The Unifying Aspects of Cultures


Minor Cultures, National Culture, and the Administration of Culture

Lan Dong (Amherst, Massachusetts, USA)
A Multiethnic Interpretation of The Wedding Banquet and Mississippi Masala

In this paper I examine the realization and construction of the diverse identities of Asian diaspora living in contemporary America. In particular, the argument focuses on the interracial relationships represented in Mira Nair's film Mississippi Masala (1991) and Ang Lee's film The Wedding Banquet (1993). Casting upon a love story between a Uganda-born Indian woman and an African American man as well as the difficulty and struggle they have to confront, Mississippi Masala complicates the binary of black and white and interrogates the notion of monolithic national belonging. The film describes the problems of interracial love affair between two non-Caucasian persons in the 1990s. Moreover, it also reminds the audience to think over the Asian diaspora's diverse, and at times confused, identity in a multiethnic context through the story of the woman's father, who was born and raised in Uganda and thus identified himself as a Ugandan. Yet he, together with his family, was driven out of the country as a non-black after its independence in the 1970s. The idea mentioned in the film that "Africa is for black Africans" calls forth further exploration. If Nair's film provides a border-crossing experiment for multiethnic interpretation, Lee's cinematic narrative further pushes boundary the through depicting a gay relationship in a family drama. The Taiwanese American young man, Weitong and his Caucasian partner Simon perform an unsuccessful wedding drama in order to hide the interracial homosexual relationship between them and to please Weitong's parents. Their arrangement leads to a triangle relationship between Weitong, the bridegroom, Weiwei, a Shanghainese woman pretending to be the bride, and Simon, the real lover of Weitong. Therefore, the film not only stresses the generational conflicts but also provides the critical agenda of cultural diversity. The movie ends up with a reconciliation of the two generations. Through contextualizing the two films, this paper explores the diversity of Asian diaspora's identities in the context of interracial relationships. Along with the argument, the following critical and theoretical approaches will be using: Asian American studies, queer studies, film studies, and postcolonial studies.