Author Archives: swallace

Contrasting Colors, Contrasting Moods

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 12.37.32 AMMaggie-Cheungs-costumes-In-The-Mood-for-Love-3-e1380792319193

In her piece, “Surface, Fabric, Weave: The Fashioned World of Wong Kar-Wai,” Giuliana Bruno discusses how costume design in “In The Mood For Love” is a deliberately aesthetic choice as a complement to the surrounding set. Fashion, color, and texture act as a subconscious means of creating moods and feelings within the audience. In the above mis en scenes, film producers in “In The Mood For Love” uses two different Qipaos to reflect main character, Maggie’s, emotions to the audience. In the first scene, Maggie somberly retrieves noodles from a noodle bar in a mute-toned qipao in which she runs into her neighbor. Later in the film, Maggie accompanies her neighbor to dinner in a quote differently styled qipao; one of bright colors and patterns.

The images exemplify how fashion aesthetics act as an art form to engage space and color in the film to depict the mood of the character within the scene. When viewing the above mis en scenes in “The Mood For Love,” one can compare differences between the two photos through their similarities in an attempt to determine the mood of the scene.


  • Scene 1- In the first mis en scene Maggie wears a qipao of subdued colors that reflect a sense of loneliness and withdrawal.  Maggie lethargically meanders into the takeout noodle bar, and though she appears graceful and walks steadfast, the qipao she wears tells the story of pain and a cheating husband. No words are spoken in this scene, however the color of the qipao successfully exudes Maggie’s present mood as one forlornness and dull heartache.
  • Scene 2- In the second scene, Maggie’s qipao is bright, almost neon, and patterned.  Though Maggie again ventures to eat noodles, the mood is more energetic than the aforementioned scene. Maggie’s dress reflects a zealousness that was absent in the 1st scene, as new romance makes her more spirited and lively.

The Male Figure:

  • Scene 1- The male figure, Maggie’s neighbor and love interest, is a key similarity in both scenes.  In the first scene, the two are just meeting, and an impeding connection is felt between the pair.  They both exude a similar sadness in this scene that foreshadows their attraction.
  • Scene 2- Maggie’s love interest is closer to Maggie in this scene, and his body is now faced toward hers, suggesting an opening up of emotions and deepening of their relationship.  Similar to clothing, body language acts as an aesthetic art form that displays unseen thoughts of the characters or rather, their inner feelings.

Space and Texture (Wall): 

  • Scene 1- Maggie, in her neutral qipao, becomes “one” with a plain, dark wall, blending into its shadows.  This suggests that Maggie has fallen into the shadows and textures of the wall in a mood of somberness.  She cowers slightly into the wall, but despite her camouflaging, Maggie still makes a connection with her love interest.
  • Scene 2- Again, Maggie matches the wall behind her, however, this wall is colorful and flashy; a kaleidoscope of more vivid and vibrant emotions.  She does not cower against the wall in this scene, but outshines it in its exuberance.  This greater suggests how Maggie’s mood has transformed and become brighter as her relationship has flourished.

In conclusion, the constants in these scenes (clothing, man, wall) reflect how Maggie’s inner emotions and mood have grown and transformed as her relationship has become more in depth throughout the passage of time.

well analyzed sequence and persuasive connotations

Beauty is Skin-Deep


Source: Cancan Chu/Getty Images News: “Miss Plastic Surgery Finals,” 2004. Beijing, China.

The image above, titled “Miss Plastic Surgery Finals” portrays the winner of a beauty pageant in Bejing, China, Feng Qian. The pageant is not what one would consider a “typical” beauty pageant, however, but a competition for Chinese women who have received extensive plastic surgery. In this image, Feng Qian celebrates her victory amongst a colorful downpour of celebratory confetti. She smiles proudly while holding a red book and cloth above her head. Author Erica Swallow explains how the philosophy behind the beauty pageant is that “all ‘ugly’ women can become beautiful with the wonders of man-made beauty” (Swallow, 7).

The image exemplifies how the beauty market and economy in China has propagated the belief and standard that women must reach a certain measure of beauty in order to gain internal and external happiness, success, and societal worth. When viewing “Miss Plastic Surgery Finals,” one can observe various signs upon conducting a deep connotative analysis of the image:

1) Plastic Surgery: Considering that China hosted its first annual Miss Plastic Surgery beauty competition in 2003, one can contemplate how the quest for beauty has become increasingly popular in China. The propagation of beauty standards has directly impacted the Chinese woman, evident in more than makeup and beauty products, but surgical beautification. Surgery suggests permanency, causing one to consider the lasting effects of beautification on Chinese culture and society, in addition to the feminine body and psyche. The image also causes the viewer to consider what types of cosmetic surgery Chinese women are opting for. One may perceive that Chinese women are choosing surgeries that convey a more western appearance (need evidence or explanation), suggesting how a psychological inferiority complex may be present between the Chinese woman and the western woman. (Swallow, 1).

