"Happy Together (春光乍洩) ." Crazy Girl at Cinema. Accessed February 13, 2017. http://crazygirlatcinema.
In her work, Undercurrents: Queer Culture and Postcolonial Hong Kong, Helen Hok-Sze Leung opens with an exploration of the various uses of "queer" relative to her project of film analysis. First, she contends that gender and sexual expression are perpetually in flux ("non-fixity") and, as such, "queer" signifies resistance to dominant cultural scripts that claim a false normativity. Second, she establishes the conditions under which a work may be read as queer: (1) it engages queer characters or issues, (2) it was made by queers or those with a queer sensibility (i.e., queer-adjacent), (3) it encourages queer spectatorship (i.e., a queer audience), (4) it may be read as queer. In other words, the films treated in her work enable and/or explicitly represent diverse narratives of gender and sexuality.
I was struck most by Chapter 4 of Leung's work, "In Queer Memory," wherein the suicide and legacy of Leslie Cheung are read as examples of the commemoration, politicization, and oversimplification of queerness in public discourse (both past and present). Cheung's film career straddled two periods of Hong Kong's history – colonial rule and retrocession. His death was widely mourned as the ominous end of an era, while his life was celebrated (rather, idolized); "It was certainly unprecedented in Hong Kong for a public figure's death to prompt such an outpouring of affection while at the same time eliciting so much positive commentary on his sexuality" (86). The tongzhi community took advantage of this seemingly
The title of Leslie Cheung's gay flick, 春光乍洩 (literally, Emergence of the Scenery of Spring), is an idiom meaning "the exposure of something intimate or indecent." (Interesting that intimacy and indecency are often equated; perhaps it is simply indecent to be publicly intimate?) Indeed, I would argue that it is these forms of personal sexual meaning-making that transcend celebrity and draw a veil between our presentations and experiences – conjuring a form of queerness that exists perpetually on a knife's edge of privacy/publicity, intimacy/indecency. Consider "sham marriages" that most LGBT Westerners decry as oppressive and unnecessarily assimilatory while they, too, allow their sexualities to be institutionalized. While gays and lesbians allow the mainstream to subsume and erode their complexity, tongzhi adapt mainstream narratives to fit their lives (without necessarily having to give up that which makes them tongzhi). Within the interactionist model, Goffman would likely label this a form of cynical impression management; the self is an act, developed to give the right impression to different audiences. It is important to remember that the origination story of tongzhi as a sexual-communal identifier begins with a film festival. There's something to be said for the symbolism embedded within that mythos – the uses of scripts and performance in our social and sexual lives.