Thursday, February 23, 2012
Films play a significant role in culture and media construction as a guide to how people should think about and react to situations. Film festivals further promote these movies to a larger crowd, even trying to outreach to the heteronormative audience. However, in the article “The challenges of running an Asian lgbt film festival,” the Hong Kong reporter Tony Ed Lo explains why Asian LGBTQ film festivals are difficult to run. Because of government disapproval and sometimes harassment, the organizers cannot promote their LGBTQ film festivals through mainstream media. The festival organizers in Asia have to find ways to pitch the event out to the population and often times can only do so through Twitter or their websites.The events themselves tend to be low-key and are often at venues that do not attract thousands of people in attempt to avoid government intervention. In Theo Van Der Meer's article “Gay Bashing: A Rite of Passage?,” he notes that “with the increased visibility of homosexuals in the last decades, homosexuality has become less and less something only concerning homosexuals themselves” (p 66). This is also true in the management of Asian LGBTQ film festivals because of government control, required euphemisms, and even death threats targeted at festival organizers. Euphemisms that are employed, for instance, include the actual names of the festivals. In Beijing, the LGBTQ film festival used to be called the “Tongzhi Film Festival.” Tongzhi stands for “comrade,” but is understood as a term for homosexual partners. Today, the name of this festival is called “Beijing Queer Film Festival” because the Chinese are unfamiliar with the term “queer.” Clearly, euphemisms are used due to a cultural taboo still present in Chinese society.
Movies have the power to motivate, sadden, or calm and overall evoke deep emotions within the audience. Especially in the LGBTQ community, films provide a sense of belonging through the portrayal of real-life experiences. As a result of minimal Asian LGBTQ movies, these film festivals face the problem of even having movies to show, which contribute to the hardship of coordinating a film festival in the first place. Also, Asian LGBTQ viewers embrace existing LGBTQ films due to the scarcity of them. At the most recent SDAFF, three LGBTQ movies won awards. One of which was “In the Family,” directed by Patrick Wang. “In the Family” is about an Asian man's struggle to win custody over his partner's son after his partner dies. His partner was a Caucasian male who comes from a traditional Southern family. In a YouTube video titled “SDAFF 12 – In The Family Q&A Recap,” viewers in the audience were interviewed after seeing the film, and they were touched by the storyline. Based on the audience's reactions, it is apparent that real struggles of LGBTQ individuals portrayed in films seem to capture the audience's attention and genuine emotional responses. Another film that won an award was “The Lulu Sessions” directed by S. Casper Wong; the plot is about a cancer patient who spends her last days with her female lover. These heartfelt films not only include everyday battles, they incorporate the specific issues that LGBTQ individuals face.
By Judy Phung
Link to YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy1C9t7nrhU
Lo, Tony Ed. “The challenges of running an Asian lgbt film festival.” Fridae, Empowering Gay Asia. 6 Dec 2012. Web, 22 Feb 2012. http://www.fridae.asia/newsfeatures/2011/12/06/11362.the-challenges-of-running-an- asian-lgbt-film-festival
Meer, Theo Van Der. “Gay Bashing – A Rite of Passage?” In Culture, Health, and Sexuality, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 153-165.
Smith, Barbara. “Homophobia, Why Bring It Up?” From The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. Ed Henry Ablelove et. al. New York & London: Routledge, 1993.
Every so often, a television show goes on air that defies all social norms. The next show to present this shock value is ABC Family’s hit show Pretty Little Liars. With over three million viewers worldwide, this cult phenomenon’s outstanding audience allows it to be an influential show. An interesting aspect of Pretty Little Liars is that it introduces the issue of lesbianism in our modern society. The show follows one of the main characters named Emily Fields, played by Shay Mitchell, and her struggles with being an Asian-American lesbian who has to deal with coming out, getting acceptance, and being in an interracial relationship. In aiming to connect it with the articles by Barbara Smith and Paula Gunn Allen, I analyzed that Pretty Little Liars goes against all preconceived notions of homosexuality in the media and displays how we as a society are becoming more accepting of homosexuality and different races than ever before.
Pretty Little Liars is about Emily and her four best friends, who deal with the murder of their friend Alison. These girls are on a mission to find Alison’s murderer while being tormented by “A,” an unknown character that constantly invades their privacy by sending harassing text messages and hacking their internet accounts. While this is the bigger picture, a smaller aspect of the show is how Emily deals with her sexuality. Emily is portrayed as being “manlier” than the other female characters by being the sporty competitive swimmer with a low maintenance appearance. Although the portrayal of lesbians in the media is to be masculine, Emily’s character is not exaggerated to be a “butch” type of lesbian. She still acts like a girl, wears make-up, and assimilates well with her heterosexual peers. In doing so, Pretty Little Liars aims to promote the acceptance of homosexuality instead of highlighting its distinction from heterosexuality.
Emily’s coming out process was not as big of a deal as it would have been in other television shows. The show displays Emily’s underlying attraction to females from the very beginning, and brings it to light when she meets Maya, her neighbor. Once Emily realizes her attraction to Maya, she decides to come out to her family and friends, most of who accepts her whole-heartedly. According to Allen’s article “Lesbians in American Indian Cultures,” the modern lesbian is seen as different from other citizens of society. This is not the case with Emily, who is shown to be as normal as possible despite her sexuality. Pretty Little Liars goes against normal views and tries to pass off homosexuality as something that is commonplace.
