Marginality in Negotiation: Emasculated Identity, Masculinities and Genre in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain”


In his discussion of framing in "The Parergon" and his notion of the supplement, Jacques Derrida theorises a legitimate place and role for marginality, which frames the condition of existence for that which constitutes the centre. With the mission of reinventing and re-examining the specific cultural aesthetics of film genres, which presume a certain transnational universalism across spatial-temporal boundaries, Ang Lee's oeuvre has rejunvenated and re-invigorated transnational cinema, as well as transnational canons and genres, while simultaneously also negotiating and adapting the traditional icons and images in new contexts. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), the martial arts genre was endowed upon with a twist --- the sweeping mood of the feminist love story in the social milieu of the mandarin literati gently replacing the lethal action of the sword. Once again, in 2005, twisting another genre that is revered in American history, the Western, Ang Lee created uproar with the homoerotic content that is an adaptation of Annie Proulx's short story, Brokeback Mountain. In art, the form ameliorates delivery of the content. The universality of form in subversion provides for a manoeuvre of challenging the conventions of the different forms of masculinity in the two films. In successfully employing the two film genres as a masquerade, challenging and breaking away with the conventions and reinventing the genres with new themes and visuals, Ang Lee has sabotaged the identity of both the Chinese knight-errant and the Western cowboy, undermining and marginalising their masculinities for a reinvention of new narrative meaning.

Author Information
Anita Chi-Kwan Lee, Tung Wah College, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2013
Stream: Arts & Humanities

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