Monday, October 20, 2008

"The Princess from Nebraska"

Thanks to Angry Asian Man, my husband and I downloaded and watched "Princess of Nebraska" co-directed by Wayne Wang and Richard Wong the other night. It completely resonated with us. We didn't even have to say one word -- the young Chinese woman from Beijing/Nebraska lost and texting in California (is it SF? LA?), her world caught within a cell phone screen -- and she, trapped by circumstances. One night of sex with an attractive friend happened to her; he didn't want to wear a condom happened to her; pregnancy happened to her; four weeks passing with indecision of what to do about the pregnancy happened to her and meanwhile, HER life is happening to her friends and acquaintances -- a network of friends and chance meetings happening to one another.

Then the perfect ending after she leaves the abortion clinic -- we don't know her decision, I guess -- which closes with this endless shot of her standing, back turned, face in a profile (looking back, perhaps?) against a grey wall. We watched without a word as the minutes ticked by and the music came to a close. As the credits rolled, I broke the silence, "And there she waits for someone to rescue her."

My husband barked a loud laugh. And then the two of us broke into hysterical laughter. You see, we parented a few children. Two intensely and too recent to forget. And one, who is now a young grandmother. When she complained about her first daughter's teen behavior to us, her family and I laughed, without a lot of compassion, and said, "OOOOOOOOO payback." Her grandson is just born to that first daughter, and he's a toughy. Grandma, of course, bought him a little tee saying "I'm payback."

As for our other two young ones, our daughter and a close niece whom we raised from 10 - 13 years old and again when she moved in when she was 24, our experience is that if Princess has the baby, the baby will probably rescue her from ennui and life happening to her. Carrying a baby through pregnancy and having no control over her body as baby grows and grows and kicks, and tumbles inside her body, the surge of motherly hormones, not being able to escape the swelling body, not being able to run away from feeding and caring for this little being because baby's going to take all it needs to grow, -- well, princesses finally have to face front and take steps.

So if the Princess of Nebraska's mother doesn't kill her (she won't), or if the middle aged white guy with the crush on the talented lost beautiful Chinese man they would both like to bed (a Peking opera hopeful turned prostitute who is never going to answer her texts) gives her a roof over her head and fantasizes some more of the three of them raising the child only to be disappointed, princess will be rescued for the time being.

Do you sense a generation gap? Whatever, it was great directing. The princess may be lost but likeable. Real rescue material. Too much of life shot within little squares from the point of view of cell phone screens, and mirrors to not be deliberate. And that end shot. Did Wayne Wang and Richard Wong nail it? Or was it meant to be less reality more art. It doesn't matter because it works for us all -- dreamers, counselor types and parents who have been through the rollercoaster ride.

No sarcasm is meant by my critique because I wish the Princess of Nebraska well in spite of my being part of a generation who might have said "Off with their heads" toward royalty. And now, there's a princess in every home including ours. I love our Princess of southern Oregon and our Princess from Pusan City as well as our grown up Princess of Navaho Nation. I love each of their beautiful babies and say to myself, each baby rescued mommy when no one else could. And I'm very proud of each of our princesses for the courage to make their own solitary life transforming decision and see it through.

That's how our stories played out even if happy endings are not guaranteed. As for Princesses of Nebraska for whom reality is just too much to deal with, eventually, she may become real (ala Pinnochio). And that is not such a sad ending to a story.

1 comment:

  1. hah, i laughed so hard too, the image of your comment as the credits rolled caught me off simply and beautifully capsulizing it all!~m


"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.