A Case Study of Like Love

by Patrick Huang

Photo Credit: Like Love

LIKE LOVE (类似爱情) is the first mainland Chinese LGBT-themed movie in mainstream cinema. The two main protagonists are two gay men, Mai Ding (麦丁) and An Ziyan (安子晏). Mai Ding befriends An Ziyan at the dormitory of a university in Beijing. Mai Ding reveals his love towards An Ziyan very early on in the story and shortly they become lovers. The film’s narrative peculiarity is to marginalize heterosexual love. An Ziyan, who claims to be bisexual, breaks up his girlfriend, turning to Mai Ding. Their relationship goes quite smoothly and the movie enjoys a happy ending. 

I notice, owing to the storyline of the film and that it was allowed to be on screen, that the film would suggest some tolerance on the part of the Chinese government towards homosexuality. But, the fact that the underground gay films have recently been barred substantially bemuses me. Why is the government contradicting itself? I conjecture that it wishes to manipulate representations on mainstream media more in a matter of cosmopolitanism than in sexuality. 

Subsequent to opening the country in 1976, with the declaration of the Four Modernizations, China has been moving forward towards an ideal of the global city. Rofel writes that since the post-Tiananmen period, the Deng Xiaoping regime encouraged large-scale foreign investment. What is more, after becoming a member of WTO since 2000, foreign contact has only been on the increase.

Since that time, state-sponsored media fortifies an image of China as cosmopolitan; localism is of little significance. The film Like Love is no exception. It acts as a mechanism of the state for propagandizing the said ideology. 

LikeLoveStill from Like Love. Photo credit: Like Love

Westernized individuals serve as protagonists, and the environments they inhabit are also highly westernized. The movie represents Mai Ding and An Ziyan in a chic-Western fashion, noticeably in their clothes and haircuts. Such establishments as houses, dorms and airport are trendsetting; almost nothing is of local tone. English soundtracks by Mamma Mia and Crossroads westernize the overall ambience of the film. The by-product of economic reform is emergence of the bourgeois (middle-class) and the nouveau riche. The big M of the fast-food restaurant MacDonald as displayed prominently in the film. well explains a token of class reconstruction in this new economics. Rofel maintains that the fast-food restaurant signify middle-class consumption in China, in part because of the cost of food.

The conviction of neoliberal capitalism comes first and foremost, substantially fabricated into Mai Ding and An Ziyan as crucial opinion leaders to Chinese LGBT people. The government encourages a more spending among citizens and, in the cinematic world, it has been artfully striving to depict “m[en] of modernity” through the luxury lifestyle. For instance, Mai Ding and An Ziyan are visiting a high-end restaurant for a meal. A later scene shows that Mai Ding uses a Macbook. Rofel argues that fashion, too, literally signifies cosmopolitanism with Chinese characteristics . Most young urbanites show products with noticeable company labels on them and the characters in this film are no exception.

All in all, the places of LGBT people in mainland China are more and more apparent. A number of “gay” businesses have come into sight accordingly. LGBT people are thus promising for a national economic development, as economic consumers. The government thus relaxes on issue of sexuality, prompting their spending corresponding to the general principles of neoliberal economics. 

[1] Lisa Rofel, Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality and Public Culture, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007, 11.

[2] Ibid., 121.

[3] Ibid., 123.

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