cover of book
 

Vulgar Beauty: Acting Chinese in the Global Sensorium
by Mila Zuo
Duke University Press, 2022
Paper: 978-1-4780-1811-7 | Cloth: 978-1-4780-1547-5 | eISBN: 978-1-4780-2271-8
Library of Congress Classification PN1995.9.C48Z866 2022

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ABOUT THIS BOOK
In Vulgar Beauty Mila Zuo offers a new theorization of cinematic feminine beauty by showing how mediated encounters with Chinese film and popular culture stars produce feelings of Chineseness. To illustrate this, Zuo uses the vulgar as an analytic to trace how racial, gendered, and cultural identity is imagined and produced through affect. She frames the vulgar as a characteristic that is experienced through the Chinese concept of weidao, or flavor, in which bitter, salty, pungent, sweet, and sour performances of beauty produce non-Western forms of sexualized and racialized femininity. Analyzing contemporary film and media ranging from actress Gong Li’s post-Mao movies of the late 1980s and 1990s to Joan Chen’s performance in Twin Peaks to Ali Wong’s stand-up comedy specials, Zuo shows how vulgar beauty disrupts Western and colonial notions of beauty. Vulgar beauty, then, becomes the taste of difference. By demonstrating how Chinese feminine beauty becomes a cinematic invention invested in forms of affective racialization, Zuo makes a critical reconsideration of aesthetic theory.
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