New to Beijing in the 1910s, actresses, especially opera stars and members of large all-female troupes, were active agents of theatrical innovation. Competing with actors in a rapidly commercializing theater business, certain privileged actresses developed a different repertoire and performance style for female roles by adapting regional opera traditions. As the characters they played onstage boldly sought the thrills of courtship and pursued their personal desires, these actresses fashioned a new flirtatious female subjectivity, different from that associated with heroines in the cult of qing in Ming literature, the sentimentalism of Butterfly fiction, and the May Fourth ideal of free love. However, as they assumed female roles that transgressed traditional expectations and catered to a male-dominated audience, actresses found their own commodification as sexual objects was inevitable.


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pp. 29-51
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