Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

BFF-Chinese Style

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 17, 2011

    Marriages are arranged-based on how “beautiful” the feet are. Girlfriends, however, are chosen. This is a bond of love and devotion. The movie “Snowlflower and the Secret Fan” portrays female friendship in  a way that is shallow, but at the same time, clearly points out that these connections are  the most meaningful relationship of these women’s lives. Women compete with each other, but they also watch out for each other, adding to the complication that friendship means devotion, but it also means measuring yourself against the “success” of your friends. Essentially, life is relative. How we see ourselves, depends heavily on how we see our peers. Marriage is often a business relationship, even in modern times. Friends are chosen, but they still involves rivalries, competition and disappointment. Neena, the main character, is successful, but then guilt-ridden, by the bumpy road her friend Sophia has taken. Sophia loves Neena, but she also feels guilty that she burdens Neena, so she alienates Neena to attempt to minimize the importance of their relationship. Neena also loves Sophia, but Neena feels guilty for succeeding in the business world, thereby giving Neena opportunities that Sophia can only dream of. Meanwhile, Sophia writes a book about historical China where women relied on other women for emotional support, but they also accepted their responsibilities of bearing a male child and providing for the home, which included her husband’s family. The woman’s family was left, as was culturally approved. That men beat up their wives, things went terribly wrong, was somehow justified as a man “expressing his disappointment.” Domestic violence was rationalized as a way a man deals with disappointment. The women were complicit. Love was expressed through violence. We, the audience, had to accept that. The female friendships had to endure this abuse. If they did not, then the outside observer felt a moral wrong, but the victim expressed business was usual. In essence, the themes don’t change. A woman gets married. She gets disappointed with her husband, so she turns to her friends. Her friends try to help her, but at the same time, they appreciate their own good fortune. The woman realizes she is stuck with her man. She eventually accepts this as part of her life. She learns her lesson and mostly, she is happy. At the same time, her loss in her female friendships hurts her deeply. We do not see in the movie how the women are torn apart by their female relationships. We have to accept that they are. This is where the movie fell down, slightly.

2 Responses to “BFF-Chinese Style”

  1. Shelly said

    The book is always richer than the movie. Remind me to give it to you when you come and visit. And sometimes women need to accept what life has provided and not always ask, “What if?” It’s the “what ifs” that make us miserable. I think that’s one of the lessons you’ve taught me.

    • Thanks. I also want to say that the “what ifs” are inevitable, although the question yields deep pain. Dealing with the pain is the challenge. Girlfriends can help and hurt the “what if” question, as this is the point of tremendous vulnerability.

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