this juncture that many intellectuals and reformers began to regard women as the wasted half of the Chinese population

thought they had actually impeded China’s development into a modern nation state

Transforming women into productive citizens was thus a pressing need and the Enlightenment of women became a matter of the survival of the Chinese race and its civilization. As a result, women were starvation to allow the men more food during times of famine
suicide to remain “chaste”
infanticide (esp.females babies),
arranged marriages
subject to... Nationalists BEGIN to call for women's rights AND NEW HOPE for advancement of women Ideas were driven by... ideology of Social Darwinism
Rise of the CCP finally gives women EQUAL RIGHTS and opportunities to thrive and progress. Under Mao, role of women shifts: -FROM one primarily to support the home (domestic) -TO one focused on promoting the welfare and benefit of the state (public) Marriage laws of 1950 easier for women to obtain a divorce without losing everything or endangering well being of their children

Husbands were not allowed to abuse their wives

the common practice of having multiple wives, or concubines and prostitutes, was now forbidden

marriages could no longer be arranged

both sexes began to don a gender-neutral clothing. Chinese women experienced a new found sense of worth:
joined work force
became communist officials
pursued educational opportunities This progression can be traced through how women were represented in FILM. I will demonstrate the development of women from a place of objectivity to one of subjectivity , using examples from the movies

The Good Earth (1937)


To Live (1994),

as well as primary sources At this time, surplus members of a family are seen as a burden to the unit, and so population control is prevalent in the form of infanticide or abortion, most often for the female children.

We see such an action in The Good Earth, when Wang’s wife, the freed slave O-Lan, kills her first-born daughter due to the great famine that was going on at the time. If the daughter were left to live, that would only mean less food for the rest of the family; thus the rest of the family would have to work harder, but with reduced sustenance. Early 1900s Early 1900s At this time, women were demure and timid---always working behind the scenes, never to be seen. It was the woman’s job to keep the household running smoothly, by not only cooking meals and caring for the children, but also working in the fields.

O-lan provides a great example of the meek and modest stereotypical Chinese wife of this time. She rarely speaks, and dare not even raise her eyes to look at a man. She is constantly hard at work throughout the movie, scrubbing dishes, making meals, and performing backbreaking labor in the fields even while with child. She is uneducated, and lives to please her husband, even if she must herself suffer. Early 1900s ..continued In The Good Earth, Wang takes a second wife, much to the dismay of the ever faithful, hardworking O-Lan

The concubine is much younger and prettier, and serves more as a showpiece of wealth and prestige

It would reflect badly upon O-Lan if she spoke out about the unjustness, her hurt feelings, or expressed her dislike of the situation, and so instead O-Lan remains steadfast and silent, though we can see through her facial expressions that she is deeply displeased and feels betrayed. Stark changes Fengxia is allowed to marry for love, although she is introduced to her future husband through her parents still. At her wedding, Fengxia wears a jumpsuit that matches her husband’s, complete with red badges to show their support for Mao. This attire is meant to put Fengxia on equal footing with her husband, and show that they are of equal status in society’s eyes. We see that women are getting an education now, with the female doctors and medical students that take care of Fengxia when she is with child. To Live Jiazhen, the wife of Fugui, enters into a tavern to find her husband. She is treated with respect, does not look away while speaking, and asks to see her husband. Fugui tries to belittle Jiazhen and tell her to get a rickshaw home, but she is insistent that Fugui stop gambling and return home with her.
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