‘Beijing Girl’ drama falls short on realism
The recent popular drama Beijing Girl has sparked debate and soulsearching. The show follows Chen Ke, a young woman from Sichuan Province, who moves to Beijing to chase her dreams. She’s pretty, smart and ambitious.
As life unfolds, Chen’s experience living in the fastpaced and increasingly affluent Chinese capital is presented to the viewers in ways that charm, amuse, provoke, sadden or anger them.
New to Beijing, the Sichuanese girl is ushered into the city’s nightlife scene, shocked at other girls’ comments about men, sex and money.
A young, pretty office lady accompanies her rich male boss to a dinner that is attended by executives from other companies who smile knowingly at the improvised couple. These and many other scenes from Beijing Girl are familiar to many non-local women who live and work in Beijing.
The dilemmas, embarrassments and awkwardness along the journey of pursuing the Beijing dream are indeed there. The scenes also stimulate soul-searching, as viewers reflect on their own experiences.
However, this is not to say that the scenes are all real. Many viewers are likely to say that they are quite the opposite of real life. In Beijing Girl, reallife scenarios are collaged in an almost frivolous way which presents a storyline that leaves many viewers incredulous. Why is Chen so lucky, always changing jobs and earning more money? It turns out that she did not earn them through hard work, but through her relations with many men.
The episodes have raised debates as to what constitutes success and happiness in Beijing and how to achieve success and happiness.
Chen’s story seems to show that guanxi (connections), tricks and a pretty face are some of the best weapons women posses. In this case, Beijing Girl may well be titled How Best Deal with Guys in Beijing with the tagline shortcuts through guys.
Nevertheless, it’s still a good thing that the episodes talk about things of real concern to the many women and men who must deal with life’s many challenges in the city, even though the storyline is out of touch with any serious realism. If I suggest that Chen shows more of her hardworking side to justify her rising pay and a little less of her complex relations with men, does it make me look too sensitive or progressive? Sadly, serious realism in TV dramas is a rarity. Beijing Girl appears to have made a worthwhile attempt, but it’s far from enough. Many times, I’ve been awed by the talent and hard work of the many non-local women in Beijing. They chase their dreams and help the city grow. But just as the Chinese capital must embrace these dream chasers and offer them the best possible opportunities for development and enrichment, is it too much to ask production companies to give realism a more serious try and offer entertainment content that the many non-local women deserve?