Raising the Red Lantern and the Lowering of Women

Directed by Zhang Yimou, Raising the Red Lantern is a film that follows Songlian as she is married to a man as his 4th wife and how she navigates her new life. 

As soon as Songlian is married she is thrust into this new life and we observe how she navigates and learns about her new life. This is where the audience can observe gender roles in action. While the men are out and about often not home doing activities unknown the women stay home and have their own activities. These activities are much different and can be observed as almost warfare between the women. In the film the mistresses plot ways to get the husband to stay with them. Songlian claims to be pregnant so the husband will stay with her and she hopes to eventually become pregnant. The 2nd mistress will betray the others to gain favor. Even the 3rd mistress will act sick or sing loudly to disturb the others. 

The film shows how the women have gone from university students and famous singers to fighting over a man. This shows the deep societal expectations on women at the time. The framing of the movie even shows the role women are trapped in. Songlian is often boxed in a room or closely trapped by a frame of a bed or door. This represents the role she is trapped in with how she can’t escape being a wife and mistress. Finally at the end of the movie she is not framed in this way. This is after she has been declared crazy and is let more roam free. While not a happy ending she has been freed in a way from the social constructs placed on her by society at the time. 

The audience is left feeling conflicted about how they should feel. Are they happy she has broken free in a way and does not just have to please the master. But she has seemingly gone mad wandering around and is left completely alone. Before she had servants and relative power. Now she is a wandering crazy person. This leaves the audience thinking deeply about the movie which accomplishes the task of the director in creating it.