Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

Discussion questions for “The Wedding Banquet”

Posted by thuicc on November 25, 2005

Here are the discussion questions about The Wedding Banquet:

  1. Describe any specific connections you see between the content of the movie (plot, characterization, verbal and nonverbal behaviors, etc.) and what we’ve been discussing this semester. By “connections” I’m thinking of both examples of what we’ve discussed and possible contradictions or complications of what we’ve talked and read about.
  2. (How) Do you think the characters grow/develop/learn throughout the course of the film? How does where they “end up” as people differ from where they began?
  3. What other thoughts/comments/reactions did you have to the film?
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13 Responses to “Discussion questions for “The Wedding Banquet””

  1. Tracy said

    I think there is an obivous contradiction about “Menzui”(this issue we had discussed in class issue in the film). For example, Wei-toen (偉同)’s parents were very unhappy and even upset about a “simple” and “not crowded” wedding Banquet. What’s more, during the wedding banquet, it seemed that the Chinese people are more “crazy” than the Western people, which really overturns our stereotype of Chinese’s characteristics of silence and humble. Beside, the idea of “guy” also seems to contradict to the Chinese idea for reproduction.

    I think characters in this films all “grew” from wedding banquet, which changed the whole situation.
    I think they all became more considerate and tolerent. I think it’s really admirable that both of weiton’s parents knew the fact that their son was a guy, they still choose to accept it and instead they worried about each other.

    Reaction:
    I think “The Wedding Banquet” is really a “surprising” film that not only the director appeared in the film for about 5 seconds but also the unexpectable and dramatical ending.

  2. Anonymous said

    I saw a definite connection in all of the Chinese characters, wanting to save face in the novel. THe parents wanted a large wedding party, the son didn’t want to be exposed as gay in order to not shame his family, the father, although he knew his son was gay, never admited it to him, etc. Wei-Wei (?) wanted to keep up the appearence of a good wife by cooking even though she shouldn’t…all of the characters were masquerading as something that they were not in order to preserve some ideal about what his or her “role” is supposed to be.

    By the end of the film, hopefully the characters learned that keeping face is not as important or easy as being honest. They learned that lying and pretending is horrible and destructive to even the honest parts of their lives–such as the main relationship between the two leading men. I think the entire “family” learned that they can relate to each other on a less superficial level, however, I dont beleive they have “finished learning” becasue by the end they are still lying to each other and playing the game as a “normal” family.

    I got the main ideas and action of the film. I think I would like to watch it again after getting better in Chinese–i definitely lost something in translation. It made me wonder if this was an accurate depiction of modern-day China/Taiwan marriage–the traditions, involvement of the parents, etc, or if this was an exaggerated or heavily dramatized example of a Chinese wedding–i have no experience in this field.

    Jen Nafziger

  3. Hmmm… some interesting thoughts that lead me to another question: do you think Ang Lee is critiquing some aspects of traditional Chinese culture by the way he treats the issue of communication among the family? And does he exaggerate those aspects of Chinese culture in order to critique them? Or is he just out to make a funny movie?

  4. Anonymous said

    I think the movie is about menzui and affection. Wei-ton’s parents wish to hold a big wedding party for having face in front of their friends and relatives. In the movie, there is a old man who had been worked for Wei-ton’s parents’ home for a long time knows Wei-ton’s parents like to have face so he helped Wei-ton’s parents to hold the wedding banquet as a repay of “感情”. The movie also show the different culture in the wedding banquet such as different eating habit in the wedding banquet. Chinese always like to be humble and degrade themselves in front of other people. In addition, Wei-ton’s mother also mentioned that in Chinese traditional, husband and children are the most important things in a family and the affection you gave couldn’t be repayed.
    I think the characters did leatn after the wedding banquet. For example, Wei-ton learned to be honest to his parents because he realized the his parents may accept him as being a guy and be honest to his parents. Wei-wei also found that it became a complicated after she found that she was pragnant and she chose not to have the abortion for repaying the affection that Wei-ton’s parents gave her. It is the way to keep harmonious relationship with Wei-ton and his boyfriend and his parents.
    I think it is a movie full of intersting subject for us to discuss, such as the difference between two cultures and the issues of homosextual.
    By the way, I don’t think Ang Lee is being critical to the aspect of traditional Chinese culture, but brings up the differences only since himself is the Chinese so he should know Chinese’s culture well. He’s just showing the characteristics of Chinese culture in a humorous way.

