Archive for November, 2008

Post #17: Response to: Young & Restless in China

November 30, 2008

In Young & Restless in China, FRONTLINE presents the lives of nine young Chinese over the course of four years.  

Responses to discussion questions:

1. Why do you think Miranda Hong describes her generation of Chinese as “confused”?


Miranda Hong

Miranda Hong

Miranda Hong describes her generation of Chinese as “confused” due to the changes that are taking place in China. The new generation is confused amid the changes that are happening to both China itself and the younger generation. In the beginning of the film, Miranda Hong states that the economy has changed drastically and that the ration tickets that were used in the 1990s to buy food were no longer used.  Not only this, but Ben Wu states that the company he works at is doubling its size in half a year and the new building is going up one floor per week. This shows how drastic changes are taking place economically in China. Things are not only changing economically for the new generation of Chinese but they are also changing religiously and socially. Ben Wu believes that China has changed religiously, stating that people no longer believe in Moism and helping others and, instead, believe in getting rich as fast as they can and being happy. It is evident that the younger generation is changing socially too. Women, like Miranda Hong and Zhang Jingjing, are becoming more active and are no longer following the tradition of housewives.  Not only this, but the new and younger generation of Chinese like Ben Wu and Lu Dong who have studied abroad feel that the bribery and corruption present in both the government and business is unacceptable and want to take a different path when doing business. In China today, changes seem to be occurring in all aspects of the lives of the younger generation of the Chinese, causing confusion. The new generation is in a state of confusion in which they are having trouble choosing between traditional and modern ways. 


5. Why do you think that several of the profiled characters have turned to religion or spiritual outlets?


Lu Dong

Lu Dong

Several of the profiled characters have turned to religion or spiritual outlets, including Lu Dong.   Surrounded by work and the confusion brought about by the changes taking place in society, the younger generation seems to have turned to religion for various reasons. Money is all that counts to them. As Lu Dong puts it the Chinese believe in “getting rich as fast as they can and having good lives.” However, as the businesses start to settle down a little, it seems like nothing is left of the characters when they have achieved their single goal of making money. When Lu Dong finds time to spare, he realizes how lonely he is and states that “after being baptized I [he] no longer feel[s] lonely.” This shows that he has turned to religion “to search for the meaning of life and universal truths,” to find the meaning of life beyond making money. Not only this, but I think characters like Lu Dong have turned to religion as a result of the confusion that was brought about by the changes that were taking place in society. He states that “values have changed greatly in China” and he was no longer able to find something he truly valued. Through religion, though, I believe that he was able to find the answers he was searching for. Last but not least, I believe the characters have turned to religion for protection from corrubtion. When Lu Dong deals with the bribery and corruption, he states that christianity seems to serve as a filter between the world and himself which will protect him. In general, I think that several of the profiled characters have turned to religion to find the meaning of life beyond making money and to seek protection from confusion and corruption present in the Chinese society.  


8. Who do you think is the happiest of the young people profiled in this documentary and why?


Wang Xiaolei

Wang Xiaolei

Of the nine young people profiled in this documentary, I think that the happiest is Wang Xiaolei, the rapper. Although in the beginning he complains about poverty, his house, and his parents, over the years and through hip hop, I believe that Xiaolei becomes the happiest of the young people profiled in this documentary. In the beginning, Xiaolei started off as a young man whose life was full of problems; he did not like the way he was discriminated based on money and how girls only believed in money and not anything else. Through hip hop, however, he learned that although he does not live a good life he should be optimistic. Over the years, as his music gets more popular and his dream to become a star on stage comes true, he becomes more optimistic. In the end, his dreams grow and he dreams to become the head of a record company, believing that his dreams will come true if he works hard. He is the only character in this documentary who works for the next day, without struggling from any other conflicts or problems; he does not have parents or a family who he needs to support, he does not struggle in a relationship, and he does not seem to have any problems with the world. He also is the only character who has adapted to and is not affected by the changes taking place in Chinese society. Not only this, but his definition of happiness is different from the others’ definition of happiness. He believes that happiness is equal to music and not money. He knows what he truly wants and what will make him happy. For these reasons, I believe Wang Xiaolei is the happiest of the young people profiled in this documentary–he does what makes him happy.


Post #16: The Warrior Tradition

November 3, 2008

1. What are some elements of the “warrior tradition”?

As part of the warrior traditions, there are objects with inherent power like the Green Destiny in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the three small daggers in The House of Flying Daggers. These objects, although not expensive or fancy, seem to have power, giving the women fighters in the movie power—it is hard for anyone to beat the Invincible Sword Goddess when she fights with the Green Destiny. Not only this, but the characters seem to fight with a force within, an internal force—the chi. Some of the characters especially in Crouching Dragon and characters like Bruce Lee in martial arts films fight after building up their internal strength using pauses or loud sounds and also leave time periods between their moves. Last but not least, the warrior tradition only involves fighting with swords, hands or other metallic fighting objects—no advanced technology like guns are used in the fights.

