The Menlo Roundtable

Values Projected on Screen

Scholars have analyzed Ang Lee’s seminal wuxia film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as a transnational diasporic product with Chinese cultural subtexts that has invited wide-ranging responses from global audiences, and as a feminist reading of the women warriors’ identities and functions in relation to a possible narrative of empowerment.

I will examine the intersectionality of Ang Lee’s aforementioned cultural and feminist messages by analyzing the stories of women warriors in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the context of historical and cultural Chinese paradigms. In particular, I will aim to show that the “comb-chasing” to “invincible sword goddess” to “flying free” arc in Jen’s story can be analyzed through the framework of female empowerment; it offers, however, not a straightforward journey towards defying gender roles. Rather, it delineates that participating in a patriarchal society characterized by rigid, discriminatory, and all-pervasive rules and expectations under the Chinese concept of jianghu inherently prevents one from achieving true agency and freedom. As shown by Jen’s final leap off the Wudang mountains, the only path to escape from this process of interpellation is to withdraw from the world in pursuit of spiritual transcendence.

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