2) Confetti: Swallow explains how “rather than accepting themselves as Chinese and embracing their natural beauty, young women are seeking medical treatments and beauty enhancements to make themselves appear more foreign” (Swallow, 1). Rather than admonishing these beliefs and re-defining them amongst the Chinese youth, both Chinese and western influencers have celebrate an unnatural standard of beauty through advertisements and societal rhetoric. In the image, the raining confetti can be viewed as symbolic of how foreign beauty has been celebrated while “ugliness,” and natural beauty have been societally condemned.

confetti: celebration of surgical beauty rather than natural beauty: indication? explain “western influence”: how the image suggests the influence? 

3) Red Book: The red book that Feng Qian holds reminded me of the Maoist red book utilized by the Red Guard movement. The red book in this image stands in ironic contrast to beauty ideals during the Maoist period. During the Red Guard period, wearing beauty products was frowned upon as it undermined the Communist philosophy of standardization amongst people. It is ironic to consider, then, how plastic surgery as perpetuated by the beauty market, has, in a way, “standardized” beauty in a very different way. Beautification has pushed people not to look different, but to look similar in acceptance of uniform beauty standards.

I think that the red book is the certification or award document

4) “Audience”: One might also begin to consider who is “behind the camera”; not the photographer, but the audience at the event. This may lead one to question who is supporting such standards of beauty at the small-scale, local level, and further, at the commercial, global level. One may consider beyond who is “behind the camera,” and consider, further, “who is behind the face?” The molding of a new face is more than the work of a plastic surgeon, but the doing of various advertisements and a standardized rhetoric for feminine beauty.

this paragraph sounds strong

The image ultimately displays how foreign standards (does the image suggest foreign standards, if so explain)  of beauty have been promulgated and celebrated by both Chinese society and the western beauty market, creating a psychologically harmful standard of beauty amongst the Chinese female population. Further, a new standardization of feminine beauty has emerged in contrast to the Maoist period.




Long Live the Mao Suit

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Source: McKirdy Euan and Shen Lu, CNN: “China: Giant gold Mao statue torn down,” 2016, Henan Province

The image above was taken for a CNN news article titled “China: Giant gold Mao statue torn down.” In this image, a giant statue of Mao looms over agricultural Henan province, a bright symbol in an otherwise dreary landscape. The golden Mao statue is dressed in a traditional Mao suit in which four pockets, representing propriety, justice, honesty, and a sense of shame, and five center front buttons are present. The article explains how this 120-foot statue, which was funded and constructed by businessman and rural communities, has reportedly been demolished at the hands of state authorities.

The image exemplifies how Maoist China, as aesthetically characterized by Chairman Mao in the Mao suit, representing a uniform and militarized society, has persisted into the modern political fabric of China, leaving ideological and symbolic remnants in its wake. Further, the image of Chairman Mao in a Mao Suit stands as an ironic symbol of failed socialist reforms. When viewing this image, one can observe various signs upon conducting a deep connotative analysis of the image:

Landscape: In the image, the barren agricultural landscape stands in contrast to the bright golden Mao statue in the forefront of the picture. The golden statue represents how a wealthy central state in China has often been accrued at the expense of the peasants. The CNN article mentions how the erecting of the statue in the Henan province has been controversial given that the area had been “hardest hit by the famines of the 1950s and 60s, which were brought on by Mao’s disastrous “Great Leap Forward” economic and social reforms” (McKirdy and Lu). The contrast between the statue and the landscape is ironic considering that, though Maoist policies killed many people in the Henan province, his iconic image in the Mao suit is still glorified by the proletariat peasant class.

Height and Size: The sheer size and height of the statue is significant to consider.  Standing tall at 120 feet, the Mao statue looms over residents of the Henan province. The height and size of the statue demonstrates Mao’s power and control over mass amounts of people. The modern statue continues to glorify Mao’s political reign and portray him as a godly and heroic manifestation. These values place control and power at the hands of political leaders rather than at the hands of a democratic public. The statue cost 3 million yen to build, a large sum of money disproportionately and nonsensically connected to the land and population to which the statue was built under.

Mao Suit and Legacies: The image represents a clear glorification and deification of Chairman Mao and his legacies. It is interesting to note, also, that Mao’s image in the Mao suit is glorified in other public locations, including the Tiananmen Square. In these images, Mao can be noticeably recognized in the Mao suit, both a model and legacy of a uniformed and socialist past. This legacy and past as aesthetically represented by Mao in the Mao Suit is in contention with the current Chinese government, as they have ordered the statue to be torn down. any critical comments that can be made about the contrast?

The image ultimately shows how Mao in the Mao suit is a symbol of a socialist era and a political past that is symbolized, celebrated, and glorified by pockets of Chinese citizens. Legacies of Maoism have endured time, ideological and symbolic components of the political era persisting into the modern era.

locate the topic against socialist and post-socialist China and see the transition

Repetition of the Iconic Qipao

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Source: Wong, Wesley Thomas: “China Stories- Greeting Girls,” 2013, Hangzhou, China

The image above, titled “China Stories- Greeting Girls” portrays three young, beautiful Chinese women in Hangzhou China sporting Qipao dresses. The symmetry and simplicity of this image initially caught my eye, in which the three women of equal stature stand in a similar stance in a neat row. The color of the women’s Qipao dresses are red and of an elegant and traditional style, and their hair is styled in a neat and sophisticated bun. The photographer, Wong, explains how this photo was taken at a Comic-Con Anime festival in Hangzhou, China in which the three women acted as hostesses and “greeting girls” to guests at the event.

