Cultural citizenship, according to Lisa Rofel is the a form of belonging in a society. “By cultural citizenship, I mean to highlight how citizenship, or belonging, is not merely a political attribute but also a process in which culture becomes a relevant category of affinity” (94). Wing and Fai have a complicated relationship, they constantly fight and at the same time want to be together. The only happy moment in their relationship was when Fai was taking care of Wing after the injury. Fai wanted to return to his home country but wasn’t able to due to his financial status. On other hand Wing did not want to return to his countries as much as Fai did. Wing was looking for a new places ( new excitements) to start over every time something went wrong. When Fai and Wing broke up, Fai was working at the bar Wong portrays the mood and the feeling of the character thru black and white picture. When Wing and Fai reunite and are together ( when they were in the little apartment after the injuries.) the picture is colored and the more happy songs use for the background.
Happy Together was a film about the nature of relationships and the importance of self love. In the film, Wing is in a relationship with Fai. Their relationship mirrors that of a first love, a true love and an honest love, one that is procured on passion and instinct. Wing is the unstable type, the one that you can love and loves you but has issues showing the actual reciprocation. He has a quick temper with a combative attitude and not one for monogamy. On almost an opposite end is Fai, a hard working, outwardly caring optimist who loves Wing despite his flaws. At one point in the film Wing becomes very dependent on Fai. During their rocky, back and forth relationship, Wing hurts himself and needs Fai for physical,mental and financial support. It seems as if Wing is the dependent one but the film reveals that Fai is just as dependent on Wing but for different things, such as love and affection. Later on in the film Wing completely leaves Fai and we begin to see Fai is on a search of belongingness. He wants to form a close bond with one of his fun loving co- worker’s, Chang but unfortunate they too split and go along their own original paths. In the end Fai returns back home to confront a belongingness back to his family, specifically his father. This shows the role and importance of cultural citizenship. Fai wanted to be a citizen of his family, sexuality and friendships. He wanted to belong and more importantly feel welcomed within those groups.
Cultural citizenship is “process of self-making and being made, of active modes of affinity as well as techniques of normalization.” (pg 94, Qualities of Desire) It gives people the feelings of belonging, and it can be used to confirm if something is included or excluded. In the movie, Happy Together, Wing and Fai repeated breaking up and getting back. While Fai was independent person, Wing always relied on someone in financially and mentally. However, Fai wanted to be needed according to his words that the happiest days were when he was taking care of Wing. At the end of the movie, Fai was going to go back to Honk Kong and start new life, but Wing was still in Argentina with the sadness of losing Fai. Even though Fai knew that Chang wasn’t gay, Fai was interested in his very lively coworker, Chang. Chang was the key person for Fai because Fai changed the job after Chang left, and he made enough money to go back to Hong Kong. It must be important for Fai in terms of not repeating the relationship with Wing. Home country was important for Fai because after going back, he said “I’m waking up from a long sleep.” It means his experience in Argentina was like a dream, not a usual life. On the other hand, Wing didn’t care about his hometown so much. For Chang, Taiwan was also important for him. He could live freely because he had the place to go back anytime. Throughout this movie, music was played instead of people’s voice in a lot of scenes. Especially the song “Prologue” by Astor Piazolla was played many times after Fai’s narration, and it implied his loneliness. For example, this song was played when Fai was at the Iguazu Falls without Wing.
Lisa Rohel defines cultural citizenship as “a rubric or trope I use to coney novel processes of subjection and new modes of inclusion and exclusion.” Cultural citizenship tells its people was kind of sex is deemed “good” and “bad.” This is depicted many times in the film Happy Together where characters Wing and Fai struggle as gay individuals in a rigid society. The film opens on the scene in which Wing and Fai are lost on their way to see the falls in Argentina. The scene, representing a moment in the past, is set in black and white for the viewers. The men depart and go their separate ways. Wong uses cinematography effects to depict the streets and sounds of Argentina nightlife while contrasting it by bringing viewers back to the ideal scene of the falls. The falls, a place where lovers often meet, represents hope for the relationship between Wing and Fai. This hope is also represented in a lamp that Fai keeps even after the couple breaks up. The men struggle to succeed in saving their relationship but also struggle with their identity in relation to the family responsibilities. In Chinese society, and other Eastern societies, sons have a responsibility to marry a woman and produce children so they can further their family’s name. This puts pressure on gay individuals to choose between living a life that is their own and succumbing to the pressure society places on them and their families. In Happy Together Wing and Fai attempt to navigate these pressures even when far from home.
