How “The Wedding Banquet” influenced same-sex marriage in Taiwan
“You are cordially invited to a wedding where everybody wants to kiss the bride… except the groom.” – The Wedding Banquet Trailer.
Directed by Taiwanese director Ang Lee, “The Wedding Banquet” (1993) is a romantic comedy that showcases cultural, racial, sexual and generational clashes.
Wai Tung Gao (Winston Chao) a Taiwanese-American gay real estate entrepreneur is living in Manhattan with his physical therapist and lover Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein). However, he never comes out to his parents. As the only child of his family, his parents keep asking him to get married and have kids. Under the pressure of family and cultural expectations, Simon suggests he marries his Chinese tenant, Wei-Wei (May Chin), a poor artist urgently needing a green card. Wai Tung eventually agrees with this idea, but the three of them don’t expect their white lie to be the beginning of disaster.
After informing his parents of the good news, Mr. Gao (Sihung Lung) and Mrs. Gao (Ah-Leh Gua) visit the United States from Taiwan to attend their son’s wedding banquet. The situation becomes complicated as Wei-Wei accidentally becomes pregnant. At this point in the movie, the tones change from hilarious into serious and the conflicts arise.
“The Wedding Banquet” was considered the most financially profitable movie in 1993 worldwide. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards and won the Golden Space Needle of the Seattle International Film Festival and the Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.
“The Wedding Banquet” had a massive influence on the same-sex marriage movement in Asia. Released in the 1990s, the beginning of the LGBTQI social movement in Taiwan, the amusing and heartfelt film demonstrates the struggles of the relationship between the LGBTQI community with their family.
In May 2019, 26 years after releasing the film, Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage, becoming the first country in Asia to make history.
You can’t talk about “The Wedding Banquet” without mentioning the implicit love of the father. While Mr. Gao is aware of Simon is Wei Tung’s real lover, he understands his son is facing the dilemma of obeying the family expectation or continuing the relationship with Simon. When Mr. Gao hands the red envelope that is filled with money over to Simon privately and says, “Wai Tung is my son, so you are my son also,” it is the most touching scene for me, knowing the father considers his son’s happiness at the first place.
“The Wedding Banquet” is a moving film that analyses several controversial issues in an interesting and thoughtful way. As human beings, sometimes we cannot avoid the accidents that happen in our life. The most attractive element of this film is teaching us how we can deal wisely with accidents in life. A story full of joy and tears, I highly recommend spending a weekend night to watch it with your family.