Does Ang Lee’s “The Wedding Banquet” Break Backs?


Once I was old enough, I spent my summer breaks at home instead of having to go to a day care. My parents both worked, so I wound up spending many of those days home alone. While I did have chores that needed doing and friends that I could see, most of my day was spent doing whatever I liked, and it was my first taste of independence.  

One summer day while flipping through channels, I came across this movie that showed a Chinese wedding. While they were dressed in western clothes, they were engaging in various wedding games that seemed foreign to me based on the Southern weddings I had attended up to that point.

I must have continued searching channels, but upon returning I was transfixed by what I saw. Two men entered an apartment and began to kiss, tear at each other’s clothes, and they were practically undressed by the time they got up stairs, where they unexpectedly found one of the men’s father. They proceeded to discreetly dress and tend to the older man’s health, hoping he hadn’t heard their discourse that would have led to intercourse.


While I had had my own experiences of this nature despite my youth (which is a long story on its own…), this was my first time seeing this in a film or in any way depicted on TV. I immediately identified with their need for secrecy, their fear of discovery, their worry of disappointing family. Basically, that was all reality for me and my young mind was both exhilarated at the chance to see other people, albeit fictional, with whom I could identify, and deathly afraid that this would also be the tragic path my life would follow because of being gay.

The movie was 1993’s “The Wedding Banquet,” by Ang Lee who is also known for “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and that other famous gay flick “Brokeback Mountain.”

The film is about a Taiwanese man who is living his life as a gay American openly and happily with his partner in New York City. Half a world away in his homeland, his family is constantly harping on him about getting married, going so far as to send potential brides to visit him. Eventually, this pressure builds to the point where Wai’s partner Simon suggests that he marry a Taiwanese tenant Wei Wei, who fears her time in America will soon end with deportation if she can’t find a job or a man.

The marriage of convenience turns out to be anything but when Wai’s parents insist on coming to visit America for the wedding. One thing leads to another in a comical way until finally the deception begins to break down everyone involved. While the truth of the matter is not easy to accept or divulge, it turns out to be for the best.

The obvious themes of being gay and coming out are apparent here, and they’re explored thoughtfully. They are also paired with the cultural ramifications. While it is Taiwanese customs that are challenged by Wai’s homosexuality, it’s easy to switch out any culture, even an American one, and the story’s applicability stands.

Wai’s scene coming out  to his mother is genuine, even considering the early 90’s setting. The difficulties he describes gay people have finding relationships when even straight people have a hard time are headed breaking, and his explanation that he was “born this way” rings true even decades before Lady Gaga made it a tagline. When Wai’s father comes out in his own way, telling Simon that he knows about them and that he just wants to make sure his son is taken care of, I cried. It was beautiful and simple.

And that is probably the film’s greatest strength, aside from its clever writing: the endearing characters. Every single one gets into your soul in some way. In fact, none of them are antagonists in a major way as much as they are all struggling against the situation. In that sense, you get a chance to understand each one, and that’s where they get to you, and you can feel what they are all going through.

While Ang Lee is more well known for “Brokeback Mountain” and its challenge to American culture in particular made it more controversial and famous, I feel like I prefer the tone of “The Wedding Banquet”.  While the inherent warning of the former suggests that America’s steadfast adherence to traditional masculinity and heterosexuality can indeed be back-breaking and life-shattering, the latter shows the benefits benefits of cultural progress, even if the price is accepting an emerging culture that has very little precedent.


Even more outstanding is that all is this was done in a time when marriage equality was unthinkable, even though gay marriage itself is not addressed. It’s just a shame that the themes explored in this film may not have appealed to a 90’s crowd that was still reeling from the AIDS crisis.

When I was explaining to my own partner last week about this film and how it still resonated with me, I was surprised that he knew what I was talking about (he doesn’t watch as many movies as I do) and produced a copy of it for us to watch. Finally watching it in its entirety bright back a flood of old feelings that I could more easily handle now that I can deal with that aspect if my life.

I am glad to say that my own life has turned out similarity to this film. While I had my own phase of being closeted, hiding from my parents who I really am, the truth has finally come out for us all. Like Wai, I have my own partner and my parents know him and see that I’m happy. It could have turned it much worse, and for many others the characters of “Brokeback Mountain” are an unfortunate reality. Perhaps “The Wedding Banquet” may be more of what we will see in the world.

While it may have been a naive fantasy back in the 90’s, the film is now truer to life. That is as much a testament to how our society has developed as it is to Ang Lee’s ability to capture this particular slice of life, what it’s like to be gay, and to find acceptance.


Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: The Chicken Dance

Miranda has had her apartment professionally decorated because she is desperately nervous about having an email man friend, and possibly more, stay as her house guest. The designer has a thing for matching furniture with tacky dancing frogs.

Carrie is also inducted as a house guest by Big through the ritual of being given a spare tooth brush. Big may be back in the picture, but mayhaps things will be better?

Back at Miranda’s place, Jeremy has arrived along with dating fatigue. As Miranda’s eyes gleam with hope of a blissful future with him, she sees his eyes light up when her interior designer arrives with one last piece of furniture.

Hoping to shut down this unplanned and unfair romance before it blossoms, Miranda mentions their dinner plans, but Jeremy is smitten and invites the designer. Miranda spends the entire evening watching a man slip through her fingers with no way to stop it.

A week later, Miranda is throwing him a going away party, because if you let a cute single guy you like stay with you, but he won’t date you, then he needs to get the hell out. Which Jeremy does, and with a fiancee to boot. Miranda’s decorator.

Ice, Miranda says, we need more ice. Presumably to pack around her heart.

As Miranda shares her woes and the girls discuss the bollocks that is love at first sight. Samantha escorts a guy up to Miranda’s party because she believes in knowing who you’ll hook up with at first sight.
Carrie consults Big about love at first sight. She always calls him when she needs a more cynical view on things. Big just sees a chance for sex, which is the same to him as romance.

There’s another 4th wall-breaking interview. I have seriously lost track of how many there are in the second season. I thought they were done.  I was wrong. This may be the last one.

For whatever reason, Carrie has been asked by the bride to be to write a poem to recite at the wedding. How tacky. What else is tacky? Samantha’s hook up from the other night was a rerun whom she remembers because when he climaxes he screams, “tug my hair”. Yep, she’s starting to make second rounds on the men of Manhattan.

Despite her disgust at Samantha’s escapades, Charlotte is distracted by her role as a bridesmaid and her chance to shine with a sexy black dress she got to choose on her own.

Nothing like a wedding to make singles go crazy.

Crazy is also what Big thinks of Carrie’s poem. I rather like the rhymes he composes, and he surprises everyone, including Carrie and myself by agreeing to attend the wedding with her. Carrie has high hopes about him being there with him which begin to go sour when he opts out of signing Carrie’s card.

We also miss out on a chance to learn his actual name. Drat.

Upon arrival at the wedding, the girls are immediately frustrated. Miranda ditches her post at the guest book, and Samantha makes a beeline for the bar because she runs into her rerun. Charlotte’s the only happy one, because she gets to wear a sexy dress walk down the aisle with a cute groomsman.

In a flash, it’s time for the reception, the fun, and Carrie’s poem. As Carrie prepares to bare her heart in front of people, the only one who matters to her, Big, steps out to take a call. Ouch.

The girls are all pretty pissy by now, except for Charlotte, but more on her in a bit.  Carrie’s getting fed up with Big evading involvement with her all day and Samantha isn’t pissy as much as pissed. She’s having a few drinks to dull out the sensation that’s she’s slept with every man in existence. Miranda is saddled with yet another mundane wedding duty: packing up wedding gifts. Her’s is extra heavy and spiteful. She’s regifting the tacky dancing frogs.

I love a good running joke.

All the while, Charlotte had been hitting it off with her aisle escort. While prepping the honeymoon suite they wind up having a roll in the rose petals. Then Charlotte meets the guy’s parents. While she’s convinced that she’s in the express lane to get married, her escort’s dad turns out to be a frisky fellow. When Charlotte tries to explain that she got felt up, she winds up being labeled slutty because of her dress and the whole affair crashes down in flames along with all the other sparks of romance that flare up at weddings like a viral infection.

So it seems Big was a bit too cynical for this whole event. All Carrie wanted was a date to dangle on her arm for the extent of a wedding, but Big knows better that weddings aren’t his style after having been through that stuff before. Carrie concedes that maybe she’s that type too and they leave together as the chicken dance begins.  But is she, really? Can she do romance in a cynical way? Can Big ever be the romantic type?

This episode turns out to be one of the more fun episodes in a while, and the wedding themed episodes in this series usually are. They capture that sense of dread and exhaustion that single people feel at these events that everyone who’s not single is oblivious to.

Season two hits a great stride for the rest of the season with some of the more entertaining adventures that can happen when you are out in the dating pool. While later seasons focus on relationships, there’s a feel at this point in the show that celebrates being single, despite the trials one can face.