UCSD CH7 The Transgender Body in Wang Dulus Crouching Tiger Analysis Essay Please answer the 2 questions A&B about the reading that are provided below. You

UCSD CH7 The Transgender Body in Wang Dulus Crouching Tiger Analysis Essay Please answer the 2 questions A&B about the reading that are provided below. Your work will be checked for originality.

There is no upper limit to how many words you write, however you must write a minimum of 500 words total.

Answer the questions as well as you can. The goal is to demonstrate that you have done the readings carefully. The better you demonstrate your genuine engagement with the readings, the better your grade will be.

Please remember to use quotes from the readings in your answer. When you insert a quote from the readings, don’t forget to note exactly where the quote comes from. Please use footnotes or endnotes, and include the author, title, and page number of the source of your quote.

Do not copy and paste! Do not paraphrase! Please CITE !!!!!!!!!!

A. READ Helen Hok-Sze Leung, “Trans on Screen,” in Transgender China, ed. Chiang, Howard, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012: 183-198. Answer the following questions:

According to Leung, what is the difference between Jin Yong’s portrayal of Dongfang Bubai’s transgendered body in the original novel and the portrayal of her body in the film? What difference does it make, according to Leung and some of the critics she quotes, that Dongfang Bubai in the film is played by a female actress, Brigitte Lin? Elaborate.

