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Title:Imagined nation and imagined womanhood in the Shaw Brothers' musicals
Author(s):Chiang, I-In
Director of Research:Xu, Gary G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Xu, Gary G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Tierney, Robert; Koshy, Susan; Capino, Jose B
Department / Program:E. Asian Languages & Cultures
Discipline:E. Asian Languages & Cultures
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):The Shaw Brothers
Historical epics
Huangmei films
Nation and Gender
Imagined China
The matriarch
Chinese femme fatale
Abstract:My dissertation looks at Shaw Brothers’ historical epics and huangmei musicals that dominated the Chinese film market in the 1960s. Shaw Brothers’ historical epics and huangmei musicals often center on female characters. Sometimes the male protagonist is cross-dressed by actresses. Hence they are categorized as the female genre or the feminine genre. The female genre was pervasive not only in Hong Kong, but also in diasporic Chinese film markets including Taiwan (Republic of China), Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and North America. In this genre, the female characters are prominent. Although stories of the female genre take place in historical Chinese that is understood as a patriarchal society, in movies of the female genre, women are depicted to be powerful. My dissertation looks at the female genre from different aspects. I contend that the female genre is a product of its social-historical juncture of the 1960s. On the one hand, the genre reflects the Cold War atmosphere between Mainland China (People’s Republic of China) and Taiwan (ROC). The female characters are embodiment of an imagined nation to the Chinese diasporic audiences. On the other hand, the genre reflects social changes of Hong Kong after World War II. The female characters symbolize modern women who were gradually getting autonomous under social transition. However, though the female genre portrays prominent and autonomous women, I argue that these are after all imaginations because women in the feminine genre eventually have to be incorporated and disciplined under patriarchy. My dissertation consists of four core chapters. Chapter one looks at the matriarch as an embodiment of the imagined nation China for the diasporic audiences. I argue that in the female genre, the image of homeland is gendered female. The matriarch symbolizes the motherland that is in danger and mobilizes the audiences to be loyal subjects of the imagined nation China. In chapter two I investigate gender in terms of two levels of cross-dressing—women who disguise as a man on the first level, and actresses who cross-dress as male protagonist on the second level. I argue that the disguised women symbolize the modern women who transgress the gender boundaries. Though audiences experience excitement of transgression from these daring women, these women eventually have to be disciplined and confined. By looking at the cross-dressed male protagonists, I argue that they perform the “ideal men.” Gender is redefined in the female genre that femininity is considered to be superior to masculinity. Chapter three looks at how stories of the femme fatales in Chinese literature/history are retold in the female genre. History is re-presented in the female genre that the femme fatales are either redeemed or are portrayed with a more sympathetic perspective. I contend that the femme fatales symbolize the modern women who cannot be confined. And in the movies these dangerous women eventually have to be incorporated to support the patriarchy. The forth chapter investigates how the Shaw Brothers construct a modern empire of cinema from this genre of the past. I delve into Southern Screen Illustrated, the official magazine published by Shaw Brothers, and look at how Shaw Brothers publicizes the movies, the movie stars, and Shaw’s studio. I contend that the female genre is a genre that represents Shaw Brothers glorious studio system as well as Shaw Brothers’ modern empire.
Issue Date:2016-12-02
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 I-In Chiang
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-03-01
Date Deposited:2016-12

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