EALC 150: Global Chinese Cinema
Section: 25653, Lasmana
Film Analysis 1: Martial Arts
March 13, 2015
Disciples… Opportunists, Cheaters, and Double Edge Blades
Ang Lee’s film the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an early 2000s film set in the Qing Dynasty. Li Mu Bai is a legendary hero and disciple of Wudang. Jed Fox; a woman who desired to be Wudang student, murders Bai’s master with poison and Bai promise to avenge him. Jade makes Jen, daughter of an affluent family her disciple. On the other hand, Yu Shu Lien, a female warrior and replacement of Weng, Bai’s bother of arms, accompany him on his journey. They both developed feelings for each other, but they never acknowledged or acted on them because she was arranged to marry his brother in arms.
Jen is destined for an arranged marriage, but she is deeply in love with Lo, a vigilante who stole not only Jen's comb, but also her heart. However, she betrays her master by secretly studying the Wudang manual and surpassing Jed Fox’s skills. Eventually, she steals the Green Destiny and contemplates the idea of becoming Bai’s student. She has the potential; nevertheless, she is very spontaneous and does not have the discipline to be a worthy disciple. Jen gets involved in a livid dispute and engages in a duel Lien and Bai.
Afterward, Jed Fox appears suddenly and attacks everyone with poisoned darts. Bai blocks almost all the darts and avenges his master's death by mortally wounding her. Unfortunately, one of the poisonous darts got through to Bai. Finally, he confesses his love for Shu Lien with his last breath.
What is often seen as a simple Romantic Martial Arts film can be a double edge blade. The movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon summons common ideologies of gender politics to a duel. Ang Lee’s film portrays an educated, liberal, and indomitable woman while contradicting the existing stereotypes such as piety, purity, and submission. In the time frame that the movie is set, religion and religious beliefs are heavily encouraged among women. Unlike intellectual knowledge, religion controls women longings. Along piousness ideals, purity is also encrypted into women’s brain. For a woman, it is forbidden to explore her sexuality before her marriage. Not only are women not allowed to explore their sexuality, but also they are expected to be submissive. In other words, they were expected to be obedient because it is the belief that men are superior by nature.
This movie targets the existing stereotypical piety virtue of a woman from the very beginning. Men oppress women by forcing them to live an orderly, pious life. An educated woman is an anomaly. For the most part, women in the time frame of the movie are illiterate. A woman is to occupy her mind meditating, praying, or thinking about her future husband not reading and writing. Jen has read many novels on the adventures of Lien and Bai and has mastered calligraphy. Intellectual knowledge vivifies womanhood and challenges men’s control over women.
When Lien first meets Jen, Jen expresses her desired to her to be “free”. At first, this dialog may not seem threating to the piety aspect, but it is. Ten minutes later, Jen steals the Green Destiny, and when Jen meets Lien again, she starts expressing her longings immediately one more time. She wants true happiness. For her, true happiness is not being a traditional wife, it is having the ability do as she pleases and to choose whom to love.
It is not very unusual for a woman to have those desires.“ The freedom you talk about, I too desire it,” says Lien. What is uncommon is for Jen to be disclosing such intimate yearnings to a stranger and certainly acting on them. Jen’s ability to read and write defies the common perception illiterate women demonstrating an opposite image of the ordinary women. They supposed to be analphabets and not be seeking a life full of adventures. They are presumed to accept the crafted life constructed by her parents and…