The First Half of My Life

Source: China Daily (7/19/17)
Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues
By Zhang Xingjian |

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

Poster of TV drama The First Half of My Life [Photo/Mtime]

Adapted from popular Hong Kong writer Isabel Nee Yeh-su’s novel The First Half of My Life, the 42-episode TV drama of the same title stands as a dark horse amid fierce TV competition during the summer holiday.

Gathering a cast full of veteran and renowned actors including Chen Daoming, Mei Ting, Ma Yili and Yuan Quan, the drama mainly tells the inspirational story of a housewife-turned-career woman.

In the drama, lead actress Ma Yili stars as Luo Zijun, a simple-minded and dubious housewife.

However, her carefree life encounters misfortune after an unexpected divorce.

Luckily, with the help of her best friend Tang Jing, she makes changes and creates a new life for herself.

By emphasizing the importance of female independence, the series has caused heated discussions online and obtained high ratings since it began to air on July 4.

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

A scene from the TV drama The First Half of My Life  [Photo/Mtime]

According to the scriptwriter Qin Wen, she is not surprised that the drama could stir up such a wave of popularity.

“I believe the secrets of its success lie in capturing modern life in China through several ordinary people’s lives on one hand, and the great influence of book writer Isabel Nee Yeh-su on the other,” she said.

Substantial changes from original work

Although the drama has won the favor of many females, quite a few book fans sharply criticized the TV version for veering too far from the book’s plot.

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

Isabel Nee Yeh-su and the cover of the book The First Half of My Life [Photo/Xinhua]

The book writer Isabel Nee Yeh-su, or Yi Shu in Chinese, has written over 300 books and is renowned for her female portrayals.Most females in her books typically have different family and educational backgrounds, yet their personalities all have something in common.

Those females have a meta-character of a “Yi-Shu Lady”, who are rich, fashionable and are particular about their life.

Luxury cars, brand clothes, shiny diamond rings and champagne are their requisite tags.

Also, they are independent both financially and in spirit, and do not think marriage is the be all end all.

In the drama, Luo Zijun is a typical petty-bourgeois individual. In her world, her husband means everything to her.

Luo also has poor taste in clothing and is bad at dealing with relationships.

All elements of the character Luo are contrary to the ideal “Yi-Shu Lady”, which is unacceptable to many of the book lovers.

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

Luo Zijun (L) and the ideal “Yi-Shu Lady” [Photo/Xinhua]

Meanwhile, improper ethical values have been criticized by some viewers for degrading social conduct.For instance, Luo fell in love with her best friend Tang Jing’s ex-boyfriend He Han at the end of the story.

Although Luo is not the direct cause of Tang and He’s break-up, many viewers complain that the love relationship between Luo and He is unreasonable and divorced from reality.

New type of mistress causes controversy

In the drama, the mistress Ling Ling, played by Wu Yue, has given another definition of “home wrecker” for viewers.

“The first time I saw her, I did not think she would be a threat to my family as she is so common in daily life,” Luo said during a monologue in the drama.

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

Ling Ling (R) purposely make difficulties for Luo Zijun. [Photo/Mtime]

Indeed, Ling Ling does not seem like a typical mistress. She is not young, beautiful or rich.To support her son and herself, she has to budget carefully and seems to be the last person to be “the other woman”.

“Her poor family background and seemingly kind personality makes men easily feel a tender pity for her,” said Huang Lan, producer of the drama.

“In such a fast-paced society, men are faced with huge pressures every day. The truth is that many cheating men are not obsessed with young pretty ladies, rather a female who knows what he wants,” Huang said.

“Therefore, the mistress image I have shaped is easy to sympathize with for some targeted groups.”

It is worthwhile to note that the mistress played by Wu Yue is deeply rooted in some viewers’ hearts,” said him.

Some crazy viewers have posted on her official weibo platform and questioned her reason for stepping into another person’s family, proving her amazing acting skills.

TV plot integrates with lead actress’s real life

Some plot lines in the drama may have aroused controversy among viewers, but most people speak highly of cast members’ professional performance, and Ma Yili is no exception.

Ma’s acting in the drama, to some degree, causes most viewers to link the TV plot with her “marriage crisis” in 2014.

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

Wen Zhang and Ma Yili [Photo/Xinhua]

Her husband Wen Zhang, a major film and TV star in China, was captured by the paparazzi dating another woman.Instead of dealing with the problem behind closed doors, Wen took advantage of Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, to apologize to Ma in public.

The open nature of his response resonated with online users, provoking a wave of anger on weibo.

But Ma finally chose to forgive Wen and posted: “Being in love is easy, but being married is not. It is to be cherished.”

Popular TV drama explores modern women’s issues

Ma’s famous sayings “Being in love is easy, but being married is not. It is to be cherished.” [Photo/Offical Weibo account of Ma Yili]

Those words have become buzzwords this year and are regarded as a golden principle in safeguarding marriage.Admittedly or not, the sensational “public apology” issue has prompted more viewers to tune in to the drama.

“No matter in the virtual TV drama or real life, Ma sets an example by showing me the significance of being an independent woman,” said online user Zhang Xiaoping on weibo.

The producer also says that the series is a gift for the modern woman.

“Woman should not be tied with marriage and men. As an independent group, women should seek their own happiness and life goals.”

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