Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a feminist action film with exquisitely choreographed fighting scenes with potent gender commentary throughout the film. It focuses on the lives of three different strong, assertive and outspoken women who take lives on different paths each with her own parallel obstacles. Woman struggles to make her dreams come true. They encounter Western media’s pervasive stereotypes of Asian women as docile and subservient. The film shows how our societies are still infested with sexist gender roles. It portrays how the societies and more so the females happiness and enlightenment is barred by sexism. The film empowers women to be true to themselves.
Gender segregation is a major poison in most of our societies. Male chauvinism has led our societies almost to an endless pit. Women are seen to be subject to men. They are expected to get married when they are young, give birth to children, take good care of their husbands and depend on them for every support. They should be nurturing, loving and gentle. They should obey whatever their husbands say without disapproval, support men in their entire life and never be too unruly or outspoken. The penalty for disobeying these norms was severe punishment. But in this film, women came out to fight against the hypocrisy and strains of sexism. They struggle to obey traditions at the same time resist patriarch norms.
Shu Lien a famous warrior is unable to follow her heart. Culture identity did not allow this. As much as women were allowed to be warriors, being heroes in the field was unimaginable. Only men were supposed to fight and become heroes. She knows what she is capable of but she can’t because she is tied by the loyalty, duty, and patriarchal norms. This caused her to develop a quiet strength and dignity. Because of this, she develops a habit of camouflage. A governess by day, a thief and a murderer by night. She has developed feelings for Mu Bai an accomplished Wudang swordsman. Their feelings for each other is not acknowledged or acted on. The men are the ones who should open up and declares their love for women according to the tradition. This forces Shu Lien to keep her feelings hoping one day Mu Bai might approach her and tell her his love for her. Shu Lie is asked by her admirer to transport his sword also called Green Destiny to the city of Peking as a gift for their friend Sir Te. Women in the society are supposed to respect and obey men. Shu Lien accepts her friends request regardless of the dangers she knew she would face on the way. She sets on her mission to deliver the sword. She meets Jen at Te’s estate. A woman yearning for adventure but is tied by an arranged marriage. Consumption of what we see in the media affects our way of thinking. Once we admire an actor or actress from the films, we start to develop some desires to be just like them. To follow their footsteps. This happens with Jen when she meets Shu Lien. Being her role model, she envies Shu Lien’s lifestyle (Ang, 2000).
When the sword is stolen at night by a masked thief. Shu Lien and her admirer seek the help of a police investigator and his daughter May. This shows how women are coming up. The society had segregated women on the issue of job careers. Some careers like police officers were left for only men, May a female becomes the police officer who assists Shu Lien and the admirer in fighting and bringing the sword back. Women were not allowed to study Wudang fighting skills. It was purely for men. Jen’s heart had been craving for these skills for a very long time. She decides to study Wudang manual secretly. Fox comes to realize this after seeing Jen fights Mu Bai. She realizes that Jen knows the skills and can fight better than her. She decides to flee with her after killing Tsai.
Jen a governor’s daughter and secrets postage of Jade Fox steals the show. She is ambitious to be able to make her own decisions and live her own life. Decisions were made to women by men. Whatever decision you were made for was final. Jen goes against this by refusing to obey or be submissive to anyone. She strives to be a great fierce warrior. Women were not believed to be able to become great and supper in the war field. But Jen vowed to break the chains of gendered aristocratic expectations put on her by her family and the society. She develops characters like fierceness, impetuous and strong will. These were characters associated with men not women. She admires Shu Lien state of life.
Jen: “it must be exciting to be a fighter: to be totally free,” The society ties women; they are not free to exercise their rights.
Shu Lien:” Fighters have rules too: friendship, trust integrity. Without rules, we wouldn’t survive long.”
