The life of women in early Chinese society was filled with desperation and unfairness. Even though they had to endure most harsh realities and were often deprived of their dignity, they still kept their self-respect and warm feelings towards their loved ones. A film titled “The Goddess” directed by Wu Yonggang illustrates the life of a woman who must resort to prostitution to provide for her young son. There is much historical significance in the form of presenting the morality of the time, social struggles, and personal sacrifices. The movie shows the life of women in Shanghai in the 1920s. The main actress is Ruan Ling-yu and because her young life was also filled with poverty and struggles, she does a great job showing the suffering and pain of a mother and a victim of society. Even though the movie was made in 1934, it is still very attributable to the modern world and atrocities that go on because of money and lack of choice.
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The major theme of the movie is that a young woman has to sell her body so that her son can get a decent living and grow up to be strong and confident. This represents important concepts of self-sacrifice, love, and victimization of the times. It is clear that “The Goddess” does not enjoy to be doing what she must. The only reason she has to take on the job is because of the segregation of the time but she is still able to endure, as there is no other way. The link between her being a victim and the love that she has for her child is unparalleled. It is clear that all she can think of is her son and thus, she is able to victimize her dignity and body for him. This is true devotion to being a mother and it can be seen from the scenes where she spends time with him.
The excellent role play of Ruan Ling-yu is so natural that the viewer can feel the pain she is experiencing and connect with her character. In an article devoted to the movie it is said that “In the Goddess, the woman never looks to a man for her self-fulfillment because she is not on a quest to fulfill herself…her mission in life is to provide her son with an education” (Nu 5). This fact is made extremely vivid in the way the heroine distances herself from her own goals in life, making her son the most important part of her existence. This is a sort of thing that only a mother can do and this would be very much true at any point in time during human history.
Another important part of the movie centers on life itself and the conditions that were present in China, as well as social norms and divisions. For a long time, there has been a gender difference between men and women in life and social environment. The movie shows how gender plays a differential role in society and communication which is needed to attain certain results. It is made apparent how women of Shanghai were treated as mere possessions by men and no one has really wondered what women feel during the alienation and degradation they were subjected to. “The Goddess” makes clear how women used a much different technique in achieving their goals, as it stems from better insight into the matter of things.
Their goals and dreams are the children and their own did not matter to them. Women were segregated for such a long time and were prevented from taking up higher and more prominent positions that specifics of life became unavoidable. The city itself is shown to be a violent and disturbing place, where money, power, and greed are the major ruling powers. The filmmaker was able to transport the harsh reality of Shanghai and the dirt of society onto the screen. The contrast is made by the main actress, as she is able to divide the world into two. In one, there is sex, prostitution, and deprivation, whereas wherever she is present, the reality changes to her, the suffering and motherly love.
Wu Yonggang also wanted the viewers and societies to look deeper, beyond the screen and into people’s morality towards good and evil, the forces that are present in every world. There is no denying that a person can hardly control the time and place they grow up in. When a person is born, they are influenced by their family and society. A connection is made between the role of the heroine and her child, who have to live in poverty and the real life of the actress, who had to endure the same conditions of life. The fact that she has gone through such life herself, makes her performance more vivid and real, as her emotions are simply memories from her own childhood. When she was growing up, she was able to see the emotions that her mother was going through and it made her suffer as well (Nu 5).
The raising of a child is a very delicate matter and when Ruan Ling-yu was playing a mother, she felt engulfed by the same world she had experienced in her youth. The evil and immorality that always exist in the world are shown to be very hard on her character, as she has nothing left to believe in, except her child and his future. She has abandoned all her wants and needs and focused all strength on raising her son. The absence of social support and because people could not protest to show how hard it was for them emotionally and physically, describe the environment of the norms that were present at a particular time. Ruan Ling-yu and her role are still very real today and serve as a reminder of how sensitive and fragile women’s world is.
The movie and Ruan Ling-yu’s acting have become a work of art and a reminder throughout time. Major themes of human lives are mentioned, such as the division between social classes, segregation of women, love for children and sacrifice of own life for higher morals. Unfortunately, there are often conditions in the world where a person has to grow up in a very limited and harsh environment. If from the very birth a person has to struggle and fight for their own survival they see how hard it can be and thus, can appreciate the good that exists. Very often an individual simply has no opportunity to become all they want to be and the choices made, are ordered by necessity and lack of opportunities.
Nu, Yonggang 2006, The Goddess/Shen Nu 1934. Web.