Now that we have all this time sequestered away from each other, many of us might be wisely catching up on our quality reading, video chatting with loved ones, or building that underground bunker we’ve been putting off for too long. Well, for me… Of course, I’m binge-watching dramas (always the responsible world citizen). My first week of binging left me a little leery of starting another K-drama….I was feeling a bit burned out and I simply had to take a break from Eternal Love of Dream. (Bai Feng Jiu… REALLY ticking me off right now…..I wonder if anyone else feels that way.) Knowing all of this was just a temporary slump and sadly, still with some time to kill (I’ll chat with the family on the weekend), I decided to try a new tactic to clean the slate, so to speak. Throwing caution to the wind, I watched a few dramas made in Taiwan.
Stay at home please…..try spending some time with Chris Wu - he’s just sublime
Up until now, my total experience of Taiwanese entertainment consisted of one Mark Chao movie Black and White Episode 2 (not bad but certainly no Train to Busan). I learned interesting things about Taiwanese dramas (although I only watched 3 and the below observations might not be idiosyncratic of the genre…..sorry about the big words…I’ve been cooped up too long).
- In K-dramas, I find complicated characters and story lines, like Bad Guys or Korean Odyssey. In C-dramas, it's all about fabulous scenery, fun action, and out of this world costumes such as The Untamed or Ashes of Love. Taiwan Dramas: They were -how do I say it nicely- not a masterpiece by any stretch of imagination. I obviously didn’t pick high budget shows but they had really nice female characters portrayed with interesting story lines and the costumes are reasonable but not even in the same ballpark as Eternal Love of Dream!
- K-dramas sometimes have fun female characters but percentage-wise there are more interesting male characters written (like 10 to 1) than the female characters. C-dramas are in more 50/50 of interesting male characters vs. female characters (in my opinion). Taiwan dramas: Wow, the 3 Taiwan dramas I watched had such rich female characters that I’m going to go out on a limb and say they write much more interesting female characters than male. And yes, I thought Chris Wu did a fabulous job anyway!
- After a while, I get burned out on epic K or C dramas like Eternal Love and You Who Came from the Stars. Taiwan dramas: They’re like palette cleansers. So different that it resets our brain to take on more C and K dramas which is a GOOD thing!
- Taiwan must be a warm place because I have never seen anyone wearing snazzy winter clothing like they do in C and K dramas like Meteor Garden or Goblin. Taiwan dramas: Truth. Lowest average temperature in Taipei is 56 degrees Fahrenheit. That is practically summer in New England where I live!
Here are some thoughts on three Taiwanese Dramas for my MDL friends:
Du Aisha and Yi Feiyang – rivals or romantic partners (who knows… just keep 6 feet apart!)
Please note that as I write this, The Wonder Woman is currently airing so I haven’t seen all the episodes (but I plan to finish it). I admit the title is what intrigued me enough to start this show. One thing I can appreciate is a strong female character and so far, The Wonder Woman does not disappoint with Du Aisha. The character worked her way up to the point where she is the director of marketing for a popular woman’s website called Chic. From the very first episode, Du Aisha shows us that she won’t hesitate to go after what she wants (the doughnut & necklace scenes with the little girl were quite clever). No matter the cost.
Yi Feiyang is the CEO and developer of a rival male-oriented website. He recently moved his headquarters to be near Chic and sets his sights on the company and poaching Du Aisha for his own company. Throw in family members that I would personally disown, nasty co-workers, and kind and gentle second male and female leads and you have a show that is fun to watch.
It is just scintillating watching these two characters unfold. Both Aisha and Feiyang or far from perfect. I have hopes both will mature by episode 16. I love Aviis Zhong’s ability to show Du Aisha as a strong woman with insecurities (because we all have those). Wes Lo gives us a Feiyang that is a hero as well as an insensitive oaf. I do hope the two develop a lasting relationship, but alas, there is no guarantee they will. I have 7 more episodes to watch where all manners of shenanigans can arise. One thing is for sure, many of the female characters in The Wonder Woman are frankly fascinating.
