The folllowing sample essay on Wong Kar-wai Movies discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
Men, who are masculine, physically strong, aggressive, intellectual, active, in dependent, production and rational; Women, who are feminine, weak, submissive, passive, dependent, consumption and emotional. Such gender stereotypes of male and female had deeply rooted in our society and had became a hegemonic definitions between men and women. The hegemonic definitions of “Men” and “Women” are more explicit in movies.
There are traditional gender roles in movies, especially in main-stream – commercial movies, male characters are usually strong, powerful, tough, dominate (female) and heroic; while female characters are usually being- rotected, weak, femme fatale and desire for love and romantic. These traditional gender representations on screen have been generally accepted / accustomed by audiences. Hence, producers and directors tend to follow the gender stereotypes of male and female, no matter they are producing / directing a rom-com, martial film, tragedy or cop-robber film.
In this article, I’m going to look into Wong Kar Wai’s movies, which categorized as alternative, and find out how’s the differences and similarities in gender representation between his film and other commercial, main- stream movies. Firstly, I want to state some similarities in gender representation between Wong’s movies and main-stream movies. Something very interesting is women are always femme-fatale in Wong’s movies. Maybe they have no intention to make troubles, but hey are really mentally / physically destructive to men in his movies.
For example, in the movie “Fallen Angels”, the female agent (Michelle Reis) employed by the hired killer Wong Chi Ming (Leon Lai) is obviously a femme-fatale to himself. In the movie, the killer tried avoid to meet or even have connection with his agent because e thinks they could no longer to keep on their partnership if there’s any relationship or friendship between them. The agent played by Michelle Reis is totally invisible in the killer’s life. Before killer Wong Chi Ming meet his agent, he completes every mission assigned by her excellently. However, once the killer meet his beautiful female agent, death comes and knock his door.
He’s attracted by his agent and want to terminate his business relationship with the agent. She asks him to kill someone as a parting favor, but Wong Chi Ming turns the hit into a suicide mission and died. Perhaps the pretty agent doesn’t mean to make her partner die, but she is obviously a femme fatale in Wong Chi Ming’s destiny. Other than “Fallen Angels”, women also acted as femme fatale or trouble-maker in his movies. For example, in the 2 stories of “ChungKing Express”, 2 cops are lost themselves and deeply hurt after dumped by their girlfriends.
In this film, both of the cops 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and 633 (Tony Leung) fell into lovesick after broke up. Cop 223 became a man without his soul and started to addict to canned-pineapples after his girlfriend left. He was hurt by his ex-girlfriend and even cannot thinking logically. He drunk himself, call his old classmates with no reason, run in the rain, meet stranger in bar … all of this action mean he has got troubles in his mind and these troubles was caused by his girlfriend. In the second part of the film, Cop 633 also hurt by his girl, he started to talk with Dolls, towel, soap etc. n his house, he lost his sense and just like Cop 223, many crazy thinking blow up in his mind. In this film, women play the role of trouble- maker again that make 2 men become the victim in love and suffer from lovesick caused by women. In “Happy Together”, a love story about 2 men, we can also see the emme fatale, troublemaker image of women. There is here’s no female character in this film, however, Ho Po Wing (Leslie Cheung) is playing the female role in the romance between Lai Yiu Fai and him. In this film, we can see Ho Po Wing is totally rely on his ‘boyfriend’ Lai Yiu Fai and caused a lot of troubles to him.
Ho spent all of Lai’s money that Lai cannot return to Hong Kong. Ho betrays Lai in love again and again. In the early part of the film, Ho and Lai failed to go Iguazu Fall and lost their way due to Ho Po Wing’s mistakes. However, in the late part, after Ho left Lai, Lai Yiu Fai travel to Iguazu Fall alone and he could arrive the Fall at last. If you compare this 2 scene, you would find that female played the role of troublemaker again. Except the image of femme fatale, something in Wong Kar Wai’s films is quite similar to those main-stream movies.
That is women are always act as homemakers or helpers for men. In “Fallen Angel”, killer Wong Chi Ming’s female agent find business for him and make decision for him. She decides who will be killed, how, where and when. She also go to his apartment and do housework for him when he’s not there. In “Chungking Express”, Faye (Faye Wong) get the key of Cop 633’s partment and break into 633’s flat while he’s away. She cleans 633’s flat and redecorated with new bedspreads, new clothes, new toiletries, new food. Faye even drugs 633’s bottled water to make sure he gets to sleep.