B. Read one of the following and summarize it in your own words:

Tze-lan Sang, “The Transgender Body in Wang Dulu’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” in Martin, Fran and Larissa Heinrich, eds., Embodied Modernities: Corporeality, Representation, and Chinese Cultures, ed. Martin, Fran and Larissa Heinrich, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006: 98-114.] [show clips] CH A P T ER
Trans on Screen
Helen Hok-Sze Leung
Beginnings: Moving Targets
Autumn, 2001. While leafing through the catalogue of the
Netherlands Transgender Film Festival, one of a handful of film festivals in the world with an explicit aim to “encourage visibility and
positive representations of transgender issues,”1 I was surprised to
find that Swordsmen 2, an old Hong Kong martial arts blockbuster
starring Jet Li and Brigitte Lin, had made it into the program.2 The
1992 film was well known to me. The casting of actress Brigitte Lin
as the indomitable Dongfang Bubai, a swordsman who practices a
form of martial arts that requires self-castration, was considered to
be a homophobic erasure of gay content in much of the burgeoning
queer film criticism emerging in Hong Kong during the 1990s. The
film’s inclusion in a transgender film festival almost 10 years after its
release was certainly provocative. It prompted me to see that what
seems problematic from gay/lesbian perspectives can have a significantly different meaning when viewed through a transgender lens.
Spring, 2002. I was invited to give a lecture on Asian cinema at
Inside Out, Toronto’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Inspired by
Swordsman 2’s resurrection as a “transgender film,” I suggested a
similar rereading of Portland Street Blues, a 1998 triad film starring Sandra Ng in an acclaimed role as Sister Thirteen, a butch
woman and a gang leader. In the film, Sister Thirteen has sex with
other women but reserves her fiercest loyalty and affection for men.
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This characterization has prompted many critics to question whether
she is an authentic lesbian character. In my lecture I argued that
both films, when viewed from a transgender perspective, become
much more interesting. For instance, the casting of Brigitte Lin in
Swordsman 2 challenges audience’ presumption that they can tell
the difference between transsexual and nontranssexual femininity. Likewise, the affection between a butch woman and a man in
Portland Street Blues does not necessarily signify heterosexual desire
but rather a homoerotic attraction between two masculine figures that
are commonplace in triad gangster films.3 Not surprisingly, my audience in Toronto was not entirely convinced. Some lesbian members
of the audience feared that my “transgender reading” serve as an
apologia for heteronormativity, whereas transgender members of the
audience thought neither of the films represent “real” transgender
people. Not only do the audience’s misgivings show me, once again,
that transgender and gay/lesbian interpretations can often be at odds,
they also remind me that strong audience investment in “realistic representation” and “positive image” often places an undue burden on
both queer and transgender characters to be positively representative
of whole communities.
Almost a decade has passed since those early conversations. During
this time, several important developments have widened the possibilities of how transgender can be considered in relation to cinema. First,
there has been an exponential growth of scholarly, artistic, and activist
works on transgender issues that are produced by and for the interests
and well-being of transgender people. The cinema, in particular, has
seen an explosion of independent works—most prominently in the
documentary genre—that are explicitly made by and for transgender
communities.4 At the same time, there is a critical tendency in theoretical discourse to go beyond the nominal understanding of transgender as an identity and as the naming of a specific group of people.
In a recent special issue on “Trans-” in the Women’s Studies Quarterly
edited by Susan Stryker, Paisley Currah, and Lisa Jean Moore, the
editors argue that “the time is ripe for bursting transgender wide
open,” and in so doing articulate the questions raised by transgender
subjectivities and embodiments in relation to the crossings of other
categorical differences:
A fundamental aspect of our editorial vision is that neither “-gender”
nor any of the other suffixes of “trans-” can be understood in isolation—
that the lines implied by the very concept of “trans-” are moving targets, simultaneously composed of multiple determinants.
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Furthermore, the editors argue for the deployment of “trans” as a
verb and a critical practice that is comparable to, but distinct from,
that of “queering”:
“Transing” in short, is a practice that takes place within, as well as
across or between gendered spaces. It is a practice that assembles gender into contingent structures of association with other attributes of
bodily being, and that allows for their reassembly.
The notion of “transing” also enables intersectional work in which
diverse forms of trans processes that transform or realign boundaries between self and other can be considered together. An example is
the research collaboration between transgender studies scholar Susan
Stryker and researchers such as Nikki Sullivan (who studies cosmetic
surgery, tattooing and branding, as well as other modificatory practices) and Samantha Murray (who studies the discourse around bariatric surgery and other medical surgical interventions into obesity).5
Second, the rapid growth in queer Asian scholarship has resulted
in the development of critical frameworks that eschew simply “applying” LGBT frameworks to non-Western phenomena of sexual and
gender variance. For instance, Peter Jackson’s formulation of “pregay, post-queer” in the Thai context draws attention to historical
formations of sexual and gender variance that predate the advent of
LGBT identities, thus crisscrossing and/or overlapping contemporary
gay and transgender identities and embodiments.6 More recently, in a
special issue of the Journal of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies on “Trans/
Asia,” Josephine Ho and Fran Martin demonstrate the importance of
the “specificity of place” in shaping local articulations of transgender
identities, cultures, and communities.7 In cinema studies, Song Hwee
Lim’s analysis of cross-ethnic casting in transnational Chinese cinema
through insights culled from transgender practices explores the relation between various forms of “transing” on screen.8
