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Hit Jackson Yee Film “Better Days” is Getting a TV Series

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The hit Chinese film Better Days, which gained recognition for its unflinching examination of school bullying, will be made into a TV series, according to an announcement from the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), the government agency that oversees radio and TV content.

The film, which was adapted from the novel Young and Beautiful by Jiu Yuexi, has grossed more than 1.4 billion RMB (200 million USD) at the box office since it was released in late October. It stars Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yee (of boy band TFBoys) and follows the story of a teenage girl facing severe bullying from classmates, as she grapples with a friend’s suicide and anxiety about an impending gaokao college entrance exam.

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The movie’s theme hit a tender cord with Chinese viewers, and many social media posts described audiences being reduced to tears. The movie’s premiere was accompanied by a government PR blitz, with China Daily, a state-run tabloid, publishing a long article on the film’s realistic portrayal of a real problem in Chinese society, and of course, how Beijing lawmakers are swiftly and competently making things better.

The film’s release originally faced several delays due to government censorship. Better Days was pulled from the Berlin Film Festival in February and had to cancel its June domestic release. It eventually got approved by censors and was released on October 25.

According to the SARFT announcement, the future TV series will be 24 episodes long and will begin production in December. The fact that the story is being made into a show is likely a sign that the government is comfortable with the public’s discussion of school bullying. An afterword (possibly added to appease censors) at the film’s conclusion points out policies the Chinese government has enacted to tackle the problem.

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After the announcement, netizens took to Weibo to weigh in on the potential of the show, and some were not too optimistic. “I think the film is very good. The actors and actresses gave great performances, and the movie reflects the phenomenon of campus violence in society. However, if it were a TV series, my attention span may not be so great,” wrote one commenter.

The impact of the film on me is concentrated and powerful, and it is perfectly detailed,” wrote another netizen on Weibo. “Once adapted into a 24-episode series, I’m not sure what the result will be.”

Zach Hollo
    J. Zach Hollo is a RADII contributor currently based in Guangzhou. He recently competed a master's degree in international affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei, where he studied as a Fulbright scholar. Before that, he taught English in China's Hunan and Henan provinces. As an undergraduate, he attended Northwestern University's campus in Doha, Qatar, where he majored in journalism.