As I have paid tribute to the founding father of cantopop Leslie Cheung (Gor Gor), it’s only fitting for me to do the same for the mother of cantopop Anita Mui Yim Fong (Mui Jie, literally Big Sister Mui. Yes we like to call our stars sisters and brothers. Deal with it.) When I was a little kid, I would dim the light, put on her song “將冰山劈開” (“Break open an iceberg“) and danced my socks off. The song is catchy, campy and lots of fun. Check it out!
To Call her a queer icon is a no-brainer. Touted as the Madonna a.k.a the Queen of Reinvention (or Lady Gaga for you young ones) of Asia, Mui Jie was also called a “ever changing” performer. She was a style icon in the 80s with her “bad girl” image. Outrageous, fabulous and androgynous clothing is ubiquitous in her music videos. Her song “Bad Girl”, with its sexually explicit lyrics (for its time of release anyway), was censored in mainland China but she sang it nonetheless on the last day of her concert there.
Mui Jie began her singing career at the age of five. Her voice was unlike those of the female singers of her time as she generally sang in deep, tenor-like voice. It was this touch of masculinity mixed with her unique beauty that fascinated generations of (queer) audience.
Like Leslie, Anita Mui also had a successful film career and did not shy away from queer and gender-bending roles. My favorite film roles of Mui Jie are…(drum roll)…
As a lovesick courtsesan, Fleur waited for her lover in hell for 50 years until she found out that he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain for their suicide pact. I don’t know about you but I would be pretty pissed off if it were me. Mui Jie won Best Actress at the 1989 Hong Kong Film Awards for this role, which is considered by most her greatest one.
Wonder Woman-The Heroic Trio (1993)
In one of the rare films that feature female superheroes (seriously we need more of those) directed by Johnny To, Mui Jie played the horseback-riding, sword-slinging and tightrope-running masked heroine Wonder Woman. She might not have an invisible plane or superhuman strength or could talk to an animal. But this Wonder Woman still kicks ass and tickles the geek in me.
Judy-Fight Back to School III (1993)
Sure this movie, “borrowing” a huge part of its plot from Basic Instinct, was ridiculous and kind of homophobic that it portrayed a lesbian (spoiler alert!) as your typical insane, murderous villain. It was also one in which Mui Jie played a queer woman who competed against her unfaithful husband for female attention. In one scene she donned a suit and pursued another woman aggressively. Offensive? Yes. Made me queerious at the age of eleven? You bet.
Fan Fan-Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man (1996)
Yet another queer role portrayed by Mui Jie. She played a diva (herself really) who fell in love with Lam Chi Wing who was a woman posing as a man. She still went to have sex with Wing even after she found out Wing was a woman only to realize Wing had her heart set on her less attentive boyfriend (cue the disgruntled lesbians). I would never forget the first time I watched this film in a theater. During the scene where Fan and Wing were in bed in the morning after, a man in the audience said, “Wow, what’s next? Sex with animals?!” Oh that
homophobic silly goose!
Emperor Qi-Wu Yen (2001)
In this gender-bending and silly slapstick comedy, Mui Jie played the unfaithful and cowardly emperor who always gave into the seduction by the Enchantress and put his empire in trouble. I love this role because Mui Jie looked like she had so much fun playing it. Did I mention she also played the hilarious Great Great Great Great Great Ancestor who tried to stop the villainous Enchantress?
Mui Jie was never married and dared not to because she didn’t want it to end in divorce. So she symbolically “married the stage” instead in her last concert ever in 2003 while bidding farewell to her fans in a wedding dress singing her famous song “Sunset Melody.” She passed away that same year.
Talk about a true diva.