In light of these critical developments, the study of transgender
issues in Chinese-language cinema can be more fruitfully considered
as an exercise in locating moving targets. In other words, it need
not be fixated on a singular notion of what constitutes transgender
on screen. It must not limit itself—nor, however, should it remain
indifferent—to representational politics. Instead, issues concerning
representation are best explored in relation to or alongside wider
questions about how embodied difference (of gender and beyond) is
constituted, guarded, permeated, and reconstituted on screen. In this
chapter, I will explore three interpretive models of reading trans on
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screen. I am by no means suggesting that these three are the only, or
even the best, kind of approaches. I simply want to show the varied
and creative critical possibilities that the notion of trans has enabled.
The first model, the most conventional but nonetheless important,
focuses on gender variant characters and their cultural meanings. In
mainstream cinema, in particular, characters who disrupt the normative alignments presumed between sex assignment, gender presentation, and gender identification seldom emerge as fully articulated
subjects. More often, they are displaced symbols of cultural anxiety
over, or fascination with, various forms of boundary crossings. Jay
Prosser’s critique of Silence of the Lambs for representing the “somatic
trouble” of the transsexual as trouble for the social corpus;9 Judith
Halberstam’s analysis of the ways transgender characters are punished
for their “inflexible” gender identity in Boys Don’t Cry and The Crying
Game;10 as well as John Philips’s study of the ambivalence underlying depictions of transgender in Hollywood films11 are examples of a
critical model that exposes the ideological workings of such displacement. Like Hollywood cinema, Chinese-language cinema is replete
with examples that would benefit from such critique. An implicit—at
times explicit—imperative behind such critical works is the advocation for a different kind of representation, one that is less harmful for
the communities represented.
The second interpretive model approaches transgender not as an
identity but rather as a term of relationality. For example, Judith
Halberstam’s reading of the masculine bonding between butches
in By Hook Or By Crook or my reading of homoeroticism between a
butch woman and male gangsters in Portland Street Blues illustrate
the gendered dimensions of desire, love, and friendship that are rendered unintelligible by hetero as well as homonormative narratives.12
Furthermore, Halberstam has pointed out that the use of “transgender” as a broad umbrella term denoting all cross-gender identifying
subjects has at times blurred the difference between diverse forms
of embodiments and presentations. For Halberstam, approaching
“transgender” as relationality also allows us to specify how people
place themselves in “particular forms of recognition” to signify how
they relate to others within an intimate bond or a community.13 The
films of queer auteurs Cui Zi’en and Zero Chou especially warrant
such an approach as they explore how relational bonds, particularly
between queer subjects, can be transformed by unexpected modes of
gender presentation and recognition.
The third critical model is perhaps the most adventurous. It turns
its attention to what Nikki Sullivan calls “trans practice”—a broad
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notion that denotes various modification practices that transform
bodily being.14 Sullivan is writing about practices such as piercing,
branding, tattooing, and cosmetic surgery in addition to sex reassignment surgeries. In the context of Chinese-language cinema, the
example of martial arts and myriad forms of theatrical, acrobatic, athletic, and spiritual training come to mind. Paying attention to the
modification practices—rather than primarily to issues of identity and
relationality—uncovers trans articulations in unlikely and provocative places. It is from this angle that I would like to revisit Farewell
My Concubine (1992). The film has raised all kinds of problems for
critics concerned with issues of gender and sexuality because it depicts
a brutal process of enforced feminization while associating it with
homosexual desire. It has also been critiqued as a national allegory
that views modern China as a feminized victim. Following Sullivan’s
ethical imperative, I propose a reading that foregoes judgment on
whether the film’s depiction of transgender constitutes positive or
negative representation. Rather, I am interested in what its depiction
of Beijing opera training as a “trans practice” shows us about the
negotiation between self and otherness.
1. Looking at: Trans Others
Gender variant characters have been repeatedly projected on screen
as figures of alterity, much like the way sexual, ethnic, and racial
“others” have been represented on screen. Their gender variance—
whether in the form of intersexuality, transsexuality, cross-dressing,
or any form of transgender embodiment and presentation—is visibly
exoticized but the “back story” of their gender history is seldom made
clear. Furthermore, these characters are most often found in films
with supernatural elements such as ghosts, demons, and magical martial arts. It is thus seldom possible for audience to recognize these
characters within the terms of realism. In other words, none of these
characters fits into the narratives of contemporary identity categories.
Whether demonized as a symbol of monstrosity or idealized as a paragon of perfection, they appear not as fully articulated subjects, but as
objects of fantasy. A range of displaced investments—from anxiety
and fear to fascination—underlie these representations.
A good example can be found in A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), a
popular retelling of a well-known story from the eighteenth-century
collection of supernatural tales, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio.
The film tells the story of a beautiful ghost, Xiao Qian, who is imprisoned by a malevolent tree spirit with a monstrously long tongue.
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Known simply as Madam, the spirit pimps out beautiful ghosts to
lure unsuspecting men to her lair so she could feed on their yang
energy. While the script does not include any mention of Madam’s
gender history, the casting of male actor Lau Siu-ming in the role
uses the audience’s nondiegetic recognition of a male body to suggest a discrepancy between male body and feminine presentation.15
This implicit suggestion of gender variance in the character is further
amplified by the way she talks in an alternately male and female voice.
Neither Madam’s gender history nor her self-identification is available to the audience who only sees the titillating sight of her gender
ambiguity as a physical manifestation of—indeed even a short hand
for—her monstrosity.
A more complex example appears in Swordsman 2 (1992) and its
sequel The East Is Red (1993). In this loose adaptation of Jin Yong’s
martial arts novel, the arch villain Dongfang Bubai castrates himself
to practice a lethal form of martial arts to dominate the world and,
in the process, turns into a formidable villain and beautiful woman. I
have argued elsewhere that the casting of Brigitte Lin—in contrast to
the cross-gender casting of Madam—actually honors certain aspects
of transsexual subjectivity because the audience’s nondiegetic recognition of Lin as a beautiful woman actually matches the diegetic
ambition of the character to appear precisely as just that.16 Even so,
Dongfang Bubai’s transsexuality is explicitly figured in the film as
evidence of the character’s ruthless ambition, destructive power, and
monstrosity. By intimately linking Dongfang Bubai’s will to dominate the world with the transformation of her body from male to
female, the film has displaced anxiety about totalitarian rule onto the
sex-changed body, which it portrays to be both dangerously seductive
and violently destructive.
When not depicted as monstrous villains, gender variant characters are idealized as tragic figures of obsessive or sacrificial love.
For example, in Wong Kar-Wai’s meditative martial arts film Ashes
of Time (1994), brother and sister Murong Yin and Murong Yang—
played, once again, by Brigitte Lin—turn out to be the same person:
a “wounded soul behind two identities,” as described by the narrator Ouyang Feng’s voice-over. Murong’s split personality is symptomatic of the character’s traumatic experience of unrequited love.
When she cross-dresses as the masculine Yang, an alternative persona
has taken over her consciousness. This “alter” plots the murder of
the lover who jilted her thereby resolving the trauma of the victimized woman. In Yim Ho’s Kitchen (1997), a film based on Banana
Yoshimoto’s novella, the protagonist Louie explains that his gentle,
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loving mother actually used to be his father, who raised him after his
mother’s death while “keeping his dead wife’s spirit alive in her new,
female body.” In Yonfan’s over-the-top erotic thriller Colour Blossoms
(2004), a real estate agent Mei-Lin becomes haunted by a ghost—
played alternately by transsexual Korean actress Harisu and Japanese
diva Keiko Matsuzaka—who tells the story of how in her youth she
changed her sex “to protect the love” she felt for a lover. In these
films, all cases of gender variance result from obsessive love. In Ashes
of Time, Murong’s cross-dressing is a symptom of her mental trauma.
In both Kitchen and Colour Blossoms, the characters’ transsexuality
is not a result of their gender self-identification, but evidence of the
lengths they would go to in order to sacrifice for the person they
love, be it an orphaned son or a lover. From the point of view of
representational politics, all of these films fall short of providing any
viable mode of recognition for transgender audience. In A Chinese
Ghost Story and the Swordsmen films, the visual recognition of gender
variance leads directly to monstrosity while in Ashes of Time, Kitchen,
and Colour Blossom, the narrative of gender variance—whether in the
form of cross-dressing or transsexuality—leads only to pathological
More realistically realized transgender characters do exist, although
quite rarely and only in a marginal capacity. Interestingly, the two
examples that come to mind both focus on issues of work. This singular interest may be due to the perception that transgender visibility
is associated with the presence of what legal scholar Robyn Emerton
calls “transgender specific professions,” which are far more prolific
in the entertainment industries of Thailand and the Philippines or
in the bar culture of Japan than in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or mainland China.17 The critically acclaimed Whispers and Moans (2007)—a
docu-drama that fictionalizes ten days in the lives of a group of sex
workers—includes a layered portrayal of a transsexual woman, her
working life, and her relationship with her boyfriend. Zero Chou’s
melancholic Splendid Float (2004) spotlights a lesser-known profession through the character of a gay Daoist priest who conducts funeral
rituals by day and performs in drag for a dance troupe at night. These,
however, are rare exceptions amongst a much larger body of films
in which gender variant characters are neither fully fleshed out subjects nor agents of their own actions. Their gender expressions do not
result primarily from their self-identification. Rather, they are standins for some notion of “difference,” whether construed as villainous
monstrosity or sacrificial obsession. They sustain a fantasy through
which audiences can channel their own anxiety or fascination.
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When we look at these characters, we are looking at everything but
transgender subjects, who are nowhere to be found amongst the
monsters, victims, and ghosts.
2. Looking Askance: Trans Relations
A different critical strategy does not try to look at transgender characters per se, but rather look askance at issues of relationality. It focuses
on the transing of relational bonds: the ways in which the crossings
of gender realign desire, affection, and affinity between people, in a
manner that is unpredictable within hetero or homonormative narratives. Here I will focus on films by queer auteurs, by which I mean out
queer filmmakers whose stylistic signature involves markedly queer
aesthetics and/or themes.18 I count amongst others Stanley Kwan,
Tsai Ming-Liang, Yonfan, as well as Cui Zi’en and Zero Chou—the
two younger filmmakers whose works I will discuss—as queer auteurs.
Cui’s and Chou’s films provide what Halberstam calls a “mode of
recognition” that is consciously meant for queer audiences: each film
“universalizes queerness” within its specific cinematic space without
ever returning the audience to a heteronormative gaze.19 In the two
films that I will discuss, there is conscious attention paid to the complex gendered dynamics of intimacy between queer bodies and how
transing practices can be constitutive of unique relationship b…
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