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Woman, fetish, particularism: Articulating Chinese cinema with a cross-cultural problematic

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Since the 1920s and 1930s, commodified screen presences of woman have fascinated Chinese film audiences. When communism became the reigning ideology in the People's Republic, Chinese cinema elsewhere continued to thrive by investing in the power of women as fetishized objects. In the new era of prosperity since the 1980s, mainland Chinese filmic representations, now often reflecting the influences of Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as Hollywood, seem to have returned to such objectification with a vengeance, with female superstars cannibalizing attention not only as actresses but also, frequently, as multi-million-dollar screen goddesses promoting high-end merchandise. By juxtaposing key moments in Chinese cinema's approach to woman with critiques of the (hetero)sexual politics of representation in 1970s and 1980s Anglo-American feminist film theory, this essay asks how relations among film, woman and commodity fetishism might be rethought in a cross-cultural context in which (the rhetorical claim to) particularism has become so morally dominant.

Keywords: commodification; commodity; defetishizing; fetish(ism); particularism; the visual field; visuality

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jcc.1.3.209_7

Affiliations: Brown University.

Publication date: September 18, 2007

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Chinese Cinemas is a major refereed academic publication devoted to the study of Chinese film, drawing on the recent world-wide growth of interest in Chinese cinemas. An incredibly diverse range of films has emerged from all parts of the Chinese-speaking world over the last few years, with an ever increasing number of border-crossing collaborative efforts prominent among them. These exciting developments provide abundant ground for academic research.
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