The King of Masks

The King of Masks


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The King of Masks

Confucianism as practiced in China has had an effect on the way men and women relate to each other. Traditionally, it has been a cause and reason for gender discrimination. It has advocated for a patriarchal type of family system and it has placed men above women in all aspects. This perception has not only affected the family, but it has also permeated to other sectors of the society. It has had a major influence in the way men choose to treat women. At the same time, it promotes the idea of filial piety (Sheridan 16). People place families very highly and the family is considered the backbone of the society. Wu Tianming explores these ideas in The King of Masks. Family does not only involve blood ties. As the movie exemplifies, people from different bloodlines can form a bond and can be united by the love they have for each other. At the same time, the movie highlights the profound influence of the principles of Confucianism. Gender discrimination is unjustified as it not only denies women of opportunity but it has also failed to show reasonable cause for the societal perception concerning the valueless nature of women.

The firmness of tradition and its impracticability is depicted in the movie. Although Wang wants to pass on his art, he is limited by the fact that he can only do so to a son. Wang could have passed on without teaching anyone his skill. Gender does not seem to be the only limiting factor in this case although it is a major influence. Wang refuses the offers of the female impersonator despite the fact that he has a deep desire to learn the skills. Wang is not moved by the offer of a better life and he seems content in the little that he has. Gender discrimination seems to be part of an accepted tradition in the film. Girls are not perceived to have any value and boys are considered valuable.

Doggie knows that her fate lies with the old man and she begs to stay with him. Although the people have accepted this tradition, they do not have a basis for it. They cannot prove that girls bring less happiness to a family. One would expect that the society would be more receptive of them considering the fact that they perform all the chores in the home and they make life more bearable and easier. Indeed, before Wang learns that Doggie is a girl, he has joy and fulfillment in his life. His life seems content and he seems to have found what he was looking for all this time. However, the knowledge that Doggie is a girl changes all this. If it were it not for the fact that Wang knew of Doggie’s real identity it is likely that he would have taught her his family art of changing masks.

Gender discrimination is such a problem in the society as depicted in the movie. When Wang visits the black market, he encounters many girls who cry and plead with him to take them. Some are even offered free. The sentiments that women are worthless in the society seem to ring true for most of the population. However, not every person seems to ascribe to this thought for Master Liang has developed his career by impersonating women. It seems that people can be persuaded to accept the female child despite their initial misgiving. Wang demonstrates this when he continues to form a close relationship with Doggie after learning her identity. He even teaches her acrobatics and she becomes his sidekick when he is performing.

Gender discrimination is not justified because no one takes the time and effort to demonstrate the valueless nature of women. Indeed, in many of the situations, women prove their value and worth. When Wang takes Doggie to then opera, the story that is recited is that of a female hero. Women are ready to sacrifice for the people they love and for their cause. This is especially true in the case of Doggie, who despite being a child; she is willing to give her life to save Wang. People in the society do not seem to notice such measures of self-sacrifice and they continue to endorse practices that discriminate against women.

The movie serves as a way to reveal the prevail conditions that people experience at the time. The idea of selling children may seem like a cruel and inhumane thing to do to people who do not understand the culture or the situation that the local people experience on a daily basis. Parents end up selling their children as a way of giving them a chance for survival. Some parents are not able to feed their young ones and instead of watching them die, they end up looking for someone who will be able to keep them. Yet despite the well-meaning sentiments, it is worth noting that this has led to a situation where children end up facing physical abuse and emotional distress. Doggie tells Wang that she has already been sold seven times and she has had to endure beatings from her previous owner. Children cannot survive and thrive well in such kind of lifestyle.

The movie continues to show that people do not have to be of the same blood to have familial bonds between them. Wang and Doggie end up forming a bond between them. Wang decision to sell a prized heirloom to save Doggie following her illness shows the level of attachment that he has for the child. Doggie’s attachment for the old man is shown by her actions, which aim to prove that the old man is innocent. She threatens to kill herself in an effort to prove Wang’s innocence. Doggie wants to help Wang to get a male heir. It is clear that the society has already accepted the prevailing conditions. Women and men seem to know and accept their place.

Humanity has survived because of the connections that people have with each other. Even those who prefer solitude realize that they need companionship. Despite people’s errors and misgivings, each person seems to contain something valuable. One should not judge others by their lack or status. If every person were accorded the same opportunity in life, then the society would be a better place. Wang realizes some time after he adopts Doggie. Initially, he considers himself stupid for being tricked into buying a girl. He does not see any worth that the girl can offer him and she calls her a leech. He even gives her money and intends on abandoning her at the bank of the river. However, in the end, he realizes that what he did not value was what was most important in his life. Liang cannot help him despite the fact that he has considerable influence in the society. Understandably, Doggie has no chance of succeeding in her efforts to rescue Wang. However, she tries whatever she can and she ends up saving her master’s life.

Works Cited:

Sheridan, James E. China in disintegration. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2008. Print

The King of Masks. Dir. Wu Tianming. Perf. Zhu Xu, Zhou Ren-ying, Zhang Riuyang, and Zhao Zhigang. Samuel Goldwyn Films, 1996. Film

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