“Fake ladies” dominate China’s “Happy Boy” show

A most interesting article that once again highlights China’s conservatism on the one hand and its tolerance on the other. While I can imagine this sort of thing being seen as cool among some segments of American society, it’s hard to picture weiniang (fake ladies) going mainstream anytime soon. (Then again, Liberace was popular all across America.)

The bottom line is that millions of Chinese youth are celebrating cross-dressing guys, at least some of whom seem to be true transgendereds. They are wildly popular. While there may be examples in the US of toleration for cross-dressers, we’ve never seen it go mainstream like this.

On a separate note, one quote from the article baffled me.

But noted sociologist Gu Xiaoming from Fudan University says weiniang shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

“It used to be a fad even in the Western countries,” Gu says. “In the movie ‘Titanic,’ Leonardo DiCaprio stunned many people with his feminine features.”

Were “many people” really “stunned” by DiCaprio’s “feminine features”? Did he seem at all transgendered or ladylike? I’m not convinced this was a widespread reaction.

Update: Then again, when it comes to other teen-oriented TV shows, the Chinese authorities can show a lots less tolerance.

happyboy

Cross-dresser Xu Long, who insists he only dresses like a man. You decide.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

I thought drag queens were a pretty mainstream act in the west.
Living,as I do, in the Pacific, there is a large contingent of fa’afafine. Many of them, it has to be said, do not look very feminine…

July 6, 2010 @ 5:50 am | Comment

I would say they aren’t mainstream. There are drag shows but they are still looked on as freak shows and are never seen in prime time. The only drag stars we have that I know of are from John Waters movies, like Divine. I’ve never heard of teens In the US going wild over drag as in China, though to be fair drag in general is more common in Asia than in the US

July 6, 2010 @ 6:46 am | Comment

Maybe it’s just us Brits (and white Commonwealth) ;-) . We have Lily Savage on mainstream TV and of course, from Down Under, Dame Edna has been entertaining us for…well, as long as I remember :-) And then there was Cissie and Ada

As you say, mind – we are trying to compare Asian and European mindsets – doesn’t really work. Heck, even inter-European mindsets don’t gel too well…then we have teh cultural differences encountered crossing the Atlantic!

Thank the gods for all the diversity!

July 6, 2010 @ 7:06 am | Comment

Leo is not at all feminine. I mean, come on! Baby face, yeah. But feminine, not really. I wasn’t “stunned”.

I would think cross-dressing is more popular in Japan rather in China. At least I haven’t encountered anyone cross-dressing…so far. Or they’ve fooled me with their believability.

July 6, 2010 @ 8:45 am | Comment

Drag shows are quite popular at certain bars all across China. Of course, no place compare to Thailand when it comes to drag. I find it boring as hell, but so many people seem to love it, men and women. One of my best frieds here in Phoenix is a lady from England in her 50s who lives for drag shows. Go figure.

July 6, 2010 @ 9:03 am | Comment

Mike, long before Lily Savage we had the Pythons dressing up as elderly charladies; — it’s part of the British comic tradition. And remember the early Boy George?

Isn’t there a long tradition of cross-dressing and confused gender toles in both Japan and China? Pretty boy prostitutes dresed as girls were, I think, an integral aspect of both cultures for centuries (in 1912, for instance, the Webbs who were visiting China at the time expressed revulsion at this kind of “perversity”), and traditionally weren’t female parts in Chinese opera and Japanese drama always played by heavily made-up boys?

Maybe East Asian males are less insecure in their masculinity. And good for them.

July 6, 2010 @ 10:05 am | Comment

I have read that women’s parts in Tudor England was done by men and boys too.

British drag, as I know it, isn’t all “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” style :-) Here – Cissie and Ada, classic British comedy, albeit maybe a bit dated now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foInKEjLsM4

July 6, 2010 @ 10:29 am | Comment

Segueing from Les Dawson to Eddie Izard … a fine British tradition lives om.

July 6, 2010 @ 5:31 pm | Comment

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