Monday, February 15, 2010

Hoai Linh

One of the more interesting of Vietnam's pop-stars is the multi-talented Hoai Linh.

Equal parts pop star, stand-up comedian, actor and drag queen, Hoai Linh is a fascinating phenomenon in a country where the public expression of counter-cultural-tendencies is still strictly forbidden. The flamboyant Hoai Linh seems to fly in the face of all the strict official dictates surrounding music and the appearance of celebrities that the Vietnamese government still issues. At various times the government has issued bans on dyed hair, visible tattoos and piercings on male performers, though the law surrounding drag is still unclear.
Certainly transgender performance has a very old history in Vietnam. As with most traditional theatrical forms, traditional Vietnamese opera and theatre always featured men in female roles for all the usual reasons: avoiding accusations of prostitution, staving off the amorous intententions of love-starved men in the countryside and ensuring that travelling theatrical troupes had plenty of able-bodied men on hand to shift, build and carry. I dare say all of these precautions came to nothing, as drag performers quickly turned to prostitution, love-starved country men only increased their affection for beautiful youths in dresses and the diva-like drag queens refused to engage in any physical work.
So drag continues in Vietnam, and drag routines (normally incorporating long, spoken stand-up sequences) are a staple in the variety shows that are performed in big cities all over Vietnam.
Hoai Linh seems to have taken this tradition and marked it out as all his own. He is easily the most popular actor performing in Vietnam today, and his movies, comedy DVDs and live variety shows are all enormously popular.
While not conventionally beautiful - he's far too gangly and toothy for that - Hoai Linh is still possessed of a willowy charm that renders his gender-crossing work strangely believable, though all the audience is in on the joke that he's actually a man. Bizarrely, in his feature film work Linh is almost always cast as an ugly, lecherous man chasing after young women, a role I, for one, find difficult to believe him in.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails