should start marketing fake anniversary cards in China, because it is clearly a
very real phenomenon. For serious social and economic reasons, China’s gay men
and lesbians are entering into marriages of convenience, but quite
undestandably, they try to hold out for a fake spouse that will also be a good
friend. An unlikely form of courtship is documented in Sophia Luvarà’s Inside the Chinese Closet (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York.
is quite popular in his circle, but he has largely curtailed his social life,
in order to find a fake wife, per his father’s instructions. He came out with
his parents, but that is as far as they will let him take it. His father is particularly
adamant insisting he marry a fake wife (they use precisely those terms) to keep
up appearances and more importantly to procreate. Instead of having fun, he now
attends meet-ups for gays and lesbians looking for romantically fake but very
real partners. After all, they will be legally joined and most likely will have
to fake it together at family and work functions.
already has a fake husband, but her parents are still pushing her to have
children. Since this apparently will not happen in a biological fashion, they
have actively explored illegal adoption avenues on her behalf. It is a sore
subject, because Cherry is not similarly inclined. She entered into her fake
marriage so she could live with her real partner in peace.
to say, there is no recognition of same sex marriage in China. Homosexuality
was demonized under Mao as a pathological manifestation of western depravity,
but laws were relaxed in the late 1990s. Yet LGBT content is still routinely
censored in the media (along with political, historical, and hetero erotic
content). That is a little helpful context Luvarà might have incorporated.
her focus on Andy and Cherry is arguably too narrow. We understand they are
stuck in awkward positions, but the reasons why are only briefly explored. The
two primary causes of the pressure their parents so obviously feel are China’s
absence of economic safety nets and the One Child Policy. Even today, grown
children are largely expected to care for their parents in retirement. With justification,
Andy and Cherry’s parent worry who will care for them if they have no children
of their own. Despite some loosening of the law, most parents still only get
one child, regardless of their orientation, who becomes the sole hope for
grandchildren to continue the family line. Luvarà briefly touches on the first
point, but completely ignores the latter.
Still, the sensitivity with which she handles
her primary subjects is admirable. In fact, Andy comes to regard her as his counselor-confessor-confidante.
As a result, she captures a very personal (and admittedly subjective)
perspective on LGBT life in China. Nonetheless, more context is almost always
better. Recommended for what it is, Inside
the Chinese Closet screens this Friday (6/17) at the IFC Center and
Saturday (6/18) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s Human Rights Watch
Film Festival in New York.
Labels: China, Documentary, HRWFF '16