28 Feb Young, dumb love should never be celebrated.
Hey all. After reading Jemma’s commentary on the movie, I felt slightly compelled to write about my experience with the movie. So here I am, hopping on the bandwagon to throw shade on this movie. For the first time, I’m really happy to be standing with the majority.
So last Friday, I watched Fall in Love at First Kiss (一吻定情) at City Square with Wei Qian and Jie Mun. As per usual, I went into the theatre with zero idea of what to expect. All I wanted that day was a tear-jerking, heart-throbbing Taiwanese rom-com film, especially after knowing that the director (Chen Yu Shan) was also responsible for the excessively sappy blockbuster Our Times (我的少女時代).I just wanted to feel 15 that day. I wanted to soak myself in some absurd puppy love action.
But no. This film was (and is still) insanely stupid and insipid. The plot sucked, the characterisation of the female protagonist is grossly concerned with her obsession over the male protagonist, despite losing her home and possessions. She epitomises the modern day hardcore fangirl (think One Direction fans who killed themselves after knowing Zayn Malik left the group), and she seems to have nothing significant going on in her life besides an infatuation for the hottest-looking lad – who somehow is also the smartest fella in school. I’ll spare everyone the development of the plot, but as everyone would’ve already guessed – yes they got together at the end. And btw, the guy only chose her on the very basis that she will never fall for someone else besides him, and that she was sort of “destined” to fall in love with him. What?
Truthfully, I had no issue with the plot in the beginning. It’s like most Taiwanese rom-com dramas that I have watched before – the ditzy girl with her clumsy moves somehow manages to attract the hottest, richest guy in the office/school. This hot and rich dude would first avoid this girl and date another hot and rich lady, to which he will eventually realise that he needs someone more down-to-earth and well, stupid. Yeah I get it. The appeal of such shows lies in the fact that you and I, the most common looking girl in the planet, might still stand a chance with some filthy rich 富二代(descendants of the upper class) and have your life chances improved. Your princess dream still holds and the world is still a beautiful place. Ahh. You will get married in some palace and your existence is celebrated by the world. You basically rule.
See. That visualisation ain’t that bad right? I know 15-year-old me would be convinced that I could be that girl. And I know numerous 15 year-olds who would be convinced that they would be that girl too. So yes, I get that such dramas are nice to watch and are at best a pathetic-but-trying attempt to depict the modern-day notion of “fairytales do come true!”
However, for me, the characterisation of the female protagonist is essentially problematic. Beyond the sheer obsession over her crush (even to the extent that she is willing to forsake her dignity), she appears to have zero understanding of her living reality. Apparently, her father gave up most of his savings to put his daughter in this relatively rich district, such that she could attend this prestigious school. She appears to have no talent for studying, and would eventually land herself in the last class where her duties include picking up tennis balls for the A class students during PE classes, and removing beehives as part of her curriculum. She has no clue that her home is on the verge of falling apart, and that her dad lives like a destitute to put her through school. Wow.
Furthermore, she appears to be a spendthrift, as she owns an innumerable amount of merchandise with her crush’s face painted on it. She doesn’t seem to have a job, which simply means she’s spending her dad’s already little income on gratuitous goods that yield no productive impact on her living reality. She also follows her crush around a lot (i.e., stalking) and to make things worse, she seems to be completely indifferent towards the emotions of others. Despite being rejected repeatedly, her blind persistence to “serve” her idol negates all that shit that was previously thrown at her. This is clearly idiocy at its best. Yikes.
What really triggered me was the fact that in spite of everything, her father was still incredibly understanding towards his daughter who had certain hesitations about moving out of the house (for fear of not seeing her crush as regularly). The entire concept is really madness to me. What kind of picture are we painting for the younger female audience? Are we really telling them to forego the needs of their parents to fulfil their wanton desires of crushing on some hot dude in school?
From a political angle, we are fundamentally dehumanising the female gender in this movie. We are essentializing female gender roles by telling women that it is their job to take care of men, and to be willing to go through thick-and-thin, regardless of all sacrifices, for their lovers. There is a presence of disciplined micro-power over women in this film – where women are compelled to act in a certain way (cutesy, obedient, compromising) or they shall face penalties from the society, or from the person that they love. In this case, the society in which the film is set in seems to perform the disciplinary act on women, where even between women themselves (female protagonist and male protagonist’s mother), the talk about the supposed “role” of the females in the family is being duly emphasised. According to the film, women are here to clean the house, to support their husbands throughout their careers, to execute the role of a loving and doting mother. These informal disciplinary practices becomes the basis where the female gender roles are constructed, and the repercussions to be faced for deviating from such actions usually entail some form of social and economic ramifications – women lose social status (harsh criticisms from family, parents etc.) when they are divorced as a result of not complying to these practices, and they might find it harder to reintegrate back into the workforce, which makes bouncing back far more challenging.
Likewise, women – as shown through the depiction of the female protagonist – are expected to excel in their academics only when challenged. Apparently, there is no innate desire within women to want to do well, to attain greater status and economic resources to better themselves.
And in the movie, even though the female lead was propelled to do well, she was unable to reach that level of success without channelling the help of the male gender (the male protagonist providing tuition, the male hooligan classmate who consistently goes out of his way to protect the female lead). Overall, the movie is naturalising the gender constructs defining women, and sending a message out to younger female viewers out there – the reward for being compliant, weak and docile is a male partner who will love you through and through.
Are you kidding me?
I really disagree with the message that this movie is sending out to anyone. Rather than creating some solid female-to-female solidarity, we are in fact regurgitating this derogatory mentality that encapsulates the ancient cultural milieu, and forcing modern women to impose this status quo on one another. This is a slippery slope, where the micromanagement of individuals (arbitrated by both the male and female gender) to create the desired female subject will eventually aggregate to define the nature of what being a woman should be like. We are all responsible for the reproduction of such values, and we ought to be discerning towards the kind of media and learnings we are consuming, for fear of bringing these groundless sentiments into the following generations. We have a duty to our female predecessors who have fought for us, in terms of voting rights and creation of an equal workplace environment. We owe today’s success to them, and we should not let the prevalence and popularity of such mindless movies obliterate the efforts from the previous generations. We need to seriously consider boycotting such movies. They are distasteful and extremely backwards.
Anyhoo, I only paid RM10 (~SGD$3) for this movie. The economic loss is less than that of a normal Singaporean who have chosen to watch this movie over any other amazing movies. Nonetheless, it made me realize how disgusted I am with the representation of such feeble-minded women in films, especially in rom-com. So I guess there was something to be gained for us after all.
Aaand with that, thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. 🙂
Featured photo: courtesy of xinhuanet