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    Ne me quitte pas

    Interesting, if not entirely unexpected:

    Oscar favourite Brokeback Mountain has been effectively banned from cinemas in China, it has been reported.

    Censors ruled the gay cowboy romance too controversial to be shown in the country where homosexuality is a taboo, industry paper Daily Variety said.

    Brokeback Mountain – by Taiwanese director Ang Lee – is a firm favourite to be among the Oscar nominations when they are revealed in the US on Tuesday.

    One wonders what Lee would have to say about that (via Gay Orbit):

    Director Ang Lee says Asian audiences are more accepting of gay subject matter than Americans.

    A Utah movie theatre, owned by a Mormon, pulled his new film, the gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain.

    “I think Asian society is more open,” said Ang. “I think there’s pressure to condemn [homosexuality] in their [Americans’] religion which causes their homophobia.”

    In a way, of course, it’s not fair to make such a comparison–theoretically, Lee could be right about Asia, and the PRC’s censors could be abnormally uptight and lack understanding of what people are willing to see.

    I wouldn’t buy it, though. One doesn’t hear a lot of open condemnation of homosexuality in Asia because people pretend it doesn’t exist. You still get people telling you, “Homosexuality is a Western thing–we don’t have it in Korea.” That doesn’t mean people are accepting, though (at least in Japan) I do think it means that as long as you’re willing to be ultra-discreet, your likely to be able to live without really encountering open hostility.

    It’s important to note, though, that that tradeoff is forced here in ways it isn’t in the States. In America, your choices are limited if you want to live somewhere where you can be a complete, 24/7 flamer and have lots of gay people and institutions at your disposal; but such places do exist, and finding out where they are is very easy. Everyone in America has heard of New York. You can choose to stay in a more socially conservative environment and be closeted to a greater or lesser degree if you like, but you don’t have to.

    In Japan, by contrast, my area of Tokyo is as good as it gets. There are no gay neighborhoods to speak of. There are quite a few areas with bars, of which Shinjuku 2-chome is the largest. Gay guys live in concentrations there and in certain parts of Nakano and perhaps elsewhere. But the social stigma attached to not marrying and having children is very pronounced, and it comes at you from all sides if you’re Japanese. I’ve never lived in Taiwan or Korea, but friends from there tell me it’s basically the same. People we know in Malaysia and Indonesia do have their bars raided; and for the Muslims, their religion is no more hot on homosexuality than Christianity is. (Ang Lee does remember that Asia doesn’t stop at Tokyo, Taipei, and Hong Kong, doesn’t he?)

    So while Lee is Asian and I am not, I don’t think he has any idea what he’s talking about. One final note: Asian viewers, like foreign viewers in many other places, are often entertained by sexual and other behavior in pop-culture artifacts that they think shows what a crazy, disorderly, hedonistic place the West (especially the US) is. That says nothing about how they would react to similar behavior by their children, neighbors, or coworkers.

    7 Responses to “Ne me quitte pas”

    1. John Mahoney says:

      Sean,

      I assume that Buddism and Shintoism are “agnostic” when it comes to homosexuality?

      Do you think that socially conservative christians would still have a problem with gays if the bible had remained silent on the subject? I tend to think they would.

      Read you every day!

      John

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Thanks!

      I think it’s dangerous to speculate about what people would or would not believe if something had been written differently a millennium or two ago. Customs and taboos surrounding sex in any culture are rooted to some extent in biology. The advent of the health class filmstrip that shows competing spermatozoa clustered around an ovum, to be screened for jaded pre-teens, was very recent. Fertility and infertility have been largely a mystery throughout the ages, and the protections of civilization against the elements are fragile; therefore, it was imperative to find and codify ways to make sure children were (1) manufactured and (2) provided for.

      That’s as true of the East as it is of the West. That there are no proscriptions against homosexuality in the sacred texts only means that they were considered social rather than spiritual. It doesn’t mean they didn’t (and don’t) exist. The trade-off we’ve made in the West is that we’re willing to argue about these things–that means that we actually hear people saying in public that we’re wrecking civilization, but we also get the chance to argue back that the drug addicts and pedophiles don’t represent gay life and to agitate for legal recognition of our households. In a free society, the two go together.

    3. tanoki says:

      I apologize in advance for interrupting this interesting exchange (and I say that not in a mocking sort of way), but I stumbled upon a pretty funny trailer for a “new movie” dubbed “Brokeback Squadron.” Don’t worry. It’s not a sleazy video or link to a site full of malicious code.

      http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2688624?htv=12&htv=12

      Enjoy.

    4. Internet Ronin says:

      Taiwan legalized gay marriage in 2003.

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      Did that actually go through? There was a blizzard of articles a few years ago about how they were planning a new human rights bill or something…and then I don’t remember hearing that it had actually passed in the legislature or been enacted. My Taiwanese friends haven’t brought it up, and I can’t find a link to any story that says so, either. Do you have one?

      And in any case, governments can be much more socially liberal than their constituents. The guys I know from Taiwan still say that most people aren’t out; it may be that people don’t go as ballistic over same-sex intercourse as some Westerners do, but the idea that you would fall in love and set up a household with another gay person appears to be very uncommon, even among people in Taipei and other major cities. And besides, while Lee may be Taiwanese, he was talking about “Asia” as if it were culturally homogeneous.

    6. monocrat says:

      Insofar as Ang seems (by your description) to happily go on about something whilst being completely blinded to reality, wouldn’t “Madeleine” have been a more appropriate Brel song to reference? Less obvious, by far, though.

    7. Sean Kinsell says:

      tanoki:

      Thanks for the link. I haven’t gotten it to open yet, but I’ll take your word for it that my sensibilities won’t be subjected to too much shock. : )

      monocrat

      Right, but I was thinking more of the famous “I wish I knew how to quit you” (or “Why can’t I quit you?” or whatever it is…I haven’t read the story for a while and haven’t seen the movie at all yet) line. Besides which, um, hello–PRIORITIES? “Ne me quitte pas” has an English version by Dusty Springfield (“If You Go Away”). Bringing Dusty into the conversation is always more important than trivialities such as thematic coherence.

      (BTW, check your e-mail, man.)

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