Gender-bending is taken to the extreme in China’s newest hit drama, The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊).
The drama imagines a kingdom where women rule society and men take care of the home, putting an unprecedented spin on period drama tropes.
The show could signal important social change, but some netizens feel it fails to live up to the 21st century ideals that inspired its tongue-in-cheek premise.
Sixth Tone provided some translations of key moments that demonstrate the show’s premise:
Scenes from The Romance of Tiger and Rose. From Weibo, translations by Sixth Tone
The Romance of Tiger and Rose first premiered May 18th on streaming giant Tencent Video. It’s become massively popular over the last two weeks, with its hashtag garnering over 3 billion hits on Weibo.
The show is about an aspiring screenwriter who gets stuck in her own script and ends up as the third princess in a fictional matriarchal kingdom. In this fantasy world, every gender script is flipped on its head: women pass down the family name and fight in wars, while men are slut-shamed for the way they dress.
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It’s rated 7.5 on Douban, a Chinese social media platform that’s like a more interconnected version of IMDB. Some reviewers applaud the show’s efforts, while others express disappointment over the show’s sloppy writing and conventional romantic storylines. One user writes, “The show is dressed in the clothes of feminism, but it is still a patriarchal society with patriarchal thinking. It is still catering to patriarchy.”
Another writes, “I thought everyone could understand that the screenwriter is trying to be ironic rather than seriously talk about women’s rights 🙂 Isn’t it deliberately highlighting the extremes of male-dominated society from a woman’s point of view, so everyone can realize the struggles that women face?”
The show’s controversial social commentary follows others which came during or after the spread of #MeToo in China — shows like Yanxi Palace have gone on to give female-centric stories a place on the main stage.
Regardless of its reception, the popularity and ambition of The Romance of Tiger and Rose may spell change for tired TV gender norms.
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