Days after a woman suffered a heart attack after staying up late to watch the hit Korean drama “My Love From the Star” (来自星星的你), Xu Qinsong, a Guangdong delegate to the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), stood up for the poor souls working in the lackluster Chinese domestic television industry by saying enough is enough with China’s Korean drama craze.
In a recent interview, the venerable Mr. Xu lamented how the Korean Drama obsession is hurting China’s “cultural self-esteem.” And the truth is, he does kind of have a point.
“My Love From the Star,” which recently concluded its first season on February 27, weaves a deeply complex and nuanced tale of a young, beautiful Korean actress (played by the young and beautiful Jun Ji-Hyun) who falls in love with her young and beautiful alien boyfriend (played by the young and beautiful Kim Soo-hyun). The show has been broadcasted on China’s video platform sites LeTv.Com and iQiyi, where it has reportedly been watched 14.5 billion times on the latter site alone. Damn. On February 14th, over 100 fans took out a full-page advertisement in the Beijing News to wish male star Kim both a happy Valentine’s Day and happy birthday on February 16th.
In an interesting twist, Guangzhou’s Time Weekly reported how the show is challenging traditional gender roles in China:
“The handsome male characters have also encouraged Chinese women to demand their men take more care with their appearance, it noted. By contrast, the archetype of a male character in Chinese dramas is someone who is careless and nagging but generally a good person. Korean dramas on the other hand like their male leads to be Prince Charming characters.”
But back to the obsession at hand: Chinese netizens report how a boss in Xiamen, Fujian province gave employees the day off so they could all go home and watch the season finale. Additionally, Jun’s character’s habit of celebrating the first snowfall with “chimek” (short for “fried chicken and beer”, with “chi” short for chicken and “mek” short for “mekju”, the Korean word for beer) has led to a craze for chicken and beer (or, “zhaji he pijiu”) in China. As the Wall Street Journal reports, everyone from popular Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan to the People’s Daily have been asking Chinese netizens if they had “chimek” on the first day of snow. In the ensuing madness, the Nanfang reports, one Chinese women broke up with her boyfriend for not treating her to “chimek” at midnight and another had a miscarriage from eating too much “chi” and drinking too much “mek”—all while watching the show, of course.
This nationwide love for Korean dramas such as My Love From the Star, as well as the hit American show House of Cards, has left people like Xu wondering: Where is the love for Chinese TV? But, Xu is no dummy: He acknowledged in the interview that most Chinese television shows are “poorly written and lack creativity.”
Even the China Daily acknowledges the overall shittiness of Chinese television, saying:
“Chinese TV screens are flooded by knock-off and/or poorly made soap operas. Most of the Chinese TV dramas either distort the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, which is a distortion of history, or blindly copy foreign programs. The lack of good stories has of late resulted in loads of TV series on time travel or fights in the harems of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors. These, in short, are the bane of Chinese TV productions.”
So, in short, it’s no surprise to anyone involved that Chinese TV clearly needs to step its game up. Whether or not such Chinese delicacies as Nanjing Duck Blood Soup or Rou Jia Mos (Roger Moore’s, as I like to call them) can be elevated to the same status as “chimek”, however, is a challenge we leave to rest upon the shoulders of writers for Chinese TV.
By Alex Stevens