Shao Yang, Wan Biao (ahem, Keanu Reeves look-alike?), Zhong Yong: 3 men in dire need of rescue
Ok, if you are looking for an epic romance, this show is not for you. If you want fast-moving action, you might need to look elsewhere. If you want female characters who know where they are going and what they expect from a male counterpart - BINGO! Despite the premise of an author struggling to complete a novel and a novice editor forced to keep him within a deadline, The Way We Love is about women. (Confession: I loved the show from the get-go. I write, ergo I like shows about writers).
Tien Ai (well done by Esther Yeh), Sheng Xi (Peace Yang plays the cold CEO), and Xiao Wen (Una Lu does a great job of the ambitious businesswoman) are three women who each have very specific views on life and males. Each woman learns and imparts her wisdom as she interacts with likes of Wan Biao (the cocky writer), Zhong Yong (a nerdy programmer), and Shao Yang (spoiled rich man). In the end, it's the men that are rescued by the women in this show, not the other way around. GO! Girl Power!
The production values of the show aren’t that great, but the music was decent, and the characters were well developed. It’s the built-in commercials I found a little off-putting or comical (not in a good way). But that’s okay because I accepted it as part of the culture of Taiwan. Despite that, I found myself cheering for the tireless Min Tien Ai and her incessant need to succeed in her own way using her own moral compass. I loved watching Zhao Xiao Wen use her brains and effort to influence the fledgling company and eventually its CEO Zhang Shao Yang. The story between Zhang Sheng Xi and Xu Zhong Yong was strange but interesting and it wrapped up very well with both characters evolving into better people. Give The Way We Love a spin if you want a change of pace and strong female characters.
I must say that this was my favourite show of the three, but warning: It does get a little terrifying at times. The Ghost Bride is about Pan Li Lan (well done by Huang Pei Jia) who is asked by a very wealthy family to be the ghost bride for their dead son. All kinds of hi-jinks ensue complete with a hunky Heavenly Guard named Er Lang (played by Chris Wu), a broody ex-boyfriend named Lim Tian Bai (Lin Lu Di), an incredibly fascinating ghost groom (Kuang Tian), and a fiance Isabel (Teresa Daley) that just looks a little too sweet and innocent to be true. All of those characters and a few more come together in this sometimes funny and sometimes creepy story of the custom of marrying the living to the dead. For six compelling episodes, I was thoroughly entertained.
The best part of the show (besides Chris Wu) was the character of Li Lan. She didn’t take anything sitting down. Li Lan didn’t listen to anyone and only did what she thought was best which in the long run was the most successful and of course, interesting. She stood up to an aristocratic neighbour when she was pressured to have a ghost marriage, she encouraged her ex-boyfriend to follow his dreams, she sacrificed everything for her family, faced scary ghosts and demon-like creatures, and the best part was the relationship between her and Er Lang, who -strangely enough- wanted her to sit around and be obedient which of course, she wasn’t.
I will admit the show did leave behind enough of an open ending that made room for a sequel (oh, I hope there are another six episodes that come out soon), but if there isn’t: it was still FUN. Li Lan was daring and courageous and ambitious in a story set in a time period where women were not known for those characteristics. If you haven’t watched it, give it a shot. You may like The Ghost Bride. (Chris Wu was not hard to watch either!)
Li Lan and Tian Ching…..Great Job Demonstrating Social Distancing!
The depth of the female characters found in the above three dramas from Taiwan was just… well, refreshing. In each show, I watched the male characters change to become more of an equal partner to the women and each of the women accepted that change as if it was only to be expected. In an entertainment world where the female characters aren’t always rich enough or skilled enough to save the day, it's nice to see the opposite. And frankly, if this is indicative of Taiwanese dramas, I need to watch more.
Yeah, I know, the production values aren’t so hot and the costuming is pedestrian, at best. Maybe they don’t have the soundtracks the likes of Ashes of Love or Hotel Del Luna, but still, they were entertaining. If you haven’t experienced these three shows from Taiwan, its worth the time. Taiwanese dramas may not be the next Sweet Dreams or Secretary Kim, but give them a try. I dare you. It's not like you have anywhere else to go this weekend, and do you really want to clean the house, again? So change into your night time PJ’s, grab a comfy seat, open a package of Double Stuff Oreo’s (insert the junk food of your choice), and enjoy a drama from Taiwan (ahem….did I mention Chris Wu is from Taiwan?).