Why Bai Ling is Film Cool and the rest of us are just her minions

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If you watch Penélope Cruz in any of Pedro Almodóvar’s films, or a movie like Belle Époque, you get a very different feel from her as an actress versus if you watch her in something like Vanilla Sky or Bandidas. This isn’t saying that there’s anything wrong with those movies, but in films like Volver and All About My Mother there is more depth, more added layers to not just the characters, but also in how Cruz portrays them and brings them to life on the screen. There’s a dichotomy between the two Cruz’s. If you only know her from her more American films, you may not realize the full depth of her skills as an actress and an artist.

The same can be said for Chinese actress Bai Ling, where in the states she is sometimes mostly known not for her film roles, but rather her outrageous dress, her spot on the reality show But Can They Sing, and getting cut out of Star Wars: Episode III which coincided with her posing for Playboy.

But just like Penélope Cruz is more than her American roles, there’s more to Bai Ling as well.

That’s a lot of hardware

Bai Ling hasn’t just been awarded one Best Supporting Actress Award - she’s won two - for her work in the segment Dumplings from the film Three… Extremes at both the Golden Horse Film Festival and the Hong Kong Film Awards. The U.S. National Board of Review also gave her the award for Female Breakthrough Performance for her role in the film Red Corner (which also garnered her a Female Discovery of the Year award).

Shanghai Baby and Shanghai Producer

In addition to acting in a plethora of movies, she also serves as the executive producer on one of her latest films Shanghai Baby.

The Beautiful Country, The Crow, She Hate Me, Dumplings

When you’ve been in these movies - ultra cool movies - it says something about your work as an actress - past, present, and future. And with 45+ film and TV credits to her name she won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Is that network TV?

Wasn’t that Bai Ling on Lost? Network TV Lost? Multicultural it’s great to see another Asian face Lost? Just so there’s no confusion - that would be yes.

Because she’s not a docile-feet bound-her lips shut-bowing to the masses Asian woman

The bottom line is that Bai Ling does it her way. She doesn’t conform to any views of what people sometimes expect an award winning Asian actress to be; rather than just keep quiet and nod her head and comply - she does the exact opposite.

And is that any different from any of the other actresses out there? Didn’t Angelina Jolie wear a vile of blood around her neck, profess to be a nymphomaniac, and kiss her brother in a pseudo-sexual way? Wasn’t that Vanessa Williams who was involved in a nude photo scandal? Didn’t Marilyn Monroe have an affair with a U.S. President?

But aren’t they still deemed great actresses (or at least good ones)? Icons even?

Why is it that Asian women in the media seem to get held up to even higher standards than their non-Asian counterparts? Why can’t they be smart, flaky, trashy, demure, serious, introspective, self deprecating - anything they want to be - all at the same time, on and off the screen, and still be considered great actresses?

The answer is that they can - and they should.