    Evonne Wang

  5. Did Simon learn anything?

  6. Anonymous said

    This movie is the combination of what we have discussed in class. It mentions the Chinese caring about the face problem from the Wei’s parents, like having a great wedding banquet, and as before going back to Taiwan, his mother has to buy souvenirs for friends. Also, it shows the relationship between parents and children of Chinese family. Kids tend to hide their feelings before parents or to please them. We can see this from the scene as Wei’s parents come to America, Wei has to change the setting in his house, and when they talk about the banquet, Wei follows his parents’ opinions. Moreover, the differences between Chinese and American are easily shown in the movie. How Wei handles things is quite different from how Simon deals with. Therefore, I think this movie expresses many intercultural topics we have discussed in class.
    I think everyone changes a lot through the whole movie. For example, Wei is the only child in a Chinese family; so he is expected to have his generations, which is forced by his traditional and conservative parents. However, he is a gay, and decides to lead a fake marriage, just because to show his responsibility as a good child. Wei faces his difficulty of setting this wrong relationship with the girl from China. Then, he admits he is a gay to his mother, and decides to live a happier life. His father also accepts the fact at the end that he has another son in his life.
    An Lee uses a humorous way of setting this movie of the intercultural problems. He successfully interprets the problems between old and new generations, and truly describes every detail in the story and the inner feeling of each one who faces the problem.

    Josie

  7. Ceilia said

    I think the film covers the four Chinese personal relationship that we have discussed in class. When Wei-wei couldn’t pay the rent, Wei-ton took her painting as the payment, which can be seen as 人情 and 感情. Wei-ton probably thought that since they were both Chinese, he didn’t need to be so harsh to her. 孝 and 報 are also obvious in the film. Like Wei-ton couldn’t and dared not to tell his father the truth because of his father’s illness. I would think that the old man whom Wei-ton’s family met repaid Wei-ton’s parents by adding them more dishes and holding the wedding banquet for them. Menzui, is definitely a central them of the film. Like the mother bought lots of presents for the relatives. This is a way to show the family is generous and pretty comfortable. I think having a big wedding is also the same idea.

    At the end of the film, Simon had mor idea about Chinese way of communication. I was impressed by the scene that Simon couldn’t understand why Wei-ton’s father knew Wei-ton and he are actually lovers. This is what the father said, “I watch, I hear, I understand.” Simon had a chance to experiece Chinese indirect communication style.

    One scene that the father apologized for the poor wedding banquet truly presents typical Chinese. Well, this is pretty interesting. It reminds me of the rule in oral class: never begin a speech with apologizing. I wonder what would be the reaction for someone who doesn’t understand Chinese culture while watching this scene? Would it be confused?

  8. What is the significance of the fact that it is Simon who suggests to Weitong that they should fake a wedding? It’s not Weitong’s idea originally, right? In fact, Weitong is strongly against the idea until Simon mentions that married couples get a better tax rate. So in a way, Weitong–at the beginning, at least–is not going through all of this for the sake of his parents’ mianzi.

    Later on, Weitong’s father’s friend warns him that if he refuses to have a big banquet, Weitong will be failing to be a filial son. At that point, perhaps we can see some concern on Weitong’s part for both the need for filial piety and for his parents’ mianzi. So…

  9. Alice said

    I think Ang Lee has some criticize some aspects of traditional Chinese culture. He points out that in Chinese culture parents love to intervene children’s marriage. Children didn’t have entirely or totally freedom to chose the mate. In fact, if their children didn’t marry or have baby, other Chinese people or elders would think he or she is unfilial because in Chinese culture “不孝有三,無後為大”. That’s why the woman can’t under the parent’s relationship pressure so she wants to keep their children in order to repay Wei-ton‘s parents. Also, in order to “have face”, elders wants to held a generous and grand wedding banquet.

    I think Ang Lee actually present real Chinese wedding banquet. Very noisy, crazy, and messy. Maybe it is sort of exaggerated in this movie, but Ang Lee show foreign people that Chinese is not as reticent as in class.

    The movie vividly described Chinese caring about the face problem from parents’ aspect and elder’s point of view. Also, I think Wei-ton still wants to keep parents’ face or don’t want to lose their face so he chose to lie to parents that he would marry a woman. In my point of view, all of the characters changed at then end of the film and give in other’s culture. The mother accepted his son is homosexual and the father could tolerant and accepted Simon and keep good relationship with him.

