Portrayals of Marginalized Women in Jia Zhangke’s Cinematic Works

  • Liuxuan Yan Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Malaya (UM), 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • Marlenny Deenerwan Department of Drama, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Malaya (UM), 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6710-278X
  • Raja Farah Raja Hadayadanin Department of Drama, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Malaya (UM), 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. https://orcid.org/0009-0008-6621-7495
Keywords: Jia Zhangke's Cinema, Female characters, Feminine Self-awareness


Feminist theories gained prominence in the West as early as the 1960s, progressively impacting film criticism. It was only in the 1990s that Western feminist theory began to permeate Chinese academic realms, including film studies and theory. Despite this introduction, feminism did not significantly alter the traditional gender hierarchy in Chinese cinema, where female characters frequently assume roles subordinate to their male counterparts. Jia Zhangke, a notable figure from the sixth generation of Chinese directors, is neither a female director nor a feminist scholar with a focus on women's studies. Nevertheless, his oeuvre reflects a contemplation of women's issues and adopts a relatively equitable perspective in portraying female characters. This paper examines the depiction of marginalized women in Jia Zhangke's films and their transition from the 'Other' to the 'Subject'. Additionally, it delves into how his films contribute to the generation of feminist discourse and explore the role of cinema in reinforcing female ideologies. Using qualitative analysis, this paper analyses the representation of marginalised women in Jia Zhangke's three films through the theory of the male gaze, with the aim of demonstrating that as women's influence increases, their role will gradually evolve from being seen as 'the other' or a male appendage to being recognised as a 'subject' with a sense of self. Ultimately, after overcoming the established gender hierarchy of the "other", the female characters do not confront or antagonise the male subject, but rather help other women to establish themselves as true female subjects.


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How to Cite
Yan, L., Deenerwan, M. and Raja Hadayadanin, R. F. (2024) “Portrayals of Marginalized Women in Jia Zhangke’s Cinematic Works”, Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH), 9(5), p. e002817. doi: 10.47405/mjssh.v9i5.2817.