TV Drama Highlights Gender Discrimination in Chinese Families

The popular series “All Is Well” has netizens weighing in on whether all is indeed well for women in China’s modern families.

“You’re a girl,” the mother says, her tone dripping with bitterness. “How can you compare with your two elder brothers?”

Lines like this are why so many people in China are talking about “All Is Well,” a drama series whose sexist slights and subplots are all too relatable to many female viewers. Since the series’ March 1 premiere, its hashtag has been viewed nearly 1.2 billion times on microblogging platform Weibo.

The 46-episode series was adapted from a novel of the same name and filmed in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou. The protagonist, Su Mingyu, is a shunned daughter played by veteran actress Yao Chen, whose full lips have prompted comparisons to Angelina Jolie. Despite Su Mingyu’s strength, intelligence, and moral fiber, her life is beset by family drama after her mother dies from binge-playing mahjong.

Yao Chen in All Is Well. Picture from Douban

As a child, Su Mingyu is bullied and mistreated by her domineering mother while her feckless father turns a blind eye. After Su Mingyu’s parents spend a fortune to send their firstborn child — a boy — to the United States to attend university, they tell their daughter to give up any hope of studying at a top-tier school.

The men in the family have distinctive flaws. The well-educated but hypocritical eldest son, Su Mingzhe, shirks responsibility to care for his aging father while simultaneously accusing his younger siblings of lacking filial piety. The middle child, Su Mingcheng, is an unabashed mama’s boy who relies on his parents to help him buy an apartment and even find a job. He’s also abusive toward his younger sister, hitting her on several occasions; a flashback suggests this has been happening since they were children. The two brothers are stark contrasts to their wives, both of whom appear reasonable and level-headed by comparison.

“I think Su Mingyu’s mother is pretty much the same as my mother,” one netizen commented under a Weibo post about the show. “This is very similar to my classmate’s situation,” wrote another. “Her two brothers are over 30 but still immature.” Read the full article here.


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.