MovieChat Forums > Raise the Red Lantern (1991) Discussion > Fourth Mistress wasn't really a nice per...

Fourth Mistress wasn't really a nice person


SPOILER

Gong Li is brilliant in this, but are we really supposed to feel sympathy for her characters actions? She comes off as a bytch from the start, rude to her servant, impatient with the master, demanding of her foods (no meat), lies about being pregnant so she can get foot massages for months on end, rats out the third mistress's affair because she got too "drunk". Am I to really feel sorry for her at the end? She brought on the consequences of fate on herself- she literally made her bed, and has to lie in it.

Anyone else feel the same way?

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A major factor in this movie is that these women were all essentially trapped and scrabbling for power. ("Get a foot massage every day and you'll soon be running the house!", as second mistress put it.) I felt for all of them, in one way or another.


You're a sexual Disneyland.

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Yes I agree, but I think we should still feel some sympathy for her. I don't think it's black and white - love her or hate her. She was 19 with both parents dead and nothing left to look forward to in life - at least in her mind. She was haughty and petulent but she acted like many children would in her situation. I think we should cut her some slack - but yes, some children would have reacted differently and more positively given the same situation resulting in a totally different outcome.

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She's 19, that is far from being a child. In those times, women much younger than her got married and had babies. Yet, she has the mentality of a spoiled brat.

She is extremely rude throughout the film to everyone, including the poor servant girl. It has nothing to do with losing her parents - she's just spoiled girl in general.

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I'd really recommend reading the book if you haven't already, you get a much greater insight into why she acts how she does, you get to see what she's really thinking.

But yes, either way I wouldn't call her a likeable character, but she's a bright,independent, modern girl who is suddenly trapped in this emotionally stifling, bitchy, competitive world of women. Throughout the film (and book) she's really just reacting to this situation, and the inconsistency of it, for example being treated with respect one day and contempt the next.

I think she's a remarkable character because I think she behaves and acts how most people probably would, but they'd never dare admit it.

I mean, I'd be pissed off too if I, at 19, had to accept that the rest of my life would revolve around trying to get foot massages and please an old man, and knowing that I'd inevitably end up like the first mistress anyway.

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Throughout the film (and book) she's really just reacting to this situation, and the inconsistency of it, for example being treated with respect one day and contempt the next. I think she's a remarkable character because I think she behaves and acts how most people probably would, but they'd never dare admit it.


Exactly my thoughts. People tend to say, "Oh, I wouldn't have acted that way!", but I don't think they're putting themselves in to the character's shoes, or considering the context. To be that shuttered up, that oppressed, and so forced to scramble for power on a daily basis...I think I'd crack much sooner.


You're a sexual Disneyland.

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She can be really unkind to the other mistresses and the servant girl, but only because of the difficulty of the situation she's in. The only "spoiled" person in the movie is the husband, who benefits greatly from these customs that have his mistresses desperate to please him (despite not actually wanting him to come to their beds at all, or truly giving a crap about any foot massage for that matter) because they're in competition with each other to get whatever privileges they can in their essentially powerless roles.

At the beginning of the movie we see that Gong Li's character doesn't care to be a wife rather than a concubine. Especially because she was supposed to get educated instead, it is degrading either way to have to resort to being a kept woman (essentially what a rich man's wife is anyway in this kind of society) to be supported, so as far as she's concerned she might as well be a concubine. She goes into this situation without a sense of pride or entitlement, which is why she chooses to walk there even though her husband sent a sedan for her, and at first is nice to the servant girl and tries to help her with the chore she's doing as soon as she meets her. That changes only after the other women are so unwelcoming with her and she starts to see clearly the kind of life she's entered into - a life in which she's denied things that she should be denied for absolutely no reason like having a meal suitable for someone who prefers not to eat meat, and the other mistresses will constantly be against her for reasons that aren't her fault at all, so that she comes to feel that the only way to have any control and dignity in her situation is to play this vicious game along with the others.

I think her behavior is certainly not admirable, but it's human, and she does come to be ashamed that she was so easily baited into the futile competing for this one self-centered man's attention. It was an honest mistake when she blurted out the secret about the third mistress's affair, while the second mistress knew exactly what she was doing telling someone about it and deserves as much of the blame for her death as the husband.

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^^^thank you for bringing up the fact that she was NICE to Ya'ner at first! so many people seem to be forgetting that. she only started to be rude to her after Ya'ner gave her a death glare and snatched her water pail away from her, as if it was an insult that Songlian was trying to help her. of course, her rudeness crossed the line way too many times, but that was (mostly) after she'd become corrupted by the horrible, powerless lifestyle.

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She was a flawed human being trapped in a miserable condition and reacting to it. That's what makes the film so good. There are no cliches'. She is not a 'Mary Sue', (always sympathetic, always kind, always heroic), because that's not realistic. A woman who's had a taste of education and freedom, suddenly being confined in what amounts to a prison, is not going to be cheerful and sweet at all times. She'll endure raw, painful emotions, possibly take this misery out on others, and ultimately herself. Yet as the viewer, I do sympathize with her and deeply understand what she's going through.


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She was a flawed human being trapped in a miserable condition and reacting to it. That's what makes the film so good. There are no cliches'. She is not a 'Mary Sue', (always sympathetic, always kind, always heroic), because that's not realistic. A woman who's had a taste of education and freedom, suddenly being confined in what amounts to a prison, is not going to be cheerful and sweet at all times. She'll endure raw, painful emotions, possibly take this misery out on others, and ultimately herself. Yet as the viewer, I do sympathize with her and deeply understand what she's going through.


Brilliant comment! I couldn't agree more. It totally reflects my thoughts on her (though it would have taken me HOURS to write all of that in English, LOL). Thank you very much!

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Thank you! This is one of my favorite films of all time and my personal favorite with Gong Li. She is phenomenal.


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I agree with you. The only person I felt sorry for was Ya'Ner. Yes, she was rude to Songlian initially, but Songlian started in right away about Ya'Ner having bugs in her hair and didn't let up for the rest of the movie. I felt sorry for Ya'Ner because even when she got sick, the only reason she was even sent to the hospital at all was because The Master didn't want people thinking he neglected his servants. Nobody cared when Ya'Ner died, and it made me sad. Of course, I only saw this movie once about 14 years ago, when I was in college. Maybe I need to see it again to refresh my memory.

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that's what makes this movie so good, there are no flawless characters





so many movies, so little time

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