‘Nezha Was Here’: Structures of Dis/placement in
Tsai Ming-liang’s Rebels of the Neon God

By Carlos Rojas

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 146-96

Although his work engages with gay and Taiwanese themes, Tsai Ming-liang is nevertheless careful to resist the reductive identifications (of being a “gay director,” etc.), which those thematics might appear to imply. Proceeding from a detailed reading of Tsai’s 1992 debut film Rebels of the Neon God and his 1995 AIDS documentary My New Friends, this essay argues that Tsai’s films encourage us to reexamine the very notion of “identity” ostensibly underlying these processes of identification themselves. In particular, the author argues that Rebels foregrounds processes of fluidity and mediation, suggesting a vision of identity that is not based on specific spatial or libidinal loci, but rather is the product of more delocalized processes of transference and displacement.