‘Fierce Wife’ and rep­re­sent­ing Tai­wan

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

The Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs (MOFA) re­cently an­nounced the launch­ing of our popular tele­vi­sion sit­com “The Fierce Wife” as a type of good will am­bas­sador for Tai­wan in Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. The show has been en­ter­tain­ing lo­cal view­ers since 2010, won a Golden Bell Award for Amanda Zhu as best sup­port­ing actress in 2011, and daz­zled au­di­ences as a movie adap­ta­tion in 2012.

The pro­gram is no stranger to Asian view­ers. In its Ja­panese ver­sion, “The Fierce Wife” car­ries the ti­tle “Does Mar­riage Guar­an­tee Hap­pi­ness?” It is known sim­i­larly in so­phis­ti­cated Sin­ga­pore as “The Shrewd Wife.” In Tongy­ong Ro­man­iza­tion, the ti­tle is “Xi Li Ren Qi.” Surely pos­si­bil­i­ties abound here for some dig­ging in English con­ver­sa­tion classes. I won­der how many stu­dents can use “fierce” with

DANIEL J. BAUER

con­fi­dence, or are sen­si­tive to the po­ten­tially satiric feel of “shrewd,” for ex­am­ple. And what a topic for con­ver­sa­tion! What, if any­thing, can “guar­an­tee hap­pi­ness” in life?

I am in­formed that the neg­a­tive term I heard of as a youth, “home wrecker,” known with a twist of the dag­ger in Tai­wan life as “the other woman,” or “xiao san,” finds its roots in this pro­gram. The plot­ting re­port­edly deals with in­fi­delity. I’m want­ing to make a joke about the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs pro­mot­ing il­licit ro­mance with for­eign­ers, but since I’ve never watched the show, I’d bet­ter be cau­tious. The Min­istry, I am sure, is just do­ing its job, and not en­gag­ing in any tricky dou­ble en­ten­dre here.

A stu­dent from Hong Kong sup­plied the link to “xiao san,” by the way. That makes sense, as “The Fierce Wife” is also popular over there. The same hold true for Malaysia. MOFA says the show will be made avail­able to 10 TV net­works in eight Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. Among the lands where Latino friends will meet our fierce wife in Span­ish are Chile, Paraguay, and El Sal­vador.

Me­dia quoted Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Vanessa Shih as say­ing it is part of the mission of MOFA to “pro­mote Tai­wanese soft power and cul­ture in the re­gion where most of the R.O.C’s diplo­matic al­lies are sit­u­ated.” All of this is ex­ceed­ingly in­ter­est­ing to me.

Don’t Get too Both­ered over

Tele­vi­sion

For starters, I ap­prove of “Tai­wanese” in the quote above. I agree with an old friend (ob­vi­ously not from “the main­land”) who once sug­gested, “If some­one’s pass­port says ‘Tai­wan’ on it, let’s call the per­son ‘Tai­wanese’.”

Also, I’d like to gen­tly say that I un­der­stand en­ter­tain­ment is en­ter­tain­ment. Ro­mance and, yes, sex, are pow­er­ful forces for all of us. As a Catholic priest (“shen-fu”) I am bound by my vows of chastity, and so ro­mance and, yes, sex, are not on the ta­ble for me. This is what I’ve cho­sen, and I am grate­ful for my many bless­ings. But life is life, and ro­mance and sex do have their lighter and even hu­mor­ous edges. Let’s not get too both­ered over tele­vi­sion with a few racy turns of plot.

As for me, well, I am com­fort­able with most of the so called “tra­di­tional val­ues.” I be­lieve strongly in mar­riage, and am not a happy camper with no­tions of peo­ple living to­gether out­side of it as a trial pe­riod be­fore a wed­ding. I speak openly about my val­ues with stu­dents and friends. I’m not in fa­vor of af­fairs, ei­ther (un­less they’re of the MOFA va­ri­ety). But I see no need to judge oth­ers. Care and com­pas­sion make bet­ter ser­mons than frowns, scowls, and harsh words.

Still, we ap­pear to be caught in a co­nun­drum. “The Fierce Wife,” built on the idea of a man cheat­ing on his wife, is to pro­mote “Tai­wanese cul­ture and soft power.”

I am re­sist­ing a temp­ta­tion to share an anec­dote about the stu­dent who once se­ri­ously said to me, “Don’t worry about our English, Fa­ther. We get all our English help now from watch­ing ‘Sex and the City.’” So much, ha ha, for my high re­gard for Amer­i­can (ro­man­tic) cul­ture and soft power. “Sex and the what?”

“The Fierce Wife” aside, how can Tai­wan best pro­mote it­self? The an­swer is to share our peo­ple and our in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ters. The an­swer is to let oth­ers see us. The way we act as tourists on planes, and be­have in ho­tels and restau­rants says so much about Tai­wan. The best of our am­bas­sadors do not work for MOFA or have a fig to do with a TV show. Our best am­bas­sadors are Tai­wanese cit­i­zens work­ing in the arts, busi­ness and ed­u­ca­tion, and our stu­dents in schools all over the world.

That idea is some­thing worth think­ing more about. Fa­ther Daniel J. Bauer SVD is a priest and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the English Depart­ment at Fu Jen Catholic Uni­ver­sity.

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