China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

5 - Feminism Contested: Female Reporters in Taiwan Pulp

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8226, Lobby Level

This paper examines women’s screen image in Taiwan Pulp, (aka. social realist films) a genre that became widely popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While previous literature has examined the emergence of the genre in relation to Taiwan’s political anxieties in the 1970s, little attention has been paid to the representation of female sexuality in the films. Though often seen as a female exploitation genre, it challenges the notion of women as passive victims by highlighting their power to investigate, dominate and retaliate against the male villains. Focusing on the specific role of female reporters, a prominent figure in the genre, the paper analyzes Taiwan Pulp’s ambivalent attitude towards the erotic heroine and her sexuality. With the examples of Yang Jia-Yun’s The Lady Avenger (1981) and Tsai Yang-ming’s The Switch (1982), the paper argues that the aggressive female reporter and her eventual downfall illustrate how the society conceptualized and negotiated the growing feminist consciousness and contemporary gender roles in late 1970s and early 1980s’ Taiwan. By investigating the female reporter’s pursuit of truth, the films, which are often labeled as escapist, also ironically reveal the “realist” aspect by criticizing Taiwan’s media culture and film industry during the time. Ultimately, the paper shows how the genre sets the foundation for the complex portrayal of female sexuality and social nuances in Taiwan New Cinema that began to burgeon in the early 1980s. 

Mei-Hsuan Chiang

Taipei National University of the Arts, Not Applicable, Taiwan

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