Ju Dou, a dark tale of abuse and misogyny

Ju Dou is a haunting film which documents the trials and tribulations that Ju Dou has to face after wedding an abusive husband. She soon falls in love with her husband’s nephew and conceives his child. With such a dark secret under her belt, can she ever find happiness?

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Tragic film ahead. *Trigger Warning*

The film’s main characters are neatly divided into 3 main archetypes. The main protagonist Yang Tian-Qing, the antagonist Yang Jin-Shan and the damsel in the distress Ju Dou. Amongst the 3 characters, the one that stood out to me was our main actress Ju Dou. She silently endures her nightly abuse, slowly building up the courage to stand against her aggressor. Later on, she even openly calls for her abuser’s death, ready to take action in her lover’s stead. In comparison, Tian-Qing is a cowardly figure. He acts only to satisfy the pang in his loins and out of pure need. This is evident as even when he is given sufficient justification for the villain’s murder, he spares him out of fear, allowing evil to fester.

The setting in this film contributes just as much as the characters to the story. The bright red cloth being made in the dye factory acts as the motif for the film. Before each pinnacle moment, the color red appears to envelope the entire scene.  An example would be the conception of their child and when the villain of the film is finally put down. This color increases the heart-rate of the viewer and thus sets the mood for the intense scene. Ironically unlike the bright sequin, the burning passion  in the two lovers can’t be shown openly but rather ends up muted and hidden from sight.

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Red, the color of passion, anger and aunt Flo

The portrayal of women is negative in this film. The camera follows our main actress around the factory as velvety sheets cascade around her. Such camera work allows our male audience to project themselves into the scene, thus creating a “male gaze”. An object rather than a person. But that’s only the beginning. Another aspect shown is the inherently low value of women in rural China. Unlike males, females are unable to carry on the family name. As such abortion was common and girls often became like Ju Dou, sold off for a quick buck. All in all women seem to be there just for male satisfaction.

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Dam girl you fine as heck~

Along with its message against misogyny, it holds another hidden message. The message being that human desire should not be suppressed because of tradition. As we can see in the film, the traditions of ancient China were a patriarchal one which led to the abuse of Ju Dou.

A beautiful tale of romance that ends in tragedy. Ju Dou brings to the table not only a great story but an even greater message. 7/10.

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Hope you liked my review… 😦

Enjoyed my post? Leave a comment in the comment section below!  ( ;´Д`)

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5 Replies to “Ju Dou, a dark tale of abuse and misogyny”

  1. Pop-pop, Shaawn! Your view on how women were portrayed negatively in this film is not untrue. We have all learned about China’s past as an extremely patriarchal country through our history texts. To see it being played out in this film was upsetting. The topic of women objectification has always been something that angers me (because I’m a feminist first and human being second).

    Another point that I enjoyed was your personal interpretation of the colour red. I failed to realise that the colour acted as a motif. Your explanation on how it increases the heart-rate of the viewer and sets the mood for the intense scene makes perfect sense for the colour selection.

    Adios!

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  2. This film portrays the tragic yet truthful experiences that women were subjected to in rural China. Man are always in control of women’s sexuality and reproductive rights. Girls in families of patrimonial tradition are viewed as water, as they will be splash to another family once they get married. Boys are the ones who continue the family line, and they will also take care of parents when they grow old. I do agree its message against misogyny, it holds another hidden message. The message being that human desire should not be suppressed because of tradition. As we can see in the film, the traditions of ancient China were a patriarchal one which led to the abuse of Ju Dou. I enjoy reading your blog post and look forward for your next post. ^^

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  3. Misogyny was an epidemic in China in olden times. The movie perfectly encapsulates the female struggle within China. Moreover, I agree with you that the female representation was truly negative in this film. This is not in the sense where the director was being misogynistic but rather his way of showing the preconceived notions of a female in China. From the way the camera’s “male gaze” followed our female protagonist to her treatment, women weren’t better than cattle. Thank God that such an outdated view of women has started to teeter out of existence. I wouldn’t want my daughter to live in such a cruel world.

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