According to Lisa Rofel’s chapter, cultural citizenship can be defined as a “belonging [that] is not merely a political attribute but also a process in which culture becomes a relevant category of affinity (94).” Which means that people seek to belong in a certain group to feel that they are not alone by themselves in the society and “sex is the critical site where the normalizations of cultural citizenship are being reformulated (95).” In the movie Happy Together, Fai and Wing can be seen as examples of those who continuously sack for cultural citizenship.
In the movie, the relationship between Fai and Wing is described in color, and black and white. Iguazu Falls is the location that they both dream and aim to go together, where they can be accepted not as outsiders. However, in black and white scene, Fai and Wing fail to be “together” on their way to the dream place where they do not need the cultural citizenship, but just each other. As the film goes, it gives the impression that the relationship is not just about two gay men, instead, it is depicting relationship between person to person as someone who wants to have the person by his side, and the other who gets tired of it easily.
The relationship between Chang and Fai is rather different compared to Fai and Wing. In this relationship, Fai wants to have what Chang has: a place where he can go back without worrying, a place where he can feel comfort of belonging, which is family. When Fai was the one who was seeking for belongingness from his father and the society, Chang was the one who had escaped from the belongingness by his will and always had a chance to go back when he has one.
Lisa Rofel defines cultural citizenship as an individual having a desire to belong to their motherland. Rofel specifically talks about how “desiring China” leads to the state subjecting citizens to being normal or abnormal. “This uneven process of constructing Chinese gay identities illuminates how “desiring China” begins to appear as if it exists as a coherent project. It further reveals how neoliberal policies become wedded to subjectivity” (Rofel, 94). In China, we see the establishment of how to correctly do sex and what is considered improper sex.
In the film Happy Together there are many scenes that illustrate the relationship between the two main characters, Wing and Fai. The film uses filmic techniques such as slow-mo editing to emphasize the relationship between Wing and Fai when they are looking at each other eye to eye. They both showed great compassion for another when heading to Buenos Aires to start over. It seems that Wing gets jealous of Fai spending time with Chang, and this leads to a secondary break-up. Another scene that I found to demonstrate Fai’s relationship to Chang, was when Fai cries into the camera for a minute. This shows conflict and heartbreak in one.
Another filmic effect that was used was black and white video. There are moments when the filmmakers decided to take the color out of the movie, and just depict black and whites. Contrastly, the filmmakers also use vibrant colors in specific scenes, such as many of the scenes in the city. “Norms and institutions” refer to structural constraints embodied in various international conventions and agencies and more significantly in local legislations; in other words, they tend to presume normative lifestyles and values that are to be regulated by legal framework” (Ho, 461). I would like to end my post with this quote from Is Global Governance Bad For East Asian Queers. Josephine Ho is stating that norms are created within legislature to govern citizens and the ways that they produce sexuality. This is a clear demonstration of why Wong and Fai had difficulty “belonging” in Hong Kong.
Happy Together operates under a “premise”, the uncertainty of cultural identity along with kinship problem. It is the premise that spices up the two relationships so much. Lisa Rofel uses “cultural citizenship” to describe the sense of belonging to ones culture, further, gay men’s belonging within their culture. All three main characters, Fai, Wing, Chang belong to cultures that are not as stable as they want them to be, which keeps them from fully committing to themselves.
The film takes off with a very symbolic sex scene with Fai seemingly the dominant one. But actually, Wing is the one leading the relationship. Fai’s voice-over tells the dynamic of their relationship — whenever they break up, Wing always picks up the relationship with “let’s start over”. Wing enjoys closeness. He dances. He teaches Fai how to dance. Fai on the other hand, is not so into Wing’s closeness. Fai needs that closeness for sure, but it is exactly this normal need that “betrays” their relationship. When Wing is injured, Fai takes care of Wing in every way possible. “It was the happiest time” said Fai. However, Fai gets angry when Wing is “too close” to him. They are after different needs.
Conversely, Chang and Fai’s relationship is nothing that dramatic. It starts off so naturally. That dynamic slowly builds up and turns into a tension when they hug before Chang leaves. They simply get along well.
Helen Leung’s writing flashes by when watching the closing of the film. Fai “visits” Chang’s parents’ stall, the kinship trouble. What Leung is after is the the dynamic structure of a “family”, the incorporation of a “son-in-law” to a “son”. It shows the “family comes first” premise for many gay men in China. Somehow, Fai’s visits reminds me of such family structure. Do Taiwan and Hong Kong have such family structure as well? I am not sure. And this doubt is left open as Wong does so for the ending.