Chinese feminists are not happy with how Aamir Khan’s character would force his dreams and ambitions on his daughter.
Chinese feminists are not happy with how Aamir Khan’s character would force his dreams and ambitions on his daughter.

The father’s values make me vomit: Chinese feminists are bashing Dangal

Aamir Khan’s Dangal has been bashed by Chinese feminists for showing how a father pushes his ambitions onto his daughters.
Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondent, Sutirtho Patranobis
UPDATED ON MAY 18, 2017 11:23 PM IST

Besides making a large pot of money in China, Aamir Khan‘s Dangal has triggered a robust online debate on the state of feminism in the country where feminists are often frowned upon for being too radical in their views.

The debate of course is just part of the ripple that Dangal has created in urban China – among the audience and at the box office register.

“Indian film Dangal has earned more than 450 million yuan ($ 65 million) in 11 days, becoming the highest grossing Indian movie in China,’’ official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

Aamir Khan plays the father in the movie.
Aamir Khan plays the father in the movie.

ChinaFilmInsider reported the same day that “India’s Dangal crushes Hollywood heavyweight, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2”.

It added that Dangal had joined the “ranks of Zootopia, Hacksaw Ridge and A Dog’s Purpose as part of a select list of imported films that bucked the normal box office trajectory and found growing audience demand into their second and third weeks of their release”.

The reasons behind the success were analysed in the Xinhua report: “As well as the well-written storyline and excellent acting, the ideas of breaking gender roles and reforming education inspired by the film have struck a chord with many Chinese parents.”

Fatima Sana Sheikh and Sanya Malhotra in Dangal.
Fatima Sana Sheikh and Sanya Malhotra in Dangal.

But as it turns out, rather ironically, some Chinese in the packed theatres screening Dangal criticised the movie for its “patriarchal” values, according to the nationalistic Global Times tabloid.

“The father’s values make me vomit; he forces his daughters to live a certain type of life with his dream, with money and becoming a champion. You think the movie is about breaking gender stereotypes, but actually it’s knee-deep in prejudice,” the newspaper quoted a viewer as saying.

Another said: “The movie reeks of patriarchy and male chauvinism. The daughters didn’t have any freedom to choose and were raised ferociously by their father to be world champions. The ‘correct result’ in the championship justifies the father’s education.”

The crux of the argument is this – the girls were not given a chance by their father to live their lives and were forced into wrestling.

The debate, of course, hasn’t been a one-sided bout.

Many praised the movie for breaking gender stereotypes, saying Aamir Khan’s character taught his daughters to have an independent spirit.

A film reviewer for Dushe Dianying, a popular movie criticism app, said: “I’m not saying that women should not fight for their rights, I’m saying feminist slogans that overlook cultural and social contexts and reality can be a type of hijacking. When words are tied to ‘isms’ their meanings change. When social phenomena are tied to ‘isms’ they get out of control.”

Wei Tingting, director of the Guangzhou Gender and Sexuality Education Centre, found that though only a small proportion of posts on Dangal were “critical feminist comments, they were often met with long diatribes”.

The disproportionate reaction to feminist views, she thought, reflected China’s anxiety over feminism.

“Women who want more gender equality are anxious about defending their own rights and therefore apply feminism to every issue, while some men feel challenged by women’s rising status and attack feminism,” she said.

As the debate rages on in China’s vibrant online community, one thing is certain – only a single winner will emerge from it and that’s the movie.

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