Long-Legged Girls and the Transnational Circuits of Vietnamese Popular Culture

Publication Date: 2007

Made in 2004, the film Long-Legged Girls stands as a compelling case for the analysis of the transformations that have been wrought concomitantly at the levels of government and the everyday. A privately funded film, it exemplifies the current metamorphoses in Vietnamese cinema and its political economy, signifying the trend towards commercial filmmaking and co-productions within the country’s impoverished film industry. Marked by world cinema’s influences, this transnational product is further enhanced by its English-language subtitles on the DVD version of the movie, which ensure its legibility and translatability in different contexts.  Within the frames of the film, moreover, the sexualized images of both young men and women accommodate popular taste and lend the film a more global and commercial appeal. In critical ways, however, these close-ups on male and female body parts for Vietnamese audiences can also be metonymical for the figuration of possibility and identification within a highly regulated society. Vu Ngoc Dang’s blockbuster is significant in the ways that it employs objectifying images of both men and women in a manner that cannot easily be dismissed by feminist film critics. I see the objectification of body parts in the film as a gesture that produces queer points of identification, which become particularly potent within a state that tries to regulate desire and cultivate an appreciation amongst the youth for the wartime sacrifices that score 20th century Vietnamese history. Further, Long-Legged Girls constructs an array of subjectivities rarely found in Vietnamese and Vietnamese diasporic cinemas and as such, it challenges the cultural scripts provided to the youth in contemporary Viet Nam. Traveling fluidly outside of the country as “low culture,” the film also usefully tests the boundaries of gendered behaviors and cultural norms for multiple audiences like those in the diaspora.

Download PDF