Both killer’s agent and Faye are playing the tradition role of women as homemaker and helper for men. However, they are doing these works for non-traditional purposes. Traditionally, women are stereotyped as housewives. They do housework and other things for men just because of responsible. But both the killer’s agent and Faye are not clean and decorate their men’s flats because they have to act like housewives. They do housework for men in the purposes of fulfil their suspicions and satisfying themselves rather than acquiescing to the role of the stereotypical homemaker and be a home maid for men.
Other than the those similarities mentioned above, we can find some differences in gender representation between Wong Kar Wai’s films and other main-stream movies. One of those differences is the representation of men. In Wong Kar Wai’s films, men are no hero or even weak behind their muscular body. In “Fallen Angels”, killer Wong Chi Ming claims to have become a contract killer because he is lazy and likes to ave others make decisions for him, so he is not presented as a hero. We never know why any of Chi-Ming’s victims are marked for death, he takes others life because it’s his job.
He kills people just because he completes his duty, like post officer deliver letters, but no relation to any sense of heroism. Moreover, Wong Chi Ming fails to complete his mission and being shot down at last. The scene of Wong killed in action is totally violate to the tradition of heroism that hero are never defeated. So, Wong Chi Ming is not hero but a normal person like you and me. In “Chungking Express”, weakness of men is more clearly shown. Both 223 and 633 are Cop and they are traditionally supposed to physically and also ‘mentally’ strong.
However, we can’t see Cop 223 and 633 act like hero to stop crimes and maintain law and order in the movie. Instead, we can see how’s their weak image after deeply hurt by their girls. 223 forces himself to eat a can of pineapple everyday and talk to his dog to release his anxiety, while 633 hugs and chat with his dolls, dreams of his ex-girlfriend will come back soon. All these action shown men can be weak or even weaker than women sometimes. Such weak image of men is far different from the tradition which men hould be tough in physically also mentally.
On the contrary, women in Wong Kar Wai’s films were tough, independent, free-spirited, calm, cool and usually less emotional than men. The most typical example in Wong’s film is the drug smuggler (Brigitte Lin) in “Chungking Express”. She’s in cool style that blonde-wigged, wears long coat, and sun-glasses, always with a gun in her purse. She keeps calm when she is chasing by people want to kill her and shoots down her master and also those drug couriers who double-crossed her. She is actually playing the role of ‘hero’ and presenting ‘heroism’ which traditionally played by men.
Women in Wong Kar Wai’s film act active and can say to be aggressive in many aspects, especially in love. Women usually be the active side in romance. They dare to get close to guys they liked and no fear to take action to attract men’s attention. Maybe people may think that Wong Kar Wai presents women in this way just because following the traditional patriarchal ideology and fulfilling what men wanted (women play the active role in love) and have no different to the main-steam films. But in my point of view, women be active in love means they are liberated, freed in love.
In Wong’s movies, women no longer wait for men’s love, they are not products on shelf and wait for someone to pick them up. They have rights and freedom to choose, to approach those guys they loved. For example, in “Chungking Express”, Faye loved Cop 633 from her first sight on him. She doesn’t wait for 633 put attention on her, instead, she decides to break into his flat to discover him. She cleans and wander in his flat everyday in order to fulfil her romantic feeling on him. One more example, Baby (Karen Mok) in “the Fallen Angels” seduces Wong Chi Ming into a sexual relationship.
I don’t think it’s presenting the idea of patriarchal, but presenting an idea that women can be active in love or even sex. In opposition, Men are more passive than women. No matter Lai Yiu Fai in “Happy Together” and Chow Mo Wan in “In the Mood for Love”, they choose to keep their feeling of love inside instead of tell the person they like. Lai Yiu Fai has special feeling to his co- worker Chang (Chang Zhen), but he chooses not to tell him and let him leave. Similarly, Chow Mo Wan fall in love to his neighborhood Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung). But he chooses not to tell how deep he loves her and keep it as secret.
To avoid get involve between Su and her husband, Chow leaves Hong Kong and mine his secret (his love to Su) in the tree hole. Obviously, men and women’s roles of love in Wong’s movies are quite different from other films. In conclusion, gender representation of men and women in Wong Kar Wai’s films have no bias any side. Neither men nor women are superior to each other. However, binary opposition between two sex is always played in Wong’s films. Rivalry between men and women is always the main theme of his stories. We can see mind games between two sex in his films, each of them compete for control, regulate and dominate its other.