Shu Lien’s statement explains to Jen just how rules and traditions are important and need to be obeyed and followed. Being driven by her admirations to Shu Lien and looking at her as her role model, Jen strives to live the life of a warrior. Parents were considered to be responsible for choosing suitors’ for their children. Jens parents were not left behind in this. They chose a suitor for Jen, a man from a noble family to boost her father’s business. Jen retaliates on this; she doesn’t want to be a party to an arranged marriage. She decides to fight for freedom of being let to love and marry a man of her choice and dream. She plans against all odds and flee away in the night of her wedding. She goose with Lo, the love of her life through the help of Shu Lien. Because of the ties and bonds of the tradition, Jen laments her monotonous future as an aristocratic wife. She realizes that she would still be immersed in patriarchy whether she marries a nobleman or a rebel. She sees herself as being her own person and never be a docile or a servile woman as expected by the society. Jen and Shu Lien become friends. At one time they engage themselves in a discussion about gender and marriage. How the society value it as the most important step in a woman’s life ( Ang, 2000).
Jen:” l wish I were like the heroes in the books I read, like you and Li Mu Bai, I guess am happy to be marrying. But to be free to live my own life, to choose whom I love, that is true happiness.”
Married women were not allowed to roam around, that’s why Jen questions Shu Lien if she is married but realizes that it won’t be possible for her to roam around freely
Men are respected in all states and aspects, whether dead or alive. Shu Lien follows her fiancé Li Mu Bai’s request even though he is already dead through murder. She pursues her love for him. She encourages Jen by this story when Jen thought that the key to her freedom was to follow warrior’s path.
Shu Lien:” So the freedoms you talk about, I too desire it. But l have never tasted it.
Shu Lien laments on how the society ties them, how she wishes to be free and enjoy their lives freely without the ties.
On the other hand, Shu Lie does not approve Mu Bai’s idea of training Jen into the Wudang way. This is after Li Mu Bai had realized the capacity of Jen’s skills.Shu Lien tells him that women are not accepted. He advocates for an exception only to realize the ridiculousness of stereotypical gender roles.
In the end, they both suffer their own consequences. Each one of them wanted to repress her desires.Shu Lie suffers the pain of repressing her desires while Jen pays the price by not repressing her desires. But most of those who break rules of tradition doesn't go unpunished. They pay the price. Jen unable to cope up with the damage caused by her desire for freedom, she decides to commit suicide by falling from the balcony to a cliff. This just shows how women yearn for liberation. Jen opted to do anything to get it. Sensing defeat, she decides to liberate herself through death rather than live to see the oppression of women. She refused to be tied down by the norms. She decided to embrace individualism by rejecting society norms. She didn't want to obey the norms. Instead, she wanted to follow her heart to live a life of her own. She does exactly that at the end of the film when Shu Lien tells her that she should remain herself no matter what happens. This is after they reconcile. This disagrees with the tradition believe of the women characters. They can be their fellows’ keepers and can reconcile and be friends again no matter the depth of the grudge. They can still nurture and support one another (Ang, 2000).
Gender stereotype has been a major problem in the society for a very long time. Women have been tied in it and it became a great struggle to remove the York from their neck. Women have struggle for gender equality till they now see the fruit of their labor. The film industry is not left behind in this. Most of the females who inspire the young generation are in the film industry. They have made women to be heard but not just seen. This is portrayed in most of the Chinese literature. Strong women figures have become warriors and sword men. They defend honors and loyalty with the men. This has made it possible for other parts of the world to have a different image of the Chinese women and other women at large. Most female film characters does not shutter gender stereotype. Due to this they succumb to stereotypical gender roles. Most of women in action movies serve as props to the male actors. Subsequently, they don’t become heroes. But women are stars in this film. Surprisingly, they are from different socio- economic status. Men also are there but the women are not objectified by the male gaze. They don’t sacrifice their identity to love or engage in a romantic relationship. The film has shown how women stuck to their weapons till the last minute unlike other films where women give up the last minute and loose their lives because of love or sympathy. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the film that anyone would what to watch over and over.
Ang Lee, (2000). Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, wuxia Film