Here Comes the Era of Chinese Pop Cultures --A review on《A Love So Beautiful》 --M23 小麻將
Around the middle of last November, I started to notice something peculiar about my Snapchat. Or, to be more precise, the Snapchat Stories of my friends. When you’ve added so many people, you no longer study a post in detail; instead, your finger takes over, tapping the screen of its own accord and pausing for a brief moment only if you’ve spotted anything out of the ordinary. I find my attention span shrinking simply because most of them are way too repetitive and predictable. Food, travel, lectures. Cool. What else? That month, though, I sensed that more and more of the Stories had to do with some film or TV show. Not until a few days later did I realise that these posts, mostly by my female friends, had a common, recurring theme. All of them were talking about《A Love So Beautiful》, or 致我們單純的小美好, a recent YA romantic idol drama which has swept the entire Sinosphere. By which I mean mainland China, Taiwan and, as my Snapchat Stories can attest, Hong Kong. In case you’ve heard of the name, here’s a brief glance at its plot. The setting is a high school in southern China, where a sweet, delightful young girl falls in love with her classmate, a stunningly handsome boy who is flawless in both his character and intelligence. During her courtship, not only does she have to compete against her rival, a model student just like the boy, but she needs to make a choice between the male protagonist, who is not responding to all she has done (or so it seems), and her admirer, who spares no effort in wooing her. Sounds vaguely familiar? Well, you’re not alone in wondering about its inspiration. Although A Love So Beautiful is actually adapted from mainland writer Zhao Gangan’s novel by the same name, critics have dubbed it the mainland Chinese version of the 2005 Taiwanese drama《It Started With A Kiss 惡作劇之吻》. That series, as Wikipedia puts it, is ‘one of the most epic Taiwanese dramas ever made and also one of the most popular Taiwanese dramas to be successful internationally’. In any case, the story of A Love So Beautiful is a rather predictable one we’re all too familiar with, with no attempts to introduce new elements to the genre whatsoever. Despite its lack of originality and innovation, the audience does not seem to mind, and the idol drama goes on to become a huge hit and one of the hottest topics among young people (which include my university classmates, of course). At the time of writing, the first episode of the show has accumulated 3.24 BILLION views on Tencent Video (騰訊視頻), one of the major video streaming websites nationwide, and almost 900K views on YouTube, which serves mainly those outside mainland China. But this idol drama is by no means the sole TV series that has enjoyed such staggering success over the past decade. In fact, China is seeing a flourishing of popular cultures at long last, ranging from films like《So Young 致我們終將逝去的青春》and《Time Raiders 盜墓筆記》, to entertainment shows like《The Voice of China 中國好聲音》,《Happy Camp 快樂大本營》and《Where Are We Going? Dad 爸爸去哪兒》, to soap drama like《Empresses in the Palace 後宮甄嬛傳》,《Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜》and《Love O2O 微微一笑很傾城》, and to pop songs like Silence Wang’s《有點甜》, Li Ronghao’s《喜劇之王》and Joker Xue’s《演員》, the MVs of which have all garnered over 50M views on YouTube, which is blocked in mainland China and is therefore an indicator of a video’s popularity in Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas Chinese communities. Lately, there is even the Chinese equivalent of K-pop boy bands, TFBoys 加油男孩, who are now the heartthrobs among many young girls in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea. Hmm, what’s so remarkable about the surge of China’s pop cultures? As the saying goes, where there is demand, there will be supply. Given the GDP and the size of population, isn’t it natural that a correspondingly colossal amount of cultural products should be created to cater for such a big market? Not really. Until recent years, it’s the popular cultures of Taiwan and Hong Kong, rather than those of mainland China itself, that have long supplied this demand and led the whole Sinophone world in pop cultures. In fact, I can hardly come up with a single example of mainland actors or singers being widely known throughout the Chinese-speaking cultural sphere before the 2000s. In a stark contrast to the disproportionately weak cultural influences of mainland China, such prominent figures as Teresa Teng 鄧麗君 from Taiwan and the Four Heavenly Kings of Hong Kong 香港四大天王 are among some of the household names in the mainland. Cantopop and the film industry in Hong Kong reached their heights in mainstream popularity in the 1980s and have started to decline ever since, struggling to stay relevant. Taiwanese pop cultures still held sway over the market of mainland China with the blockbustre TV series《Meteor Garden 流星花園》in 2001, the YA film《You’re The Apple Of My Eye 那些年,我們一起追的女孩》in 2011, and, of course, Jay Chou 周杰倫, the so-called New King of Asian Pop. Over the 2000s, just as Taiwan was witnessing its very last golden age, the GDP of the Middle Kingdom skyrocketed from 1.21 trillion USD in 2000 to 6.10 trillion USD in 2010, according to Wikipedia. In first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing and, to a lesser extent, second-tier cities like Chongqing, a formidable middle class was emerging. They were going to shape our future cultural taste and revamp the market of pop cultures. I cannot pinpoint the exact year where these took place, but it has to be at some point during the past 10 years, and by now these two things are certain: that Taiwanese popular cultures have pretty much lost their momentum, and that the cultural products of mainland China have eclipsed the past glories of both Hong Kong and Taiwan in terms of quantity if not in terms of quality as well. Throughout the 20th century, mainland China was generally associated with poverty and backwardness, with its popular cultural scene being dominated by Hong Kong and Taiwan. In any event, the 20th century has drawn to an end already and is now history. We’re now at this point of 2018. Not even one-fifth of the 21st century has elapsed, and it’s already mainland China’s turn. Provided that everything goes smoothly, the remaining four-fifths are going to be the era of Chinese pop cultures. Given its GDP and size of population, the nation is simply getting what it deserves all along. Reference:…/

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