How a Bicycle Equals Power: An Analysis of Beijing Bicycle
Most people see a bicycle as a commodity that can be used for leisure and fun. However, in the film Beijing Bicycle it is seen as a symbol of class statues and higher social standing, for Jian and as a tool that allows Guei to complete the very first job he has acquired. The bicycle in the film can be seen as a replacement for money because having the bicycle equals having power.
Money equals power and power equals influence is something that we all have heard before, but what we have not heard is that this ideology can be placed on other commodities and objects all around us. According to Randy Martin, “financialization of daily life did not banish labor, but elaborated it in the domestic sphere.” Although the quote is talking about the work force it also talking about how every aspect of daily life become something that could be talked about in numbers; it can still be applied to the film because the bike becomes something of a currency that is needed to live the life both protagonists want. For example, in the film around the thirty-two to thirty-four minute mark we see that Jian is using the bike to impress the girl that he likes while earlier in the film we see Guei using the bike to complete his job in order to earn the bike itself. Although the bike remains the same, the connotation or better the value of the bike changes depending on who currently owns the bike. If it is in Guei’s hands then it is a tool that he uses to complete his job, as well as a symbol that marks him as a citizen of Beijing and that gives him a sense of belonging. However when the bike is in Jian’s hands it is a class symbol that raises his social status, because of how “nice” and expensive looking the bike is, he uses it to improve the way the girl he likes looks upon him and it also gives him a sense of belonging not to Beijing, but to the group of friends he hangs out with.
The carrier business that Guei works out of is also an extension of the power the bike has because that’s where he originally got the bike and the bike does not become his until he completes a certain amount of deliveries. Around the thirteen to sixteen minute mark we see a struggle of power over the bike because Guei argues that according to his accounts on his notebook he has completely paid for the bike, but the secretary of the carrier business says he has not and has to delivery for one more day in order for the bike to be his. Both of the scenes can be seen as a power struggle between a big corporation and a small business in the sense that the big corporation is trying to absorb the small business into its assets the small business is resisting. According to Cultural Space and Urban Space: The New World, “”Fight against inflation is a cover to bash workers and create an industrial reserve army so that capitalists could have easy profits.” The secretary telling Guei that the bike is not yet his because he still owes them one more day of delivering packages is a form of fighting against inflation because the bike has become inflated even though according to Guei’s accounting he already owns the bike. Another example of this, is earlier in the film when Guei goes to deliver the package to Mr. Zhang and he is forced to take a shower when he doesn’t want to and later he is forced again to pay for the shower that he was forced to take. This is an example of how almost everything is getting a price tag on it when it should be free.
The view that Guei and his relative have towards rich people is that even though the have money and power they are not truly ever happy. At the six to eight minute mark Guei and his relative watch as a young woman comes into view wearing many different types of clothes and never smiling. The relative ends by saying that city folk have lots of money, but are never really happy. However later in the film we find out that she is just a maid that strives to become like her boss and wear a variety of different clothes and own a huge house and this is her way of fulfilling her fantasy. This is a clear example of the ideology that every person no matter their background can rise up to be become a successful business men/women and live the life of the rich, however what they don’t tell people is that only a select and very few actually do become rich and successful to the point of not having to work anymore because of the wealth they have accumulated. According to, Fredrick Jameson, “‘utopian’ has come to be a code on the left for socialism or communism; while on he right it has become synonymous with ‘totalitarianism’ or, in effect, with Stalinism.” The quote above shows how one thing can be viewed as a multitude of things and how the different interpretations can be worlds apart.
In conclusion, the power that the bike has in the film is finally resolved when the one of the ones finally keeps the bike and the other doesn’t. This illustrates the power struggle that happens between the working class and the rich.
“Cultural Space and Urban Space”. Moddle.csun.edu. 10 May 2014. Web
Jameson, Fredrik. “The Politics of Utopia”. Moddle.csun.edu. 11 May 2014. Web
Martin, Randy. “Where Did The Future Go?”. Moodle.csun.edu. 09 May 2014. Web