Throughout the movie “Mao’s last dancer” America’s wealth greatly contrasts with the poverty of China creating confusion and discovery for Lee throughout his encounters. We see Li a young Chinese boy from a conservative family within a strict communist government, become amazed and in oar at the freedom and opportunities America (Western society) provides as appose to his own country. The poverty of China is portrayed early on with scenes of small homes in a tightknit village, situated in rural Qingdao with the people participating in hard labour-type jobs in a disciplined manner.
Certain years the peasants in his village even ate tree barks to survive. Li’s poverty throughout his childhood was exemplified by the limited amount of food that the family had each day. Li’s father was determined that we “would go without” in order to ensure that his 6 children had enough to eat. The family had to work hard each day in fields to survive which in turn provided Li with a strong work ethic and morals.
Despite the harsh reality of communist life, his childhood was full of happiness and love.The wealth of America becomes immediately apparent to Li as he enters the airport and is kissed and handed an oilers cap; this culture and generosity he has never experienced before. He’s then taken to ben’s house where he finds the size of it astonishing saying “You must have a big family”. During his stay with Ben he is handed clothing that Ben had bought to broaden Li’s wardrobe and fashion sense.
Li expresses his view by saying “My father work hard all year to make $50. You spend $500 in one day! Ben then explains that “that’s the norm in America” and dismisses the topic. Li’s outlook on life is not just changed from the typical meaning of wealth meaning money, but the freedom in which everyone lives through providing wealth in other means. This is shown in the nightclub scene where Li is astounded by the fact his colleague doesn’t respect or like there leader and in-fact hates him.
This courses Li to learn further of the true meaning of wealth, freedom and happiness from being able to think freely.During the movie China’s present communist regime in affect to shadow poverty does not prove as affective as it suggests as their country’s economic status and America’s wealth contrasts between scenes and in certain aspects of the Chinese and American lifestyle throughout Li’s journey. In Lee’s village his family lived in a small hut with little but a fire place and stovetop that accounted for 6 kids and two adults whereas Ben, a single man lived on his own in a spacious double story home with automated heating and cooling.An item that took Li’s attention was the blender, as such a mechanical device he had not seen, nor had a use for in his past lifestyle.
In contrast to these many every-day items and appliances in America, on departure from China Li’s father hands him a pen, which is a treasured item but also a symbol that he must work hard and make his own opportunities. This gesture and size of the gift gives the audience an idea as to how wealthy Li’s parents are in comparison to Americans.From the time Li is seen playing in the poverty stricken Village in China, to when he becomes a successful ballet dancer in wealthy America, there are many contrasting moments which involve culture, the government and lifestyle which Li experiences in both countries. I feel that Li took the best qualities out of both countries being, persistence and discipline from China and a more free and expressive approach from America to form who he is today.
The contrasting nature of the movie also makes you realise what people live without and are still happy, until in Li’s case, realise an alternate way of living.