Sanitized Modernities: Love and Romance in Chinese Cinemas
Modernity is often negotiated in the field of gender and sexuality. In my paper, I aim to explore the performances of the modern gendered self in three movies from “Greater China”: Love Is Not Blind (China, 2011), You Are the Apple of My Eye (Taiwan 2011), and Love in a Puff (Hong Kong 2010).
My aim here is not to reflect upon differences between these three localities, but rather, to trace their correspondences, ultimately to demonstrate how in all three movies we can observe what I would call a sanitized modernity. In such representations, if not celebrations, of modernity, cities are remarkably, impeccably clean: the Confucian gaze of the parents seems nearly absent, relationships are troubled but will in the end, often with the help of a gay man, come to a cleansed fruition…
Bruno Latour proclaims that we have never been modern, but it may be more accurate to think that modernity will never be us. It appears more like a ghost that trails perpetually forward; at times we can even breathe it, at other moments we almost lose its sight. And we move in different directions, at different speeds – contingent on time and space. To call some of these trajectories “alternative” modernities is imperative but inadequate, given the absence of one hegemonic version of modernity in the world we are living.
A more pertinent question, for me, is what form these alternatives are taking, and during the processes what gets validated, and what not. Investigating this particular case of China, I ask: How are these sanitized modernities articulated in contemporary Chinese cinemas through the prism of youth, in all their entanglements with gender and sexuality, love and romance? Would these offer possible modes of critique vis-à-vis heteronormative representations, or are they merely reifying those? Do they offer other possibilities to perform modernity in a century that is all too often hailed as the “Asian century”? Through a close analysis of the three movies I hope to find answers to these questions.