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The Role Of Homosexuality In East Palace, West Palace

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East Palace, West Palace (1996) is a film made by Zhang Yuan, a renowned Chinese independent filmmaker widely known as “one of the Sixth Generation pioneers of illegal cinema” (Bordwell and Thompson, 2010, p.640). Despite international critical acclaim, the film was banned in China due to its controversial portrayal of homosexuality and being part of “an underground movement existing outside the state studio system” (Lim, 2006, p.30). This essay will examine how East Palace, West Palace’s depiction of a homosexual persecuted-persecutor relationship between A Lan and Shi Xiaohua allegorizes “the relationship between the artist-intellectual and the state”, while the use of masochism serves to undermine state authority by granting the masochistic subject agency despite being in a position of weakness. (Lim, 2006, p.70).…show more content…
Although “homosexuality was never directly criminalized” in China, an “anti-hooliganism law…was often used to persecute or intimidate gay men” (UNDP, 2014). This persecution is shown in the opening of the film, which depicts homosexual men routinely harassed for ‘hooliganism’, stigmatized as “disgusting” and physically abused by the police - physical manifestations of state authority. The effeminate depiction of A Lan in contrast to the masculine Shi Xiaohua further reinforces the unequal power relationship between the persecuted and the persecutor by ascribing the marginalized homosexual subject a “structurally submissive discursive position” vis-à-vis the state’s control (Lim, 2006,
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