Although I grew up around my mum, grandma, and aunties continually watching Vietnamese movies, I had never encountered a movie like Furie. After the Vietnam war, many media and film production companies were owned by those within North Vietnamese communities, as they became wealthier. As a result, mainstream Vietnamese movies commonly watched by my family always reflected the experiences and stories of those from the North or were inspired by Chinese culture. With the times changing, Furie is one of the first films that I have viewed where it accurately depicts the lifestyle and setting of those in Southern Vietnam. Although I have a Vietnamese background, I seek to compare and analyse Furie against my own experience in order to see whether I can better understand my culture.
Reconstructing the role of a woman
In Vietnamese culture, there is a common cultural expectation that a mother will excel at fulfilling domestic duties and care for her children (Evason, 2016). Despite the traditional mindset that many still hold within Vietnamese communities, Furie has reconstructed the role and characteristics of a Vietnamese woman (Bussarawan et al, 2010). This is reflected at the beginning of the movie when Hai burns the rice for dinner, which is generally unheard of because cooking rice is seen as the most necessary skill held by a Vietnamese woman. The portrayal of Hai is extremely reflective of the transformation of gender roles and portrayals within modern Vietnamese society (Burkhanov, 2016). Rather than having a submissive and manipulative female lead (who is most usually a wife) that I traditionally see in Vietnamese productions, we are introduced to a headstrong and independent single mother who tackles her own battles (both physical and mental). From her martial arts ability, to her tough demeanour, Hai challenges the typical image of a woman in mainstream Vietnamese Media.
Being raised by a Vietnamese single mother, I felt that the emotions that Hai expressed throughout the movie are extremely and accurately representative of the emotions that many single mothers within the culture face when presented with challenges. Whilst Vietnamese mothers today might not be fighting off traffickers, they still face constant criticism from those in their close communities and financial difficulties whilst raising their children (Knodel et al, 2005).
Movies like Furie effectively bring to light the complex hurdles that modern mothers face and highlight their capacity to redefine the socially rigid role of a woman. Though gender roles are changing in the younger generations in Vietnamese society, men are still more dominant than women in the public sphere (Evason, 2016). In my eyes, Furie has challenged the way women and single mothers are currently portrayed in the Vietnamese film industry and has the power to influence the way women are portrayed in the future.
Highlighting clear social structure
Throughout the film, there is an emphasis on social structure and hierarchy, with a clear social distance seen through dialogue between characters. This was first evident when Hai’s daughter was accused of stealing a wallet at the market and many older women began to interrogate her .
Within my own Vietnamese community in Australia, many still believe that age determines the grading of respect and knowledge in many interactions (Evason, 2019). In many circumstances growing up, I would have to unconditionally obey elders or default arguments so that the older family members’ view would prevail. This concept is much different than in an Australian setting, where arguments are based on validity and there is a less structured social hierarchy (Sivsasubramaniam & Delahunty, 2014).
Contrastingly, although age is usually a determinant of respect in Vietnam, we also see two young boys scream and hurl insults at Hai, calling her “a dumb hustler” and “a debt collector”. This was strange to me as age has always been the main determinant of how you approach and speak to others. Although age is a factor, Nguyen and Hoang highlight that social status and wealth are also key factors in determining social hierarchies, particularly in more rural areas where everybody is more well known to each other. (Nguyen & Hoang, 2015). Through analysing the social interactions within Furie, it is demonstrated that the way that people interact with each other is determined by a combination of age, social status, wealth, and family reputation (Nguyen, 2016).
From the way people talked at the markets to the way they referred to their family, the movie accurately represents the way the wider southern Vietnamese community interacts. Overall, I find myself in a strange position when conducting an autoethnography with a Vietnamese piece like Furie (Ellis et al, 2011). On one hand, I consider myself an insider as I am of Vietnamese ethnicity and have grown up embedded in Vietnamese culture, values, and attitudes. On the other, I’m also an outsider as most of my interactions with the Vietnamese community are in Australia, where the culture’s values and attitudes have developed differently than in Vietnam, due to the influence of Australian culture. Either way, by analysing Furie and comparing them to my own experiences and literature, I have been able to better understand the changing social landscape in Vietnam.
Last Edit: 10:45pm 04/09/2020 (Edited: Added some links, linked photos and checked grammar)
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