Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

First Advisor

Thomas L. Beell



Homosexuals were considered criminals and abnormal in China, and the majority of Chinese homosexuals still hide in the shadows, especially in the mainland. However, demands of cultural pluralism and human rights are beginning to show a sign of tolerance to the minority group, especially among the younger generation. As a powerful form of mass media, motion pictures can create images of certain people, affecting the audience's evaluation of a specific group or situation. This study examines the portrayals of gay characters in Chinese films over a sixteen-year period, focusing on the characters' visibility (explicit or implicit), representation (positive or negative), and characterizations. A qualitative content analysis of ten Chinese movies with homosexual themes or having a sufficient role for a homosexual character was conducted. The sample covered movies released from 1993 to 2009. To be included in the study, the films must have been directed by a Chinese director and performed by Chinese actors, and set in Mainland China or a Chinese community. The result shows filmmakers of the analyzed movies tried to humanize them in an apparent effort to evoke sympathy toward and understanding of their plight. And most gay characters in the films suffered oppression from the society and their family. However, the government censorship severely limited the number and funding opportunities of homosexual-themed movies, making it difficult for such films to earn a profit. Even though some filmmakers and younger filmgoers are willing to bring the gay lifestyle into the light, government restrictions on content and distribution of the pictures has limited their exposure. And so the portrayal of gays in films has remained essentially the same during the years covered in the study. But a slight thaw in government regulation has allowed some gay characters to appear in mainstream movies, providing some indication that times are changing.


Copyright Owner

Xuan Zhang



File Format


File Size

98 pages