The Last Emperor: Attachment Disorder and Shit

Intro by Brandon

Have you ever wanted to watch the emperor of China take a shit? Well, of course, we all have. Today we’re looking at the 1987 biopic film The Last Emperor, which is about the last emperor of China, Pu Yi, and yes, we do get to watch him take a shit.

This film has been described as an intimate epic, and it surprisingly achieves that careful balance of giving us an entire lifetime while also showing us the small details that make this character real.  That’s not to say that this film is perfect, because there are some problems with the pacing and narrative that can make this film hard to engage. But the film’s saving grace is the character of Pu Yi himself, who is complex and flawed, although he’s forced into a role of extreme passivity and powerlessness.

I’m not really one of those people who tries to diagnose every fictional character with some sort of mental illness, but I do believe Pu Yi has some sort of attachment disorder. This is really played down in the film, but we spend some time going over how the film version differs from the real Pu Yi and how the real person had numerous symptoms of this group of disorders.

Also, if you liked that scene of Pu Yi taking a shit, then you are going to love the game I make Maria play.

So that’s what’s in store for this episode! Settle in and get ready for us to talk about this complex, albeit confusing, film and character in this episode of Peculiar Picture Show, the podcast that talks about movies, maladies, and mental health!

Show Summary

Game Key – Pick That Shit

Which would Maria rather see taking a shit in their upcoming biopic?

Abraham Lincoln vs. Winston Churchill

Abraham Lincoln. Reason: I’m an American girl, and my dog reminds me of Abraham Lincoln, and she’s always taking a shit.

Mahatma Gandhi vs. Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa. Reason: Equality, plus Gandhi doesn’t eat, so there’d be no shit.

Cleopatra vs. Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II. Reason: An opening scene of this prim girl taking a proper shit would be fun.

Edgar Allen Poe vs. Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson. Reason: Private life, private time, private shit.

Amelia Earhart vs. Helen Keller

Helen Keller. Reason: Because if a blind, deaf person takes a shit in the woods, does it make a sound? Can you see it?

Elmer Fudd vs. Yosemite Sam

Elmer Fudd. Reason: Better rhyming opportunities related to shit.

Overall Thoughts: Probably the last time we watch The Last Emperor

Neither of us really liked this film; neither had really seen this film; nominated for nine Academy Awards (won all of them) but nothing for acting; editing, editing, editing; nation of China was behind this film and was the first western film allowed to shoot in the Forbidden City

By the way, the movie with Cher and Jack Nicholson is called The Witches of Eastwick. I think I get confused because Moonstruck ends in “ck” and so does “Eastwick,” and then also witches and moons just go together, right?

Like: Asian representation and an amazing setting

B: Seeing a film in the 80s with a lot of Asian characters was cool; Forbidden City was cool; some characters were interesting; some music was nice; Pu Yi in jail was kind of likable

M: Some of those Forbidden City shots were pretty cool; some good characterization with the shits; interesting subject matter

Dislike: We were bored and confused

B: Long, slow, and boring; got many things wrong; music; confusing

M: All over the place, making everything confusing; focus switches halfway through (equivalent of switching tenses/voices/narrators with no clear rules or explanation); I still don’t fucking know what happened to Pu Yi

Mental Health: A portrayal of attachment disorder in film?

B: Pu Yi was cruel, and it seems like he could have exhibited symptoms of Attachment Disorder

M: What would Freud say about Pu Yi’s breastfeeding?


B: If you look at the plot points this seems like a fall from grace story, but if you look at how Pu Yi grows personally, this is actually kind of a redemption story.

B: I initially thought his re-education in jail was going to be a negative thing, but Pu Yi later in life was known for his kindness and self awareness, so he made a complete recovery. And so for someone to be that awful early in life and to be known for kindness later means it’s possible to overcome these things with the right treatment.

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