Attendees: Raj, Timmy, Asy, Fiona, Mya, Vicky, Reynard, Shawn, Aaron, Henry, Olivia.
We discussed The Chinese Botantist’s Daughters, directed and written by Dai Sijie, a French-Chinese, who writes in French, although he is a Chinese national. The themes that we talked about: nature/location, religion, music/soundtrack, rebellion, politics, race, and family.
In particular, we looked closely at the drug scene in the steamroom where hallucinogens are used to induce buried memories (of the Western mother), prompting Liming to cut her hair short and don a man’s uniform; why are drugs associated with homosexuality? And why does Liming fall into a heteronormative narrative of being a “man”?
We also talked about the phallic symbols in the movie and how male sexual desire needed to be extirpated in order for lesbian love to rise.
We also reached a conclusion that the rebellious actions are sometimes pointless and, coupled with the paradisal locale, the Western corruption into a carefully cultivated isle can be read allergically as serpent destroying Eden (Liming as the serpent, An as Eve, her brother as Adam, and the father who created the isle as God) or politically as Pro-China. The political aspects, we concluded, are so patent in the movie that we didn’t believe Dai Sijie when he claimed that his movies aren’t political.
Furthermore, in the last scene, which moved many of us, an educator and religious leaders support the lesbian couple; we read this as a form of resistance against the state laws. We thought the “Bury the Gays” theme deserves 10000 eye-roll, but, like all tragedies, their deaths make the movie more poignant.