2. How is the natural world depicted in relation to martial arts?

The natural world changes with the mood of the scenes in the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, when characters fight and steal things or out of true hatred, the natural world turns dark and gloomy. For example, when the Invincible Sword Goddess steals the Green Destiny, the surrounding atmosphere and sky turns dark and gloomy like when Jade Fox kills Wudan in the fight. On the other hand; however, the natural world turns more peaceful, quite and calm when the scenes depict peaceful fighting and love. When Li Mu Bai confesses his love to the old woman warrior who keeps peace, the two are surrounded by a peaceful bamboo forest. Not only this time, but when the Invincible Sword Goddess falls in love with the Mongolian tribesman, the natural world is calm and peaceful. Also, when Li Mu Bai fights the Invincible Sword Goddess, the characters are once again surrounded by a peaceful forest because their true intentions are not to hurt each other. In The House of Flying Daggers the natural world is not depicted much except for when the girl and the police man run away to the bamboo forest together. At first when things are peaceful and no one comes after them, the forest is depicted to be peaceful and the wind blows softly. Even when the fighting starts, the forest stays calm and quiet despite the sudden changes in camera angles to show how vulnerable the blind woman is to outside attack. Only in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the depiction of the natural world is related to the depiction of martial arts.

 3. How are gender roles important to the scenes we watched?

Jade Fox Fighting Scene (Dark Background)

Jade Fox Fighting Scene (Dark Background

 Although there are a relatively equal number of female and male fighters, discrimination against females in the two movies we watched is evident. In the fighting scene between Jade Fox and Li Mu Bai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Jade Fox’s reason for poisoning her old master and attacking his followers like Wudan and Li Mu Bai, is because she was discriminated against in the process of learning martial arts. As Jade Fox said, her master never taught her anything because she was a woman and instead she was used by him. This shows how women are inferior to men and how they are discriminated against. Not only this, but in the same movie, the Invincible Sword Goddess seems to go around dressed as a man. I think this is so because she believes that it is unacceptable to be a warrior as a woman. By dressing as a man and hiding her female characteristics, the Invincible Sword Goddess conveys the message that woman fighters are not accepted by society. This theme of women dressing up as men to fight in war is common. In the Disney movie “Mulan,” the main character disguises as a man to fight in war like how Fa Mu Lan’s voice in Kingston’s The Woman Warrior does. In the Woman Warrior Kingston states, “I put on my men’s clothes and armor and tied my hair back in a man’s fashion.” Fa Mu Lan probably did so in an attempt to be treated and respected equally as the men fighting in war (men were respected). Last but not least, when the Mongolian tribe leader takes the Invincible Sword Goddess’s comb, he tells all the other men that she is his. This shows how men consider women as property and have power over them. In The House of Flying Daggers women are inferior to men. Men, like the policeman, have power and authority and can pay for girls. The police man goes to the whore house and enjoys himself there with a bunch of girls surrounding him. When he throws two pieces of silver on the ground, asking for the new blind girl to come, the head woman at the whore house bows down and picks the silver up and obeys him. This shows how the men have more power in society. Even when the blind girl comes out, the man orders her to do things and takes her clothes off while she stands still. From these scenes it is evident that men have more power than women.  Although the characters seem to be living in a male dominated society and the men are a bit stronger in fighting than women, it seems as if they have similar skill levels in martial arts—the Invincible Sword Goddess and Jade Fox seem to be able to fight men and the blind woman seems to be able to fight the police man.

 4. What else caught your eye or is worth noting?

Mulan disguised as a man
Mulan disguised as a man

 The way in which the woman fighters in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fight is interesting. Jade Fox, the old peace keeping fighter, and the invincible sword goddess all fight with relatively small weapons that are kept in their hair or clothing. Because they do not have much power, I believe the female characters fight slyly with weapons hidden in their clothing, like the knife hidden in Jade Fox’s shoe. It is shown that female characters have trouble fighting with heavy weapons when the old peace keeping fighter fights with the Invincible Sword Goddess at the place where martial arts fighters train. In addition to this, it is surprising how the Invincible Sword Goddess, with all that power, still is controlled by her parents in marriage. Although she has ran away from her parents, it is surprising how she couldn’t fight against her parents’ will when she could steal the Green Destiny, fight all the men at the two-floor restaurant and so on. It shows that martial arts is a totally different world for these characters.