Chinese seniors are often painted as loving elders, but seldom as elderly lovers. The prevalence of dating among seniors after the 1980s has done little to dispel the common perception that the elderly are physically and emotionally asexual. This talk examines the tension between seniors’ expressions of intimacy and their traditional family roles as (grand)parents by investigating the genre of twilight romance in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone cinema. The stigma of later-life desire, I argue, stems from the potential of such awakened passion to destabilize the expectation of old age in upholding heteronormative reproduction and family continuity, core values that undergirded the developmental logic behind “the rise of China.” Special focus is given to two Hong Kong films, Ann Hui’s The Postmodern Life of My Aunt
(2006) and Ray Yeung’s Uncle Uncle
(2019), in which the seniors’ marginalized sexuality is further complicated by their transregional displacement to perceived margins of the Sinophone world. Ultimately, I propose that the queering potential of later-life desire not only enables the imagination of an alternative life course and type of kinship bonds beyond the normative Chinese family, but also a recalibration of historicity and communities beyond a homogenous Chinese nation.
Prof. Keren He will speak on “Sassy Mother, Naughty Father: Queering Later-Life Desire in Chinese and Sinophone Cinema” in a series organized by UNC’s Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. This event is free and open to the public, and will be held as a Zoom meeting. Join virtually at go.unc.edu/He .
Please direct any questions on this event to Prof. Robin Visser