Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Ma'am: The Infuriating Phenomenon of Poorly Written Female Characters in Hong Kong Fantasy Films

Few things dampen my enthusiasm for a film faster. Everything is rolling along nicely, and then she appears: the female lead. Great.

Oh please, don't make her atone for her misdeeds. She's simply too beautiful to die!

Let me see, what is it going to be this time? Is she going to pout, stomp and coerce the other characters into letting her accompany them on a journey that she's going to bitch about every step of the way?

Or maybe she's going to trick, seduce and kill one of the other lead characters?

I killed your best friend, but I know that you still like me. I love him, but I could gripe about Chang Cheh's female characters all day. 
How about if she's infuriatingly loud, yet super vulnerable and must be rescued by a more capable male character? 

 I will magically transform from a completely obnoxious and unsympathetic "lady of the night", to a woman you'd definitely bring home to mother, right before your very eyes! 
You can usually figure out which one of these scenarios it's going to be fairly early in the film, because there are really only a few purposes for the female lead to serve in most HK fantasy films, and I've seen it play out too many times.

They get married later. Lucky guy. 
I strongly resent that this phenomena has made me dread the appearance of a female in many of the films I watch. I'm a woman. I love women! In reality, the one dimensional writing of these characters is the underlying problem, rather than the acting itself. Although, I really still despise the pouty princess face. You know the one. 

Stop it. 
When Moon Lee's nameless female guard repeatedly punches Di Ming Qi (Yuen Biao) in Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, it's not cute at all. It's completely without reason, and it looks like it hurts. A lot. But, I am very aware that it's supposed to be cute, because it's rare to see a male character that whines and punches other dudes in the face for no reason. Women don't act like that in reality, children do. Is that how the filmmaker sees women? Do they even care? Am I reading into things?

There are, of course, notable exceptions. Demon of the Lute, Deadful Melody, The Magic Crane, A Chinese Ghost Story, etc.,  have really effective, powerful and multi-faceted female leads.  Actresses like Rosamund Kwan, Anita Mui and Brigitte Lin, that have strong screen presence also always seem to find a way to add extra dimension and humanity to an otherwise cardboard character.

 I am well aware that you have saved my life many times, but you're getting on my over-privileged nerves, and I never want to see you again. 
I apologize if this sounds like a rant, but being that this is one of my favorite film genres, and that I'm a woman, I feel like I'm hyper-aware of the follies the writers and filmmakers make over and over again. Maybe it's just a cultural difference that makes me scratch my head at these pitiful caricatures of the "weaker sex", or maybe the women are considered throwaway characters that are around simply to further the plot in any way necessary. Maybe extreme rudeness is attractive, or maybe the actresses just so foxy, that male moviegoers don't even care.
Maybe I'm just being oversensitive.
Women, you know?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy International Anthony Wong Day!

Hey everybody, it's International Anthony Wong Day! I'm just kidding, that is NOT a thing that exists in real life.
However, I did have a dream last night that I had to rescue Anthony Wong from Angry Birds at San Diego Comic-con (I don't even know), so I thought it would be a good time to do an appreciation post.

Ladies and Gents, the many faces of Anthony Wong, pt. 1:

Beast Cops
A Lamb in Despair
Infernal Affairs
Sweet Revenge
Initial D
Legend of the Fist
Full Contact
Kingdom of the Mob
House of Fury
Hong Kong History X
Fist Power

The Underground Banker
Madam City Hunter
McDull: The Alumni

There are a bunch of movies that are still in limbo in boxes around the new house, and I can't bring myself to unpack them all for the life of me. Anyway, this'll have to do for now, I have serious shit to do.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lessons in Drinking Pt.1: Return of the Sentimental Swordsman

Drinking plays a fairly large part in many classic kung fu and wuxia films. Heck, sometimes you can even learn a thing or two from the boozed up characters, and apply these lessons to your everyday life.
Let's take a look at Return of the Sentimental Swordsman, shall we?

 Lesson 1: Relief
Alcohol is excellent at offering a short solace from the things that ail us. Troubles in finance and love seem to all but disappear when our old friend booze takes over.

