From the Masculine to the Feminine: Eunuch Images in Hong Kong Wuxia Films from the 1960s to the early 2010s
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The eunuch characters, representing a classic type of villain, usually feature strongly in Chinese audiences’ memories about Hong Kong cinema, especially the wuxia genre during its glorious days in the twentieth century. They were created and stereotyped in Hong Kong cinema, developing with every rise and fall of Hong Kong wuxia genre, and varying at every crucial moment of the modern history of Hong Kong. In the light of not only western gender and culture theories in regard to the concepts of masculine and feminine, but also Chinese philosophies in terms of yin and yang in particular, this thesis sets out to explore the evolution of the gender and cultural presentation of eunuch images in Hong Kong wuxia films from the 1960s to the early 2010s. With the aid of Jean Baudrillard and Judith Butler’s theories, the two terms masculine and feminine will be argued as being not simply effective in gender representation, but also valid in outlining the logical mechanism which governs the organisation of the cultural phenomena. Meantime, Michel Foucault and Laura Mulvey’s findings about the relationship between power and gaze will be employed to anatomise the specific case of culture construction. The exploration of eunuch images will be intertwined with the examination of the Hong Kong cultural identity not only in the interactive triangle relationship between Hong Kong, Britain and China before 1997, but also in an interdependent Hong Kong-mainland connection in the post-colonial situation. Hong Kong filmmakers, in different circumstances with different cultural identities, proceeded to project different social expectations onto their cultural construction in Hong Kong cinema. The construction of the eunuch images, which includes the portrayal of their gender characteristics, power and social status, will be argued as deriving from these social expectations. By these means, this thesis aims at providing an insight into the shift in the cultural pattern of Hong Kong cinema between the pursuit of a dualistic certainty and the advocacy of a pluralistic uncertainty. Based on a review of eunuch images in the history of Hong Kong films, this study represents a nostalgic account of the past glory of Hong Kong cinema, while also conveying an aspiration for a better tomorrow.