Taiwanese identity and transnational families in the cinema of Ang Lee
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This dissertation argues that acclaimed filmmaker Ang Lee should be regarded as a Taiwanese transnational filmmaker. Thus, to best understand his work, a Taiwanese sociopolitical context should be employed to consider his complicated national identity as it is reflected in his films across genres and cultures. Previous Ang Lee studies see him merely as a transnational Taiwanese-American or diasporic Chinese filmmaker and situate his works into a broader spectrum of either Asian-American culture or Chinese national cinema. In contrast, this dissertation argues his films are best understood through a direct reference to Taiwan's history, politics, and society. The chapters examine eight of Lee's films that best explain his Taiwanese national identity through different cultural considerations: Pushing Hands (1992) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) are about maternity; The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Brokeback Mountain (2005) consider homosexuality; The Ice Storm (1997) and Taking Woodstock (2009) represent a collective Taiwanese view of America; and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Lust, Caution (2007) reflect and challenge traditions of Taiwan Cinema. The eight films share three central leitmotifs: family, a sympathetic view of cultural outsiders, and a sympathy for the losing side. Through portraying various domestic relations, Lee presents archetypal families based in filial piety, yet at the same time also gives possible challenges represented by a modern era of equal rights, liberalism, and individualism -- which confront traditional Taiwanese-Chinese family views. Incorporating many Taiwanese interviews with Lee that underscore the nationalistic essences of his films, this dissertation suggests that Lee's national identity denotes a triple-fold significance: as homeland, as the nurturing place where he began his enthusiasm for cinema, and as the country to which he still dedicates himself.