    By the way, I think the end is a little bit ridiculous. In fact, lovers can not tolerant the third person in one love.

  10. The Chinese saying roughly means “There are 3 ways of being unfilial; having no descendents is the worst”, right, Alice?

    I think you might be right that Lee is criticizing some aspects of Chinese culture, though I worry that I might be viewing the movie with an American bias.

  11. Anonymous said

    After this film, the first thing came into my mind is the idea about Mian-Zi in Chinese tradition. Chinese think that a big wedding ceremony is a way to keep mian-zi for both the groom’s and the bride’s families. Therefore, when Wei-toen(偉同) decides to have a simple wedding, his parents are unhappy, and his mother even cries because she thinks it is unfair to Wei-wei(葳葳).
    Besides, the concept of bao(報,reciprocity)is mentioned in the film. The boss of the restaurant treats Wei-toen’s family few dishes for free because Wei-toen’s parents once took care of him. He, also characterized by the Chinese tradition about having a big wedding ceremony, then thinks that it is his chance to repay Wei-toen’s parents by holding a good and cheerful wedding party for Wei-toen.

    Thorough the film, I think Wei-wei changes a lot from the beginning to the end. At first, she is a resident without green card in the United States. She only lives in a bad apartment; she cannot pay the rent. It seems that she does not have a goal in her life in the United States. However, after she meets Wei-toen’s parents and feels the warm of a family, she is deeply touched. I think this is the main reason why she chooses to tell Wei-toen’s mother the truth. Moreover, being pregnant makes Wei-wei notice that she is going to bear a baby and have her own family. She realizes that she has to be independent not just escape from the reality. Therefore, though it will be very difficult for an unmarried woman to raise a child, Wei-wei still decides to keep the baby and plans to raise the baby with Wei-toen and Simon.
    In addition, Wei-toen learns a lot from his experience and his charactristics change over the film. Wei-toen was once afraid to let his parents know he is a homosexual. This may be because of the conservative concept in Chinese culture. In order to cover the fact, Wei-toen lies to his parents that he’s going to marry Wei-wei. However, day after days, Wei-toen finds that he cannot stop his lie. He learns that he has to cover a previous lie by another bigger lie. At the end, he finally decides to face himself and tell his mother all the truth.

    In the film, I also find another interesing point about culture differences. Apparently, Simon has a different concept about sending gifts from Chinese people. To the Chinese, sending gifts is a way of showing politeness or hospitality. It is not so important that the gift itself is useful or not. Nevertheless, Simon thinks the gifts have to be really helpful. Therefore, he gives Wei-toen’s father a manometer(血壓計), and Wei-toen’s mather a lotion especially for “old women”. Simon is out of hospitality, but he is easily misundertood because his considerations about gifts are things that Chinese tend to avoid considering. This scene really made me laugh when I watched the movie, but it indeed shows a big difference between Chinese and Americans.

    by Grace

  12. Jennifer said

    The movie presents lots of chinese traditions and intercultural differences no matter on thoughts or behavior. In addition to those mentioned by my classamtes, I would like to point out more scenes related to what we’ve learn
    such as the match level of a bride and groom( for chinese, poor family can’t marriage with rich family because of “menzui” which means, the marrirage has to be equal standing); the way to open gifts(for chinese, most people won’t open gifts in public because of the politeness and preserving the “menzui” of the peopple who send gifts to you); the engagment form(ex, Wei-Toen’s mother wants to go to Wei-Wei’s family to conract a marriage with “四色禮物” which is out of politeness, but I think, it’s out of “menzui”); Wei-toen and Wei-Wei have to drink a toast to guests (that is, the guests ask them to do such a “crazy” way in order to making them drink crazily and free themseves in the wedding); the guests “may” disturb the chamber( which means to leave a wonderful and unforgettable wedding night to the bride and groom and try to be crazy as possible as they can = =”); the eating way(every time, they always eat together on the same table especially round table, which means “reunion”團圓”); and last, Wei-toen’s father told Simon in English that Simon is his “half-son” basing on the family member(since Wei-toen is his son and Simon and Wei-toen are a couple, he admits passively this kind of relationship by saying this way)…etc The director uses many scenes to show the chinese traditional culture which for me, in some ways,are stupid and too over. Preserving menzui for ourseves and others is a kind of politeness and “virtue” but too much and extreme is not suitable anyway. I don’t if the director wants to use this kind of “ironic” way to point out some civilities or just a “exaggerate” way to entertain the audience. However, I think that everything has its limits, too over or too less is not suitable in any case; so, to be average and befitting in any occasion is the most correct practice. I come up another idea – the director may not criticize but tell some “advices” on some chinese rigid politeness by presenting exaggerately. If we don’t do that too over, then we would make things…..more easier, or perfect!? i don’t know