Lesson 2: Moderation
Sometimes, it's difficult to know when you've "had enough".  Awkward social situations and tough times emotionally can make it even more difficult.  Unfortunately, you may then experience Lesson 3. 

Lesson 3: Penance
Yes, many people feel depressed the morning after a long night of drinking. Alcohol is a depressant after all, and the shame of the ridiculous shit you did the night before, paired with the physical pain of the hangover itself can be quite awful.  Thankfully, there is a way to get through this. 

Lesson 4: Rest and Relaxation
Sleep. It works like a charm.

Lesson 5: Patience
Just because you want a drink, doesn't mean that you can have one.  Work, school, and children may derail even the most devoted lushes from imbibing on his or her's favorite beverage. Never fear, however.  5 o'clock is just around the corner!

Lesson 6: Friendship
Do people tell you that you have a problem? Perhaps that you drink too much? That's where a good friend comes in. A true comrade won't condemn your abuse of the hooch, but confirm what you've known all along.  That "sometimes it's necessary to get drunk". 

Until next time my fellow squids, cheers!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another Disappointing Experience

Until last weekend, I had never seen a Shaw Brothers film in a theater, and I thought I may never have the opportunity. Imagine my delight when I found out that "Avenging Eagle" and "The Duel" were playing at the New Beverly Cinema (a great revival theater), right here in LA! "Finally" I thought. "Finally I'll get to actually watch these movies with other kung fu fans!"
Not only was the theater less than half full (despite the fact that Quentin Tarantino himself chose the programming and introduced the films), but it was clear by audience reactions that none of these people were even remotely familiar with this genre of film. The only actor that got any sort of applause from the audience during the previews or the films was Lee Van Cleef during the "Stranger and the Gunfighter" trailer.
Lee Van Cleef!
Lo Lieh? Who's that? There was even a muffled giggle when he came on the screen. I still don't know what that was about.  I couldn't hold back a "WHOOT!" when Tarantino mentioned Fu Sheng after "Avenging Eagle", seeing as during the credits, no one clapped for either Fu Sheng or Ti Lung. Someone had to represent.
The audience laughed heartily during "Avenging Eagle" (Ku Feng was killing people for some reason), but during "The Duel", which was dubbed, the few people who had actually stayed for the film were laughing like crazy. Of course there are hilarious moments in many Shaw Brothers flicks, I mean sometimes the wigs alone are enough. I'd feel differently if I thought they also appreciated the films, but I wasn't getting that impression. I mean, come on. How many times can you really laugh at someone scaling an impossibly high wall? It happens so many times in so many SB flicks that you'd think the audience would get tired of laughing. You'd be wrong. 
There were in the audience, I'm sure, a couple of real fans. Really quiet fans. This definitely includes the guy wearing an "Avenging Eagle" t-shirt and sitting in the front row. Kudos to you, my friend. And much to my surprise and delight, Quentin Tarantino did actually impress me with his knowledge and his appreciation for the films.
As a fitting end to the somewhat disappointing evening, the theater was playing "Friday" after the Shaw Brothers double feature, and the line was around the block. Then I mysteriously got explosive diarrhea. WTF.
*Ahem*. Anyway, here's what I'm trying to say: I thought there would be more people there, and I thought they would be more familiar and appreciative of the genre. I got the feeling that most people there just wanted to see Tarantino, or have a laugh.
In my everyday life, I'd already given up trying to persuade people to understand why I enjoy these films so much. I never thought I'd  have to put up with that same feeling of isolation while watching them with an audience in a revival theater.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Very Disappointing Experience

Late last year, I embarked on an exciting whirlwind cross-country trip with my boyfriend and mother. We saw some incredibly strange things, so very little was out of the realm of possibility. The three of us stopped at a Chinese restaurant in the middle of a run-down town in Arizona to get grub on our way back to California, and I got such a shock! They turned the television on, and I saw something very familiar to me. The Shaw Brothers logo! But from there, things got so terribly disappointing. Allow me to elaborate with a comic in the popular four panel format.

Fucking Kill Bill.