The image exemplifies how the Qipao has become an iconic garment in Chinese society and a stylistic trend that has been embodied as an archetype of Chinese femininity. When viewing “China Stories- Greeting Girls,” one can observe various signs upon conducting a deep connotative analysis of the image:

Repetition: In the image, 3 women are standing in a row. In their identical outfits, the women create a sense of repetition and duplication. The theme of recurrence is evident in the image, showing how the Qiapo has been reproduced and “cloned” throughout Chinese society. This reproduction of the dress has resulted in the garment becoming an iconic symbol of feminine Chinese fashion. One can also consider how, within the Chinese context, the garment has created a “standard” of feminine beauty, confining and restricting the Chinese woman to a definitive national style.  These women pictured in the image appear to represent a narrow standard of Chinese feminine fashion.

how about the qipao for those three “greeting girls” speaks for their social/gender identity: insignificant female other dressed for advertisement

Color and Style: The style of the Qipaos in this image can be viewed as being of a more traditional nature than what has come to represent the Qipao in later years. The neckline is high, and the adornments are simple, yet intricate. Where in later Chinese fashion following the 1980s, the slit rising up the side of the dress transformed to become more revealing, the slit on the dresses these women wear appear to be conservative and small. The fabric used in these Qipao dresses is red with a delicate flower design in gold. The aim of these particular Qipao dresses is not for sexualization of the feminine body, but a straightforward depiction of classic Chinese fashion, instead.

again their social status and gender identity: “greeting girls”

Embodiment of “Chinese-ness”: It is important to consider here the context of the image.   The women who are portrayed in the image are known to be “greeting girls,” for both a Chinese-speaking and English-speaking audience. It is noteworthy that the hostesses of this large event have been dressed in the Qipao outfit. The women appear to be a tool for marketing Chinese culture to the event’s guests. It is important to consider how the women are being Orientalized or exoticized to a greater mass of people through the “Chinese-ness” of the Qipao. The outifts of these “greeting girls” were intentionally chosen as a representation of Chinese femininity. a strong paragraph

The image ultimately shows how the Qipao style has not only been reproduced and repeated as an archetypal Chinese dress, but has been used to display and represent a Chinese feminine identity.

A Reflection on Footbinding


Source: Passarini, Mattia: “Last foot-binding,” 2013, Yunnan-China.

This image above, titled, “Last foot-binding” portrays an elderly Chinese woman from the Yunnan province with bound feet. One of her feet is dressed in a simple yet elegant maroon cotton lotus shoe. The left foot, however, is exposed to the photographer, unbound and bare. The unbound foot rests atop a square mirror, where the audience sees the reflection of the elderly woman’s face next to the view of the bottom of her foot. The photographer explains how, when this photograph was taken in 2013, less than 10 elderly women with binding feet were still alive in China.

The image exemplifies how perceptions of Chinese women with bound feet are limited and short-sighted. When viewing “Last foot-binding,” one can observe various signs upon conducting a deep connotative analysis of the image:

1) Age: The woman is one of the last surviving Chinese women with bound feet. Considering this, the image connotes the end of a time period and the end of a cultural phenomenon as represented through foot binding. Though this form of “fashion” may no longer be regarded as “in style,” it is important to note how the age of the woman exemplifies how this feminine fashion, bound feet, forcibly transcends time. For the woman in this image, bound feet are an unchanging part of her, coercively ageless despite changing fashion trends.

2) Contrast of the left foot to the right foot: The woman’s feet are contrasted to one another, the right foot covered while the left foot is bare, to show the permanency of the trend. In considering this contrast, one can also consider themes of secrecy and openness. Dorothy Ko in her article, “A Bondage in Time,” explains how foot binding once embodied and air of mystery. The image acts to uncover the mystery, while still hinting towards the enigmatic nature of the trend.

3) Clothing: The style of clothing that the elderly women wears is comfortable, casual, and worn down. Ko explains how the meaning of foot binding changed throughout history as it was embodied by different socio-economic classes. The audience can consider the woman’s life, as image suggests that the woman did not live a life of leisure, but a possibly laborious life.

4) The mirror: The focal point of this image is the bare, exposed bound left foot. It is interesting, however, that Passerini would use a mirror to reflect the elderly woman’s face slightly to the left of the focal point. The reflection of the woman’s face causes the audience to consider the woman as a separate entity from the bound foot. Her face is one piece of the image, while her feet are a separate part of the image, unattached to one another, yet still connected.  The image acts to alter one’s perception of foot binding and perception of Chinese women as being defined physically, mentally and spiritually by foot binding.

The image ultimately causes the audience to reflect on their own conceptions, knowledge, and even apprehensions toward foot binding by adding a personal and human element to the image.

-Sarah    persuasive analysis. the photographic design/manipulation could be further addressed