The True Beauty of Asia: Review The Joy Luck Club

the_joy_luck_clubMany award-winning and commercial successful movies directed by Asian-born male directors, Ang Lee, Hou Hsiao-hsian, Yimou Chang, Kurozawa Akira, Yasujiro Ozu…to name just a few, their movies provides the beauty of Asia to Western audiences. Yet, it is rather refreshing and compelling to review the Joy Luck Club.  The Joy Luck Club offers an honest and  stunning vision oriented from multiple Asian women’s narration. To express thoroughly the subtle and sublime strength of these women and of everyone, which is significant out from the other films, The Joy Luck Club is worth to be viewing again. (Read below and view the Joy Luck Club best quality clip)

Amy Tan recently lectured at Ohio University on 27th February. Photo Credit: Erica Yoon

Amy Tan recently lectured at Ohio University on 27th February. Photo Credit: Erica Yoon

Well-known for her novel The Joy Luck Club which became a popular movie, Amy Tan has the keen insight of the cross-cultural clash and to explore the strength inhabited in it. Adapted from her best-selling novel, contributed by director Wayne Wang and screenwriter Ronald Bass, The Joy Luck Club captures the mixed cultural experience as being an Asian woman in modern time, as well as the complex role of being an Asian daughter to deal with the haunted tradition. Yet, the Joy Luck Club attracts to audiences beyond cultural background and gender. The wisdom of life experience embedded in this story is universal.

Intertwined with eight women’s lives which include four mothers who immigrated from China to the America before World War II, the Joy Luck Club’s narration is not only ingrained in the Asian-American viewpoint, but presenting multiple-cultural experience. Directed from female perspective of how they manage to overcome the hardships in life, not just for joy or luck, this film shows the tactic of life wisdom. The inner power of these mothers and their daughters hold, compose a universal story.

All the women in The Joy Luck Club are unique and with their own characteristics. Acted by many global recognized actors:The four mothers: Suyuan (Kieu Chinh of “Riot in the Streets”), Lindo (Tsai Chin, heard recently in “Titan A.E.”), Ying Ying (France Nuyen), An Mei (Lisa Lu). The grandmother, An Mei’s mother (Vivien Wu, starred in “The Last Emperor”)
The four daughters: June (Ming-Na Wen), Waverly (Tamlyn Tomita, who starred in the “Karate Kid”), Lena (Lauren Tom), and An Mei’s daughter Rose (Rosalind Chao).

Underlying their stories, a major issue which never being told yet shadowed these women’s destiny of their past, was the Three Follows Doctrine for women in Confucianism: Firstly, follow the father before marriage; Second, follow the husband after marriage, and the last but not the least, follow the son if the husband dies. Women in such a traditional society were not valued much, and often worse than the son they bore. These mothers, in the Joy Luck Club movie, some of them (Ying Ying and An-Mei’s mother) actually bore a son, which was supposed to be fulfilled the duty as a good wife. But then, they were not treated as they should deserve, from people, husband and society: the respect.

Being a mother, surrounded by the restricted Confucianism, is not an easy task.  In striving, these women are not permitted to grow naturally and enjoy experiences. Although the landscape and the scenery that the movie captured were poetic, even during the war time, yet behind the scene something embedded is seemed to intensify the sense of unfairness. The mothers were suffered, their collective trauma of lacking self-identity in the patriarchy circumstance. They had to give up the hope for the life of their own.

If, any of them in that old society decided to choose to follow her own mind, such as the young Lindo, would be seen rebellious and being abandoned. But Lindo and any characters in this film eventually made her own choice and extend her new life. These are lucky cases, although their daughters born in new environment hardly to envision what was behind their mothers’ expectation.

Of the mothers’ new life in a place where encouraged more personal freedom, the daughters became their hope. Lindo bragged about her daughter Waverly being the chess champion among her peers, while Suyuan pressured her daughter June to be the winner of piano in talent competition. The Asian daughters seem usually get coerced into excelling at studying or developing talent. However, it cannot be too simply to label their folks as so-called “tiger-mother.” These women came from a less equipped environment and the toughness they hold was a survival skill, especially in the new culture. Yet, the daughters’ life seems to be tied inevitably to the dysfunctional history. How does flawed history have to impact on life for a new generation? The mothers’ hope as to re-live or transfer their own dreams and thwarted aspirations onto their daughters.

It appears that new life for the mothers freed by its absence of the past cultural baggage hindering those women of the present. Mysteriously, the daughters even born and educated in the new culture of modern time, unaware but repeat some of their grandmother’s submissive pattern. Lena’s broken marriage and Rose’s unsure her true value, had to rely on their (comparatively traditional) mothers to enlighten them – what was haunted them in spirit subconsciously – to enlighten them the inner-power to depart from old traditional path.

The sublime beauty of this movie as well as the novel, is to expose the strength of the women confronting the suffocated circumstances in a very personal angel, of how to break through a window with brighter vision for themselves. In this sense, the women’s life in this novel could be read more than twice, timeless and universal.

(Best Quality Clip From The Joy Luck Club from Kirke S on Youtube)

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7 thoughts on “The True Beauty of Asia: Review The Joy Luck Club

  1. Very interesting and provocative post.
    Most significant for me, the emphasis of the effects of Confucianism following these women to America and into the present. I never thought about that before.
    Loved The Joy Luck Club, less so Amy Tan’s later books. But Amy Tan, as she herself has written, is a Chinese-American, emphasis on both aspects. If you haven’t read her non-fiction book on writing and much of her own biography, The Opposite of Fate, I really think it would be of value to you, and much interest. I just read it for the third time!

    • Thank you and I will definately check The Opposite of Fate it out. As for the Joy Luck Club i put some observation which is based on the cultures I experienced in the Far East and then living in San Francisco for years. I read the book & saw the movie and quite relate to both the mothers and the daughters. Each of these women all hope to free and find herself, the ego. It is just much less of a stereotyping Asian women images that I think it deserves thumb up.

  2. Thanks for dropping by and reading some of my posts on Chinese American culture. As for Amy Tan – she’s an interesting Chinese American writer. I’m an English major and I just finished my thesis on Asian American literature. The funny thing is, when a lot people think of Asian American literature, they do think of Amy Tan. However, in terms of being considering a forerunner in the literary circles, she does not often fall under the “real” Asian American literature that we study in college (yes though to high school students). Part of this is because literary critics feel her books rely too much on Oriental stereotyping and exoticism. Personally, I have read Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” which I liked decently during high school, but I must agree that I definitely prefer Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior” over Amy Tan’s work. I feel Kingston’s portrayal of Asian America is much more complex and rich, while Tan’s work feels more predictable and generic. Again – I did like the one book of Tan’s I did read, but it’s not my all-time favorite Asian American book.

    • I agree with you in some points as to that part of Amy Tan’s narration is over-focused on the exotic oriental vibe. Like picturing a fantasy land of China. Altough a positive and nice drawing, but which is also out from the reality. Thanks for the sharing your readings. I read Edward Said’s Orientalism, which was my school (SFAI)’s requirement but i did find it quite useful to look things through a pair of clear lenses, not blind by the colour.

  3. Very thoughtful post. I am thinking back to when I read “The Joy Luck Club” and I think it’s about time I read it again! I especially like when you ask: “How does flawed history have to impact on life for a new generation?” This question haunts me regularly as I continue to process the pasts of my elders, a tough question indeed. I’ll keep in mind any literature out there on this thought.


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