A little while ago, I was sitting in Songshan Cultural Park (松山文創園區), looking up at the Xinyi District skyline and thinking about how ugly the Taipei Farglory Financial Center is. It is a big, ungainly, squat blight on the city. It is an eyesore. It is like Taipei 101’s fat, uncharismatic sidekick, the one that’s just there to make the other skyscrapers look thinner, taller and prettier.
Suddenly, a wave of regret washed over me and tears sprang into my eyes.
“It’s not your fault you’re so ugly. You’re just a building,” I whispered. That’s when I realized that it was time to crawl into the woods again and watch “The Joy Luck Club” by myself, like I do about once a month or so.
I was 11 years old when the movie came out. It was such a watershed moment for Asian-Americans. As in, there was literally a lot of water shed. I remember sitting in the theater, surrounded by women and girls sobbing into their popcorn. It was SO WEIRD. Awkwardness aside, I found myself relating to June because she was like me–unsure, bad at the piano and always risking severe food poisoning by taking the worst quality seafood (though in my case, it was by accident and not because I have the best quality heart).
As an adult, however, I’m drawn to Auntie Lindo, for one simple reason. The woman has moxie. She is the most badass of all the Joy Luck Club aunties, the one who transformed her unhappy past as a child bride into an origin story, like a superhero:
“I had on a beautiful red dress, but what I saw was even more valuable. I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind.”
In an interview, Tsai Chin (the first Chinese actor to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts ) says she asked to play the character because “Auntie Lindo is not an easy person, which I can identify with. Therefore I think, she’s probably quite interesting. I like tough women, being one myself. I am not a shrinking violet.”
One of the things I love most about the movie and novel is that both make clear Auntie Lindo’s intrinsic sense of self-worth stems from her love for her mother, even though she sold Lindo to a wealthy family. But Lindo understands why she did that. She doesn’t question her mother’s intentions, because her mother doted on her in the short time they had together.
“The Joy Luck Club” is often seen as the original novel about tiger moms (before that was even a term), but the strongest mother-daughter pair in it openly adored each other. The sad thing is that Lindo struggles to replicate that closeness with her own daughter because of their cultural differences, but they are able to find a measure of reconciliation.
“Mom, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing. Only thinking, thinking about my mother, how much I wanted to be like her.”
Dammit, now I’m going to start crying into my popcorn…which is, I guess, better than crying because I hurt a building’s feelings. But seriously, I totally understand how the Taipei Farglory Financial Center feels, because even though I try to align myself with Auntie Lindo now, in many ways I am still a June at heart, struggling at the great piano recital of life as everyone looks at me funny.
If you are thinking “Wow, this post makes me want to watch ‘The Joy Luck Club’ but I’m too lazy to download it right now. Can you post a bunch of screen caps again?'” then you are in luck! I have 30 more of these suckers coming up in my next posts, which will focus on other characters.