    As for what the characters have learned, I think this is also another focus in the movie. Everyone, at first, just does his/her own things by his/her way though they seem to make a normal peace in the surface. Everything seems to build on “other peoples’ eyes”: being afraid that recognized as a gay by his parents; Wei-Wei wants to have menzui by getting green card and have a good job in order to hornoring her parents and returning her hometown; Simon is also afraid that his relation with Wei-toen is found by the parents… Sometimes, other peoples’ judgment would make us to hide something to become not so honest. And some civilites or over-politeness make us to become a little hypocritical.
    At the last of the movie, the directer puts the three people together to make a decision for keeping Wei-Wei’s child(ren). This is also another point, but the director doesn’t develop continuely. Do they really change? Simon and Wei-toen are still lovers. Wei-Wei still doesn’t get a good job. Only the child connects the three of them. Anything change? Only a trouble show up- the child. His/her fate is unknow because he/she has two fathers and a mother or two mothers and a father. Does Wei-toen’s parents really accept their relationship? I don’t think so. They are foced to accept it because of the “child”. I guess, they must have a regret on their minds, maybe a little disappointed. But it’s trth, they have accept it!
    I think the director uses humorous and relaxed way to discuss some complicated and controversial issues

    I talk too much XD.

  13. Erica said

    We can see many cultures reflect in this movie. First, it’s the way how parents get along with children. We can see when wei-ton talks to his parents, he’s always obedient, and he tries to follow his parents’ expectations; that is getting married, and having babies, which were also the reason why wei-ton’s father pretended nothing had happened when he knew there was something special about the relationship between Wei-ton and Simon. He wanted to keep the good situation so that he could fulfill his expectations. It might be that he actually couldn’t accept it and he need time to convince himself to accept it.
    Wei-ton and his father are just like how most children get along with their parents in chinese. Children don’t tell parents their real feelings, because we are taught to always obey what parents say, and do as what they ask us to do we if children don’t agree with parents. This causes the gap become bigger. Second, I think there’s a very obvious situation which can represent typical Chinese people. Chinese people think it important to be a grateful person, meaning that people should “repay” to those who offered help. In this movie, there’s an old person who had worked in Wei-ton’s house for a long time is the best representitive of this concept of chinese culture. We can see that this person show so much respect to Wei-ton’s father and even to everyone in Wei-ton’s family. He made himself inferior to the family because he wanted to show his thankfulness to them, and he even offered to hold a wedding banquet for Wei-ton. In fact, this is also another means for people to strengthen the relations when making friends. If you are good to others, others will repay to you, and also it’ll be easier next time if you need to ask others for a favor some other day. “Face” is another apparent thing I see in this movie. The wedding banquet is surely the most impressive part of this movie. It shows how enthusiastic and crazy chinese people are when there’s something happy to celebrate. For parents, it’s a big deal when their children are getting married, and this news must be certainly spread to all friends and relatives. Having a big wedding banquet means that the parents are quite “affordable” and they tell all people that they can give their children the best, which makes them have “face”. Besides what are mentioned above, I think that Wei-ton’s mother gave Wei-wei so many precious things to show another kind of “affection” between them. In Chinese, it’s a tradition for the mother to give the daughter-in-law so many presents. It means the mother like the wife of her son, kind of like the tradition in America which something blue, something new, something borrowed are given to the bride.

    I think all the characters changed in the end of the movie. The father and mother learned to accept the truth and allow their son to live his own life, though the father never told Wei-ton that he already knew everything. Wei-wei decided to give birth to her child and Simon decided to stay. This means that they all have gone through the struggle about whether to yield to the social value (being a gay) or to continue their lives. Wei-ton finally told his mother how he felt, and he would no longer need to hide his true face.

    I think using the “gay” issue in this movie is quite interesting. Since chinese is conservative, it’s really hard to face the reality when being in the same situation as Wei-ton’s parents and it could be much harder to tell people that my child is a gay. The director made good use of this issue and brought many chinese traditions and conflicts between two different cultures’ social values on the screen through this isssue.

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