Word of the Week: Westernized Lifestyle (生活西化 shēnghuó xīhuà)

Word of the week: Westernized Lifestyle (生活西化 shēnghuó xīhuà)

Chinese state media’s clumsy coverage of the Oscar-winning film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” has given birth to a new euphemism for homosexuality: “Westernized lifestyle” (生活西化 shēnghuó xīhuà). After the film won Best Picture at the Oscars, Hollywood’s annual award ceremony, People’s Daily republished a 2022 article from state-run Shanghai-based outlet Wenhui Daily that panned the film for having allegedly “failed to escape Orientalist stereotypes.” A central conflict of the film is the initial unwillingness of the protagonist Evelyn, a Chinese-American laundromat operator, to accept that her daughter Joy is a lesbian. In an early scene, Evelyn refers to Joy’s girlfriend Becky as Joy’s “very good friend.” Ironically, state media coverage of the film also euphemized Joy’s sexual orientation: the Wenhui Daily piece republished by People’s Daily referred to Joy as a “daughter with a westernized lifestyle.” The line immediately became fodder for Weibo users, who riffed on the absurdity of assigning a geopolitical angle to an individual’s sexual orientation:

Anonymous netizen: If homosexuality is a westernized lifestyle,
and heterosexuality is an easternized lifestyle,
then bisexuality is globalization,
and asexuality is deglobalization.
I wonder if that means watching Pornhub alone is “Chinese learning as substance, Western learning for application.”

Anonymous netizen: Me, coming out of the closet: “Mom, Dad, there’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you: my lifestyle is, er, Westernized…”

Anonymous netizen: So your lifestyle is too westernized, is that it? Some of this traditional Chinese medicine will cure you. [Chinese]

The euphemism also inspired serious reflection on state media’s seeming retreat from the more tolerant positions it held a decade ago. WeChat essayist “Comrade A-Qiang” (“comrade” having become an affectionate catch-all term for LGBTQ+ people) documented state media’s retreat from acknowledging and respecting the existence of the LGTBQ+ community and lamented “the ‘Comrade Spring’ is now long past”:

A still of a CCTV News report on
CCTV in 2011: “Renounce discrimination, and please respect all groups’ personal choices.”

A screenshot of a CCTV's Weibo post of a cupped hand holding clouds and a rainbow on
CCTV in 2013, on International Day Against Homophobia: “We can all put aside our prejudice and enmity.”

A screenshot of a Weibo post from People's Daily sharing an article titled:
People’s Daily in 2018:”Put aside your prejudices and be tolerant of others. Let us hope that all love may be safe from harm and that all people may live out the colors of their hearts.”

A screenshot of the People's Daily article that euphemizes a lesbian relationship as a
People’s Daily in 2023: “Daughter with a westernized lifestyle.” [Source]

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