Not only does Pretty Little Liars try to normalize homosexuality, it also presents the intersectionality of race and sexuality. While everyone accepted Emily, it took a bit of convincing for her parents to fully accept their daughter’s newfound sexuality. Emily’s Asian descent forces her to deal with her culture’s strict view on homosexuality. Asian cultures strongly believe in heteronormativity and creating future generations in their families, which is not an option for homosexuals. Emily struggles to convince her hesitant parents to accept her, especially her mother, who refuses to believe her daughter is a lesbian because she expected grandchildren in the future. Eventually, Emily’s parents cared more about her well-being and accepted her new sexuality.
Going with the intersections of race and sexuality, Pretty Little Liars also goes one step further and creates an interracial lesbian couple. Emily is Asian American, while Maya is African American. In Smith’s article “Homophobia, Why Bring It Up?,” it is mentioned that homosexuality is considered a “white” problem with which the majority of other races do not associate. Again, Pretty Little Liars goes against this view and integrates an interracial relationship along with homosexuality, which influences viewers to be accepting of both.
In conclusion, Pretty Little Liars goes against society’s views by creating a show that portrays homosexuality as something that is normal. By integrating race and sexuality into a show that deems it as customary while breaking all preconceived notions of lesbians and their position in our modern society, it is apparent that the media and our society is slowly becoming more accepting of homosexuality and its intersection with race. The articles by Smith and Allen both convey the view that lesbians of ethnicities other than Caucasian are essentially invisible in society, and Pretty Little Liars goes against these claims. I believe this show portrays where our society is gradually heading: seamlessly assimilating homosexuals and straying from our heteronormative views.
Allen, Paula Gunn. “Lesbians in American Indian Cultures” from The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Beacon Press, 1992.
King, Marlene. Pretty Little Liars. ABC Family. Television.
Smith, Barbara. “Homophobia, Why Bring It Up?” from The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. ed Henry Ablelove et al
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Weber (2012) begins with an anecdote of his personal love affair during his trip to China and discusses the discrepancy between American and Chinese LGBTQ norms. In Chinese culture, a gay man did not have the choice of living with a same-sex partner and “that his life would follow traditional Asian values, and that there was no question of living with a man.” For the Chinese, this is considered to be the way of life. Being gay is one's freedom of choice and expression; however, a man in Chinese culture has the responsibility to have children and a family- essentially embodying heterosexuality. Similarly to initial American contempt and disapproval of homosexuality, Chinese culture as a whole generally does not promote or even support homosexuality and the like. In his article, Emilio states, “rather than liberation, Americans who thought about homosexuality at all, including many gay men and women themselves, would have preferred elimination.” Today, American society has been increasingly more accepting of people who identify with the LGBTQ community, whereas before homosexuality was considered a form of disease. In China, homosexuality was also considered a disease but have become tolerant of LGBTQ individuals. According to Weber's (2012) column, gay men and women in China often have “broken links with their families.” This traumatic experience for those who do identify as homosexual usually leads them to living double lives, in which they engage in heterosexual practices of having a family with children yet also satisfy their desires that correspond with their true sexuality.
Weber (2012) also mentions the idea of Confuscianism and the way it affects the lives of LGBTQ individuals who live in China. In American society, there are a variety of religions among our diverse culture, many of which don't support homosexuality as well. Anyone has the option to refuse a religion in America and entwine his or her own beliefs in his or her lives. However, Confuscianism in China has long played a huge role in the way Chinese society is structured. If the norm is considered to be heterosexuality among millions of people, then the so-called “odd ones out” in the LGBTQ community will face much criticism in a country such as China. Confuscianism itself strongly disapproves of homosexuality because the idea of offspring is greatly encouraged and is undoubtedly expected. In Martin F. Manalasan IV's article, he points out that “Asian American gay men['s] identity [is] regarded as a static given and ethnic identity [is constructed] as a polar opposite of gay identity.” Clearly, ethnic identity and gay identity can't be polar opposites since many Asian-Americans do incorporate their sexualities into both American and Asian cultures. Weber (2012) explains that in Confuscianism, “being gay is not considered an immoral choice but a refusal to participate in society.” This participation in society means extending generations by having children. In addition, many individuals can decide to ignore their homosexuality in order to “save face” and retain some pride in Chinese society.
Based on the historical contexts and differences in American and Chinese cultures, it is clear that the level of acceptance of Asian LGBTQ individuals is affected by society's conventions. A person who identifies as LGBTQ may experience drastic differences in the way he or she is treated in America and in China. The Chinese race and the Chinese-American race anticipate distinctive social behaviors from its citizens within the LGBTQ community; more specifically, the Chinese are expected to participate in heterosexual reproduction, whereas Chinese-Americans can more freely express their love for a same-sex partner and never even have to consider the idea of children. Society is what we create, and we have the same power to change the way we believe.
By Judy Phung
John D’Emilo. “Homosexuality and American Society: An Overview” from Sexual
Politics, Sexual, Communities in the United States 1940-1970. Chicago, Ill:
University of Chicago Press, 1983.
Martin F. Manalasan IV. “Searching for Community: Filipino Gay Men from New York
City”. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. Routledge Chapman Hall,
Weber, Marten. "Move Over, Confucius!" 30 January 2012. Web, 8 Feb 2012.